7 Top Referral Program Examples And How They Achieved Maximum Results.

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Businesses in the modern world have to go to extreme lengths to acquire a user base for their products and services. In the 21st century, all industries are incredibly competitive, and consumers have a lot of choices and alternatives.

Startups and small businesses have to constantly improvise and innovate, and execute strategies that can help them acquire new customers, and that is hard work.

Businesses are investing in customer support through chatbots and machine learning for automation and convenience. They’re also using BI tools and ERP systems to increase their efficiency while working on providing personalized customer journeys through AR/VR technologies.

While these technologies remain an active force in the market, one tried and tested strategy in the business world that is

Finding the right method to acquire new, valuable customers for your business is hard work.

Referral programs have been a resource for businesses before the rise of digital marketing, the internet, and social media. These programs helped businesses reach out to their target audience and incentivize them to take part in a mutually beneficial campaign.

This helped businesses increase their sales, engagement, and fueled the growth in the digital world. Notable examples include PayPal, Uber, Slack, and Dropbox, each of whom has had their version of a web referral program.

According to Hubspot, 90% of people trust the suggestions made by their friends and family when choosing businesses. This showcases the power of referral marketing and word-of-mouth marketing strategies that many businesses have executed successfully.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most noteworthy examples of successful referral marketing campaigns.

Famous Brands Who Ran Successful Referral Programs

These brands not only understood what their customers wanted, but they also understood the correct way to motivate them to become a part of their referral campaigns through targeted rewards, incredible service, and a user experience that the users felt deserved a shout out.

Dropbox

Dropbox was found in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi. It is a cloud service that gives users the ability to host and store files on the cloud.

Dropbox’s story is similar to many startups and quite possibly very similar to the story of your business.

In its early days, Dropbox had to face a lot of problems in growing its user base. The business model was cost-heavy, and the lack of users was becoming the reason for failure.

Conventional strategies like Search Engine Optimization and Google Ads didn’t have a great impact. For a product that cost only $99, Dropbox’s per customer cost was $388.

That’s when Dropbox turned to Referral marketing. Dropbox’s referral program was heavily influenced by PayPal, who, in its early days, also did something very similar, although, at that time, the internet and social media weren’t as entrenched into our daily lives as they are now.

This Referral produced phenomenal results with incredible user growth in the first 15 months, giving new life to Dropbox as a business.

Referrer Rewards: 500MB free space

Referee Rewards: 500MB free space

Result: In just 15 months, Dropbox’s user base grew from 100,000 users to 4,000,000 users! This campaign is what started the successful journey of a business that struggled to get users at the beginning and its transformation as a multi-billion dollar startup, and now being listed on the Nasdaq, after recently filing an IPO.

What they did right: First, they never stopped. They understood that there was value in their services, but they weren’t reaching the users in the right manner and evolved their strategy to meet their consumers in a personalized manner. They realized that most people care about reviews from friends, and they came up with a program that ensured the spread of their product through word-of-mouth.

Airbnb

Airbnb’s strategy was a mixture of referral and email marketing. The referral marketing team at Airbnb decided to create an email campaign introducing its target audience to the new referral program they had launched.

The team worked extensively on the email design, adding different features such as referrer’s picture to the referral gift is sent to new users.

Web Referral Program

They also had two different kinds of messaging, one that emphasized the idea that referrals mean you get $25 off on your next vacation, and one that emphasized that you’re sharing this with your friend out of pure love. This kind of A/B testing proved successful and resulted in a huge increase in bookings and signup for Airbnb.

Referrer Rewards: $25 credit

Referee Rewards: $25 credit

Result: 300% increase in bookings and signups than before.

What they did right: From A/B testing through an email campaign, AirBnb’s referral campaign 2.0 was an incredible success because they were able to generate a lot more awareness. They were able to tap into the minds of their users and incentivize them into referrals with an altruistic message.

W Concept

A Korean online retailer for luxury fashion, W concept has, for a long time, relied on referral, affiliate, and influencer marketing programs to tap into the hip Korean crowd that loves fashion trends.

W Concept went all out with their referral program making it the highlight of their brand, with promotions using newsletters, emails, and even on their website’s homepage.

The campaign showed its results in the first month, helping W concept increase their revenue, using simple 10% discounts.

The web referral program turned out to be a huge success and one that has incredible learning value for other brands.

Referrer Rewards: 10% discount on their next purchase

Referee Rewards: 10% discount on the first purchase

Results: The first month showed W Concept generating $20,000 in the form of new sales from their referral program, and has since continued to grow, helping them generate thousands of dollars in sales revenue.

What they did right: W Concept had one motto, “exposure, exposure, exposure!” They ensured that every single person who consumes their products knows about this program through multiple channels and marketing strategies, and that’s how they got thousands of people to take part in the campaign.

Harry’s

A modern shaving brand, Harry’s is one of those companies that have made a name for themselves in the digital world through their incredible service.

