Think of a company or a product you love. You may mention it to a friend or two in a casual setting. But you may not go out of your way to share it. Now, think of a company you love that also runs a referral program. If that program is offering an interesting referral gift as a reward for sharing, you may be inclined to participate.
Many businesses rely on cash, discounts, or credits because they are straightforward, and work well. But people also love gifts. And a physical reward can be just as motivating, if not more motivating.
Today, we’re here to give you gift ideas for your referral program. We’ve compiled over 50 ideas in this referral gift guide, so you’re sure to find something that will motivate your customers to share.
What are referral gifts?
A referral gift is a physical reward, given in a similar way to cash referral incentives. Your company gives this gift out whenever a customer or client (also known as an advocate) successfully refers someone to your business.
When the referred friend buys something from your brand (or shows signs of interest, like requesting a quote or starting a free trial) you reward the advocate by sending them a referral thank you gift.
This non-digital gift can range from a gift basket, to food, to branded swag, to anything you think a customer would enjoy. Basically, any referral reward that isn’t cash, store credit, or a discount acts as a referral gift.
Why are referral gifts important?
The opportunity to share your products, and help your business, may not completely seal the deal on its own for existing customers. This is why many referral programs rely on a referral gift.
Often, your brand (no matter how well-known or big it is) will need a little something extra to get people talking. Even a megastore like Walmart uses an incentive to get customers to refer people to their Walmart+ subscription.
In fact, the gift or incentive you are giving may be the only reason someone refers friends to you in the first place. Even if customers love you, and are willing to share you with others, they may need a little convincing to get them to actually share. In this case, referral gifts can make sharing your brand worthwhile for them.
Gifts instead of cash incentives can be seen as a little more personal and thoughtful. This is why referral gifts work so well. The University of Chicago reports that non-cash referral gifts are 24% more effective than cash incentives.
Plus, on your brand’s end, a thoughtful referral gift shows customers that you appreciate their referral. This can make customers even more likely to refer more friends in the future.
9 types of referral gifts
Now that you’ve had some time to consider choosing between a referral gift or a typical incentive, we can have some fun. As you’ll soon see, there are a ton of options for giving the perfect gift to your referring customers. Let’s cover some referral marketing gift ideas that will help you make a lasting impression.
1. Referral gift baskets
Nothing is more exciting than receiving a gift, except for when it’s multiple gifts! We’re not talking about all high-priced items, but when you think of a gift basket, typically you envision something with a few goodies in it.
The best part about gift baskets is that you can really customize them to fit individual preferences and needs. This is why they are a great option for B2B businesses, given the longer sales processes. They’re also awesome as a service industry referral gift (for industries like lawyers, insurance, doctors, dentists, and landscapers), as the consideration and sales process can be longer with these industries too.
In these processes, you have enough time to get to know what someone enjoys and appreciates. Depending on how you’re connected to them, you may meet with them many times and learn quite a bit about them. This can help you shape your basket and personalize it to show you care and were really listening.
You can even up the stakes and create a ‘grand prize’ type of basket. You could personalize or add one luxury or high-priced item to the referral gift basket. Then those who were your top referrers (those that sent a significant number of referrals – at least 5-10) can get a chance to win it.
7 types of referral gift basket ideas
Whether you choose to do a theme or not, you can really create something special for your referrers. Along with themes, you have size options too. You can give small baskets with maybe two or three items, or go all out with a grand prize basket. The size of your gift basket can help you determine your referral reward rules for earning a basket. Let’s take a look at some popular basket themes.
- The beachy basket: Help them create the perfect beach day with a beach basket. Pack it with items like a big beach blanket, a towel or two, collapsible cooler, sunscreen, and/or hat. You can toss in a branded tumbler or glasses too.
- An office basket: Is your client a workaholic, or recently employed at a new job? An office basket can be the perfect gift. This can include a coffee tumbler or mug, a high-quality notebook, and a pen. If you want to add a high-stakes item, maybe include a fancy keyboard or some desk knick knacks. Pens, mugs, and stress balls can all be personalized or branded too!
