Customer Acquisition & Growth Referral Marketing
September 21, 2023

How to Promote a Referral Programme

How to promote a referral program

So you’re putting in all the hard work of planning and setting up your very own customer referral programme (or you might have a programme already). Now, you'll want to show it off to your customer base and the wider world. But you know it takes a lot more than just simply posting it on your website and socials. Effective promotion can have a huge impact on how many customers participate in the referral programme. 

If that’s the result you want, you’re in the right place! In this blog post we’ll cover everything that you need to inform your promotional efforts. You’ll make your customer referral programme irresistible to both brand advocates and new customers. 




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Why promoting your referral programme effectively is important 

Substantial amounts of time and resources go into designing and launching a customer referral programme. All that effort can go to waste if you don’t know how to promote it. Your existing customers won’t know about it or how it works. And whilst it's true that you could announce it on your media channels, there’s an art to promoting it effectively. 

This becomes all the more apparent when we consider nuances in the following steps. For example, identifying and engaging your most enthusiastic customers involves careful consideration of the customer journey. Two equally enthusiastic customers may prefer different channels for promoting your referral programme. In turn, this will inform the way you leverage your various digital channels. 

As many more companies implement customer loyalty and referral programmes, effective promotion of your own referral reward programme becomes even more essential.

That means crafting compelling, persuasive content. Reaching a wider pool of new customers via various digital channels and meeting expectations and preferences of your brand advocates.

Effective promotion of your customer referral programme demonstrates its value to your business in its ability to: 

  • Increase awareness

  • Drive engagement

  • Boost retention

  • Encourage word of mouth marketing

So, let’s start with how to find your most enthusiastic customers and inspire them towards brand advocacy. 


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How to identify and engage your most enthusiastic customers

Promotional material should be holistically distributed across all segments of your target audience. However, you should prioritise promoting your customer referral programme to customers that are most likely to champion your brand.


Conduct an NPS survey 

NPS (net promoter score) surveys offer one of the best ways to identify potential brand advocates. The survey asks customers one question: 


“How likely are you to recommend our product or service to a family member or friend?”

Respondents give a score between 0 and 10. 

0 - 5 (Detractors) 
Unhappy customers, more likely to abandon the brand than recommend it. 

6 - 8 (Passives) 
Satisfied customers, although not yet devoted enough to the brand to refer other customers to it. 

9 - 10 (Promoters) 
Happy customers, definitely an opportunity to promote your programme via this segment. 

Using an NPS survey helps you positively ID your promoters. From there, you can offer them an incentive, and activate them to spread the word about your customer referral programme. 


Once you’ve identified these promoters, engage them on email, newsletters, apps and in their personal accounts. At this stage focus on sharing information about the referral programme with just potential promoters only. Clearly outline what they need to do to sign up to the customer referral programme. In addition to the: 

  • Type of customers you’re looking for

  • How to make the referral

  • The incentives and rewards for successful referrals 

The first step of engagement is clear communication about how it works and the promise of enticing rewards. Market it in a way that makes the advocate feel they’re part of an exclusive, closed group of highly appreciated customers. 


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Strategies for encouraging existing customers to become advocates

At this stage, you’ve established a segment of highly motivated brand advocates. We’ll look at how to keep these customers engaged later on in the blog. For now, we need to consider how to encourage existing customers to become advocates. 

We need to consider the “Three Re’s” when explaining the benefits of participating in your referral programmes to your customers. 


Rely on your brand advocates

The first “Re” is rely. Rely on your brand advocates to do the initial work. These will eventually refer a friend or family member. At this point, adopt a holistic approach in your promotional material. That way, newly referred customers will be greeted with the benefits of participating in the customer referral programme. 

We’ll look at the various channels you should use later on. 



Refer back to your brand advocates’ experiences 

How about sharing the experiences of your first brand advocates? Ask them to take part in a survey. In return for an incentive, the brand advocate could detail their experience of the referral programme. Which is why our second “Re” is “Refer”. 

Are the rewards and incentives worthwhile? Is the referral process seamless and simple? Does the referral programme complete a fully positive customer experience (CX)? 

Make sure that the feedback survey pre populate the beginning of at least one answer with something like:

“Overall, my experiences in the [Name of Customer Referral Programme] was positive because…”

Something along those lines that suggests the programme is exclusive and reserved for an elite group of customers. This will tap into their natural desire not to miss out on something they consider highly valuable and premium. 



Reach out to old customer segments 

Finally, reach out to the old customer segments. These can be both satisfied and lapsed customers identified in the NPS survey. You should have their details in your CRM or loyalty platform. The contact details of churned customers should also be on hand in your database. 