From shaving services to shaving accessories, Harry’s e-commerce store is a billion-dollar subscription service, as well as a business-run barbershop located in Manhattan.

They boast a success that has taken them to 7-figures, and a part of that success was their incredible referral marketing campaign.

What you need to make it big as a business is outreach, and the ability to convince people to give your brand a shot. The rest is dependent on how good you are at what you do and turns out that Harry’s is incredible at providing their services.

Harry’s launched a week-long referral as part of a pre-launch strategy, to collect emails and generate leads of potential customers. Part of this was their digital marketing strategy that gave incremental rewards to those who took part in the referral campaign.

The idea was simple; let’s create noise in the market through digital marketing. Be it Facebook, Twitter, or email – if you can refer an “x” amount of friends, you can get incremental benefits depending on the number of people you refer.

Referrer Rewards:

  • 05 Friends Referred: Earn free shave cream.
  • 10 Friends Referred: Earn a free razor.
  • 25 Friends Referred: Earn a free premium razor.
  • 50 Friends Referred: Earn free shaving for a year.

Referee Rewards: 10% discount on their first purchase.

Results: The weeklong campaign turned out to be one of the most successful referral marketing campaigns of all time. In the first week, Harry’s was able to generate 100,000 potential leads using their campaign by creating a connection with their audience based on mutual benefit.

What they did right: Harry’s understood its clientele and figured that basic discounts might not work its charm on them. Rather, they went forward with the idea of providing physical products for free, to create a connection between the brand’s e-commerce setup and the customers.

Think of that as disseminating sample products for people to check them out pre-launch. This is the kind of upscale, innovative decision making that helped Harry’s launch a successful referral marketing campaign.

Evernote

Evernote was launched in 2008 as a simple note-taking app and has grown ever since into a platform with over 100 Billion worldwide users and a valuation of $1 billion.

Evernote takes pride in its $0 user acquisition budget. Early in their setup, Evernote realized that for their platform to grow, they have to rely on word-of-mouth and that their users will be the best marketing assets to them.

Evernote’s success can be credited to its referral program, which played a central role in helping the company grow and scale, leading to incredible market success.

Referrer Rewards: Customer gets 10 points for their first three referrals – enough for three months of Evernote’s premium subscription or 3 GB of additional monthly upload. For every referred user buying a premium subscription, the referrer also got 5 points.

Referee Rewards: One month of free premium.

Results: 13 million users came on Evernote through their referral marketing campaign.

What they did right: The model was absolutely amazing. It focused on incentivizing current users to keep on referring to use Evernote’s premium trial for an extended period of time. The more people you got in, the more you can enjoy the free trial of the premium service, and that’s what got their users referring intensely.

PayPal

Although PayPal’s referral marketing campaign isn’t as famous as those of Harry’s and Dropbox’s, that’s because it outdates them, and was set in a time when the internet wasn’t as mainstream as it is now.

Dropbox’s campaign was inspired by PayPal. PayPal used email marketing, content marketing, and IM marketing – yes, IMs were still a thing back then.

PayPal realized that they were one of the few brands that could actually give direct cash benefits to their users because that’s the primary function of business for PayPal.

Paypal

They understood the motivations of their target audience and provided what would feel like the most value to their users, direct cash benefits.

Referrer Rewards: $10 for referrals.

Referee Rewards: $10 for signing up

Results:  PayPal achieved 7 to 10% daily growth, resulting in a user base of over 100 million members.

What they did right: Understood that for PayPal’s consumers, the best kind of value is direct cash incentive and kept their rewards simple.

Koodoo Mobile

The telecommunications company is known for its knockout double-sided referral program that they needed to reduce their Cost per Acquisition (CPA), which was increasing significantly.

They were excellent at satisfying clients, but it cost them too much to get clients in the first place.

Despite having a great client satisfaction rate, the team at Koodoo was looking for something new and fresh, and that’s when they started to execute a referral marketing campaign.

Initially, they had a 25$ reward within the program but also noted a 5x increase in referrals when they changed that to $50.

This was a huge success that helped Koodoo achieve its financial targets and solve their CPA problems.

Referrer Rewards: $25 discount on your tab

Referee Rewards: $25 discount on your first bill

Result:  Koodo reduced its cost of customer acquisition (CPA) by 167% and acquired 75,000 new customers through the program in just two years.

What they did right: They experimented based on the knowledge that their customers were willing to be their spokespeople based on their services and figured out the best way to mobilize them through a referral program that was personalized and tailored to them.

 

How To Run A Successful Referral Marketing Campaign.

Referrals programs have shown incredible results for businesses, but just having a referral program isn’t enough. Not every business with a referral program gets a 300% sales increase.

This is because there are a few key things that you need to keep in mind when executing a referral program.

These ensure that your program is good enough for your audience to actually refer their friends and families. How you identify the correct value and reward system is what differentiates between a successful campaign and a failure.

Let’s take a look at 5 important tips to keep in mind in order to launch a successful web referral program.

