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11 Referral Marketing Strategies That Work 2024

Devising and implementing effective referral marketing strategies is crucial to business success. A carefully planned and expertly executed referral marketing plan can boost brand awareness. It can take the business to greater heights, allowing it to ...

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Referral Marketing Strategies

Devising and implementing effective referral marketing strategies is crucial to business success.

A carefully planned and expertly executed referral marketing plan can boost brand awareness. It can take the business to greater heights, allowing it to go head-to-head with the industry’s best. Such a strategy also fosters mutually beneficial relationships, enabling companies to forge a brighter future.

But what is referral marketing, and what strategies are foolproof? How does this strategy work, and how can you benefit? We will answer these queries in this article – your ultimate guide to 11 of the most successful strategies for referral marketing.

What is Referral Marketing? 

Referral marketing is a powerful tool for growing businesses by leveraging a company’s well-established relationships or connections with existing clients. It’s a promotional strategy where customers and partners become brand advocates, sharing positive things about a business and its offerings with friends and social circles.

This advertising strategy relies on traditional word-of-mouth marketing and people’s natural connections with social contacts (i.e., family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances).

Companies show their appreciation to advocates by offering incentives and rewards. This strategy encourages ambassadors or referrers to share positive things about the business with social contacts.

11 Best Referral Marketing Strategies to Gain Success

Select the right time to ask for referrals

Some businesses overlook this referral marketing strategy. They think customers would refer friends and social contacts without the company asking them to do so.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always produce the desired results. Business owners must ask customers to invite family and friends or refer social and business contacts to the brand. That’s how you generate new potential customers via referrals.

While requesting referrals is easy, knowing when and how to ask is a big question for some businesses.

Ideally, you will want to ask for referrals when customers are happy or satisfied with your offerings. For example, customers writing positive reviews on blogs and social media indicate satisfaction with the brand.

Requesting a referral should be a cinch when a customer is in a good or positive mood.

After checkout, you can also pop the request, especially for subscription renewals and repeat orders. You must be doing excellent to make the customer return. You can leverage the customer’s positive experiences to request a referral.

Exceed customers’ expectations. 

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Businesses want a satisfied customer, knowing it’s what the latter expects. However, surprising customers beyond expectations is better. You can deliver an experience like no other, endearing your brand to them better.

That’s why ensuring happy customers isn’t enough. You must continuously exceed their expectations, setting the bar for impeccable customer service that will blow competitors off your customers’ minds. You will be the top-of-mind choice.

But how do you exceed the expectations of a well-informed customer?

Study and analyze your top customers’ attributes. Are they NBA or NFL fans? Giving them sports-themed items (although not brand-related) should endear you to them more.

You could send them surprise gifts on special occasions, like birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations. Upgrade their subscription plans. Doing the unexpected should see your referral marketing program through the roof.

More importantly, exceeding customer expectations and surprising them in more ways than one should help optimize referrals. They will drive more new clients to you.

Create and expand your network

Growing your customer base is easier if customers have a community of like-minded individuals. That’s the beauty of a referral network. It empowers brands to leverage people connections and nurture relationships.

Networks share commonalities among members. Learn what your current customers are passionate about and build a community for them. They could interact with fellow members, share experiences, and, more importantly, use your platform to invite others.

Post compelling content on blogs and social media networks to encourage conversation and engagement. Members would love to share, like, and comment on such posts. It enables your brand to reach potential clients within individual members’ social circles.

You can also initiate contests to expand your referral network. See who among customers can invite the most friends and social contacts. Such tactics will see your user base skyrocket.

Offer attractive referral incentives

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The proverbial ‘carrot-at-the-end-of-the-stick’ still works amidst massive technological innovations. After all, nearly nine in ten consumers who receive gifts are more likely to buy recommended products than those who didn’t receive any incentive.

It’s a similar story with referral marketing. Offering referral rewards for inviting friends or referring someone to a business makes sense. Recipients will feel more receptive to recommendations. They recognize the need to reciprocate.

The key is to offer valuable rewards and incentives, something customers will appreciate.

For example, almost everyone loves discounts. Over nine in ten consumers use discount coupons and similar items to purchase favorite products. It saves them a lot from their budgets, making these rewards ideal.

Free items and store credits suit repeat customers, especially when you tie these incentives to your business. On the other hand, tangible rewards, exclusive experiences, and cash bonuses work well with companies that sell big-ticket items.

You could also try tiered incentives by allowing customers to earn points per successful referral. The more points they garner, the more attractive the reward.

Leverage social media

Did you know that three in five people learn about brands from a social media platform? That’s unsurprising, considering nearly five billion people are on social media. The average person spends two hours and 25 minutes on social media sites daily.

You can leverage this channel to boost your customer referral scheme.

There’s a good chance most of your existing customers have social media accounts (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). Adding social sharing widgets on your posts should make referring friends and social contacts more convenient for your customers.

Ideally, you’ll want a social media business page to augment the official website. It’s an informal venue for sharing news and updates about your brand. It also encourages customers and would-be customers to engage by liking, commenting, and sharing your posts.

