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14 Referral Email Examples For Sharing Refer-A-Friend Campaigns

Subharun Mukherjee 18+ years of experience leading product strategy, Go-To-Market (GTM), new market entry, value-based sales, analyst relations, and customer experience programs. Expertise in Financial Services, eCommerce, on-demand services, and the SaaS industry.
14 Referral Email Examples For Sharing Refer-A-Friend Campaigns

“If you enjoy the app, refer your friends and receive a reward!”
Wait a minute, is this a bribe?
Referral emails persuade users to act in your company’s favor through the exchange of value, yes. But it isn’t a bribe in the sense of paying a corrupt politician to look the other way.
In actuality, referral marketing campaigns mean a winning hand for everyone at the table. They’re a great way to stimulate word of mouth growth and incentivize the use of a product or service. Especially if you target users who are already your biggest fans.
Below are referral email examples from companies who have been successful in word-of-mouth growth marketing through refer-a-friend campaigns. Read through each example or jump to our infographic for tips on how to optimize your referral emails.

Referral Email Experts Disclose Word-of-Mouth Power Hacks

You can ask users how likely they are to recommend your product to friends or colleagues until you’re blue in the face, but what do you have to show besides a Net Promoter Score?
What you really want is for them to actually share. And if your Net Promoter Score is impressive, there isn’t anything to lose by sending a referral request email. It may not be as organic as true word-of-mouth, but people are typically more than happy to refer and be referred… with the right incentive.
Need more proof? Below are 14 examples to inspire more effective referral email strategies in your mobile marketing.

1. Qapital: Send Deferred Deep Links

refer email from qapital incentivizing word of mouth with $20 gift
Include a deep link to open the app for use within mobile email apps or browsers. If the user is coming from a desktop browser, use SMS to send the download link directly to the user’s device. This decreases the friction for either users sharing their referral code or prospects installing and using the mobile app for the first time.
Use deferred deep links for users who do not have the app installed but may have received the referral on a secondary device or as an email forward.
In this example, Qapital includes an “Open App” button that will open the app if one is installed on the device or open a web page for users to text a download link to their mobile phone.

2. Imperfect Produce: Incentivize Power User Referrals

example referral email with large gift for multiple customers from imperfect produce
Harness the power of competition among users who could potentially refer everyone in their network to use your product or service. By not providing an arbitrary referral maximum (like 10 referrals) your customers may exceed all expectations in an attempt to win.
It’s also a great idea to make the prize inclusive of the winner’s friends — as in the example above — further exposing the brand and the subsequent referrals the winning experience brings.

3. TheSkimm: Create a Referral Hub Page

referral email hub page to track successful referrals
Take the experience outside of the email client and into its own browser window. A dedicated page in the browser to send and track referrals is a sophisticated alternative to the “forward” button.
This allows the user to customize the message or share their unique code via social media, SMS, or other messaging platforms. This can also signal the importance your company places on referrals.  

4. Outdoor Voices: Grow a Community

build a community for referrals and word of mouth
Create a sense of community with your stakeholders. Customers will often have like-minded friends who share the same values. Use a powerful message and clear imagery to promote your company’s ethos towards community building and the referrals it naturally inspires.
Communities today are often built online. One way to connect users is through a hashtag. Build a hashtag that can grow to embody your brand’s voice, despite being user-generated content.
Other options include: a user forum for your app, a subreddit thread, or a dedicated Slack channel. They’re all ways to build a community around your brand. These channels allow users to troubleshoot problems other users may have, which further helps the community thrive.

5. Postmates: Refer a Friend in the Welcome Message

referral emails in the welcome message example
Promote your refer-a-friend campaign in the welcome message.
Why not offer new users the chance to use the product or service for free by immediately referring someone from their network? This is a great way to allow the customer to see how valuable (and hopefully indispensable) the service is in their life.
If new sign-ups are excited by the novelty of the product or service, they may also want to share immediately to prove influence among their peers.

6. Chase: Make a Valuable Offer

referral email from chase offering large valuable prize for referrals
Many people make very generous offers for their refer-a-friend program — the average value seems to fall within the $10-$20 range. When possible, make an offer that is impressively generous.
In the example from Chase, the referred earns 40,000 points and the referrer earns up to 50,000 points. Since many Southwest flights can be booked for under 10,000 points, 40,000-50,000 points is a very generous offer.