Now bear in mind, you don’t want to promote your customer referral programme to lapsed customers. Getting them back onboard will require other steps first. Those customers identified as satisfied on the other hand, should be invited to join the referral programme. This will require using various digital channels. 


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Leveraging digital channels for promotion

So, which digital channels should you use? We recommend using all of the below! As will become clear, the viability of most digital channels is earned through their ability to attract different segments. 



Email marketing

This is a great option for promoting your customer referral programme to satisfied customers, even if according to the NPS survey they aren’t ready to advocate. Personalisation has a great impact on email marketing. Subject lines that contain the recipient’s name increase open rates to 50%. That’s a guaranteed half of a large segment that will open highly personalised promotional material. 

With consistent quality of product and service and a maintained level of satisfaction, we think the open rate could be even higher. In addition to using their name in the subject line, use an email signature to enhance personalisation. This will make even automated emails feel more personable and tailored specifically to the recipient.




Your website is another great platform to promote your customer referral programme. In fact, your website is perhaps the most versatile channel. That’s because you can feature the promotion pretty much anywhere on screen. Whether that’s on an announcement bar, top menu bar, on the footer or a referral widget that pops up on screen. 

Whichever you decide to use is totally up to you. However, there are best practices to follow that maximise their effectiveness. We recommend placing any reference of the referral programme in the top menu bar and footer. Make sure you’re selling the benefit of participating e.g., “£30.00 off when you successfully refer a friend.” 

An announcement bar is great if your customer referral programme is brand new. Make sure it’s unintrusive to website visitors. For example, it could slide in on top of the screen, without disrupting any menu navigation. Pop up widgets should only be used on the post purchase screens. Here, the delighted customer will be more receptive about making referrals, especially if the incentive is relevant to their purchase. 



Social media

Those lapsed customers are the perfect target for promoting your customer referral programme on social media. Retargeting ads on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, are the most-used by 77% of B2C and B2B marketers.

Your paid ads shouldn’t be tailored exclusively to a winback campaign, however. Remember that lapsed customers will more often than not need nurturing again. But relying on a dedicated social media team means you can begin to rekindle connections with churned customers. Answering their queries and responding to positive reviews, give you an opportunity to promote it on social media. 



Push notifications

Push notifications are a fantastic way of promoting your referral programme to customers not currently interacting with the brand. Your company needs an app that your customers can install on their phone. A push notification will pop up on their screen and alert them, even if their phone is locked and the app isn’t open. 

It’s this ability to instantly bring your brand to the top of mind that sets apart push notifications from other digital channels. The customer doesn’t need to interact or even think about your brand but push notifications will instantly bring your promotional material to their attention. 



All should lead to one destination

Regardless of whether you use one or all three of these main channels, they should all lead to the same place; the landing page. 


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How to create engaging landing pages

There’s a universal anatomy of a great landing page. Gripping content, clean design, demonstrable social proof, and encouragement of quick action. Here’s what you need to do for each of these: 




Design should be clean, clear with a lot of white space, and minimalist. White space has been proven to boost the effectiveness of landing pages.


The headline should lead with the main benefit of your customer referral programme, e.g., “Refer a friend and get X” or “Give X, Get X”. 

Tagline (USP)

The tagline underneath the headline should highlight the unique selling point of the customer referral programme. This could be the incentive or a feature such as gamified elements. 


Copy should be sparse but have massive impact. Should be persuasive, succinct and straight to the point. 

Eye-catching elements

Use eye-catching imagery or even videos to drive engagement

Social proof

Landing pages should include one or two testimonials from brand advocates that participate in the referral programme. 


Should be a straightforward and brief instruction (and include verbs!). 


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How to craft persuasive content and messaging 

Crafting persuasive content and messaging requires the expertise of copywriters and content writers. Good practice dictates that copy should always lead with the benefits. In this case, highlighting the rewards brand advocates receive for bringing new customers onboard. 

Headlines need to be short, snappy and memorable. Taglines should highlight the unique selling point of the referral programme. What sets it apart from your competitors? Are the incentives more compelling? More unique to your products, services or niche? 

Remember to keep tone of voice (ToV) and what you’re actually saying in your messaging across various mediums consistent.

The best way to do this is to use templates. Finally, the CTA button that contains referral links should always contain a verb e.g., “Get”, “Claim”, “Register” etc., and have a sense of urgency. E.g., “Claim Now!”



