6 Refer A Friend Email Templates That We Recommend

by Emma Kimmerly

September 18, 2022

There's a well-established science that underpins a refer-a-friend email template.

The approach uses email and design best practices, combined with strategic referral incentives, to ultimately create effective referral emails with profit-boosting results.

And that's exactly what this guide is all about: creating refer-a-friend emails that convert.

To help you find success with your referral email campaigns, here we:

  1. discuss the different types of referral emails,
  2. highlight referral email conversion rate optimization (CRO) best practices, and
  3. provide a variety of referral email templates that fit the different stages of the conversion funnel.


Types Of Referral Email Templates

There are two main types of referral email templates businesses should leverage to secure referrals: 1) personal referral emails and 2) mass referral emails.

A personal referral email is, as it sounds, a personalized email sent to a targeted demographic of high-converting customers. Why? To leverage their brand loyalty and incentivize them to refer friends. The incentives used for this type of referral email campaign are individualized and based on previous purchasing behavior.

A mass referral email (a.k.a email blast) is sent to both existing and new customers with little emphasis placed on their interests or previous purchasing behavior. This type of referral email campaign is typically generic, based on monthly campaigns, quarterly, or yearly events. The referral rewards offered, and the content used within the email campaign, is attractive to an entire customer base.


When To Use A Referral Email Template?

It's time to use a referral email template when:

  1. You’ve built a referral-ready customer base.
  2. Your business can handle an influx of new clients.
  3. You can grow your referral program through a segmented email list.


When Sending To Highest Value Customers

A high-value customer is defined as someone who:

  • makes repeat purchases and/or
  • leaves positive reviews on product pages

You can use each of these above behaviors as triggers to segment high-value customers from the rest of your customer base.

For example, using integrations with Attentive and Okendo, the Friendbuy platform allows users to set up an automated referral program text message that is triggered when a customer leaves a positive review. The referral text will invite them to join your referral program.

We'll look at some email templates for each of these triggers below.


When Sending Mass Emails to Entire Customer Base

Rather than personalized referral emails being sent out to a specific customer base, mass referral emails are sent out based upon general events like:

  • monthly, quarterly, or yearly referral program campaigns,
  • seasonal and sale campaigns, or
  • general post-purchase.

We'll look at some email templates for each of these mass email campaigns below.


Sending Referral Email Templates To Highest Value Customers

Incentivize continued business from your most loyal customers by offering referral program rewards that will make them feel truly appreciated.

A product or service upgrade, exclusive access to new products or services, and exclusive discounts or early access to sales are popular referral rewards for high-value customers.

Here are some effective referral email templates you can send to your loyal customers today.


Easy Template To Invite Loyal Customers

refer a friend email template for loyal customers

Title copy: To one of our favorite customers… you!
Body copy: (Recipient name), thank you so much for being a loyal customer to (brand name). Since you’ve ordered (X) times, we wanted to take a moment and give you something in return. In your next order, you’ll receive a (referral offer), and we’ve made a (incentive) on your behalf.
CTA copy: Refer your friends and family to (insert brand name) and get (X)% off your next order.

Here’s what this loyal customers template did well:

  1. Shows some love. A loyal customer email should refer to the recipient by name and thank them for their past purchases.
  2. Creates a feeling of exclusiveness. A free BigDogCo. hoodie and the phrase "our favorite customer" cultivates a feeling of exclusiveness.
  3. Offers personalized rewards. Loyal customers will appreciate rewards that align with their interests and preferences (e.g., donating to a shelter is sure to be celebrated by animal lovers).


After A Loyal Customer Makes A Repeat Purchase

refer a friend email template for repeat purchases

Title copy: Doggone it, you’re the best
Body copy: We see you. Thank you for being such a loyal customer of (brand name). Your order number is #(XXXX), and here’s your tracking link: (insert referral link).
CTA copy: Refer your friends and family to (brand name) and get (X)% off your next order.
Button copy: GET YOUR LINK

Here’s why this repeat purchase template converts:

  1. Relevant. A reference to a repeat purchaser’s recent purchase is the perfect way to break the ice.
  2. Encourages repeat business. A 20% discount, or similar referral reward, will inspire future purchases.
  3. Easy to take part. Complimenting the email's body copy, a clear CTA button, and an easy-to-access referral link will boost conversions.

