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Newsletter referral program examples: Boost your subscribers

“The money is in the list” – you’ve heard it, right? Yes, growing your email list is crucial for business success. One effective way to do this is through newsletter referral programs. But how do you ...

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“The money is in the list” – you’ve heard it, right?

Yes, growing your email list is crucial for business success.

One effective way to do this is through newsletter referral programs. But how do you start one, and what makes it successful? 

In this article, we dive into some of the best newsletter referral program examples out there. These examples, together with the practices, will show you the way to create a program that boosts your subscribers and engagement. Let’s explore it now!

What is A Newsletter Referral Program?

A newsletter referral program is a marketing method for encouraging current subscribers to recommend your newsletter to others. It’s like word-of-mouth marketing in the digital world. 

In the program, subscribers refer your newsletter to others. When the referred person signs up, they receive a reward. This reward can be exclusive content or discounts on your products.

This strategy leverages the trust and enthusiasm of your existing subscribers to grow your audience. By offering incentives, you motivate your subscribers to become advocates for your brand.

It’s a win-win deal where both your business and your subscribers benefit. They get rewards for referrals and you get a broader audience.

Due to its mechanism, the method is often more trusted and effective than traditional advertising. It

Your subscribers get rewards for spreading the word, and you get a broader audience without the high costs typically associated with acquiring new subscribers through other marketing means. 

Newsletter referral programs harness the power of personal recommendations, which are often more trusted and effective than traditional advertising. It’s also more cost-efficient.

How A Newsletter Referral Program Work?

Here’s a breakdown of how a newsletter referral program work:

First, you set up the program and promote it in your newsletter. That helps your existing subscribers to be aware of the program.

The subscribers will then sign up for the program and get a unique referral link to share with their networks. The link is for tracking referrals as well.

When someone clicks on the referral link and signs up for your newsletter, they earn a reward. The reward can be discount codes, gift cards, etc., based on your decision when setting up the program.

You need to track the performance of your referral program and pay rewards on a certain basis. You also need to analyze the data related to your performance and improve the program frequently.

Best Newsletter Referral Program Examples 

Now, let’s discover the best newsletter referral program examples that can offer valuable insights for you.

Morning Brew

Morning Brew is a daily newsletter targeting young business professionals. It’s a typical case study for newsletter referral programs.

Till now, they have successfully built a loyal subscriber base of 3 million. They also remarkably increased their revenue from $3 million to $13 million in just one year, primarily through their email newsletter.

The program’s success lies in its strategic placement of referral promotions within the newsletter. It helps to remind subscribers of the program. 

In every edition, there’s a part that shows how sharing with friends can get subscribers cool branded prizes. These enticing tiered rewards can be branded coffee mugs and t-shirts for sharing.

Morning Brew varies its promotional content to keep engagement high. The brand also ensures the referral link is easy to find and share by including it in the newsletter and subscriber’s personal referral hub.

Besides, there are contests, like the chance to win a MacBook Pro, further spurring subscriber participation.

This combination of the above things has made Morning Brew’s referral program a model of success.


TheSkimm is a pioneer in newsletter referral programs. It reached 7 million subscribers for its newsletter.

The brand leverages its appeal among young women by encouraging them to share its content. 

From the first newsletter, subscribers receive a personal referral link. It’s featured in the welcome email, facilitating immediate sharing via email, Facebook, and Twitter. 

The program increases engagement by transforming subscribers who refer 10 friends into “Skimm’bassadors”. It offers them exclusive content, early access, networking opportunities, branded merchandise, and special events. 

This approach, together with theSkimm’s creative style in the newsletter’s “Skimm Share” section, maintains the program’s appeal. It achieved over 30,000 Skimm’bassadors, contributing to a large part of the Daily Skimm’s subscriber growth.

The Hustle

The Hustle is a business newsletter celebrated for its engaging content and humorous tone.

It reached a million visitors after a 5-month launch. It has developed quickly and become a million dollar newsletter, significantly aided by its referral program. 

Similar to Morning Brew, The Hustle rewards subscribers through a tiered system. It encourages sharing with a personal referral link and social media buttons at the newsletter’s end. 