Customers’ social media pages will have their respective social networks. Your business will be more visible to these untapped potential customers.

Use email marketing

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While social media is beneficial in tapping potential customers, email marketing is the perfect vessel for communicating with existing clients. It’s one of the best tools for maintaining and nurturing healthy client relationships.

And you can ask for referrals through email, too!

Personalize your referral request by highlighting customers’ contributions to business growth. Sweeten the deal by offering discount codes or coupons in the email. It should entice customers to be more aggressive in their referrals.

Moreover, emails are an excellent channel for showing your appreciation to referrers. You could send hundreds of personalized thank-you notes, valuing customers’ marketing efforts.

Remember to add clear call-to-action buttons to your emails, encouraging customers to refer and enjoy the benefits.

Make your referral campaign user-friendly

Customers would be happy to recommend your brand to their social contacts. They would be more comfortable if you could simplify the process. After all, nobody wants to tick hundreds of checklist boxes or fill out tens of data fields to refer one person.

Analyze your program and run an A/B test on various elements. For example, are social sharing buttons attractive enough? Do they catch users’ attention, or are these CTAs in the ideal location?

Check your referral landing pages and examine data requirements. Try limiting the information you need to the bare essentials, such as the referral’s name and contact details. Adding more fields to populate can make customers unhappy because it is too much work.

Test the referral codes. Can customers generate them hassle-free, or do they require some technical skills?

Unsurprisingly, businesses with successful referral systems streamline their processes into three effortless steps – log in, refer, and enjoy the rewards.

Consider using multiple types of referrals

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Referral programs come in different types depending on the referrer network or source.

Many businesses use word-of-mouth or direct referrals, offering incentives for each validated referral. This method hinges on positive client experiences, allowing them to share such experiences with social contacts. It’s genuine and more personal.

Meanwhile, business referrals are best for requesting referrals from industry players or businesses within the same niche (although not direct competitors). The idea is to refer some customers to a partner business, hoping the latter will also refer its customers to you.

Incentive-based customer referrals are the go-to of most businesses. They offer tiered and attractive rewards to entice customers to refer to social contacts. You can also leverage your employees’ social circles, rewarding them for recommending your business to families and acquaintances.

Other referral types worth exploring include social media (influencers) and review-based referrals.

Alternatively, you can promote your brand using multiple referral types. Doing so increases the chances of generating more new customers, empowering the business to achieve and exceed its bottom-line target.

Add your referral program to your website

As mentioned, social media and email marketing channels should supplement the official company website. After all, this channel is your brand’s virtual representation. Hence, adding your referral platform to your website makes sense.

Create and publish a compelling blog post regularly to keep your customers glued to your website. It also helps drive organic traffic and optimize your lead-generation campaign.

You could highlight the benefits of referring social contacts to your program or allot a dedicated page. Most businesses choose the latter because it talks specifically to existing customers.

The referral program on your website gives customers and visitors a bird’s-eye-view of the perks. The page should have an FAQ section to clarify aspiring referrers’ questions about the program.

You can include information about where customers can post referral links and what incentives or rewards they can expect. The details must be juicy enough to encourage customers to boost their social media, email, and word-of-mouth referrals.

Host exclusive events

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Here’s a proven strategy to boost your referral marketing efforts to new levels.

Hosting exclusive events for customers, like-minded individuals, and intra-industry businesses opens many opportunities for companies looking to expand their client base through referrals.

If hosting is beyond your budget, you can join or participate in industry-related events. The results are similar. You will have more chances of meeting people and decision-makers who might know someone they could recommend to your business.

Like brand advocates making personal recommendations to their social contacts, you can promote your brand to new acquaintances at the event. Highlight the benefits of having such partnerships to encourage people to refer to their social contacts.

Find the right referral marketing software. 

A referral strategy is only effective if the company can make the necessary adjustments. Unfortunately, one can only do this by constantly monitoring crucial referral marketing parameters (i.e., referral rates, conversion rates, and customer lifetime values).

Referral marketing software can simplify referral program launching, monitoring, reports generation, and management. And for that, we recommend UpPromote.

UpPromote helps businesses design, set up, and manage a successful referral platform. It enables brands to create custom links and codes for advocates to post in different marketing channels. More importantly, the program delivers timely reports about crucial referral marketing metrics.

Of course, other software providers are available. However, businesses should choose a product that’s easy to use, offers customization, guarantees accurate reports in real-time, and provides exceptional support.

How Does Referral Marketing Work?

The referral process isn’t any different from conventional marketing activities. People promote things to others to encourage the latter to buy or act accordingly. However, subtle variations exist.

Companies with referral marketing plans leverage a traditional word-of-mouth strategy. Existing customers become advocates, ambassadors, or referrers. They use interpersonal relationships to share positive things about the company and its offerings with friends, acquaintances, and people in their social circles.

These actions form the backbone of the referrer-referee relationship. Hence, companies must motivate customers and partners to continue inviting or referring potential new clients.

Businesses offer referral incentives or rewards to show appreciation for the referrer’s efforts. For instance, gift cards, coupons, and free items can encourage referrers to ramp up their friend invites and referral-sharing activities.

