In the past decade, technology swept across the retail and finance sector, revolutionizing the way people manage, invest, and grow their finances. While digital finance is striding for advancements, acquiring new customers and expanding the user base is still a challenge for upcoming fintech startups.
People are generally hesitant to trust their hard-earned money at the hands of a new fintech firm unless referred to by someone in their friendship circles - and banks aren’t shy of leveraging that.
Almost 30% of all North American banks and credit unions conduct referral programs to build brand awareness and establish credibility with new customers. With lower marketing costs and a higher retention rate, referral marketing makes a worthwhile strategy to invest in.
However, setting up a high-conversion referral program for an industry typically known for technical jargon and financial buzzwords requires special expertise to pique the audience’s attention. We’ve outlined eight successful fintech referral program examples to derive inspiration from and compile a strategy that suits your business goals.
Why is Referral Marketing Ideal for Fintech Startups?
Even though financial technology is on an uphill stride, with new online trading platforms and payment solutions popping up every year, the industry has a turbulent history. Despite government regulations and surveillance cybersecurity watchdogs, building trust with customers as a young startup is tough.
In the crowded fintech space, companies must instate strategies to acquire new customers and keep them from churning. What better way to market your brand than to let your satisfied customers spread the word for you?
People trust each other more than they trust brands. 92% of people trust personal recommendations from friends and family more than sponsored brand messaging, making referral programs a powerful factor in ensuring long-term growth.
Instead of joining the arms race with sponsored ads and social media posts, leverage basic human psychology to leave a positive perception of your brand to the prospects. Besides expanding your user base, a referral program can benefit your Fintech company in the following ways:
Minimum Customer Acquisition Costs
Leveraging your existing customers to endorse and popularize your brand in the target audience relieves pressure from your marketing budget. Since organic word-of-mouth marketing works on the pay-for-performance approach - rewarding customers only when they generate a successful referral - it reduces traditional advertising expenses and customer acquisition costs.
Customer referral programs are estimated to drive the highest B2B conversion rates at 3.63%, making them a cost-effective way of acquiring new customers. As more people join through friendly recommendations, businesses can achieve higher conversion rates without spending as many resources.
Increased Brand Awareness
While many startups take to target social media ads and email campaigns to reach the masses, no strategy fosters your brand presence more than a referral program. When customers refer your business to their contact list, they’re essentially endorsing its services which leads to positive brand awareness.
A Nielsen report states that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above typical advertising channels. Businesses run influencer and affiliate referral programs for new product launches, capitalizing on people’s tendency to trust people they follow more than businesses.
As referrals multiply, more people become aware of your brand, understand its offerings, and hopefully take the leap as customers. While your referral program winds up prospects onto your platform, enforce a retention plan with exceptional service to keep your customers from drifting off.
Improved Customer Loyalty
While the business model of most fintech companies is based on recurring revenue, including monthly or annual subscriptions, the underlying goal is simple; increase customer lifetime value (CLV) and reduce churn rate.
The key to fostering long-term customer relationships and improving loyalty is offering state-of-the-art services followed by exceptional customer support. CLV is often measured based on a customer's monetary value throughout their relationship with the business.
A study finds that customers acquired through referral programs exhibit a 16% higher lifetime value than ones brought in through other channels. Businesses can show their appreciation by rewarding customers with special perks and discounts for successful referrals, paving the way for continued loyalty.
Top 8 Successful Fintech Customer Referral Program Examples
Fintech marketing campaigns are all about inviting people to manage their money, oversee cashflows, and build investment portfolios online. With customers’ hard-earned money at stake, getting new users to trust your legal and cybersecurity compliance is a major struggle for new startups.
Implementing dynamic referral marketing program ideas brightens prospects for business expansion in the finance industry. Besides signing and retaining new customers, setting a referral strategy helps you showcase a positive brand personality and build credibility for prospects.
When planning a referral program for your fintech company, you get to be creative when incentivizing new customers. But it’s best to image predecessors in your industry, how they designed their referral strategy, outlined terms and conditions, and the referral reward structures that brought them success.
It wasn’t simply that Robinhood came up with a revolutionary business idea of a commission-free stock trading platform; the startup was also the first in its league to instate a referral program as its prime marketing strategy.
