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Referral Email Marketing – The Smart Way to Widen your Customer Base

This article was previously published on 19th June 2017. It has been updated on 23rd July 2019. Referral leads convert 30% better than the leads gener...

This article was previously published on 19th June 2017. It has been updated on 23rd July 2019.

Referral leads convert 30% better than the leads generated from other marketing methods. Moreover, they have 16% more lifetime value as compared to the other leads.

Why? The reason lies in the simple word- trust. People tend to trust the referrers as compared to other channels, as these recommendations come from people who they know or, they consider influencers in the niche. A good referral marketing has a high retention rate.

Email referrals are a great way to boost your business as it definitely enjoys a higher click rate as compared to the other channels. Secondly, your spend with email marketing is less and the ROI is higher as compared to the other channels.

For every dollar you spend on email marketing, the ROI is $44.

Do you want to know how you can improve your referral marketing, improve the inflow of customers 10x times, and increase value for your company with emails? Here, we will take you through why you should go for email referral marketing, the kind of emails you should send, and the tips to use email referral marketing for your business.

So, are you ready to get started?

Why Referral Email Marketing?

Recommendations are always an excellent way to increase your customer base and ensure better conversions. Email is definitely an excellent channel to proceed with the referral marketing.

  • As mentioned earlier, a good email with a perfectly articulated referral link will boost engagement for your brand. A good referral program always catches the eye of the customer, and there is a high chance that they will stay with your brand for a longer while. What more? The referral marketing is essentially free, which means you are not going to spend anything at all to build your customer base.
  • People would refer your brand to others, and the word of mouth marketing for your brand just gains value as a result of referral email marketing. If the referral marketing program is in sync with their requirements, you might have just hit a jackpot. A personal recommendation always wins against other marketing tactics, and you will get the desired conversion with referrals.
  • Qualified lead generation is what every marketer looks for, when they channelize their marketing skills for a brand. The referral program is just what every marketer’s dream looks like. You have friends of your target audience and the influencers recommending the products to them, which in turn builds your authentic lead list.
  • If you look at the whole structure from a marketing perspective, you will see that referral marketing is an owned channel, which will boost your brand’s value. The idea is to nurture the audience and build your customer base by slowly working towards conversions.
  • Finally, a referred customer is likely to pay more, and you get a profitable outcome as a result. When a customer is satisfied with the product they have received from the brand, then there are chances of them recommending the brand/product to someone else, which also helps convert better. Repeat purchases go higher with brands that offer referral marketing.

Now that we have concluded why you need to go for referral email marketing., let’s get started with the tips that will make your marketing more effective and drive a profitable business.

Crafting a Good Referral Email

  • The subject line is what catches the subscriber’s attention first and maximizes the efforts that you have put into crafting the email. You need to make sure that the subject line is good enough to get an open from the subscriber. Here are a few pointers to write an effective subject line.
    • The subject line should mention what the email is all about, and what you aim to convey.
    • It should be clear and precise but, at the same time it should be creative enough to attract the subscribers.
    • You can always include incentives in your subject line to get more opens.
  • Create a story around the brand’s product that you aim to sell through the referral program. You need to be creative around the story and make it more experiential. For instance, if there is a utility factor that you aim to highlight, include that in your content. The idea is to create content that goes viral, makes the person want to click on the referral link, and convert from just a subscriber to your customer.
  • When you are creating the referral program, make sure your goals are clear and well-defined. Get straight to the point and make it precise for the end customers. Too much information or too much of content can spoil the entire email for you. The customers won’t really spend a lot of time reading your email.
  • When you add incentives in your referral marketing program, make sure it is simple and effective. Your customer won’t appreciate the value of what you are creating unless you make it simple enough. A simple referral code, which allows you and the person you have referred the brand to get some monetary rewards, is a good and simple way of including incentives. There are other methods too that you may need to understand. For this, you need to create a referral program that you believe the audience would connect with
  • A call-to-action is an important and valuable element of any referral marketing program.. The ultimate aim of any marketing email is to ensure that the person clicks on the CTA and converts. You need to use some creative words that convey the meaning. For instance, “Refer a friend” might just want them to refer the brand and get the rewards.

Finally, you need to work on the design and even the content creation factors, before you release the email to the market.

Let’s take a look at the types of emails that you can send as part of your referral campaign.

Types of Referral Emails

There are essentially three main types of referral emails that you can send out

#1 The Referral Program Email

Here, you will talk to the audience/subscriber about the referral program, the benefits they will gain from this program, and describe the incentive in detail. The idea is to reach out to members in your target group who will advocate your brand to their friends.

The first email is your big chance at making the first impression on your people. So, make sure you create an email that has the right story, the perfect content and the CTA that is impressionable. You should at this point even detail out how to use the referral program to get the incentives. When you detail out everything in a likeable way, you are more likely to get an increase in engagement and conversions.

This email by Maude has briefly described the incentive as well as how you can get it. They ended it with an attractive CTA “Get the referral link.” The email is designed in a simple way and has described the whole story in two simple lines.


#2 Follow-up Referral Email

The second type of email that you might want to consider sending to your customer is the follow-up referral email. Why? There might have been some subscribers who tend to forget referring the friend despite having opened the email. You might even come across subscribers who have not yet opened the email but are frequent buyers of your brand. Make them your advocates by sending a slight nudge through a reminder. The follow-up email usually works in getting the conversion. Make sure the nudge is slight and effective. You should try not to be too pushy at this point.

#3 The Advocacy Email

When the subscriber does click on the link to send a code to their friend, an email should be sent with the link to the code. You should ideally use text-only emails for this, conveying the purpose of the email and including the code as well. It is more of a personal communication with the subscriber, and you get more conversions as a result.

Outdoor Voices has personalized this email with a classic image style. They have sent the email stating that a friend “mentioned the name” has sent you the code. The person receiving it will trust the person, and there are high chances of them converting. Despite using only text to describe the whole message, the brand has managed to craft the email in an attractive manner.


This email, when designed with images, can lead to people viewing it as a marketing email rather than an attempt at increasing the conversions for the brand.

Wrap Up

If you want to increase brand advocacy, and retain more of your loyal customers, try engaging them with the referral email marketing. The leads generated as a result are authentic, and you will be able to nurture them effectively. The chances of converting the leads are higher.

When designing the referral program, you need to pay attention to the goals set for the program, and how you attempt to incorporate them in your emails as well. If you use referral marketing effectively, you are sure to get more conversions than you had expected.

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Kevin George

Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing full-service email marketing companies. He is an email enthusiast at heart and loves to pen down email marketing content. You can reach him at or connect with him on LinkedIn.



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