Why you should track and measure promotions

Promotions about your customer referral programme will feature across various channels. It’s useful to identify the channels where most of your customers are signing up to become advocates. Tracking your promotional material is the only way to assess its effectiveness on various channels. 

For example, you might find that a blog post about your customer referral programme has resonated with your customer base. Which often will be the case as long form content gives you an opportunity to explain how it works and other important details. Or maybe you find an influx of new advocates when you mention the programme in social media bios. 

The main point of this is to identify the most successful sources of brand advocates. Understand what’s making them so effective. Everything you learn from tracking your most successful promotions should inform optimisations of weaker areas. 



Nurturing advocates 

Now, you might find from tracking your promotion efforts that some areas aren’t working well. Even with informed, data-backed adjustments and improvements. Not to worry. There’s a contingency you can put in place.

First of all, make sure that accessing the landing page looks the same in all of your promotions across your various channels. Include a link to your referral programme in your social media bios, customer user accounts, website promotions – anywhere it’s mentioned. This is so you can track the volume of click-through-rates and it keeps the action consistent across the board. 

Identify the links with the least clicks. These will most probably be on your website and social media. Don’t forget these are both venues where brand new leads and customers first interact with your brand. Typically, these segments won’t advocate after their first purchase, unless the benefits are irresistible. 

You want to collect the data of new customers. Think of them as advocates-in-waiting. You’re simply preparing them for the inevitable. Nurture them using email marketing and/or signing up to a user account. Both of these will provide you an opportunity to nurture customers towards advocacy, using strategies best suited to each touchpoint of the customer journey. 


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How to maintain advocate engagement with the programme 

After you’ve nurtured customers towards advocacy you want to keep them! Here’s some strategies that you can use to keep your hard earned brand advocates on side. 


Surprise and delight

Surprise and delight marketing is an exceptional way of saying “we see you and we appreciate you” to your brand advocates. In fact, an overwhelming amount of consumers say that surprise gifts are incredibly important to their experiences. 


Recognise and showcase advocates

An even better way of showing brand advocates that you see them. Champion your champions! With their permission, feature them on your website, social media channels, and other marketing channels. Recognising your most active brand advocates will motivate them and feel part of the brand. 

Don’t forget to give them a title they’ll feel proud of e.g., Brand Ambassador or Advocate of the Month! (And always remember to throw in a great reward for good measure!).  


Offer exclusive content

Access to exclusive access is a great way of nurturing brand advocates early in the customer journey. You can market the benefit of behind-the-scenes updates, sneak peeks, and early access to new products on your landing page. Thus, motivating even more customers to sign up to the referral programme or risk missing out on special value. 


Create a community

Humans are naturally social creatures and have an innate desire to belong to a tribe. An online community built around your brand can meet this need head on. Online communities have repeatedly demonstrated higher customer retention and engagement

Again, this can be marketed as another benefit of joining the customer referral programme. Offering brand advocates a “closed club” group where they can share their experiences, interests in the brand, and suggestions for improvements.


Use gamification

Lastly, why not add gamified elements to your customer referral programme? When it comes to improving engagement, gamification is simply king. Community activities (essential for referrals) see a 100-150% increase.

You could include scoreboards that rank brand advocates, adding a sense of competitiveness to the referral programme. These could be monthly or bi-annual contests, the winner of which wins a special prize. Adding gamified elements taps into our natural desire to play, compete and collaborate with one another and is a great way to boost engagement.


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Sustainable growth for the most successful, cost-effective and trusted form of marketing 

Poor promotion will see all the hard work and effort you’ve put into your customer referral programme go to waste. Good promotion will most certainly give you a sharp uptick at launch but deflated interest will follow. Great promotion guarantees long term sustainable growth of the most cost-effective and successful form of marketing. 

And that’s exactly why a well-promoted programme is important! Just remember the key takeaways:

  • Identify potential brand advocates using NPS surveys and track their behaviour.

  • Use the three “Re’s”: Rely, Refer, Reach to encourage existing customers to become brand advocates.

  • At the very least use the three main digital channels: email marketing, your website and social media to promote your programme.

  • When you launch a link to your referral programme it should always lead to an engaging, well-designed landing page that has a clear CTA.

  • Track your promotional material to learn from its successes and identify its weaknesses.

  • Nurture new customers towards advocacy from the get-go using email marketing or user accounts. Don’t forget to personalise the messaging!

  • Engage existing brand advocates with consistent use of surprise and delight marketing, recognising their efforts and offering them exclusive content. Don’t forget to tap into human desires to belong, play, compete and collaborate.

  • Market the engagement strategies as benefits in your promotional material.


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