Companies can also give referees (people referred by customers and partners) incentives in a double-sided scheme (referrer and referee receive a reward for their desired actions). Such a strategy increases the likelihood of a successful referral program.

The result? New customers flock to the business, allowing the latter to generate more income without hurting its marketing or operating budget.

Benefits of Referral Marketing

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The benefits of referral marketing are numerous, depending on the company’s objectives. However, some benefits are common across businesses and industries.

Referral marketing fosters trust. It transforms ordinary clients into loyal customers. Although incentives are excellent motivators, companies with referral platforms strive to make their offerings and services high-quality and trustworthy. Such measures ensure old and new customers are happy and more than satisfied with their experiences with the brand.

Making customers happy fosters positive customer relationships. It allows companies to leverage customer connections. Such a strategy enables customers to drive more new clients to the business.

Although not all referrals become customers, they will become aware of the brand. Someone they know might be more interested in establishing a favorable business with your brand. That’s how companies expand brand awareness.

Increasing brand awareness allows companies to generate more leads. Moreover, the leads are of higher quality than those from other strategies.

Did you know that seven in ten B2B salespersons, marketers, and sales leaders consider referred leads faster to convert into sales than other lead types? Unsurprisingly, 69% of companies with referral systems consider referrals invaluable in lead generation.

The more leads a company generates, the higher the chances of boosting the bottom line. Think about it. You will have more opportunities to turn referees into customers because happy clients recommend your brand. Referees trust them. You will be glad that nearly three in four consumers trust friend- and family-recommended brands.

Growing your business should be easy. Sustaining its growth is also effortless with a well-defined and expertly executed referral marketing plan.

Examples of Referral Marketing

Businesses with a well-planned and executed customer referral program are more successful than entities without such strategies. Here are three examples to get you pumped up.


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Improving productivity, saving precious time, and fostering worthwhile collaborations are at the core of Dropbox’s philosophy. This cloud storage solution leads the industry with over 700 million users, of whom 17.4 million are paying clients.

Although its client base is impressive, Dropbox still executes a referral campaign to widen its paying circle and improve its $1.9 billion 2020 revenue.

Dropbox encourages existing clients to invite friends and social contacts to subscribe to its Basic and Plus plans. A successful referral leads to additional Cloud storage (1GB for Plus and 500MB for Basic).

But Dropbox doesn’t stop there. The company also gives the same perk to the referee. Hence, the referrer and referee enjoy identical incentives – free extra Cloud storage.

Dropbox’s referral system is a worry-free three-step process. Customers log into their Dropbox accounts, invite via email (or paste a link anywhere), and wait for Dropbox to validate the referral.

  • Incentives/Rewards: Free Cloud storage
  • Reward Type: Double-sided


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Uber started as a small fleet of taxis ferrying bar and club clients in San Francisco, California’s night spots. It became a ride-hailing service the following year. Today, Uber leads the industry with its $31.8 billion 2022 revenue across 72 countries.

This ride-hailing service has an enticing CTA in its referral widget. It also leverages the impressive reach and portability of mobile devices. The program allows anyone and everyone to share Uber’s services. Referral or invite codes are unique, and the platform offers multiple sharing options (i.e., SMS, social media, and email).

Like many referral marketing campaigns, Uber uses a two-pronged approach to reward referrers and their referrals. Referring a friend or associate gets the Uber user a free ride for the next three opportunities. Referred clients also enjoy the same perk.

It’s a nice tactic for sharing an Uber experience with non-users or commuters with second thoughts about ride-hailing services.

  • Incentives/Rewards: Free rides
  • Reward Type: Double-sided

Google Workspace

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Industry experts say Google’s 2024 projected revenue could hit at least $2.5 trillion. That’s unsurprising, considering the tech giant has over 271 offerings, including Google Workspace.

Although launched in 2006 as Gmail for Your Domain, Google Workspace underwent several rebranding to accommodate varying and ever-changing customer needs. Today, the collaboration and communication platform serves over nine million paying companies.

And it’s not stopping.

Google Workspace aims to increase the number of paying customers by leveraging recommendations from people who know the platform inside out.

The program rewards Google Workspace users with cash incentives for every validated new user ($23 for Business Plus, $15 for Business Standard, and $8 for Business Starter).

Unfortunately, only the referrer enjoys these rewards. Although Google Workspace says referred users can earn savings in the first 12 months, no verifiable information exists.

Still, Google Workspace remains an excellent collaboration tool to share with business contacts. And if you can earn cash from inviting friends, that’s a bonus worth waiting for.

  • Incentives/Rewards: $9 to $23 per new user
  • Reward Type: Single-sided


The 11 best referral marketing strategies we shared boost brand awareness, foster brand loyalty, generate more high-quality leads, and grow your bottom line. Unsurprisingly, many businesses now recognize the value of such programs. You should, too.

Create and offer high-quality products and develop customer-centric support systems to optimize these referral marketing tactics. Focus on building and nurturing positive customer relationships to ensure brand loyalty. Doing so will fuel customers’ drive to find more new clients for the business. That’s your key!

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.