This setup not only simplifies referring but also allows subscribers to track their progress towards rewards, adding a motivational factor.

Unique features, like the chance to become a Hustle Ambassador with exclusive benefits, further elevate the program. Rewards range from ebooks for three referrals to a VIP getaway for 1,000 ones, making the referral process exciting and rewarding. 

Direct acknowledgments from co-founder Sam Parr for reaching milestones add a personal touch, enhancing subscriber engagement.

The Hustle’s referral program, accounting for a significant part of its growth, has successfully recruited over 10,000 ambassadors. It showcases the program’s effectiveness in building a loyal and active subscriber base.

The Daily PNut

The Daily PNut has a unique approach to encourage subscriber participation. There are some notable points to learn in this brand’s newsletter program as below.

Firstly, it features an “invite friends” button at the top of each newsletter. Such a button directs subscribers to a detailed referral landing page, eliminating the need to navigate through the email.

Secondly, the rewards offered are tailored to its audience’s interests. They include access to an exclusive Slack group for 10 referrals and subscriptions to leading news outlets like the New York Times for 250 referrals. 

Thirdly, it’s the brand’s presentation of these rewards. They are available on the landing page with simple illustrations accompanying each reward. They require interaction for full details, with the highest tiers labeled enticingly as “PNut Power” and “Brainiac Pack”.

Marketing Examples

Simply Wall St

Stefan Ciancio 


monday insights


Loren Baker, Search Engine Journal

Who Should Launch A Newsletter Referral Program?

So, who should build a newsletter referral program? 

Actually, it’s a great choice for businesses of all sizes. Any business can leverage a newsletter referral program to grow their email list and strengthen their relationship with customers.

However, we want to emphasize that such a program is especially suitable for businesses that want to:

  • Develop organic growth: With the power of word-of-mouth marketing, a newsletter referral program helps to drive organic growth. That’s because happy subscribers share about the newsletter. 

The program incentivizes them to promote your newsletter, enhancing its visibility. Due to that, your brand recognition also increases organically.

  • Have a cost-effective marketing method: Newsletter referral programs stand out as a budget-friendly option for gaining new subscribers. That’s especially right when compared to traditional advertising approaches, which costs you based on clicks.

Furthermore, the rewards for these programs don’t always have to be financial. For instance, exclusive content can serve as an enticing incentive for each successful referral.

  • Build credibility and community: According to a survey by Nielsen, 92% of people trust personal recommendations from their friends and family more than any type of advertising. That’s why such a referral program enhances the credibility of both your newsletter’s content and your brand.

A newsletter referral program also fosters a strong community around your brand, turning your subscribers your advocates.

  • Grow the subscriber list and increase customer acquisition: Recommendations from friends or relatives are usually more trustworthy. So, the program helps to increase the likelihood of individuals exploring your brand or products.

This strategy enables your business to have a broader audience and acquire more customers. Thereby, your business can achieve further goals like enhancing paid subscription numbers or boosting e-commerce sales.

  • Increase email engagement and customer retention: Incentivizing your subscribers fosters engagement and motivation. Subscribers who come through referrals are more likely to be keen on the newsletter’s content. So, it results in increased engagement and reduced unsubscribe rates.

Practices to Build A Newsletter Referral Program

We’ll explore key practices to help you set up an appealing program in this part. Dive into it now!

Choose an appropriate reward structure

Choosing the right reward structure is crucial for motivating subscribers to share your newsletter. 

A tiered and cumulative reward system is often the most effective. It provides different incentives for varying levels of referrals. Thanks to that, it encourages them to refer more readers to earn more.

Also, if you use this approach, you can adopt the first few incentives that are cost-effective but not reducing the program’s appeal. In that case, subscribers have the motivation to promote for larger rewards with more referrals.

Initial rewards might include access to exclusive content, invitations to private communities, or small branded items, etc. As subscribers reach higher tiers, they can earn more substantial items. For your most dedicated subscribers, offering significant rewards for high referral counts.

This structured approach helps manage costs while effectively increasing your subscriber base and engagement.