1. Analyze The Market And Consumers

Customers referred through referral programs have a 37% higher retention rate and are 4x more likely to refer customers to a brand.

So how do you ensure that you make the best out of your referral marketing program? You have to analyze your target audience and customers.

The first people that you have to convince to become a referral partner are your profitable and satisfied clients. They are the most likely to refer other customers to you because of a positive experience and a sense of brand loyalty.

Analyze what they like, design the program according to their preferences, and make sure you also identify the new customers and their profile. With these two things in mind, you’re more likely to attract customers that are profitable and have a higher likelihood of converting and being retained as a long-lasting customer.

2. UI/UX design

Just like any website, form, or app, referral programs need to be easy to navigate and enter. This is where design and user experience come into play.

During the design phase, try to map out the shortest and simplest way for users to sign up for a referral program. It should be clean and simple, to ensure high signup percentage and success.

Your process should be easy to understand. Your signup method should be simple, the rewards for both the referrer and referee should be clearly established, and your payout procedure should also be clearly highlighted.

If there are eligibility criteria, then that should also be easily available and understandable.

In this phase, you can run A/B testing to figure out which design and approach are giving you the best results in order to maximize referral results and revenue.

3. Personalized and Affordable Rewards

When choosing your rewards, you have to ask yourself, “what would your customers most want from my brand?”. Because the truth is, not all brands can give cash to the referrers and the referees. Some brands give small discounts, while some provide free services for a limited time.

PayPal gave a cash reward, but Dropbox decided to give away 500 MB extra space for storage. Both these rewards are different but were successful. It’s because that’s what meant value to their customers, and they understood that.

Similarly, perhaps you can provide discounts, or incremental rewards, or even free physical products or, like Tesla, provide a branded experience.

 

At the end of the day, there are two things you have to ensure with rewards.

  • The reward is incentive enough for your consumers to take part in the referral program.
  • Your business can afford and sustain the rewards system.

Find the right reward that matches these two factors for both the referrer and the referee, and you’re good to go!

4. Marketing Your Referral Marketing Program is Essential

If there is one thing we learn from Harry’s, it’s that awareness is one of the most important reasons why referral programs are effective.

The lack of awareness was also a problem in Airbnb’s referral program 1.0, where they felt like not enough people knew about their program.

Brands should provide information regarding their referral programs to customers in an accessible manner. This information should be concise and to the point, while highlighting the best features of it.

All of your customer-facing employees and departments should integrate referral program marketing within their SOPs.

Whether it’s the sales executive taking a client call, or a social media manager creating a content plan, the referral program should be everywhere.

Even your employees should know about it because they can be the biggest mouth-pieces for your brand and its program.

You can communicate your new referral program to people using several different platforms such as:

  • Your Company Website’s Home Page.
  • Social Media Marketing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Email Communication and Email marketing campaigns.
  • Content marketing through onsite and offsite blog posts.
  • Company Newsletters
  • PR Releases and news publishing.

5. Measure, Calculate and Evolve.

Measuring results, identifying reasons behind it, and adjusting is part of the job. You can’t expect to get the campaign right the first time.

Throughout the program’s life cycle, you’ll get data and statistics that will help you identify KPIs, metrics, and effectivity.

Based on your results, you can make adjustments and correct your mistakes to improve the conversion rate.

There are a few key metrics that you should keep an eye on while measuring your results.

  • The percentage of your overall web traffic that signed up to become referrers?
  • How many people make referrals, and through what channels are they coming from the most?
  • How many customers are you converting as a result of this campaign?
  • The total number of referrals per sign up
  • The life cycle of a referrer and their relationship with the reward system.
  • The CPA (cost per acquisition) per user of your referral marketing campaign.
  • What part of the program are people going away from the most, and why?

Once you have all these lockdown, you have to ensure that not only do you make the necessary tweaks as suggested by the data but to also make your referral program much more shareable and accessible.

That’s the backbone of your strategy, where organic sharing on social media by people is likely to generate more engagement and activity for your web referral program.

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Conclusion:

At the end of the day, the laws of the digital marketing world also apply to referral marketing. It’s all about the value and the user experience.

If you can analyze your target audience, identify their needs and wants, and design your referral program in a way that matches those descriptions and provide a great customer experience to your consumers through your products and services, your program will be a success.

Yes, even then you will have to extensively market your program and make sure it reaches the right ears from the right people, and ensure that the incentive structure is sustainable.

If you manage to get these things right, then you can run a successful web referral program for your brand and increase your engagement numbers, revenue numbers, and growth numbers, just like some of the top brands have done in the world.

 

Shah Anas

author_image

Shah Anas Ahmed is a Hubspot certified content marketer and inbound marketing specialist with a history of helping digitally scale startups and mid-size tech companies. Shah specializes in planning and executing content marketing strategies in collaboration with SEO teams to drive revenue through out-of-the-box digital marketing strategies.

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