Further reading: For more ways to reward your most loyal customers, check out these customer referral program ideas.


After A Positive Review Or Social Media Comment

refer a friend email template after positive review

Title copy: We’re big fans of yours, too
Body copy: Thank you so much for providing your feedback! We’re so glad to hear you’re happy with your (brand name) experience.
CTA copy: Use your personal referral link below to invite your friends to join, and get (X)% off your next order.

The key takeaways from this template:

  1. Offers thanks. Express how grateful you are for a customer’s positive feedback.
  2. Engaging. They like you, so show a little personality with some humor or wittiness.
  3. Offers attractive rewards. To really grab a customer's attention, offer a referral bonus like a discount, gift card, or voucher.

Further reading: to stay ahead of the latest trends, take the time to read through our social media referral program guide.


Sending Mass Referral Email Templates To Entire Customer Base

To encourage business from your entire customer base, or large segments of it, mass referral email campaigns should offer incentives that appeal to everybody.

For instance, discounts, coupons, gift cards, or even a free subscription service period are referral program rewards that everybody will appreciate.


Monthly Or Quarterly Referral Program Awareness Emails

Just like the simple referral email that can be sent to loyal customers, the same principles apply here. The only differences are:

  1. The message can be short and sweet. Less emphasis should be placed on personalization, as it's less of a priority here.
  2. Engagement is a high priority. Think witty copy, high-quality images, and a conversion rate optimization-aligned layout.
  3. Timing is everything. Sending referral emails at the right time of day, time of the week, and while interest in a product or service is at its highest, are integral to securing conversions.

Further reading: to help you brainstorm a killer campaign, check out our refer-a-friend program ideas.


Campaign-Based Email Template

referral email template for campaigns and holiday events

Title copy: Special offer: (X)% off for you and a friend!
Body copy: The holidays are here, and at (brand name), we don’t believe anybody should end up on the naughty list. To celebrate, we’re offering you and a friend (X)% off your next purchase.
CTA copy: All you have to do is share your referral link and they’ll get a discount code. Once they’ve purchased, you’ll get (X)% off too!
Button copy: SHARE NOW

This campaign-based email template is effective because:

  1. Promotes a sense of exclusivity. Using language like "special offer" will make a recipient feel special and motivate them to take part in a referral program.
  2. Encapsulates an event. An email campaign's imagery, written tone, and referral rewards should embrace the spirit of a seasonal event or holiday period.
  3. Make it extra special. To stand out from your monthly or quarterly refer-a-friend email campaigns, offer something different than you normally do. A 50% discount is massive and likely to grab attention.

Further reading: embrace the festive mood, see our holiday referral marketing ideas.


Post-Purchase Referral Email Template

post purchase refer a friend email template

Title copy: (X)% off for everyone
Body copy: Share your love for (brand name) with friends and family! Send them a link to purchase with (X)% off so they can spoil themselves. When they use your link, you’ll get (X)% off your next purchase too.
CTA copy: The only thing you need to start is a (brand name) account - so what are you waiting for? Use the link below to get started.
Button copy: START SHARING

Here’s why this post-purchase email is effective:

  1. Attracts new customers. Using referral rewards that appeal to an existing customer’s friends and family, who are fellow dog lovers, will build a highly relevant customer base.
  2. Offers lucrative rewards. 20% off for both the Advocate and Friend is a solid discount that converts well for many businesses.
  3. Easily accessed CTAs. A clear call-to-action button positioned front and center grabs attention, leading to higher referral conversions.


Referral Email Template Best Practices

Just like web design, referral marketing success is built off the back of conversion rate optimization (CRO) framework best practices. This includes the location of referral email elements, their color, text weight, and various other design factors that take advantage of human behavior and cognitive biases.

For Friendbuy customers, we have this baked into our onboarding process. We use your branding guide to create highly optimized email templates for each of the referral marketing campaigns you choose to run.

Here are the principles that, according to the CRO framework, apply to referral program emails.


Write A Subject Line Worth Opening

A subject line must, first, grab the attention of an email recipient and, second, encourage both the Advocate and their referred Friend to open the email.