Create a dedicated landing page

To make a central hub where subscribers can find all the information they need about your program, you can build a landing page. 

This page should be designed with clarity and user-friendliness in mind. It should present the program’s details – how it works, its terms, etc. benefits. You may also show the steps for sharing in a straightforward manner. 

By providing a one-stop destination, you make it easier for your subscribers to understand things. 

Include clear, actionable instructions and a compelling call-to-action (CTA) that encourages visitors to start referring. You can also consider featuring an FAQ section to answer common questions and address potential concerns.

Make the sharing process simple

Ensuring the referral process is straightforward and accessible to encourage your subscribers to share your newsletter. The simpler it is, the more likely they are to do so. 

This encompasses the entire process, from inviting others to subscribe to receiving rewards for successful referrals.

You can incorporate the referral link directly in each newsletter issue, in an easily noticeable spot. It is an effective strategy to facilitate sharing. It enables subscribers to quickly copy and distribute their unique referral link through their preferred channels.

In addition, you may consider integrating a copy-to-clipboard option for the referral link directly on your landing page. That makes it effortless for subscribers to share your newsletter across various platforms.

Simplifying the sharing process boosts the chances of your subscribers engaging with the referral program and promoting your newsletter. A user-friendly approach encourages more active participation and wider distribution.

Promote your program in the newsletter

You will need to promote your referral program within your newsletter so that subscribers know about it. The program’s visibility directly relates to its performance. If your subscribers aren’t aware of the program, they won’t participate. 

Integrating promotion into every issue of your newsletter is the most direct way to reach and engage your subscriber base. Of course, you can also share it on social media and other channels.

To effectively highlight your program, consider dedicating a section of the newsletter to it. It can be a regular feature at the end of each email or a small banner within the newsletter’s body. Otherwise it can be a brief mention in the introduction, or a call-to-action button leading to more information.

No matter which way you choose, remember to be consistent in promoting every issue. This keeps the program at the forefront of your subscribers’ thoughts. This approach is essential for keeping the program alive and encouraging ongoing participation.

Use software to automate your newsletter referral program

Utilizing software like UpPromote for your newsletter referral program can simplify the management process and enhance its efficiency. 

It can help automate referral tracking, reward distribution, and performance measurement. This technology allows for quick program setup and eliminates the manual effort involved.

Referral software provides each subscriber with a unique referral link for easy sharing. These links enable the software to monitor referrals and compile analytics. It provides insights into the program’s performance, supporting the optimization of your referral strategy. 

By automating the tasks, you free up valuable time to focus on improving the content of your newsletter and strategizing for growth.

Usually, the software can integrate with popular email delivery systems (like Mailchimp and Klaviyo) or publishing platforms (such as Ghost and Substack). Such integration capabilities simplify the process, enabling subscribers to join the referral program and receive their unique link easily.

Investing in the right software will help your business to operate a sustainable program. It enhances your marketing efforts with minimal manual intervention.

Measure your program’s performance

Yes, don’t forget to measure your program’s performance and optimize it regularly. 

By using software, you can check the number of new sign-ups, track who is referring whom, and see which rewards are being claimed.

Moreover, software solutions often come with analytics features, providing further insights into the program’s performance. They can be which incentives are most effective or which subscribers are the most active referrers. 

These insights allow for data-driven decisions to optimize your referral program. They help you understand your audience better and adjust your strategy as well.

For example, if you notice that a specific reward isn’t leading to many new sign-ups, you might decide to try something different. Or, if you see that a lot of new subscribers come from a few individuals, you could think of special ways to thank them. 

Measuring performance is all about learning and improving. It’s a way to make sure your referral program helps grow your newsletter in the best way possible.

Ellie Tran, a seasoned SEO content writer with three years of experience in the eCommerce world. Being a part of the UpPromote team, Ellie wants to assist Shopify merchants in achieving success through useful content & actionable insights. Ellie's commitment to learning never stops; she's always eager to gain more knowledge about SEO and content marketing to create valuable content for users. When she's not working on content, Ellie enjoys baking and exploring new places.