7 Best Examples of Referral Marketing

If you’re betting your success on a referral program, better make it prominent enough for people to see and participate. We’ve pinned down the leading referral marketing examples to help you maximize your reach across different channels.

Abdul Wahab

Abdul Wahab

· 12 min read
7 Best Examples of Referral Marketing

With choices abound and fleeting attention spans of consumers, the marketing strategies that once brought businesses to prominence are becoming obsolete. More and more businesses are shifting towards age-old ways of marketing, leveraging word of mouth to build brand perception and drive new customers on board.

Being the most trusted form of advertising among all channels, referral marketing influences 81% of all consumer purchase decisions in favor of a product or service. Apparently, the formula is surprisingly simple; identify your most loyal customers and entice them with rewards that turn them into brand ambassadors.

But sometimes, attracting an audience for your referral program holds significance over the rewards you offer. While businesses look towards leading customer referral program examples to shape their campaign structure, hardly any attention is paid to advertising the initiative.

If you’re betting your success on a referral program, better make it prominent enough for people to see and participate. We’ve pinned down the leading referral marketing examples to help you maximize your reach across different channels.

Why Set Up a Referral Marketing Program?

As consumers become more discerning of their options, traditional advertising is losing ground in winning the audience’s trust and shaping their buying behavior. In such a digitally interconnected world, word-of-mouth has emerged as an influential force that can make or break a brand.

Following the principles of altruism, people have an innate desire to share their positive experiences with family and peers - and customer referral programs leverage that in their favor.

One positive note about your brand can bridge the gap of trust with your audience, turning prospects into customers. Here’s what positive word-of-mouth can do for your business:

Establish Trust with the Audience

Trust is the cornerstone of any successful business-customer relationship. Referral marketing offers a unique advantage by enabling businesses to piggyback on the trust existing customers have already established with their connections.

When a friend or acquaintance recommends a product or service, it carries an implicit endorsement, significantly reducing skepticism and increasing the likelihood of conversion.

People are 4 times more likely to spend cash on something referred to by their friends. Trust gained through referrals helps businesses establish a positive reputation and credibility in the market.

Cost-Effective Customer Acquisition

Traditional marketing channels often require substantial investments with uncertain returns. Referral campaigns, on the other hand, drive people’s loyalty to the brand and enthusiasm to win rewards for generating referrals.

As your program reaches a wider audience through active promotion, more people will join in to reap rewards. People are only rewarded when the lead they refer converts into customers. With no upfront expenses and a 5x higher conversion rate, referrals create a win-win situation for both customers and the brand.

Expanding Reach and Market Penetration

Referral marketing allows businesses to penetrate new markets and demographics beyond their circle of interference. As satisfied customers refer their acquaintances, the brand message reaches people you didn’t view as your primary audience.

Given you have an impeccable promotion strategy and offer enticing rewards, your referral program will attract audiences beyond your comprehension. This organic network effect can lead to a substantial increase in brand visibility and recognition.

7 Best Referral Program Examples to Amplify Reach

The idea of word-of-mouth marketing has circulated for ages, but it has only become more effective and mainstream with the onset of technology. While the rise of smartphones and social media has provided access to new horizons, many businesses are still applying the same worn-out approach to marketing: give a reward to gain the same reward back.

One cannot expect to foster brand loyalty in customers without breaking away from the ordinary. As a marketer gearing up for a product launch, you need some creative tactics to engage customers or even pique their interest in the first place.

Forget the cookie-cutter approach, here are 10 successful examples of referral marketing to optimize your referral program for better outcomes.

T-mobile Raises Stakes With Stocks

“Cash is King,” a slang term often circulated in the business media, holds true to its name in referral marketing. While you cannot offer a more tangible reward than hard cash, some alternatives can cause a stir and media hype around your brand - T-Mobile, for one, derived its reward program quite ingeniously.