- Something for the kids: Family is important, and what better way to show that than to make the kiddos happy too? You can also use this type of basket if you know your referrer is a new parent. It’s a very simple way to say thanks and show you were paying attention.
- Time to relax basket: A spa-themed basket can be an amazing way to give the gift of relaxation. You can include all the essentials, like soap, lotion, bath salts, and a loofah. If you want to take it up a notch, perhaps include a gift certificate for a facial or massage. See the self-care section for more ideas!
- A fido box: A basket with pet care items, including toys and treats can be perfect for any pet owner. Those who work in the animal and pet industry can gift this to any of their clients who refer new customers. People do have a soft spot when it comes to pets, so this gift can help you win over some hearts.
- A traveler’s suitcase: Okay, it doesn’t have to be a suitcase, but that could be cool too. But, a travel basket with items such as a luggage tag, toiletry pouch, passport holder, and water bottle would be quite the gift for travel lovers.
- Green thumb basket: A box of succulents or other small houseplants can be a great gift. You can include a few plants along with some garden must-haves (i.e. garden gloves, garden gnome, watering can, windchime).
- Food baskets: Who doesn’t love a snack? A big basket of gourmet treats can be a great way to say thank you. See the food section below for more in-depth ideas.
Referral gift basket considerations
- You can create a couple of basket options. For example, pick out one or two basket types your customer demographic would enjoy, and once they bring in a specified number of referrals they are sent the basket of their choice.
- You can do a mix of both branded and non-branded items in gift baskets!
- These baskets can be expensive, so choose how you use them wisely.
2. Branded swag
This referral gift has added benefits for your company. You’d be surprised how excited people can be over something as simple as a branded t-shirt or mug. Swag rewards referrers, and if it’s branded, it creates free advertising for your brand.
There is a caveat, though. If your referral gift is going to be a branded item, make it worthwhile. A pen with your logo probably won’t cut it. But swag that is high-quality and something customers actually want to earn and use can make it worthwhile.
The best part about branded swag is that you can order in bulk and give it out as needed. So, in this case, swag can be quite cost-effective, as well as an effective motivator.
12 types of branded swag ideas
High visibility and sustainable items are great because people tend to keep them around. In fact, 51% of Millennials have kept promo products for more than 5 years – that’s 5 years of practically free advertisement, and built-in brand loyalty!
- Sweatshirts and hoodies: This is a popular choice, as everyone loves repping something on a sweatshirt. Think of how popular alumni and sports team hoodies are. Depending on your brand, you can have the same effect. For a B2B referral, you can even send a dual logo gift – make them want to stay partners!
- Fleece zipper jackets: A zip-up jacket is practical and useful. Plus, these are a little more swanky (in a good way) than other branded clothing items.
- Backpacks: Travel gear is huge, and a nice backpack is a favorite for a lot of people. Whether the referring customer plans on using it every day or just for travel, backpacks seem to be a hot commodity.
- Tote bags: Tote bags can be a great referral gift, no matter how niche your market is. You can also pop in a branded pen and notepad too!
- Water bottles: Eco-friendly products like reusable water bottles are increasingly popular. And your impact on the environment does not go unnoticed. Something as simple as an insulated water bottle can have a big impact.
- Travel mugs and wine tumblers: Reusable and insulated drinkware are another big hit for those who want to be recognized for their sustainability efforts. People bring these types of insulated cups practically everywhere. Work, school, travel, play – you’ll see someone with a cup like this.
- Laptop cases: Everyone is on the move, this makes laptop cases a perfect referral gift.
- Portable speakers: Bluetooth speakers can get a little pricey. But, for customer loyalty and triggering referrals to happen, these are awesome appreciation gifts. Easy to transport, useful, and great for even those hard-to-get-for types of people.
- Stationery sets: If you’re in a market where this makes sense, these sets can be a very practical, thoughtful, and useful gift.
- Hats: Trucker hats, baseball caps, and winter beanies are all great. And for some reason, hats can really rev up a crowd. 69% of consumers own some form of promotional headwear (even those who usually don’t wear hats seem to like receiving a hat).
