Did you know that 92% of consumers say they trust referrals from friends or family over other marketing and advertising tactics? Despite the power of referrals, only 69% of employers have a referral program.

If you aren’t encouraging your web design clients to refer others to your business, you’re missing out on a lot of great opportunities.

Learn more about the benefits of a web design referral program, as well as best practices to optimize your results, below.

What is a web design referral program?

A web design referral program is a system that involves rewarding previous clients when they recommend that friends, family members, or colleagues invest in your services and create a new website.

Ideally, your web design referral program will be highly streamlined, with clear instructions that the referrer must follow to qualify for a reward.

The program will also include a way to automatically track referrals and the existing client responsible for every referral. That way, you aren’t responsible for creating a list of people’s names and figuring out who has reached out to you or not (you don’t need any more work on your plate!)

metal potato web design referral program

Why do you need a web design referral program?

A web design referral program offers numerous benefits to your business, whether you’re running a small startup or a larger operation. Here are some of the top reasons to start seeking referrals:

  • Leverage happy existing clients: Your current clients are some of your best advertisements. Utilize them and their positive experience to generate leads and acquire new clients.
  • Gain trust more easily: Because website design is such a big investment, people typically take a while to choose a web designer. If they get a recommendation from a friend or colleague, though, they’re more likely to trust that person’s opinion and, by default, you.
  • Save money: A referral program costs much less than search engine ads and social media ads. Referrals are also low-risk, because you only pay when a referral results in a sale. So, you don’t have to worry about throwing tons of money away on an initiative before you see the results
  • Easy monitoring: The best referral programs allow for easy tracking of every referral, which helps you stay in the loop when it comes to your program’s performance.
  • Easy implementation: Referral programs are generally easy to implement, too. Even with a packed schedule, you can still find time, especially when you take advantage of technology created to simplify the process. 

Referral software for web designers [Free Tools]

These referral tools for web designers are a free and easy way to help you start your referral program.

Free Tools + Services:

Want a fully automated referral program for your web design business? Run your referral program with us at Referral Rock. Find out how we can build your program with you (and tailor it to your unique needs)

Are you ready for a web design referral program?

Even with all of the benefits, not every web design business is ready for a referral program. You’ll need the following essentials in place before you launch the program for the program to be a success:

  • A healthy base of existing customers who love your work – ideally, some of them should already be recommending your services without prompting
  • A customer experience worth recommending
  • A high level of customer satisfaction, including high ratings from customer reviews 

Web design referral program best practices

A web design referral program is a relatively affordable, low-risk method of promoting your business. However, it still requires some initial investment from you and your team.

To ensure you see the best results from your efforts, follow these best practices:  

Choose motivating rewards

Think about past referral programs you’ve participated in. What was your reasoning for doing so? Of course, you wanted to support a fellow business owner. However, chances are that you were also interested in the rewards the program offered.

One of the most important steps to a successful referral program is motivating rewards. Here are some critical factors to keep in mind when deciding what to offer:

  • Make rewards double-sided (meaning they’re a win-win and benefit the referrer and friend). These kinds of rewards both encourage more frequent referrals from existing clients and encourage the referred friend to hire you so they and the referrer both benefit.
  • Make the reward valuable. Since web design is a relatively large purchase, the reward should reflect the value of the purchase your advocate drove. People aren’t going to refer you – or hire you – just because you’re offering a free tote bag or water bottle.
  • Relate the referred friend’s reward to your web design services in some way. Otherwise, they won’t be motivated to hire you. Discounts, credits toward the design services, cash back after the services are paid for, and free or discounted service upgrades are great friend rewards. And if you provide website maintenance services as well as design, you could offer a discount on subsequent services after the website is completed.

While service-related rewards are good for the referred friend, they might not be ideal for the referrer, especially if they aren’t using you for recurring services and you already finished their project. Service-related rewards also don’t work if the referrer isn’t the one paying for your services directly (this often happens when you’re running a B2B referral program). In these cases, you’ll need to think of other ways to thank the referrer. For example, you could consider a cash reward, gift basket, or travel-related reward.

Of course, if you perform ongoing website maintenance, and the referrer is the one paying for your services, then discounts on recurring payments for your services are a solid type of referrer reward. 

Think about using gamified reward structures

Gamification is an excellent way to boost motivation and make your referral program more exciting. 

To up the ante, create a tiered system with rewards increasing in value as the number of successful referrals someone makes goes up. For example, the reward for one successful referral could be a $50 gift card to a local restaurant, but the reward for three successful referrals might be a gift basket valued at a much higher price.

Another option is to run a referral contest. The person who produces the most successful referrals in a specific period (a month, quarter, etc.) gets an extra high-value reward.

You can also turn the referral program into a drawing. People get one entry for every successful referral, meaning the more referrals made, the more entries someone gets. Then, at the end of a given period, you draw a name to decide who gets the reward.

Run your program with referral software

If you’re worried about how you’re going to find time to create and manage a referral program, remember that you don’t have to do everything manually.

Referral software will streamline the program creation process with a variety of template options, create referral links for easy tracking, assist with instant reward delivery via Paypal and other platforms, and collect data to measure your program’s success. The right referral tool will also automate repetitive tasks like email promotions, enable you to run complex reward structures like tiered programs if you wish, and integrate with your existing software and processes.

