Once you’ve launched your referral program, it is not enough to sit back and wait for referrals to come in. Getting the message out to your users and constantly reminding them that you have a referral program is critical to the success of your campaign.

At GrowSurf, this is one of the most common questions that we get from customers.

“How do we spread the word for our refer-a-friend program?”


To address this, we’ve compiled a checklist of best practices and recommendations to help you find success with word-of-mouth marketing.

Whether you’re promoting to your current users or attracting new advocates, at every touchpoint in your customer’s journey you should be reminding participants what they stand to gain for making referrals, as well as making it super easy for them to access their unique referral link to start sharing.

Though some details in this post are relevant to using GrowSurf to run your referral program, these tips apply to any business that wants to promote their referral program to success.


Table of Contents:

  1. Make sure that your rewards are incentivizing and obtainable

  2. Kickstart your referral program by emailing your existing customers

  3. Share on all your social channels

  4. Have a dedicated referral landing page

  5. Make your referral program prominent on your website with dedicated links

  6. Promote your referral program in every email that your business sends

  7. Promote your referral program at every happy touchpoint with your customers

  8. Optimize the experience for referrers

  9. Optimize the experience for referred people

  10. Give it time


1. Make sure that your rewards are incentivizing and obtainable

The foremost important factor in promoting your referral program is making sure that you have the best reward(s) that you can offer. This is because promotion boils down to reminding your customers of what rewards they can win.

A big mistake that we see for many businesses are when they make their rewards not incentivizing enough or far too out of reach.

Make rewards incentivizing

For example, giving referrers a $100 gift card is an excellent way to get your participants excited to share [depending on your customer type]. However, if this is merely a single-sided reward, understand that this is only incentivizing for one party and there is little to no motivation for the other side to sign up. You may want to consider implementing a double-sided reward to benefit both parties.

Make rewards obtainable

If you require someone to make 10 referrals, but all you are giving out is a free t-shirt, consider how tough that is for your customers [let alone the average person] to make 10 referrals for your specific product/service. With that type of referral goal threshold, it will be an uphill battle even if you have an amazing business with customers that truly love you.

2. Kickstart your referral program by emailing your existing customers

There are two ways to go about this.

Route #1: You can import your existing customers to automatically add them as participants in your referral program. During the import process, you can choose to email them if you have welcome emails enabled. This way, your current customers will have their unique referral links in the emails they received so they can immediately start sharing to their friends/family and colleagues.

Route #2: Have a dedicated referrer landing page where you can send any customer or potential advocate so they can sign up and grab their unique referral link to share. (See point #4 below for examples of referrer landing pages). You can then send an email blast to your customers promoting your campaign.

3. Share on all your social channels

When you launch your referral program, make sure to blast out the announcement everywhere that your audience interacts with you to let them know that you have a referral program available.

You should also schedule social media posts to remind your followers of your referral program, as one tweet in a sea of noise can easily be drowned out. Tools like OneUp, Buffer, and HootSuite can allow you to easily recycle your posts.

4. Have a dedicated referral landing page

Create a dedicated referral landing page where your users can learn the specifics of your referral program, including how it works and what the rewards are. This should also be a page where your participants can return to grab their unique referral link and view their stats and progress towards rewards.

You can use the GrowSurf embedded form for seamless and easy integration. Below are examples of customers who have created an on-brand referral landing page and embedded the GrowSurf form:

If you have a web app, and you know when your users are logged-in, you can automatically show them their unique referral link by setting the embedded form’s data-grsf-email attribute with the user’s email address.

5. Make your referral program prominent on your website with dedicated links

Put dedicated links to your referral program on your website. Here are some places where it may make sense to add them:

  • Header link
  • Footer link
  • Inline buttons (e.g, if you have a dashboard, place it inline with the other tabs)

Pro tip: Make your links provocative. Instead of using text such as “Invite Friends”, use “Get 3 Months Free”. For example, see the CTA language that Robinhood and DoorDash use below:

In Robinhood.com’s header navigation, they use “Free Stocks” as a dedicated link

In DoorDash.com’s sidebar nav, they use “Get $7 in Credits” to provoke users to click

You have a few options of where to take the user when they click the dedicated link(s):

Route #1: If you have a dedicated referral landing page set up (see point #4 above), you can make the dedicated links direct your users to that webpage.