- Blankets: A nice cozy throw blanket is always a great gift to receive and can be used for years. Using blankets for your branded referral gift can be perfect gifts for those in real estate or other home service-type industries.
- Cooler: Yeti coolers started to gain popularity a few years ago, and remain in the spotlight. A branded or custom cooler still seems to be hot on the market. Really nice branded coolers are awesome referral gifts for anyone and all occasions – from corporate to family outings.
Branded referral gift considerations
- Not everyone wants to wear something branded, so if you choose this you’ll have to find a balance between branding and not being too in your face.
- Many distributors offer discounts for bulk orders!
3. Useful items
Adding your brand to items you are giving away isn’t for everyone. Some companies want to give a gift without having it seem too promotional. Depending on who your clientele is, a non-branded item may work better for you.
When does it make sense to skip the branding? Businesses who have high-value items or luxury brands may choose to skip the branding as that may be more preferred by their clients.
Also, depending on your type of business, people may not be comfortable sharing certain information on blast. For example, someone who has had cosmetic surgery or denture work may not want to announce it by wearing or using branded merch.
Types of useful gifts
Pretty much anything mentioned in the branded swag section can also be used as a non-branded referral gift. So, fleece jackets, travel mugs, backpacks, laptop sleeves, water bottles, etc. can all work. Because you are not branding anything, you can also cater to the individual and choose more industry-specific gifts, such as the ones below.
- Outdoorsy items: Your customers may be one with nature. Why not supply them with something to make their time spent outdoors more enjoyable? Items like camping gear, beach gear, hiking gear, or something for the patio are enjoyable gifts.
- Kitchen tools: These make sense for someone in the food industry. If they happen to be a top referrer, you can gift them a high-ticket item like an espresso machine, a set of pots and pans, or a Cuisinart mixer.
- Working hour gifts: You don’t need to gift a computer – though you could. But you can consider accessories and smaller gadgets that can be useful for the average work day. A nice journal or calendar can make sense. A small tablet, charging station, tabletop clock, letter board, and desktop organizer are also great work-related referral gift ideas. They also make great corporate or B2B referral gifts!
- A handy item: A nice multitool can be both functional and well received. For someone in a hands-on industry, this gift can be truly appreciated.
- Fitness-focused gifts: You can really go in any direction here. Yoga mats, massage guns, fitness journals, and workout equipment are great for clients who focus on fitness, or ones that you have learned are fitness fanatics.
- Something for the globetrotter: You may have clients who travel frequently. Whether it’s for work or play, someone who travels often could really love a travel-related gift. Luggage, a solid toiletry set, noise-canceling headphones, a personal emergency alarm, or something like a portable water purifier can make any travel enthusiast jump for joy.
Non-branded referral gift considerations
- These aren’t always a one-size-fits-all option. But if the majority of your clientele are interested in the same sorts of things, you may be able to work out a deal if you do a bulk order.
- If you’re in an industry where referrals aren’t necessarily flying in, you can probably send a niche gift to each referrer. But, if you’re having to send gifts constantly, perhaps choose 1 or 2 items to stick to.
- These items can be expensive. So you’ll have to really pick something that fits your referrer’s wants but stays within your budget.
4. Self-care gifts
Life happens, and even those who act calm, cool, and collected need a little me time. Everyone wants and deserves a little time to decompress, regroup, and move on. So why not offer gifts that encourage customers to take the time to relax?
These types of gifts can be very effective for people who are always on the move or those in high-stress positions.
7 types of self-care gifts include:
These items can be given individually or combined as gift sets to create the whole experience. As we mentioned previously, self-care baskets make amazing gifts. You can fill them up with bath salts, bath bombs, robes, slippers, oils, and even tools to create the perfect self-care experience for saying thank you to your referrers.
- High-quality or luxury brands: High-end soaps, body washes, lotions, and skincare sets may offer your referrer something they have never tried before. People are into skincare and luxury bath items now more than ever. Revenue for the beauty and personal care market amounts to $564.40 billion, this year alone!
- Soft and fuzzy: Fuzzy blankets and fuzzy socks pair really well with other self-care items. You can offer them together or along with an eye mask or face mask to help someone create the perfect night in.
