Refer a friend email examples

Essentially, the more viral, or shareable, your product and brand are, the better potential for growth.

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Who doesn’t love something free? Especially from an awesome brand. Refer-a-friend programs are a win-win for both brands and consumers. Companies bring in new customers and valued shoppers get to give their friends a free gift or get a free gift themselves.

A strong refer-a-friend strategy leads to a higher growth trajectory. Essentially, the more viral, or shareable, your product and brand are, the better potential for growth. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

There’s no better way to execute this type of strategy than leveraging the power of email. It is, after all, one of the easiest ways to connect with your customers. See below for some great examples, strategic ideas and considerations when implementing referral campaigns.

Refer a friend strategic recommendations

First things first: what type of refer-a-friend program is right for your brand? If you’re a fashion retailer, makeup company, or food subscription service, you likely have an opportunity to deploy your own refer-a-friend strategy without too much overhead cost.

Offer rewards, like discounts or incentives

Rewards and incentives can be a bit risky, as launching a large campaign can have a negative impact on your margins if unsuccessful. Loyal customers plus net-new business have the ability to change your brand and may be the worth risk, just remember to start small! Take a look at examples from RocksBox, Carnivore Club, and quip.

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Sending your friends a free gift, no strings attached!

Take a look at this example from Purple Carrot. It is an example of a great strategy for growing your customer base. If there’s no incentive to the existing customer, however, there’s likely going to be a lower conversion rate—sure the altruistic ideal in all of us thinks we simply want to “gift” our friends, but our favorite radio station is still WIIFM (what’s in it for me)!

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Reward social sharing

Okay, so this isn’t purely email—but we love what Ipsy is doing nonetheless. An example could be customers sharing your brand on Facebook and Instagram to get 15% off their next purchase or get a subscription box earlier than everyone else. This is a great way to get more reach because you’re utilizing the social element to really expand your voice across customers’ social graph. Keep in mind this technique makes it harder to track success—after all, it’s not the same 1:1 channel as email 😉

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Make it easy

Rothy’s referral email is quick and simple. They start the email by explaining what are the benefits of referring (earning $20 credit) and they include a direct referral link. The CTA “START SHARING” is available at the bottom, but we like how they included a referral link separately – the sharing process is simplified and customers don’t have to go back to Rothy’s website to start inviting friends.

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Include details

Skincare brand Odacité has a 5-step process for referring friends which may seem like a lot. To support the customers through that process they send this email that explains how to refer someone in five short and simple steps. We love how they guide the customers and how Odacité explains what are the benefits of referring.

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Capture attention with the subject line

Clothing subscription company Frank and Oak sends a very simple referral email with a photo of their products and a single CTA. Their strategy is to capture the customer’s attention and increase open rates by providing the details in the subject line “Share Style Plan and get $15 credit towards your next order 💰”.

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Promote your products and services as great gifts for the holidays

Here’s another great example from clothing subscription services – MM.LaFleur relaunched the referral program just in time for Valentine’s day and they sent this email to promote the discount as a great gift for the holiday. The email quickly explains how the referral program works and invites customers to refer friends.

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Create a sense of urgency

If you’re running a special promotion or a limited time discount take a look at Blume’s email and see how they created a sense of urgency to encourage the customers to refer their friends as soon as possible. In the subject line, they stated that the offer is ending tomorrow, and in the email, they included an animated timer.

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Mention social media

Rocksbox has an interesting strategy – their referral email is social-media friendly. They ask customers to “screenshot & share” the part of the email that contains the referral code which helps them get more reach. At the bottom, the CTA “Invite Friends” takes customers back to the website from where they can invite friends to join.

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Send more than one email

Send more than one email to your customers and remind them about the benefits of referring friends. In this example, food subscription service Hello Fresh sends a reminder about the referral program and invites customers to send free meals to their friends.

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Ask for geo-specific referrals

Wine subscription company Winc expanded its service and started shipping to a new state. Then, they announced that in an email and asked customers to refer friends that live in that state. This is a great strategy for creating a customer base in the new state and rewarding the existing customers for spreading the good word.

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Refer-a-friend strategies aren’t for everyone! If you have low margins, it may be harder to deploy this type of strategy (for example, services like Spotify that have high costs). It’s difficult to use this strategy for kids and pet subscriptions, too, since it’s not necessarily referring a friend as the customer isn’t the end user of the product.

Refer a friend implementation details

You’re probably looking at these examples and thinking, yeah that’s great, but how can I implement a practical refer-a-friend strategy? Take a look at our 5 tips below to ensure you’re setup for success.

Start small!

Send the refer-a-friend campaign to a small percentage of your mailing list. Once you’ve got an idea of the conversion rate, determine your budget. You can then put together a larger send based on the conversion rate of the first send (given the audience is comprised of the same filters). You’ll want to keep a close eye on conversion and compare the efforts to your other marketing efforts.

A/B test subject lines

When you’re testing your strategy with the initial email campaign, think about A/B testing the subject line. If you haven’t yet, throw in an emoji or two to one of them. Be careful about your wording though; some subject lines can trigger SPAM filtering including words like FREE, 50% off, Offer, Winner, etc.

Start off targeting your most loyal customers.

They’re likely already your biggest advocates! If you have the data available, target those who’ve made more than one purchase in the past 6 months (for subscription services, at least 2 monthly subscription boxes). Alternatively, if you collect product reviews, you can setup an automated campaign to deploy when a positive review is submitted.

Setup campaign tracking to track success.

Whether that’s providing a special unique code that the customer forwards to a friend or a url with utm parameters, make sure you’re able to track conversions. Wanna get geeky? Take it a step further by calculating another growth metric, the viral coefficient. Here’s how to calculate yours: the number of people referred * conversion rate = viral coefficient!

Think about the customers experience

It’s critical to make it as easy as possible for customers to share with their friends. If a majority of your customers are opening emails on their phone, think about making your CTA to send a text and create a preformatted text message they can send to their friends in two clicks (see tutorial here).

Lastly, if you do plan on reaching out to those who were referred instead of them signing up themselves, be careful! You’ll want to ensure that they have context on why you’re emailing them and an opportunity to unsubscribe from further outreach, especially if they’re in the EU (as you’ll need to abide by the GDPR). To put it more bluntly: these referrals aren’t technically part of your main database, so pay particular mind to keep these names cordoned off from your standard marketing—that is until they convert into leads or, better yet, customers!