How do we do this?

To create effective subject lines, use catchy phrases, be specific about what the email contains, and use numbers and statistics.

You can see this in practice here.

example referral marketing email subject lines

The highlighted subject lines use emotional cues like, "Bitcoin revenue plunges 34%" or "A $190m hack reveals the extent of crypto's security problem."

Another common practice is to use power words that evoke an emotional response.

Just like these highlighted subject lines. Phrases like "new listings" or "early access" work well.

Using power words and phrases works on a psychological phenomenon called emotional argumentation - a persuasion technique used across many marketing ventures, including referral marketing.

This is when a simple A/B test on your subject lines might come in handy. You can test different power words, specific phrases, and even subject line copy formulas to see which final subject line gives you the highest open rate.


Make It Short And Sweet (And Clear)

Your click-worthy subject line has done its magic. The customer has opened your referral email.

Now, you've got literally seconds to convince them not to hit the delete button. But you won't accomplish this if the email's copy is too long-winded and complex.

Instead, aim to keep things tight, concise, and straight to the point.

Metromile is a great example of referral marketing done right. Their referral program emails are tight, concise, and to the point.

example referral email

  1. There's an immediate reference to the referral reward.
  2. In three sentences, the email describes how customers can take part in the referral process (with a link to the referral program page; highlighted by the arrow).
  3. And included is a well-positioned CTA button.

Not including the titles and disclaimer at the bottom of the email, there are six sentences that give all the details a potential participant needs to participate in Metromile's referral program.


Personalize When Possible

We've covered it, but to really drive the point home - it's to sound like a human. Ideally, make the reader feel like they are receiving an email from an old friend.

The best way to do this?

Be conversational by using second-person language. Use pronouns like "you" and "your".

The Burrow team has mastered the use of conversational copywriting.

how to improve referral marketing emails

The choice of words, and addressing the reader directly, evokes an emotional connection with the Burrow brand. Removing the computer screen (or mobile device) and establishing a direct connection between brand and customer.

A touch that you, the reader, will no doubt appreciate.


Don’t Forget To Optimize The Email For Mobile

Forty-seven percent of people use a mobile device to check their emails, so if your referral emails are not mobile optimized, then you’re missing out on a lot of referrals that could be made.

To avoid any mobile-based catastrophes, optimize your emails so that the referral program email elements like images, text, and fonts appear as you expect them to. An email preview tool can help you spot any formatting issues. 

The Friendbuy touch: Friendbuy's integration with Klaviyo automates referral program communications, including mobile-optimized emails. Klaviyo automatically optimizes the appearance of your referral emails. That way, when a user views them on a mobile device, the styling, formatting, and functionality of elements within a referral program email appear and work as you'd expect.

If you'd like to learn more about Klaviyo's mobile optimization capabilities, check out their mobile email optimization guide here.


Include A Clear Call-To-Action (CTA)

All your hard work so far has led to this: the call-to-action (CTA), which most often is the CTA button.

To create a high-converting CTA button, it's important to keep a couple of pointers in mind: 

  1. make sure the referral program email's imagery and copy lead the reader's attention to your strategically placed CTA button, and 
  2. choose a high-converting color.

While placement will vary depending on the layout you choose for your referral program emails (typically placed in the most visible section of an email), the color of a CTA button requires a touch more consideration.

Red is universally considered to be the best color for CTA buttons, as it evokes feelings of energy and, most importantly, action.

As described in Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions, "some usage of red on call-to-actions increases conversions, particularly in instances where an element of fear-based marketing is being used or red is a dominant color of the brand itself."

include clear call to action in referral marketing emails

But what happens if red isn't the dominant color of your brand or you simply prefer not to use it?

Well, the choice of color depends on several factors, including the product or service being offered, a target audience's preferences, and the overall aesthetic of a business' branding. For example, research has shown that green is a calming color that instills feelings of confidence and wealth, which can be beneficial for websites selling products or services that require a high degree of trust (e.g., financial services).

how to create a refer a friend email

Ultimately, branding, preference, and, more importantly, experimentation is key to determining the copy, placement, and colors you should use for your referral program marketing material.