Route #2: For an out-of-the-box solution, you can use the GrowSurf embedded button (you can customize the styles using inline data attributes). When your users click on the embedded button, this will open the GrowSurf window, where they can see their unique referral link, referrals made, and rewards progress.

Route #3: You can use your campaign’s dedicated grow.surf landing page (more details here).


6. Promote your referral program in every email that your business sends

Promotional emails: Whether you have a monthly email newsletter, welcome email series, or are sending a seasonal email blast, make sure to update your email templates to include the participant’s unique referral link at the footer of the email and remind them what reward(s) they can win.

With GrowSurf’s direct HubSpot integration, you can easily embed the participant’s unique Share URL

Transactional emails: Transactional emails are typically sent out from your system to notify your users when certain events occur. Some examples are order confirmation emails and receipt emails. View the following two screenshots below to see how Google Fi provokes their customers to make referrals in their transactional emails.

Google Fi includes a link at the footer of their billing receipt emails

Clicking on the ‘Treat your friends’ link in the Google Fi email footer will take you to their dedicated referral page

GrowSurf emails: GrowSurf sends emails out to participants automatically when certain referral events happen (e.g, added as a new participant, unlocking a reward), you should be including the participant’s unique referral link in the header or footer in all of your emails.

Charlie Finance uses GrowSurf New Participant emails to provoke easy sharing

GrowSurf’s Zapier and Webhook integrations allow you to easily sync a participant’s data (including their unique share link) to your marketing tools so that you can easily include them when sending out emails.

7. Promote your referral program at every happy touchpoint with your customers

When you have a delighted customer, you should seize that moment for a referral opportunity. Here are some examples in which you should ask your customer to share their unique referral link:

  • If you send out an NPS survey and they give a 7.0 rating or higher, ask them to make a referral
  • If your customer makes a purchase, you can ask them for a referral on the post-purchase page
  • If you have a satisfied rating given on a customer support exchange, ask for a referral

People will be more likely to share when they are in an elated state. Leverage this to optimize your chances for referral success.

8. Optimize the experience for referrers

It is important to make it as easy as possible for referrers to be a participant in your refer-a-friend program. Here is a list of actions you can take:

Customize the pre-populated social share messages (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and GrowSurf email content.

When a participant clicks on a social share button, is the message fully optimized? Instead of using the default “I use this. You should too.”, personalize social messages to make them more relevant to your offer: “Get $10 when you sign up using my unique link”. The more optimal you make your messages and pre-populated share content, the less work (clicking/typing) your referrers have to do to spread the word.

Pro Tip: After you launch your referral program, search on Twitter or Facebook for the specific words people are using to share. This is an easy way to see what kinds of non-commercial messages people are writing, and you can then take these messages to use as your own defaults.

Make sure your Share URL’s meta tags are optimized for social sharing

When a participant shares their unique link, how will it appear in their friends’ feeds?

Make sure that your Share URL has open graph tags for optimal sharing. For example, open graph image tags allow a thumbnail picture to get posted with each link share. Learn more about how to set open graph tags (Facebook also has a great guide).

Add open graph tags on your Share URL so that images, title text, and more display in the most optimal way

Once you’ve updated your open graph tags, you can test what they look like by using Meta Tags or Facebook Sharing Debugger.

Add a custom domain for GrowSurf emails for increased reputation and open/click rates

For example, if you have a custom domain https://yoursite.com, you should set a custom ‘From’ email address to optimize for the delivery of all emails that get sent on GrowSurf referral events. Here’s how to set up custom domains in GrowSurf.