- Essential oils and a diffuser: Essential oils are a great self-care referral gift. They also may be a great gift for clients who are into natural healing and healthy living.
- Scented candles: Who doesn’t love getting a new candle? To make this an extra special referral gift, you can dress it up a bit by adding a fancy candle holder, and special wick lighter.
- Spa gift baskets: When most people think of a self-care gift, a spa basket probably comes to mind. You can really go all out here or focus on very specific types of self-care. For example, you can focus on hair care, skincare, or even hands and feet. If you’re in an industry that focuses on certain aspects of beauty or personal care, you can cater the basket to fit that.
- Plush robes: A luxurious plush robe can help even the most stressed person relax a little. Whether you choose to pair it with other items or deliver it alone, it’s sure to be appreciated.
- A high-quality journal: Not all self-care has to be related to spa products. Journaling can also be self-care, as it’s a great mental escape for many people.
Self-care referral gift considerations
- It doesn’t matter how nice or luxurious the gift is. Not everyone may be inspired to refer if the incentive is a self-care item.
- There are a ton of premade self-care boxes out there. Some you can pick and choose what goes in it, and some businesses have really well thought out spa baskets already made. You can order these and have them sent out without having to put much effort into it.
5. Food and drink gifts
There are foodies in every industry. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what kind of market you are in – most people appreciate good food and good drinks.
Since not everyone takes the time to find and purchase gourmet eats, you can win over customers by appealing to their heart and stomach.
10 types of food and drink gifts
If you know a customer’s favorite foods, this is an excellent opportunity to personalize the gift. Even if you don’t know your customer’s specific tastes, there are plenty of foodie options to choose from.
- Variety of cookies: A selection of cookies can win over anyone’s heart. There are a thousand different ways to spin this one too. If the person you are giving the referral gift to is within the local distance of a bakery or cookie specialty shop, you can easily have fresh cookies delivered. Or, you can find the perfect premade box of cookies or cakes and have them shipped directly to your referrers.
- A charcuterie board: A fancy cheese and snack board can be a great referral gift surprise. Williams-Sonoma cheese crates make the perfect charcuterie referral gift. And if you know your customer likes things like this, they will appreciate you remembering their specific tastes.
- A bottle or two of wine: If you are wanting to do more than just a bottle, you can do a wine and cheese basket. Or, you could give a wine subscription. Offer a couple of months of wine to stay top of mind with your referrer.
- Mixed drink kit: Offer a nice nightcap with a drink kit. Include the drink mix, garnishes, glass, and a snack for a complete experience. If your business has regular meet-and-greets with customers, you can also offer a virtual happy hour to express your thanks. You can use mini bottles to further stretch your budget!
- Chocolate lovers: Chocolates and other candies are the perfect matches for your sweet tooth clients. You really can’t go wrong with a sweet treat.
- Coffee o’clock: This is another one you can offer a subscription for. But, on its own, a coffee aficionado would appreciate trying a new roast to fill a new mug. You can even be a bit adventurous and gift a pour-over coffee maker or an espresso machine (if that’s in your budget).
- Tea time: A tea selection with a mug. This can be done very similarly to the coffee referral gift idea. A nice tea cup, tea leaf steeper, and a variety of teas can be a wonderful gift for those who love tea or just need to relax.
- Snack bundle: Snack bars, crackers, nuts, and even popcorn can make delicious referral gifts. You can create a snack bundle to fit specific tastes very easily.
- A punch of flavor: You may want to opt for more shelf-stable food items. An assortment of sauces, spices, and/or food rubs can be great for any self-proclaimed (or real) chef!
- A complete kit: A kit that includes everything needed to make a meal. You can even create a few themes, and once someone earns a referral reward, you can give them the option to choose. Here are some ideas:
- BBQ basket with grilling tools, sauces, spice rubs, and a gift card for meat.
- Pretzel kit with dough mix, salt, mustard, and some sweet toppings too.
- Pizza kit with dough mix, sauce, cheese, toppings, and a pizza stone and cutter.
Food and drink referral gift considerations
- One caveat on food gifts: You may need to accommodate any allergies or dietary restrictions someone has. Remember that the gift is meant to be meaningful and worthwhile for the referrer.