7. Bank of America: Set Expectations

referral email outline the steps of referring new users from bank of america
Outline the process for a successful referral, such as deadlines, eligibility, and what each party receives.
Sometimes, it’s not enough to place a simple “invite friends” button within your referral email. In fact, many times the referred person may already be a customer. This is where referral eligibility terms come in handy to ground expectations.

8. BookBub: Choose Physical vs. Monetary Rewards

win physical product for referral marketing instead of monetary value

Express the prize in terms that will appeal to the customer. If your product is a food delivery app, you can offer free deliveries all month instead of a $100 referral credit. Although people react to the value of the prize, it’s also great to explain what this reward can do for them.
In this example, BookBub uses “Free Books for a Year” as the carrot to dangle before users. Since their product targets voracious readers, this will be quite appealing to their audience.

9. Venmo x Uber: Build for Organic Referrals

referral email examples from partnership with Uber and Venmo to pay friends and attract new users simultaneously
How can you organically incentivize referrals to your product? Make it easy for users to split the cost or share the decision before purchasing. Building a referral model into the process will naturally result in more people being invited to use the product.
In this example, Uber partnered with Venmo to easily split the fare, thus incentivizing signups for both apps.
This could also apply to a number of businesses, but let’s stick with our food delivery app example. By creating the option for various users to select their choice for the order and split the cost, you naturally bring in more parties to use the app.

10. Cox: Offer A Bill Reduction

referral email offering bill reduction instead of pay out
Another strategy that can work well for businesses with monthly recurring revenue is to offer a bill reduction for users who refer a friend. This is another example of expressing the reward in terms that resonate with the audience.
In this example from Cox, the mutually beneficial referral strategy removes $100 from the monthly bills of both referrers and referred.

11. Amazon Prime Student: Capitalize on Strong Referral Segments

referral email example from amazon prime student targeting demographics likely to share
Send referral emails to segments that are likely to have strong networks of users in similar economic situations. Businesses can derive insights from demographic segmentation to reveal the various economic states of customers.
Student and elderly users are great examples of customers who have varying economic statuses and networks. Students are likely to have a wider network and a willingness to share for a much smaller monetary reward. Seniors will have a much narrower, albeit trusting network, and will likely require a more meaningful reward to make a referral.

12. Morning Brew: Use Animated GIFs

referral email free stuff gif from morning brew
Draw attention to your referral program with simple illustrations, animations, or GIFs. This is a fun and simple way to display the referral process and rewards without putting demands on the reader’s attention span.
The Morning Brew uses a GIF to draw attention to the free stuff you could win through their refer-a-friend program. They also do a good job of outlining the steps to successfully make a referral.

13. Tim Ferriss: Account For Forwards

referral email example of email forwards instead of direct referrals
Include a call-to-action for those who have been forwarded the email instead of through a direct invitation. If this is the case, the referred user should still be able to credit who made the referral. Create a form field for the new sign up to note who referred them.
In this example, Tim Ferriss uses the power of social proof to add valuable context around his call-to-action by saying, “Join millions of monthly readers.”

14. Tesla: Be Transparent and Genuine   

referral email example from Elon Musk of Tesla Motors
Whenever possible, make the referral request feel personalized and intimate. Messages sent from the founder or CEO will make the user feel a sense of importance. Utilize transparency to connect with readers on a personal level.
In this example, Elon Musk is transparent about why Tesla does not advertise and divulges how much it costs to acquire a new customer. Musk then goes on to offer a very generous referral program worth thousands of dollars and tops it off by offering the first person to reach 10 referrals a free car.1

Referral Email Wrap Up

As you can see there is no shortage of effective strategies to incentivize customers to refer friends, family, and colleagues to your brand. As with any mobile marketing strategy, it’s important to A/B test and take a data-driven approach to referral emails.
Try adding a refer-a-friend section to all of your transactional emails. Depending on your product, service, or industry, a referral marketing strategy could be effective within your welcome message.
Refer (there’s that word again) to the tips outlined below for sending an effective referral marketing strategy. If you’re wondering how to avoid notification and messaging fatigue, consider yet another strategy for engagement and referrals: App Inbox messages.   

referral email tips for refer-a-friend campaigns

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Last updated on March 29, 2024