Further reading: if your business specializes in the financial sector, see our financial insurance referral program guide.

Tonal Case Study CTA - Blog


Referral Email Designs And Templates That Our Customers Use

Below are examples of referral email designs and templates that have proven to be successful for our customers.


example refer a friend email

  1. Business Type: B2C
  2. Incentive Type: two-way incentive
  3. Referral Program Rewards: Both the Friend and Advocate receive a free Healthy Hair Maintenance Kit and free shipping on their first $50+ US domestic order
  4. Subject Line: "Yay!! (Advocate's name) shared OLAPLEX with you."
  5. CTA: "Let's go"


Digital Subscription: StraighterLine

example refer a friend email

  1. Business Type: B2C
  2. Incentive Type: two-side incentive
  3. Referral Program Rewards: give a free course, get a $15 reward when the Friend makes a purchase of $89 or more
  4. Subject Line: "Yay!! (Advocate's name) shared StraighterLine with you."
  5. CTA: "Get my free course"
  6. Button Color: Green, to evoke a sense of trust


E-Learning + Media: Little Passports

example refer a friend email

  1. Business Type: B2C
  2. Incentive Type: two-side incentive
  3. Referral Program Rewards: give $25 off a 6- or 12-month subscription, get a $25 reward
  4. Subject Line: "Your friend (Advocate's name) is giving you $25 off Little Passports."
  5. CTA: "Get $25 off"
  6. Button Color: Reddish orange, to catch your attention


Fitness: Outdoor Voices

example refer a friend email

  1. Business Type: B2C
  2. Incentive Type: two-way incentive
  3. Referral Program Rewards: give $20 off a friend's first order over $100, get $20 for each referral
  4. Subject Line: "(Advocate's email) sent you $20 off"
  5. CTA: "Get $20 off"


Fashion + Kids: UNTUCKit

example referral marketing email

  1. Business Type: B2C
  2. Incentive Type: two-side incentive
  3. Referral Program Rewards: give 15% off a friend's first order of $99+, get 15%
  4. Subject Line: "You've received a 15% offer to shop!"
  5. CTA: "Click here for your 15% offer"


Financial Services: Intuit Quickbooks

example referral marketing email

  1. Business Type: B2B
  2. Incentive Type: two-way incentive
  3. Referral Program Rewards: give 50% off a friend's first 6 months of QuickBooks Online, get a $100 VISA prepaid card
  4. Subject Line: "Check this out"
  5. CTA: "Subscribe now"
  6. Button Color: Green, to evoke a sense of trust


Food And Beverage: MUD\WTR

example referral marketing email

  1. Business Type: B2C
  2. Incentive Type: two-way incentive
  3. Referral Program Rewards: give $10, get $10
  4. Subject Line: "(Advocate's email) is sending you something awesome!"
  5. CTA: "Get $10 off"


Home Goods + High Consideration: Smile

example referral marketing email

  1. Business Type: B2C
  2. Incentive Type: two-way incentive
  3. Referral Program Rewards: give $100, get $100
  4. Subject Line: "(Advocate's name) shared SmileDirectClub with you!"
  5. CTA: "Get $100 off"
  6. Button Color: Branded purple, to stand out


Insurance + Hipaa: Kin Insurance

referral marketing email example

  1. Business Type: B2C
  2. Incentive Type: two-side incentive
  3. Referral Program Rewards: give a free quote, get a $20 gift card for every friend that signs up
  4. Subject Line: "Your friend thinks you'll love this"
  5. CTA: "Get a Quote"


Pets: Get Joy

referral marketing email example

  1. Business Type: B2C
  2. Incentive Type: two-way incentive
  3. Referral Program Rewards: Give a friend 40% off their first 2 subscription orders, get a 40% off coupon when they make a purchase
  4. Subject Line: "Yay, (Advocates name) is giving you 40% off your first 2 subscription orders."
  5. CTA: "GET 40% OFF"


Closing Thoughts

So which type of email is right for you?

Ultimately, the best type of referral email depends on your specific business and marketing goals. We recommend using both strategies at once.

Your best customers will appreciate the time you've taken to speak to them in a personalized manner and the rest of your customers will appreciate the opportunity for an enticing reward.

New call-to-action