7 Ways to Successfully Promote Your Referral Program Through Email Marketing
People trust recommendations from friends. It’s no wonder; the human brain is wired to be social, and we trust the opinions of those closest to us above all others.
With social media becoming an increasingly vital part of our lives, word of mouth has gone from reaching nine or ten friends and colleagues to reaching entire networks of friends and followers anywhere.
Referral marketing programs encourage your customers to share their great experiences with friends and family in return for small incentives. But if you want your referral program to be an instant success, you need to consider how you will promote it.
The best referral programs rely on email as the primary driver of their successful promotion, with the ability to target and personalize campaigns for immediate results. With a consistent campaign of well-worded emails, you can recruit brand ambassadors from your already happy customers and watch the word spread.
Read on for our seven top tips to promote your referral program via email marketing.
Your first referral email should take the form of an invitation: exciting, informative, and clear on the details. This is the first time your existing customers will have heard of your referral program, whether you’re sending an email to your entire customer base at once or following up on a purchase.
Whether you’re using the best referral program software or creating your email campaign from scratch, the invitation email ought to follow a basic formula. Start with an eye-catching subject line, such as “One for you, one for your friend”, “Welcome to the club”, or “This one’s on us”. This will entice readers to click through and see how to gain the benefits you’ve alluded to.
The body of the email needs to be straightforward, explaining what customers can gain by referring friends and family, and including a referral link for them to pass on. Break it down into steps to ensure that the process doesn’t look too complicated and time-consuming.
Aesthetics matter too when it comes to an invitation: make sure your template is clean and professional-looking, with an aspirational image at the header and the referral code tantalizingly obvious at the center. You want to give customers the feeling that they’re being invited to an exclusive club when they open your email.
Advocacy and affiliate marketing are based on a sense of mutual reward. It’s therefore important to present the incentive in each email you send. Consider stating this in the subject line, as well as the header of your email. Remember, subscribers will only follow through if the reward seems worth their time.
Keep your incentives simple. Subscribers need to understand exactly what they’re getting from a transaction. The decision to send a referral code via email, text, or social media is often made in the spur of a moment, so don’t leave readers deliberating for too long.
Your incentive could be as simple as a discount code sent to both you and your referred friend, or credit to each of your accounts. Rewards don’t have to be monetary either: free samples, access to online resources, or free downloads could all be tempting propositions.
We’ve all opened an email with an enticing deal, and then completely forgotten to cash in on it. Emails can easily get lost in full inboxes, so a reminder never hurts. Don’t look too keen by sending spam-like reminders every few days. Instead, work subtle reminders into your regular email flow.
This allows you to further personalize your emails, making readers more likely to open them and pay attention. For example, you can include reminders of the referral program in the footer of personalized product emails, letting readers know they can save money on the products listed by referring a friend.
Alternatively, you can remind customers of their referral opportunity each time they purchase by including the code in your “Thank You” emails. Tell readers how much they could have saved on their recent purchase if they’d referred a friend, and encourage them to do so before their next order.
There is still value in a dedicated follow-up email, as long as it varies from your first invite to feel fresh and exciting. Perhaps make a limited-time offer out of it, such as a challenge to refer five friends in return for a piece of merchandise like a unisex hoodie, a laptop sticker, a personalized pillow, etc.
Your referral program should make customers feel like they belong to a special club. Advocacy emails take this idea one step further, fully immersing customers in your brand by making them brand ambassadors. Businesses are taking note: in a 2021 survey, 43% of brands engaged brand ambassadors.
This is also one of the most affordable digital marketing strategies, by rewarding ambassadors with a sense of involvement alongside small benefits such as points toward purchase or discount codes. Consider incentivizing the process by giving a list of rewards ambassadors can work towards: refer five friends for a 5% discount, 10 friends for $10 off purchase, as examples.
The tasks can also vary; rather than simply asking your ambassadors to refer to their friends, you can reward them for sharing your products via their social profiles. This allows them to get a little creative, modeling your products or making short how-to videos. This in turn will create a sense of community around your brand that will boost engagement.
Once a subscriber is a member of your ambassador program, you can further personalize your communications with them. Consider setting specific time-based challenges with extra rewards via seasonal email campaigns. For example, you could ask them to refer 12 friends by Christmas to receive a special gift.
Remember, once you’ve built a core group of ambassadors and advocates, you need to keep them coming back for more. Make sure they feel like a valued part of the brand family by showing your appreciation after each action they take.
This means sending a simple thank you email each time their unique referral code is used. This may include their reward in the form of a discount code, or simply be a way to improve their customer experience.
Take your appreciation beyond email by showcasing an “ambassador of the month” on social media. This will make your chosen subscribers feel valued and like part of the team, while also promoting your referral program and helping to build your mailing list.
The process always ends with a reward—or does it? A referral program isn’t a one-time deal so much as a continual relationship between your brand and your customers. You can use your reward to remind customers of what they love about your brand, and to keep the wheels in motion for referrals yet to come.
Your reward email is an ideal place to showcase new products that subscribers can use their discounts or points to buy. Let them see what their reward code is worth in the real world - 15% off this new sweatshirt, or this accessory for just $12.
Don’t forget to remind customers that their referral code can be used repeatedly, and that with enough referrals they could receive great deals on every item highlighted in the email.
Consider creating a specific app where subscribers can view their rewards, cash in their points, and automatically refer more friends. This may not be one of the app ideas that can change the world, but it can certainly make a difference to your marketing.
How better to keep subscribers feeling like part of the team than trusting them with the stats?
Show subscribers the total amount they’ve earned or saved throughout their referrals, triggering a deeper understanding of the good thing they’re onto. Even if they’ve only made one referral, the sense that they’re on a journey toward even bigger rewards will keep them coming back for more.
This email can be seen as the new reminder email, offering timely catalysts for further referrals. Set your referral marketing platform to send around one per week after each referral, or if no referrals have been made in a month. This way it can be seen as a milestone to remind customers how far they’ve come with you and keep them engaged and sharing.
Make sure to remind users of their unique referral link just under the reporting, making it easy for readers to refer more friends while they’re in the mood.
Small businesses are forever searching for new ways to engage with their customers and increase their audiences. They could work on getting the best 800 number service for small business, or they could take their engagement online with a referral marketing program.
Referred customers are on average 18% more loyal, with 16% higher lifetime value than other customers. With a well-set-up email campaign, you can reap these wide business benefits while rewarding your loyal ambassadors with smaller perks.
Start as you mean to go on, and set up a star referral email campaign today. Make sure to keep it consistent, professional, and engaging, and soon your customers will be feeding into the marketing mix of results.
Sam O’Brien is the Chief Marketing Officer for Affise—a Global SaaS Partner Marketing Solution. He is a growth marketing expert with a product management and design background. Sam has a passion for innovation, growth, and marketing technology. He has also written for sites such as SimplyBook and Brightpearl. Here is his LinkedIn.