In June 2016, the US wireless carrier T-Mobile offered to give its customers a share in the company in exchange for referring new users. The company initiated a flashy “Stock Up” campaign on social media with John Legere, T-Mobile’s president saying;

"I'm gonna thank you like you've never been thanked before,...Why should Wall Street be the only one to benefit [from our company's success]? You should too."

T-Mobile’s stock up referral campaign webpage.
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For every lead generated, the referrer would receive one share in the company, earning up to 100 shares a year. Existing customers who had been with the company for over five years were offered ownership of 2 stocks per referral for the first year of the campaign.

Instead of rolling out new shares for referrers, T-Mobile initially bought shares from the open market before awarding customers so it didn’t dilute existing shareholders’ value.

Besides getting featured in major media outlets, T-Mobile’s referral campaign was an overall success. The company distributed over 1 million shares over the next five years achieving a 150% growth rate. T-Mobile recently jumped ships with its referral strategy, offering referrers a chance to earn $500 in yearly rewards ($50 per friend who joins).

Everlane Makes Referrals Transparent as its Pricing

Outclassing counterparts and establishing a strong brand presence in the fashion and apparel industry is ever so stressful. With new startups popping up and existing brands rolling out fast fashion, it’s hard for marketers to keep up with the trends unless you have a striking USP and loyal customer base - and Everlane has both.

Transparency is Everlane’s trademark, whether it’s disclosing the manufacturing process, breaking down retail pricing, or displaying the referral performance. Even though the company’s referral program deals in simple $25 cash credits, it’s their brilliant but subtle marketing tactics that ensure participation.

Here are three effective tactics, Everlane implemented in its referral strategy:

Make Referral Program Prominent on the Homepage

If you’re creating a referral program, make sure it’s embedded in a spot that’s easily visible to every visitor who enters your website. Instead of labeling it as a “referral program” or “invite friends”, set the referral reward as your tag to attract the audience. Everlane draws attention to the web page stating it as “Get $25.”

Everlane homepage.
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Designate a personalized Referral Link for Each Referrer

Allot personalized referral links to every person who signs up for your referral program with their own name in the URL. The strategy makes it easier for referrals and advocates to remember and associate it as a positive lead.

Everlane personalized referral link.
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Concoct an Ingenious Referral Offer

While the $25 cash credit looks pretty stale at a glance, it allows customers to choose what they pay for a product while referring their friend. With each referral, participants can determine what percentage of discount - 5%, 10%, or 15% - they wish to pay for their purchase. The discount value increases with each purchase.

Everlane product page.
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Robinhood Taps Millenials with Gamification

With unprecedented success during pre-launch and continuation afterward, Robinhood appears to have hacked growth. But in reality, it’s a series of time-sensitive decisions and ingenious marketing tactics that have kept the trading platform soaring with customers.

Robinhood rose to fame with its gamified business model that aims to give users a seamless and thrilling experience of trading. The user-intensive app resembles a video game more than a sober trading platform, and that’s driving millennials and Gen Z in excessive numbers.

Marketers at Robinhood have emulated a similar mobile-friendly approach and gamification tactics to boost participation in its referral program. Users who invite a friend on board or get them to download the app through their referral link will receive $200 worth of stock randomly selected from a pool of shares.

Robinhood referral sharing smartphone slide.
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As a way to raise stakes and gamify the referral process even further, Robinhood adds a possibility to win big. The pool of shares dedicated for referrers starts at $2.50 but could be worth $225 based entirely on luck.

Tesla Pours Everything into the Campaign

Tesla has not only revolutionized the automotive industry with EVs but also redefined the concept of customer engagement through its innovative referral programs. Embracing a visionary approach to marketing, Tesla has consistently leveraged the power of its passionate and loyal customer base to drive word-of-mouth advocacy.

Over the years, Tesla has run several referral programs rewarding customers with diverse rewards and exclusive experiences for promoting their brand with positive word of mouth. We’ve deconstructed four different marketing tactics which Tesla channeled its growth from.

