How To Use Referral Email Marketing To Its Maximum Potential

For any business to thrive in this competitive world, it needs to get maximum repeated orders from existing customers. Yet, your existing customers are not only useful for receiving repeated orders. You can utilize them to rope in new customers from their peers as long as they are delighted by your services or the overall customer experience. In an ideal world, your customers would automatically refer your brand to others as soon as you provide them with an impeccable experience. In a more realistic and modern world, you need to incentivize the deal in order to motivate your customers to refer you.

Word of mouth is a good advertising method, but emails can help you conduct referral marketing in a more tangible and measured way. In fact, you can get up to 20,000 new email addresses per month from customer referrals (Source).

In this article, we shall learn how you can use email marketing at its maximum potential for gaining referrals.

Why Choose Emails over Other Marketing Channels?

You may be wondering that in the presence of other marketing channels such as social media, affiliate, or content marketing, why still use email marketing for asking for referrals? The answer lies in three of the core advantages that email has over other channels.

  • Reachability: Any social media post is visible to all your followers but not everyone is delighted by your service and may not be instrumental in gaining that reference. Even if you get references, since the post was not targeted to a specific audience, the lead quality might be questionable.

With emails, you only send the emails to those who are interested in hearing from you or engage with your communications.

  • Personalized: To track the referrals, you need to monitor the number of retweets or shares and some of your customers may not be willing to use their personal accounts to share your posts.

With emails, your emails are personalized and the CTA button can have a customized link for every individual. This way you can not only personalize the email copy, you can also track the referral by every customer.

  • Real-time Conversation: Emails are well-known for being instantaneous and timely conversations. You can create a custom email automation workflow that will send your referral email as soon as your customer triggers the necessary conditions.

How to Use Email For Referral Marketing?

Now that you are convinced about the benefits of using emails for increasing your referrals, it is time to learn about how to use the emails in the right way.

Step 1: Time it Right

Email marketing, in general, is about sending the right message to the right person at the right and most opportune time. The timing of your email should be impeccable. Your customer should receive the referral email at a time when they are delighted by your product and cannot imagine a situation where they don’t need it anymore. Send it early and you risk not hitting the right spot. Send it later and the feeling would have passed. From studying the past orders and other metrics, you can make an assumption about how much time it takes for someone to be acquainted with your products/ service. Scheduling your emails for a day after this acquaintance period ends, will act as a reminder to refer you to their peers.

In this email example below, Outdoorsy sends this email to their customer after they have completed 2 or 3 outdoor camps using their service. This way, they know the customer is enjoying their service and is more likely to recommend it.

(Source: Really Good Emails)

Step 2: State the Benefits

As we stated earlier, unless you incentivize the deal, your customers may not be interested in referring you. They may love your offerings but unless they see a mutual benefit for increasing your customer base, they may not be willing to go through the troubles. The incentive can be monetary, freebies, or additional content.

In the example below by Equal Parts, they introduced a full-fledged referral program, where the customers get different levels of perks depending on the number of new customers referred.

(Source: Really Good Emails)

Step 3: Notify of a referral


Someone referred to your business and you got a new customer.

Use trigger emails to immediately express gratitude to the referrer. Now that they have fulfilled the end of their deal, it is time for you to fulfill your end. Depending on the incentive, your email copy needs to provide the freebie or instruction to redeem the discount code, or free shipping, or even access to a premium account.

In the email example below, AllSet’s email copy conveys gratitude and encourages the customer to continue referring to gain more rewards.

(Source : Really Good Emails)

Step 4: Onboard newcomers

This needs to run simultaneously with the previous step so you can consider this is more of step 3a. Those who registered from a referral should be onboarded differently compared to others, since they may be knowing more about your brand than other prospects.

Step 5: Push for Advocacy

Once you identify the key customers who are making great progress with your referral program, you can take the relationship a step further by making them your brand advocate. There won’t be a difference in the client-side of communication except you send them educational content about your brand more frequently. This helps them preach about your brand in a better way and provide more refined leads that are easier to convert.

Referral Email Marketing Best Practices

Create a Separate Email List

Email segmentation is the best friend of an email marketer. Use it to segment your existing mailing list to separate the most engaged (and more prone to refer) from the regular customers. This way, you only focus the referral programs for those customers with higher Lifetime Value (LTV).

Catch Attention With Good Subject Lines

Subject lines are the first interaction your customers have with your emails. Use creative copywriting skills to come up with subject lines that not only attract attention but also tempt them to open your emails. It is advised to use actionable words to prompt quick reactions from your subscribers.

Generate a Sense of Urgency

Urgency triggers the ‘fight or flight instincts and promotes quicker actions from your subscribers when used wisely in the email copy. Since emails are timely communication, the sense of urgency will make the subscriber experience the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), and the incentives will make your subscribers take faster actions.

Be Personal

Don’t send cookie-cutter responses when asking for referrals. Personalize the content based on the past interactions or online behavior of individual customers to make your customers connect with your email copy much better. Referrals work better when you attach emotions to your email copy. An email copy that hits the right chord will evoke a natural desire to share the love with the closest peers.

Create a Referral Schedule

Is your referral program a periodic affair, a one-time offer, or occasion-based? Create a referral schedule based on your email campaign goals. This will help you plan better email campaigns beforehand.

Wrap Up

At the end of the day, your business is as strong as your referrals. As it is clear from the article above, emails are a great way to start the conversation and make the most engaged customers refer to your business amongst their peers. We hope you managed to gain valuable insights and this will help you craft better referral email campaigns.

Leave a Reply