Referral Marketing

The Best Referral Marketing Examples To Inspire Your Next Campaign

Here are the best referral marketing examples - from startup brands to enterprise companies - to inspire your next campaign and drive incredible growth!

Whether you’re looking to build a new referral marketing program or optimize your existing campaign, we’ve curated some of the most creative referral program examples that are sure to get your juices flowing!

Before we jump in, let's back up and talk about the benefits of referral marketing. According to a study by Nielsen's Harris Poll Online, the vast majority - more than 80% - of Americans seek recommendations when making a purchase of any kind. When someone shares or talks about a brand on social media, there’s a significant correlation to purchasing behavior.

What is a Referral Program in Marketing?

People that have been referred by a peer typically stay loyal to a brand longer than those that found the company by other means. Additionally, customers acquired via referral marketing usually come in at a lower CPA than traditional marketing. So overall, it's a win-win for modern marketers looking for a customer acquisition channel that can drive new business growth.

When most marketers think about successful referral marketing use cases, the first brands that come to mind are viral startup success stories like Airbnb, Uber, and PayPal. While those brands were able to see incredible growth and notoriety from their referral programs, this marketing strategy is not an easy one to master.

To do it right, those companies sunk a significant amount of time, money, resources, and technical expertise into building their programs. (Fortunately, you can tap into referral marketing software to save on time, money, resources.)

So, let's take a look and see what we can learn from their success:

Airbnb's Referral Program: Dual-Incentives Done Right

Dual incentives are when both the referrer and the new customer are rewarded. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to developing an incentive structure, but many companies, like Airbnb, have found success with dual incentive structures because both parties feel like they're being rewarded and valued.

referral marketing examples airbnb

Uber's Referral Program: Clear Communication

With an in-app referral program, it can be overwhelming to explain rules and regulations in a clear, concise way. Uber does a great job of keeping it simple with a few lines of how their referral program works and how to start sharing.

referral marketing examples uber

PayPal's Referral Program: Switching Up The Reward

When PayPal started, the brand attributed much of its quick growth to word-of-mouth marketing, especially referral programs. Originally, the company offered new users $20 if they opened an account and $20 if they referred someone. At one point, PayPal was offering $100 for new users. And most recently, the company offered $5 for every new account created via referral. However, PayPal became so popular that they’ve now shifted away from rewarding referrals, but the brand is still leveraging referral programs.

referral marketing examples paypal

While each of these three companies above have leveraged referrals to drive sustainable and scalable growth, referral marketing success isn’t limited to viral start-ups. In fact, the approaches deployed by these brands to drive incredible user growth are, for the most part, replicable.

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So how can brands use referral marketing to reach their target audience? 

Here are referral marketing examples for structuring successful marketing campaigns from brands that have mastered executing their word-of-mouth initiatives.

11 Referral Marketing Examples to Inspire Your Next Campaign

While we can always learn from referral marketing predecessors, there is a new wave of brands leveraging referral programs in creative, innovative ways. Let’s take a look at 11 ways to jazz up your strategy (complete with visual examples!) to help your brand create or optimize your referral programs.

1. T-Mobile: Out-of-the-Box Rewards

We know, cash in king, when it comes to referral programs - but there are alternatives that can generate a lot of buzz around your brand. Take a look at T-Mobile's campaign that rewarded referrals with stock shares. Not only did the brand find a unique way to incentivize program members, T-Mobile created quite the stir by offering ownership - something no other publicly traded company has done before.

referral marketing examples t-mobile

2. Tespo: Ease of Use

Take note from this innovative vitamin brand shaking up the healthcare industry on how to make it easy to share your product. Once the referrer enters their email address, a pop-up with auto-generated content makes it super simple to share via social channels and even a pre-populated email message. The easier you can make the sharing process, the better results your brand is guaranteed to see.

referral marketing examples tespo

3. Dollar Shave Club: Leverage Video

Interactive content, especially video, is quickly becoming the preference in how consumers digest content. In fact, according to HubSpot, 72% of people want to see more video content from marketers. So, what are you waiting for? Use video to explain how your referral program works, share details of the referral process, or even introduce program members to your referral marketing platform.

referral marketing examples dollar shave club

4. Ambassador: Mobile Capabilities

With more and more web browsing happening on smartphones, is your mobile referral program delivering the experience your consumers want? In order for your brand to deliver innovative and custom experiences across touchpoints and channels, you need to make mobile UX a priority. It is very easy to claim mobile capabilities without actually having a true mobile experience, and in today’s cross-channel world that’s simply not going to cut it. It's important to allow users to move smoothly and seamlessly between desktop and mobile devices, which is why a true cross-platform approach is critical.

referral marketing examples mobile

5. Canopy: Customize and Automate Workflows

Keep your program members in the know with clear communication about the referral process. From triggering an email when a new member signs up to sending an email when a commission is approved, having an automated referral program workflow in place can cut down the time and resources your marketing team has to spend on sending out emails.

referral marketing examples email

Here are some more epic referral email examples!

6. Property Guys: Offer the Right Incentive

When it comes to attracting members to sign up for your referral program, there is one clear driver: The offer. However, there’s a fine line between throwing perks and freebies to your brand ambassadors and creating a revenue-generating channel. 

According to a survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Ambassador, 88% of Americans say they would like some sort of incentive (money, product or service, loyalty points, early access, and swag) for sharing a product via social media or email. That number jumps to 95% among 18-to-34-year-olds.

referral marketing examples propertyguys

7. Smile Direct Club: Embed Pop-ups and Sign Up Forms To Join

Make it as easy for new users to join your referral program. By enabling enrollment directly from the website, visitors are more likely to convert than if you lead them through multiple hoops to jump through. Make joining your program, and sharing your brand, as frictionless as possible.

referral marketing examples smile direct club

8. MyPoochFace: Relevancy Matters

While most marketers understand that a reward should be given in exchange for a referral, how can companies ensure that they’re using the right referral marketing incentives for the right audience at the right time?

Knowing what your customers value is crucial in determining the right reward for your program. Customers will be turned off by pie-in-the-sky promises like “Make $10,000 a month from home!” Convey the true value of the referral reward program to your customers, but keep it in line with the actual benefits.

referral marketing examples mypoochface

9. Leesa: Cash is Preferred

When we say relevancy matters, we mean it's important to know what is important to your audience. Our data shows, time and time again, cash rewards perform extremely well. For example, a discount on an upcoming purchase might work better for a repeatedly purchased product, while a flat rate cash reward might work better for a larger amount one-time purchase.

referral marketing examples leesa

10. Shipt: Simple to Share

The power of social media is undeniable in today's hyperconnected world. When asking your brand ambassadors to share, make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Have a pre-populated message ready to share so they don’t have to spend time coming up with their own. The more your referrers talk about your products and services online, the larger your reach becomes. And everyone loves pretty pictures, include attractive photos that make the post more appealing.

referral marketing examples shipt

11. Hulu: Flexible Sharing Options

Flexibility is key - however your ambassadors choose to share, make sure the experience is aligned with your brand. Offer access to different creative assets - such as formats, messaging, content, and promotions - so your brand ambassadors can share the content that best speaks to their networks.

referral marketing examples hulu

Have More Creative Referral Program Ideas To Share?

We're always looking for creative ways to impact the stickiness of referral marketing in today's digital age. Tweet your favorite examples to us at @ambassador!

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