Although the platform was geared towards the common folk allowing them to partake in the stock market, Robinhood’s phenomenal referral waitlist campaign drove the hype.
The growth sky-rocketed, registering a million new signups onto its platform without any marketing expense before the application even launched. A decade after its launch, the company brought in $1.81 billion in revenue, primarily thanks to its referral campaign.
What Did Robinhood Do Differently?
The stock trading platform offered priority access to the platform for every successful referral generated once it launched. Instead of providing tangible rewards and discounts, Robinhood lured customers with early access. This specific referral program works by the more leads you bring in through your referral codes, the higher you will climb on the waitlist.
While many perceive this a borrowed strategy from Mailbox, Robinhood adopted simplicity, gamification, and FOMO tactics to influence the audience’s psychology. Here’s how marketers at Robinhood instated their pre-launch strategy:
- A simple landing page featuring a direct tagline to catch visitors’ attention.
- A quick and seamless sign-up process asking for users' email addresses.
- A short video teaser offering a glimpse into the Robinhood app showcasing how it works.
The fintech company has carried on with its strategy since its inception. Robinhood’s referral program currently credits referrer and referred-in customers with a rewarding stock for signing up and linking their bank accounts.
Revolut’s success story from being a digital-only payment system to UK’s most valuable neobank is exemplary. The startup aimed to streamline peer-to-peer payments - a popular response to the harrowing inconvenience of email transfers. Harboring a $33 billion valuation, the online banking franchise surpasses most conventional European banks.
The startup’s cutting-edge banking solutions were meant to disrupt the fintech industry right from the start. Revolut now deals in stock trading and cryptocurrency, boasting over 15 million personal users with over 500K business customers worldwide. The company’s exponential growth stems from the brilliant waitlist strategy that partly imitates PayPal and Venmo.
What Did Revolut Do Differently?
Like PayPal, Revolut offered its customers actual money in exchange for every referral. No store credits, premium account access, or free rides - simply cold hard cash.
Revolut lured its customers with incentives that other businesses couldn’t offer or simply never thought of. Referrers would receive €45, £50, and $10 cash rewards if their referred-in friend orders a physical card and makes three transactions. Since the incentive is actual cash, the number of friends users could refer to was capped at 5 in most campaigns.
Companies that reward customers with monetary funds can direct their resources on core product development instead of convincing them to participate in your referral program. People are naturally inclined to weigh monetary benefits above other rewards and are unlikely to turn down a free offer. Nevertheless, transactional relationships are exclusive to fintech companies.
Wise, formerly knowns as TrasferWise, is a leading fintech company that has achieved remarkable success in revolutionizing the way people transfer money across borders. Since its inception in 2011, Wise has disrupted traditional banking channels with its transparent, convenient, and cost-effective alternative for international transactions.
In 2021, Wise achieved a market valuation of $11 billion, boasting over 10 million customers from 30 countries. While the company prides itself on seamless overseas transactions with low transfer fees, the brand recently launched the “invite & earn” program.
What Did Wise Do Differently?
Since the company is set to disrupt the monopoly of pre-established fintech behemoths, Wise relies on word-of-mouth referrals and sign-ups to drive growth. The Wise referral program is laid out quite traditionally; you refer a couple of friends, they make a discounted purchase and receive a reward in return.
The program initially became a hit with the existing customers. Highlighting the chance to earn over $100 in customers’ dashboard sidebar got the news spread like wildfire. While the platform originally allowed users to earn 115 CAD for inviting three friends, it later lowered the incentives.
Customers that sign up through your referral link can transfer funds up to 500 GBP without any surcharge or fee on their first transfer. Moving on, when three people from your contact list share more than £200, the referring customers will receive a £75 as a referral bonus.
Entrepreneurs dream of building a product or introducing a service to improve the world. But to accomplish that in an industry already rife with prudent legalities and a workforce unreceptive to change, one would have to learn from Wealthfront’s success.
Wealthfront is a robo-advisory platform that uses smart algorithms to assist people in building and managing their investment portfolios, eliminating the need for retail locations and advisor-to-client advice. Since the startup was founded in the backdrop of a financial crisis and limited investment firms exclusive to the ultra-rich.