- Obviously, food spoils, so you may want to consider sending only shelf-stable foods. If you’re not sending locally, think more along the lines of candies, oils, spices, or cooking kits.
- Use a little bit of all the food ideas to create a super gourmet sampler!
6. Gift cards to other businesses
A gift card to any non-competing business can be an easy option to gift, or even add to a gift basket. This is great if you are in an industry where clients may not purchase from you again, or not need your products or services for a lengthy time period. For example, realtors may offer their clients gift cards to restaurants or a home goods store as a way of saying thank you for a referral (which can be redeemed even months after they have closed the deal).
You can even create a gift card menu, where referrers can choose their own gift card from several different options. Popular choices are Amazon, Starbucks, Target, and some apparel brands. Most of the time, these options are a safe bet and are received graciously.
Gift card referral gift considerations
- These may not always seem like the most genuine or personal – but regardless, people do love them.
- You can offer multiple gift cards (“Let me pay for three date nights”) and then give gift cards to three different restaurants.
7. Tech-focused gifts
Technology gifts can be on the expensive side, so most of these should be saved for top referrers who hit a big milestone.
If your clientele is on the techy side, but you’re not wanting to max your budget, a good portable charging bank or small portable speaker may work as a less expensive tech option.
8 types of tech gifts include:
With the world constantly plugged in, you have no shortage of options when it comes to tech gear. If you are in the tech industry, you may even find something more suitable for your business to give.
- A portable speaker: These are great gifts even for those who aren’t as tech-savvy. They are also a good size if you are wanting to add some branding.
- Reusable notebook: A reusable notebook (like a RocketBook) is both unique and fits the mold of a tech junkie.
- A smart speaker for the home: We’re living in a digital world, and smart homes are becoming more popular. A smart speaker can be budget-friendly but can pack a big punch.
- A portable charging bank: Cellphones are a lifeline for most of us. A portable charging bank can be an awesome gift for those constantly on the go, or those who just want a nice little tech gift.
- Headphones, earbuds, or AirPods: Nice headphones or earbuds are popular options. You can even pay a little extra for a nice set of noise-canceling headphones.
- A laptop (for top referrers only): People definitely have their preferences when it comes to computers. But, regardless of the preferred brand, a laptop is a solid gift. And it’s something that is valuable enough to get people in the referring mood.
- A smartphone or tablet (for top referrers only): Tablets, Ipads, and such devices are hot commodities, and people will be motivated to refer if this is a referral gift option.
- Frame Smart TV (for top referrers only): If you’re wanting to do a higher treasured tech item for a super referrer, you could offer something bigger like a Frame Smart TV.
Tech referral gift considerations
- They can be expensive. So you may want to use this only as a top-tier type of gift.
- People do have their preferences for brands. If your referrer is an Android user, AirPods probably won’t be worth it for them.
8. Charitable referral gifts
Sometimes, a referrer doesn’t want to or can’t accept a physical item. If this is the case, you can give back with a charitable gift to an organization. You can even make the gift in the referrer’s name.
You might list several organization options where the donation could go, and let the referrer pick their favorite one. Or, you can let them choose one they are already familiar with. Many people are already involved with organizations that mean a lot to them, and if your options are not of interest, they may not want to refer you.
3 types of charitable gift ideas
You might also donate a physical item – or set of physical items – to a charity in a referrer’s name, like meals or clothing. Try these charitable gift ideas:
- Plant a tree: You could plant a tree or sponsor an endangered animal in the referrer’s name.
- Clothing and non-perishable goods: Donating to those in need is a great way to share how thankful you are. It provides to the community and helps everyone involved feel good.
- School equipment: Books, supplies, or sports equipment can be donated to the referrer’s selected school. This not only makes you and the referrer look good, but it gives back to the community in a big way.
Charity referral gift considerations
- Be sure to send a personalized note to the referrer explaining that the donation was made, and thanking them for their referral and support.
9. Experiential referral gifts
Sometimes, the best gift is an experience. Though you may not be able to give a trip to Paris or to an all-inclusive resort, you can still provide something memorable.