Tesla’s Double-Sided Cash Incentives

The EV company started with double-sided rewards, offering $1,000 in Tesla credits to both referring and referred-in customers. The credits could be cashed in as special discounts on different products. Though Tesla was yet to experiment with different types of referral programs, the strategy worked quite impressively in its favor, offering a 40x ROI.

Tesla’s Refer-a-friend Program landing page.
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Tesla’s Exclusive $1,000 Cash Credits

While the cash credit remained the same as in the initial campaign, Tesla’s second attempt offered enticing rewards - a new Tesla P90 Model S, a home charger, and a trip to the grand opening of Tesla’s Gigafactory - to the person who generated the most referrals. The strategy helped Tesla generate a 42x ROI.

Tesla’s referral page based on region.
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Tesla Leveraging SpaceX Raffle

In the third episode, Tesla upgraded the reward from $1,000 to $1,200 Tesla credits but that’s not the main highlight. The company leveraged the SpaceX hype to drive participation from the audience. The company conducted a raffle or referral contest enabling referring customers to earn a free pass to tour the SpaceX headquarters.

Tesla Offering Stackable Rewards

In its latest referral campaign, Tesla offered incoming customers $1,000 in Tesla credits whereas, referrers got the entry to win a Ludacris P90 Model X and gain access to stackable rewards based on the referrals they generate. Here’s how Tesla’s tiered incentives were laid out:

2 referrals: Tesla’s exclusive duffel bag.

3 referrals: Tesla exclusive owners jacket

5 referrals: Tesla exclusive wheel rims

10 referrals: Free pass to Tesla’s next unveiling event

Tesla Ludacris P90 Model X
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Dollar Shave Club Drives Engagement through Videos

Whether you’re conducting a targeted referral campaign or simply expanding your presence online, publishing interactive content online may win you favor with prospects the moment you set up shop.

With a referral strategy ready and incentives outlined, marketers at Dollar Shave Club were only looking for a breakthrough to get the leads rolling in. One thing was clear, Dubin (CEO) knew they needed a stroke of genius marketing campaign to stand out from the noise - and a video advert was their best shot.

Dollar Shave Club advert along with script.
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The advert labelled “Our Blades are F***ing Great”, featured a humouristic comentary on the industry pain points showcasing why DSC is the best in the market. With the company’s CEO as the protagonist cracking witty jokes about the existing blade companies, the commercial blew up on the internet.

The 90-second video that cost $5,000 to produce in a factory was taken up by a storm, channeling over 12,000 subscribers within the first 48 hours of the release. Once the track was laid out, the marketing team leveraged the humorous approach to build a fan base around the brand.

By the end of the summer, Dollar Shave Club boasted over 330k customers most of whom were ready to propel the word in their networks. The viral video also had a ripple effect on the brand’s Google search results exhibiting a 3x branded search volume than Gillette. Once a visitor channeled in on the homepage, Dollar Shave Club had just the system in place to enroll them as brand advocates.

Smile Direct Club Adds Pop-Up Widgets

No one likes being bombarded with campaign messages and unskippable ads, no matter how valuable the referral proposition is. Besides they ruin the website experience, further diminishing the chances of participation from prospects. If you fear the audience jumping ship due to insufficient promotion, Smile Direct Club has a way out.

Smile Direct Club homepage with pop-up message.
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The healthcare brand seamlessly embeds email pop-ups and sign-up forms on the website homepage to grab attention while remaining unobtrusive for a better experience. By making the enrollment process easily accessible and tapping them through multiple hoops, visitors are most likely to convert into customers, join your program, and refer it to others.

When incorporating a pop-up widget into your website, keep the following tips in mind:

Is your pop-up widget intended to promote your referral program, collect email addresses, or offer a special discount? Understand your objective in designing an effective pop-up.

Craft a compelling message that outlines the benefits of your program with a strong call-to-action (CTA) integrated.

Integrate an eye-catching pop-up widget that complements your website's overall aesthetic which makes it easy to spot.