Until Wealthfront’s appearance on the investment landscape, the industry was still exclusive to the investing elite and something rarely talked about by the masses. But the platform needed the virality effect to achieve exponential growth and tap the $20 trillion market.
What Wealthfront did Differently?
Inspired by successful SaaS companies like Dropbox and Airbnb, Wealthfront’s CEO launched a referral program enrolling happy customers as brand ambassadors.
In Wealthfront’s case, the company manages assets worth up to $10,000 for free for new customers. Besides, for every successful referral generated, existing users can extend their investment portfolio to $15,000 for free wealth management. Similarly, referred-in users can start with $15,000 without paying a cent for management services.
Marketers credit much of Wealtfront’s growth to referral programs and word-of-mouth buzz. While we can’t know for sure how many customers refer a friend, Andy - one of Wealthfront’s founding members - revealed that around 15% of referred-in customers start investing in the company. To make the offer attractive to the general public, Wealthfront has reduced the minimum investment threshold by 90% from $5,000 to $500.
Charles Schwab, although not a traditional fintech startup, has demonstrated significant transformation and adaptation to the changing landscape of financial technology. Founded in 1971, Charles Schwab started as a traditional stock brokerage firm and has constantly evolved as a leading fintech player.
While the firm already had a strong foothold in the stock market space and a consumer base of business tycoons, its prominence in the fintech space is attributed to referral programs.
What Charles Schwab Did Differently?
Like many investment and stock brokerage firms, Charles Schwab offers lucrative incentives to drive new customers and propel them to refer their closest circles. Every friend you refer to the Charles Schwab platform can make a qualifying net deposit of up to $1,000 - given that you deposit a minimum of $500,000 or more.
With no rewards for people inviting friends or new clients, Charles Schwab drives growth strictly based on the natural human instinct to share positive experiences.
Acknowledging the human sentiment that makes advocates feel like they’re selling something or being manipulative, the single-sided referral strategy gives an impression of a common benefit. Once you tap into the right audience, like Charles Schwab, eliminating the referral bonus allows users to refer their friends with no strings attached.
Coinbase currently ranks as one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency trading platforms and digital wallets, allowing people to trade and invest in digital assets. Since its inception in 2012, the platform has expanded services to more than 100 countries, caters to 56 million verified users, and lists all major crypto coins.
While the intuitive user interface, educational resources, and advanced security measures are valuable USPs, a major chunk of customer acquisition stems from its referral strategy, enabling hassle-free transactions of your preferred currency.
What did Coinbase do Differently?
Whether it’s the limited marketing budget or rising adoption of referral campaigns for SaaS startups, Coinbase launched referral programs at the core of its pre-launch marketing campaign.
According to the referral program terms and conditions, referred clients must engage in crypto trading worth $100 in the first 180 days of opening their account in order for referring customers to win rewards. Coinbase also offers $10 worth of free Bitcoin as commission to both the referrer and referred customer for every credible referral.
Highlighting double-sided referral incentives for both parties served as a plus point in gathering new leads. Coinbase effectively leveraged the “grow the digital currency community” sentiment to entice the passionate lot and direct them to a purpose. After all, every crypto owner knows that the value of a coin inflates as more people leap in for investments.
SoFi, short for social finance, is a personal finance application aimed at helping individuals achieve financial independence and success through apps and services. Whether you’re saving money for investments or managing funds to pay back student or personal loans, SoFi offers competitive interest rates and flexible repayment options.
An Overview of SoFi Referral Programs
SoFi's referral programs are designed to reward referrers and new referred-in customers, creating a mutually beneficial arrangement. The company offers six different referral programs catering to individuals from various industries and social statuses, with app referrals being the simplest.
Here’s a quick breakthrough of SoFi’s most widely-participated referral programs:
- Through the SoFi Money referral program, existing account holders can refer friends and family members to open a new SoFi Money account. Individuals that sign up through shared referral links and meet the program requirements receive a cash bonus.
- SoFi Invest referral program encourages existing customers to recommend new users to the platform. Referred-in friends also receive rewards by registering an account on SoFi and injecting $10 as a credit to earn $25 worth of free stock.
