4 Examples of the Best Customer Referral Programs

The best customer referral programs, unsurprisingly, follow best practices (funny how that works!) While there are many tactics to consider, here are four essential strategies — using real world examples — that referral marketers are implementing every day to generate lift in user participation (more sharing) and referral acquisition (invited friends who convert).  What follows is ‘low hanging fruit.’

#1 The Best Customer Referral Programs Are Easy to Find

Prize Candle employs this strategy beautifully by placing their “Tell a Friend, Get $10!” link at the top left of their header, which appears on every page of their site.

We read from top-to-bottom, left-to-right. From many heatmap studies, we know that the top leftmost area is the most viewed area of any web page. And that’s where Prize Candle’s referral program is given a place to shine.

Prominent placement increases user participation (sharing). Don’t bury your referral program link in your footer navigation or behind a login. Encourage user participation by featuring your link where everyone can see it.



#2 Feature a Clear and Concise Call to Action

Nice Laundry uses a killer hook on their customer referral widget – Get a Free Pair of Socks. Simple and direct. The copy gets to the point without extraneous verbiage, stating clearly to the sharer, ‘what’s in it for me

The visual cues are a nice bonus. The model wearing the socks in the background image is facing right, which moves the customer’s eyes towards the sharing space.

Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Customers are more likely to respond when they know what they’re getting. An incentive that’s crystal clear and inviting will inspire customers to share with friends.  Oh, and terse copy wins over wordiness.  The example below is killer.



#3 Use Email to Promote Your Referral Program

Coveroo went above and beyond *just* featuring a link on their homepage. They sent a dedicated email blast to their entire list announcing their referral program. When the user clicks “Refer A Friend” in the email, they are taken to a dedicated referral landing page with an embedded widget at-the-ready for customers to share.

Here’s what’s great about this execution:

  • It’s focused. One and only one call to action – no superfluous links.
  • The offer is clear, big and at the center of the image – the flow of information from top to bottom follows a natural thought sequence for the reader.
  • The call to action button stands out, contrasting nicely with the rest of the image.

Remind customers to participate whenever and wherever you can. Periodically send dedicated email blasts like the example below and also feature your referral program in all of your email templates. Transactional emails (such as registration confirmation, purchase confirmation, etc.) have very high open rates, which makes them great opportunities to promote your referral program.



#4 Change Things Up From Time to Time

A/B testing improves performance. So normally, this is where we’d launch into a paragraph about A/B testing your calls-to-action, copy, images and referral offers.  However, below we highlight one simple not-so-obvious A/B test that takes advantage of something topical – a popular, national event.

NatureBox capitalizes on our national obsession with the Super Bowl – in the shared copy – and captures an audience looking for healthier snacks for the Big Game. Notice the circled headline, “Snacks for Super Bowl.” This is the shared content that gets posted into Facebook as well as into email shares.

NatureBox scored big. The specificity of the Super Bowl headline created lift in referral visits. It pays to stay on top of trending events and gear your marketing messages towards them.

You know the drill: Always be testing – A/B testing. But keep an eye toward capitalizing on seasonal initiatives like sales, holiday weekends and big national events.  Tying your campaign theme to a topic that is on the minds of the masses represents another great marketing opportunity.





  • Webinar – Referral Program Best Practices
  • eBook – Beginners Guide to Referral Marketing
  • Email Series – Referral Marketing Crash Course

Tony Mariotti

Tony Mariotti is COO at Friendbuy, the marketing platform that makes it really easy to launch a customer referral program. A/B test and optimize your refer-a-friend campaigns without developer headaches. You can follow him on Twitter.

8 thoughts on “4 Examples of the Best Customer Referral Programs

  1. Can you elaborate how this works? If someone gets $10 for referring a friend, is this only if the friend purchases? And if 4 friends purchase, would the referrer get $40 off? Thanks

  2. Hi Michael. Yes, the referrer earns $10 only if their friend purchases (i.e. the friend purchase triggers the referral event). You can set any reward amount, but borrowing from the Naturebox example, $10 in store credit would be applied to the referrer’s account. Also, if 4 friends purchase, $40 would be credited to the referrer’s account. You can also adjust the rules of your referral program. For instance, you can limit to total amount a referrer can earn, say in a month or year.

  3. Lets say if we want to reward customer with store credit. Do we need to setup store credit code or does the API takes care of crediting the customer when the customer’s referred friends trigger the event?

  4. Hi Chris. Most people send a reward email with a reward code. You can also use our API to trigger the event. It just depends on what you want. -Tony

    Hi Tony, will the email be automatically send from Friendbuy when a friend has placed an order via the referral link, or do we have to do that manually? In other words: do we have to track and approve every referral or does the Friendbuy system automatically sends the reward email with the reward code to me when my friend has placed an order via my referral link ? (of course the codes have to be uploaded by us)

    1. Hi Julia. You’ve got it right. Friendbuy will automatically send a referral reward email. And you’re also correct, you will configure the reward email and upload codes. Some customers prefer to collect the data via our API instead, but we have the tools that lets Friendbuy handle rewards as well.

  5. TY..Great Article: Clear, Concise, Exampled…..would welcome an opportunity o SPEAK with you. Our RAF Program is aimed primarily at NON PROFITS yet want to expand to enable ‘regular people’ to be make $10,000/year using our program. Where can we learn about Terms and Conditions and any Legal pitfalls. Best wishes, barry

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