Consider the timing and triggers for displaying the pop-up like time-based (e.g., after a certain duration), and scroll-based (e.g., after a user scrolls a certain percentage of the page).

Casper Requests Referrals with Follow-Up Emails

A common mistake that many modern-day startups and marketers commit is undermining the potential of emails in marketing. While many think it to be a dead resource, email marketing is a cost-effective solution and perhaps, the best way to keep in touch with your customers throughout their journey.

Whether it’s establishing the first point of contact with prospects or following up with them once they turn into customers, emails help foster relationships with customers on a personal level.

Besides it can be a perfect way to ring up customers who may missed your referral program widget while purchasing. Casper, the online mattress retailer, leverages the medium quite impeccably to target key influencers in its customer base.

Casper’s follow-up email with referral message.
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The brand directs personalized emails to customers who have left positive reviews on the site or made repeat purchases. The follow-up emails lay out the terms and conditions of the referral program, beginning with a compelling header upfront enticing users to sign up.

Include the monetary benefit - be it a discount on the next purchase or a cashback - of participating in your program in the email subject line. Casper’s “Give $50, Get $50” message at the footer improves the opening rate and compels customers to join the program.

High-Growth Tips to Promote Your Customer Referral Program

While referral marketing examples can broaden your viewpoint and inspire creative ideas to market your program, you cannot implement a give-to-get model as it is. Regardless of the strategy you’re focusing on, make sure it’s aligned with your business dynamics. Add these high-growth tips to boost participation in your referral program.

Instate Double-Sided Rewards

To ignite rapid growth in your referral program, offer compelling incentives to both referrers and referees. Consider providing exclusive discounts, cash rewards, free trials, or valuable products or services.

The more enticing the rewards, the more motivated customers will be to participate and refer others. Tailor the referral incentives to align with your target audience's interests and needs, ensuring a higher appeal to make a referral.

Create Shareable Content

Invest in creating engaging and shareable content that promotes your referral program. Design visually appealing graphics, videos, or infographics that highlight the program's benefits and rewards. If your budget allows, produce engaging adverts to leverage virality growth.

Share the content across social media platforms, email newsletters, and your website. Encourage your referral partners to share it with their networks, further expanding the reach of your referral program.

Spot Key Influencers in your Niche

In the digital era, where social media and online communities wield significant influence, leveraging key influencers and brand advocates can be a game-changing strategy to promote your referral program.

Often labeled as affiliate programs, collaborating with notable individuals helps create personalized referral codes, host giveaways, or run exclusive promotions. Since they already command a loyal and engaged audience, making them powerful allies in spreading your referral message far and wide.

Gamify for Higher Engagement

Gamification has proven to be a potent tool for driving engagement, motivation, and customer loyalty in various industries, with a special focus on referral marketing campaigns.

Implement a visual progress tracker that allows participants to monitor their referral achievements in real time. Progress bars, badges, or points systems can motivate participants to continue referring and showcasing their accomplishments to others.

Closing Note

As a startup competing against industry giants, you’re constantly looking for new referral program ideas to establish your distinct identity. The article outlines examples to inspire your marketing strategy for better outreach and a higher conversion rate.

Nevertheless, the foundation of a successful referral program lies in delivering exceptional user experiences. By consistently exceeding expectations and providing top-notch support, businesses lay the groundwork for positive word-of-mouth to spread organically. Sign up with Prefinery.com to steer your growth risk-free and professionally.


How does the referral program work?

In most referral programs, you can invite your friends, family, and colleagues to join our community. When they sign up using your unique referral link or code and complete a specific action (e.g., make a purchase, or subscribe to a newsletter), both you and your referral will be rewarded with exclusive benefits and discounts.

How do I refer someone to the program?

Referring someone to a referral program is easy. Simply log in to your account and access your unique referral link or code from the referral dashboard. Share this link with your friends via email, social media, or messaging apps, and encourage them to sign up using your referral link to qualify for the rewards.

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