Refer-a-Friend Programs: Tips and Examples

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Digital marketing pioneer Ann Handley said it best: “We’re past the age where if you build it, they will come. You do have to have some sort of promotional program in place.”

Enter: Referral marketing and refer-a-friend programs, tried-and-true ways to quickly grow your business. Refer-a-friend programs can boost your word-of-mouth marketing, helping you connect with loyal customers who support your brand. 

But when so many companies already have refer-a-friend programs, how do you distinguish yours and make it stand out? 

Tip #1: Choose the Best Incentive for Your Audience

All referral programs offer some type of incentive for customers to hype a brand; the tricky part is finding the right reward for your customer base.

Consumers, particularly millennials and Gen Z, are increasingly drawn to brands that support social causes. A 2022 study found that 46% of all consumers in the U.S. consider a brand’s social responsibility efforts when they buy a product. Moreover, 70% of consumers want to know what brands are doing to support social and environmental causes.

A great example of tapping into what millennials and Gen Z-ers are drawn to — and incentivizing them to brand advocacy is the Financial planning and workplace management platform Vena Solutions.

Vena’s refer-a-friend incentive offers customers a reward in the form of a charitable donation instead of monetary rewards.

Existing clients can refer anyone to Vena. If the referred person becomes a client, the company will make a $2,000 donation in the referrer’s name to a charity of their choice. You read that right. The referrer chooses the charity and the company forks over $2k.





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Referral Marketing – The Best Practices You Need to Know

Written by veteran referral marketers, this guide will help you optimize your referral marketing program and supercharge growth

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Tip #2: Time Your Refer-a-Friend Programs For Maximum Engagement

To maximize the impact of your referral programs, amp up messaging around busy times, like holidays or important shopping moments, i.e., the times your customers are planning to shop.

Creating a marketing campaign with language specific to that shopping period is essential. For example, if you know that business picks up for your brand around Christmas, launch a campaign in October (or perhaps even earlier, depending on your audience) that targets customers buying presents. 

Cryptocurrency exchange company Binance offered a limited-time Valentine’s Day referral campaign to encourage customers to refer their friends.

They called it “Spread the Love” and offered pink and red “mystery boxes” containing different amounts of cryptocurrency, some up to $500. Customers earned more mystery boxes for each referral, with the opportunity to win big. The design of the digital boxes played into the theme of love we associate with Valentine’s Day.

Tip #3: Make It Easy 

A referral program is only as good as its accessibility to your customers. 

Our advice? Stroll through your website and pretend you’re a new customer. Be honest, how easy or hard is it to find your referral program? 

Place a link on your website’s landing page to remove barriers to your program. Label the link clearly with something like “Refer-a-Friend” or “Referral Program” rather than something gimmicky. Clear-cut and easy-to-understand language will always beat out clever and obscure.

In addition to clearly labeling your referral program on your website, you can spread the word by sharing information about your program across different marketing channels. Here are a few ideas:

  • Email: Plug your referral program and its benefits in a monthly newsletter
  • Social media: Ask customers to tag you in TikToks hyping the program, or post on Instagram Stories and save that story to your highlights
  • Blog posts: Dedicate an article on your blog to your program
  • Order confirmation: Tell customers about your program when they complete a purchase
  • FAQs: Add a question on your FAQ page to describe your program, how customers can get a personalized link to share with friends, and any eligibility requirements


Discover more about optimizing your refer-a-friend program by checking out our:

2023 Referral Guide


Tip #4: Diversify Your Incentives

Creating a tiered referral program that rewards referrers based on the number or quality of referrals they make adds an element of competition and achievement. It encourages more referrals while recognizing and incentivizing top performers with exclusive perks such as special discounts, early access to new products, and VIP customer support.

Questrade is a stock trading platform that uses a tiered refer-a-friend program. The program offers $25 for the first two referrals and a $50 bonus for the third referral.

Exclusive tiers in your referral program help your program stand out and can help drive increased customer engagement and loyalty by fostering a sense of accomplishment and recognition among referrers, ultimately strengthening their connection with your brand.

Tip #5: Personalize Your Communication

Tailor referral invitations and follow-up communications to make them more personal and relevant to each customer. Personalized touches enhances the customer experience and makes the referral request more exciting. 

Instead of generic referral requests, use data from past purchases, preferences, or interactions with your brand to craft personalized messages. Create a connection by mentioning specific products they might like or highlighting their previous positive experiences with your brand. 

Personalization demonstrates that you value your customers individually, making them more likely to share your brand with their network. When customers feel a genuine connection, they are more inclined to share your brand with friends and family, leading to higher conversion rates in your referral program.

Tip #6: Leverage a Customer-Led Growth Tool To Manage Your Refer-a-Friend Program

Creating relationships at scale is difficult, especially without the right tools. Treating customers with a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t make your customers feel special, or your referral program stand out.

A customer-led growth tool can help your refer-a-friend programs stand out from the crowd and save you time and money.

Solutions like Extole can create lookalike audiences that mimic your best, most actionable customers; this will help you reach your existing audience and other people with similar buying habits who can be influenced into becoming customers.

Don’t take our word for it, though — discover how one company leveraged a customer-led growth platform to tailor incentives that aligned with different customer journies.  

Use Case: Policygenius + Extole: An Optimized Refer-a-Friend Sucess Story

  • Problem: Policygenius faced challenges with its existing refer-a-friend program, which was running on a low-cost provider and was not meeting its goals; it couldn’t accommodate the diverse journeys of Policygenius customers, hindering its ability to create tailored programs that made sense for customers.


  • Solution: Policygenius sought a more sophisticated referral provider to address these challenges and upgraded to Extole. The solution involved creating an industry-specific referral program that matched each of Policygenius’s product types. The Extole team developed a highly integrated referral program, allowing customers to easily share Policygenius with a friend and receive personalized rewards based on the specific insurance policy their friend purchased. The solution provided seamless tracking and management, sending journey-specific events to Extole for comprehensive analytics and reporting capabilities.


  • Results: The Extole-powered refer-a-friend program for Policygenius yielded significant success. Notably, 60% of referrals with a free account successfully purchased a policy. 


These results demonstrate the success of an easy-to-use, tiered, and tailored referral program that drives customer engagement, acquisition, and overall growth for Policygenius while helping the brand stand out from its competition.


*You can read the whole Policygenius success story or discover other brands’ refer-a-friend successes, here*


The impact of a well-crafted and timed refer-a-friend program will result in driving customer engagement and significant business growth. The strategic partnership between your brand and a solution like Extole is an innovative referral approach that will set your brand and referral program apart in the competitive landscape.

To learn and discover more, see Extole in action and request a demo, today!

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