- SoFi's Loan program allows existing borrowers to refer others to apply for student loan refinancing, private student loans, and personal loans. Signing up with your friend's unique referral link will set you up for $300 loan funds while the referring customer receives a similar loan payment with flexible terms and low fixed or variable rates.
- Based on the SoFi credit referral program, existing cardholders can refer friends to apply for a SoFi credit card. The referring customer is eligible for $100 (10,000 points) per referral, whereas the incoming user receives $50 (5,000 points), within 120 days of sign-up.
With significant experience in the UK’s fintech startup economy and associated with a well-established network, Monzo was brought up with brighter prospects for success. The founding team implemented the best pre-launch practices to build the hype and get the community talking before the product was ready for launch.
The revolutionary neobank used relationship marketing to influence customer emotions, turning their target audience into loyal followers. Propagating a narrative of community banking, Monzo acquired 5 million users in its database right after the product launch.
What did Monzo do Differently?
Learning from leading fintech startups like Robinhood, Monzo introduced its referral scheme and waiting list strategy during the pre-launch stage. The founders started off by distributing pre-paid debit cards to influencers and tech enthusiasts, compelling them to spread the word about the upcoming release.
In order to boost referrals and increase customer acquisition, Monzo gamified the process by introducing a referral scheme with a long waiting list. While Robinhood's waitlist displayed customer rank, Monzo took it a step ahead, showing people the number of customers ahead and behind them on the waitlist.
Instead of simply setting a referral button, the Monzo waitlist web page stated, “Bump me up in the queue.” Seeing themselves on the losing end, people invigorate and participate in the sharing process. In no time, Monzo enrolled 200,000 users on the platform while the mobile app development was still underway.
Key Takeaways from Best Bank Referral Programs
The way you design your financial referral program, introduce incentives, and promote it to the broader audience determines whether it’s capable of upscaling your business.
Set up an Ongoing Referral Program
Creating an ongoing referral program is a great way to set the basis for continued user engagement unless you're planning your pre-launch campaign. While it's common for banks to offer referral bonuses for a limited time, the engagement dies down once customers lose the motivation to endorse your brand message.
Customers who actively refer your products and services will likely become long-term brand advocates and spread positive word of mouth, expanding the fintech startup's reach. This organic growth can lead to a broader customer base and greater visibility in the market.
Simplify Sharing Process
No matter how invested customers are in your startup, they won’t go through the nitty gritty of your referral program when it comes to sharing. The easier your sharing process, the likelier your customers will engage.
Design a simple and easy to understand referral process that keeps customers from losing interest midway. Implement user-friendly mechanisms, including personalized referral links, email invitations, or social media invites that customers can happily engage in.
If you offer digital banking services, create a banking portal or integrate the referral program into your mobile app for higher conversion.
Offer Enticing Rewards
Rewards are the driving factor for any referral program. Even with a simple sharing process, customers need special referral offers or incentives to promote your product to the right audience and generate high-quality leads.
Show appreciation for your existing customer for sending a customer your way and reward incoming customers with incentives that keep them onboard. Likewise, keep the rewarding process hassle-free as well. Your customers shouldn’t jump through too many hoops to earn a reward, or they’ll jump ship.
When carrying out a launch marketing plan for your upcoming fintech startup, understanding the market dynamics, customer behavior, and user sentiment is key. As an entrepreneur, you must know what your target audience yearns to motivate them with the right incentives.
Be it a referral program, loyalty program, or existing discount vouchers, attracting new customers and engaging existing ones always requires an expert opinion. The article offers a complete breakthrough of the most successful referral program examples to inspire you.
Get in touch with Prefinery.com to design your new promotions, contests, and incentives while you sort out the technicalities of your product development.
What is an effective referral source?
An effective referral source is a person, organization, or platform that consistently generates high-quality referrals for a business. The ideal source usually has a strong network or customer base, actively promotes the business, and has high trust and credibility among its audience.
What are the most common type of referrals?
Some common types of referrals include; personal referrals (when people recommend a product or service to their contact list), professional referrals (recommendations that are exchanged in a professional setup), and online referrals (reviews and recommendations posted on websites and social media platforms.)