Whitelabel the look-and-feel of your referral program

Add touches of on-brand customization in the Campaign Editor > Design section. Update button styles and link colors to match your company.

Customize your emails

In your GrowSurf emails, add your company’s logo and footer. For fully customized GrowSurf emails, you can even use HTML.

Pro Tip: If you’re running a milestone referral program, consider using dynamic text {{referrals}} to display different images based on how many referrals a participant has made

9. Optimize the experience for referred people

Make the landing experience clear

Make sure that the user experience for a referred person is as clear as can be. A referred person may be visiting your site for the first time, so it’s important that the on-page messaging make it apparent of why they should sign up.

A common mistake we see with referral programs is that the Share URL will be set to a signup page. This means that the first interaction someone who uses their friend’s unique referral link to land on your site, is seeing nothing but a signup page. The new visitor would be confused and lack context and direction of of why they should be signing up. To solve this, make sure that your Share URL is set to your marketing landing page, or a landing page you set up specifically for referrals to clearly outline the benefits of signing up. Provide clear direction for the referred person.

Personalize the landing experience

If you are offering a double-sided reward where the referred person gets a reward for signing up (e.g, “get 3 months free”), you should make this clear. This will increase the chances of signup by reminding them of the incentive.

With a little bit of JavaScript, you can make your Share URL a very warm and welcoming experience. For example, call growsurf.getReferrerId() to know if a person landed on the Share URL through a friend’s referral link. If that is the case, you can update the header to be the personalized referral offer (“get 3 months free” ) instead of a generic piece of header text.

To personalize even further, you can use growsurf.getReferrerId() with growsurf.getParticipantById() to retrieve the referrer’s name. Personalize the header text with this data to make the page look like a personal invitation (e.g “Emily S. invited you to try YourCompany and get 3 months free”). Click here to see the exact code you need to accomplish this.

Ultimately, personalization increases trust and leads to higher conversion rates.

10. Give it time

If you’ve just launched your referral program, make sure to allow for some time in order to see results.

Consider the type of customers and business you have

Make sure to factor in the situations and scenarios in which referrals are made. Not all referrals will be instant. Understand that sometimes referrals may take some time depending on the “who”, “what”, and “how”. (e.g, who are the types of people that will be referred, how many times a month do your customers interact with their potential referrals, and in what scenarios is it appropriate for your participants to suggest your product/service to referrals).

Consider the sample size of participants

It is important to take into account the sample size of the group. Let’s say, for example, that you are a B2B business with 50 participants in your campaign. This small sample size should be considered when factoring in the amount of referrals your customers can make at any given time for your specific product/service (e.g, how many friends or colleagues would they know that they could recommend?). Keep your referral program running, and when the moment is right, there will be the right advocates who want to and are able to share your business.

Find the sweet spot to unlock your business’ word-of-mouth potential

Don’t be discouraged if your referral program doesn’t go “viral” (although, you may find some valuable tips on how to go viral from the king of referrals here). Long-term sustainable growth is the goal. You may find that this requires tweaking your referral program little by little to get there.

With GrowSurf, you can log into your account and instantly see real-time analytics and visibility of the effectiveness of your referral program.

Impressions + referrals look healthy in this campaign. Participants are also sharing the most via SMS.

For example, if you see that in the past 30 days your campaign has 0 impressions and 0 shares, this may indicate that your referral program is not being promoted enough and/or your users’ unique share links are not easily accessible. It may also indicate that your reward is not incentivizing enough to make your customers care to share.

Last thoughts

Ultimately, promoting your refer-a-friend program can be the difference between success and failure, as Airbnb found out from their first-ever referral program. Don’t ever be afraid to re-engage with your audience or customers to let them know that you have a referral program!

Did you think this article was helpful? Feel like we’re missing anything? Let us know  your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

P.S. If you’re new to referral marketing, GrowSurf makes it easy to launch your first refer-a-friend program. 

“This article first appeared on GrowSurf.com