Which software should you use?

Referral Rock referral software offers best-in-class referral tracking features, as well as concierge onboarding and help with online sharing and engagement experiences. No developers are required, either, so you can hit the ground running with your new software right away.

Mobilize your best advocates first

Any of your clients could potentially connect you with a great referral. However, the people who are most likely to benefit your business are those who match your ideal client profile. Focus on promoting the program to those people first.

When deciding whom to work with as you prepare your referral program, look for those who also match these other criteria:

  • Have worked with you long-term
  • Have given you direct positive feedback to show they appreciate your work
  • Already speak positively about your services online, in reviews, or in person
  • Recently left a review or positive comment online
  • Already referred you to someone before you were offering incentives

Once you’ve identified your best business advocates, reach out to them with a personalized note. Invite them to participate in the new referral program you’re testing.

After you’ve got these people invested, you can open the program up to all clients.

Make it easy to share your web design services

The easier it is for clients to participate in your referral program, the more likely they are to actually follow through. Ideally, they’ll be able to access the program and share a referral link in just a few clicks.

Make sure the referral program page is well-written and features clear instructions on how to refer, as well as a clear description of the reward for doing so. 

  • Create an enticing headline that states exactly what customers should do (share) and what’s in it for them (the reward).
  • Concisely explain the program (and what must be done for the rewards to be earned) in a few steps.
  •  Include an easy-to-find call-to-action button to encourage your clients to share your services with others.

example referral steps

Give multiple options for sharing, based on the ways that customers naturally share things they love with friends (including email, social media, and a referral link that customers can copy and share anywhere). It also helps to include a link to a frequently asked questions page so people know where to go if they’re confused about something.

Tap into the power of social media

As a business owner, you know the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Social media sharing is the digital marketing version of this age-old practice. It makes sense to include social media sharing options in your web design referral program, since one social share will potentially get your business in front of thousands of relevant eyes.

Your clients are already sharing things they love on social media, with many friends at once. Encourage them to promote your web design services on their favorite platforms as well.

Include social sharing buttons on your referral program landing page. That way, people can easily talk about why they work with you for website design and redesign services.

Ask for referrals at optimum times

You’re more likely to get people interested in participating in your program if you ask them at the right time. Here are some examples of good times to reach out:

  • When you’ve finished designing or redesigning a site
  • When they’ve left you a positive review
  • When they’ve left you a positive social media comment 
  • When they’ve given you positive feedback in person 
  • When you’re sending the invoice for the completed project (and you know they’re happy with it)
  • On the anniversary of a design project that you know they liked
  • When you know they’ve already recommended you to others

Because your clients are already happy and satisfied with your work in these situations, they’ll be more inclined to promote your services.

Know how to ask for referrals

In addition to timing your request for referrals correctly, you must also consider how you ask for one. Here are some important elements to include in your request, whether you write it in an email or ask face-to-face:

  • Thank the client for supporting you
  • Remind them of what makes an ideal client for your web design services, so they know who to refer
  • Be direct: ask if they know someone else who fits your ideal client profile and could benefit from your web design services
  • Give them a direct link to the referral program page

It might feel awkward to do this at first. However, most clients will be happy to participate after you’ve done such a good job on their website.

Promote your program extensively

You must promote your referral program to see results. Make sure you promote the program on your website, in emails, newsletters, and on social media. Bring it up in person, too, and remind people to check it out. Mention the rewards they can earn if they participate as well.

Some great places to promote the program include:

  • On your website (place a hero image or banner where it’s easy to find, and/or buttons in the top and bottom menus) 
  • In conversations with clients, when you know a customer is satisfied
  • In personal referral emails sent to your most satisfied customers
  • In mass emails focused on your program, sent to all customers
  • In news/update emails, confirmation emails, invoices, and other emails unrelated to your referral program
  • Through social media posts
  • In email signatures and social media bios

salted orange referral promo

Send the lead a personal note from the referrer

When someone refers a friend, that person should receive a message that highlights the benefits of your services. It helps to personalize this message (especially when working with potential B2B clients).

Ideally, the referrer – not your business – will write a message explaining why they recommend your web design services. You can also offer an editable message that they can use as a starting point, though.

Whoever writes the message, make sure it includes the following: The referral rewards available; a link to the website you designed for the referrer, and an obvious call-to-action located above the fold. It should also be in the referrer’s name, and from their point of view, for the most personal touch.

Show your appreciation

Always thank clients who have referred friends or colleagues to your business. Send them a thank you note for the referral (ideally handwritten, but this could also be emailed). You can also post a public thank-you message on social media, including links to the website you designed or case studies, to further promote your services and show your appreciation.

Follow other B2B referral program best practices

Don’t be afraid to draw inspiration from other B2B referral programs. Check them out and see what works well, then find ways to incorporate those best practices into your program.

You can also review this B2B referral program guide for more beneficial insights.


A web design referral program is a valuable tool that can help you grow your business with the help of your most satisfied clients.

By leveraging these clients and their positive experiences, you can gain the trust of potential clients more easily and encourage them to invest in your services.

Utilize the best practices (especially the use of referral software like Referral Rock) discussed above to develop and implement an effective web design referral program.