These types of gifts work well for B2B stakeholders. In these situations, there is usually a lot of money being exchanged – or a lot of time. So giving something tangible may not be as memorable as an experience.
5 Types of experiential referral gifts include:
There are millions of experiences you can give. Here are a few more affordable experience options to give.
- Sports tickets: Professional sports game tickets seem to be given quite frequently. Why? People love watching live sports, especially if it’s their favorite team.
- Concert tickets: We may not all have the same taste in music. But concerts are fun regardless. You can even choose to give tickets to a music festival.
- Cooking or acting class: Some may like theater tickets, while others may enjoy actually experiencing things firsthand. A fun class can be a great experience!
- Paid conference or expo admission: This one hits two birds with one stone. You can provide them with a learning experience that is both fun and useful for their job.
- Flight credits: Maybe you can’t pay for an entire vacation, but you can offer a good chunk of flight credits so they can make it happen.
Experiential referral gift considerations
- You’ll have to really get to know your customer. An experience should be something they are interested in and willing to do.
- Experiences can get pricey. And you cannot always buy them in bulk, so you may have to plan these out individually.
What to keep in mind with referral gifting?
By now, you should see that one of the most important aspects of a successful referral program is the incentive. If you want to spice things up and stay away from the typical cash incentive, you can try gifting any of the options we’ve suggested. You can even consider changing the gift quarterly, to spice it up for your customers and encourage future sharing.
Here are 3 tips to consider when planning your referral gift.
1. Choose gifts a referrer will genuinely enjoy and use
A customer might not refer if the referral gift on offer isn’t worthwhile. An easy way to think about this would be to put yourself in their shoes. Would you like the gift? Is it something you would actually use or like to have yourself? Or is it something that would get tossed away or left in a junk drawer?
2. Will you personalize gifts or select in bulk?
At the end of the day, you don’t want to break the bank. Personalized items are great, but depending on how and what you want to customize, you can easily push your budget over the top. Plus, even if you stay within budget, personalized items take more time, so you’ll have to plan around that.
Bulk gifts may be a better option, as they’re less costly – especially if your average purchase value is low or you’re trying to get people to subscribe to a newsletter. Remember to consider your situation and time constraints.
3. You may have to incentivize the referred customer, too
For best results with your referral program, the referred friend should be rewarded along with the referrer. Two-sided rewards are important because even if someone is personally recommending you to try something or shop somewhere, you may not want to try it without a little nudge.
But you shouldn’t necessarily give the referred friend a gift-type reward. Your goal is to get them in the door to actually test the waters. Often, a store credit, discount, cash back, or free product is best for the referred friend, as it motivates the friend to make their first purchase.
Pick something that makes sense for the person or business receiving it. For example, B2B incentives like getting the 1st month free, a free trial, or an experiential gift instead of cash back can be coaxing enough to get a business representative to bite.
Automate referral gifts for a smooth operation
If you want a smoothly operating referral program, you may need to use some automation. To keep customers happy, you should send out the referral gift as soon as their referral is successful.
Referral software makes this easy, thanks to unique, trackable referral links. You’ll be able to trace every referral back to the person who made it. So, once the software tracks that a referral made a purchase (or whatever trigger you are aiming for), it will automatically send your referral gift to the person responsible for the referral.
Referral software also notifies the advocate that the referral was a success and that their gift is on the way. Or, depending on your settings, it lets them choose their gift option from a menu.
Even if you plan to send gifts manually, you’ll be in the know of who has earned a reward and be reminded of when to send their gift. Once you send it on your own, you can let the process continue to unfold with the software. Your referrer will be in the know. Plus, if your referred customer is also earning a reward, that can be triggered to happen automatically after your chosen event.
Referral gifts and incentives may be one of the main reasons someone is actually referred to you. Despite how much a customer may love your business, they may not refer friends to you without a little push. But if you are offering something in exchange for their time and commitment, you may find new customers trickling in.
The perfect referral thank you gift should be thoughtful and planned out to fit the wants and needs of your customers. If your gift is just right, and your customers know about your referral program, it should be a smashing success.