Referral Programs 101: Ultimate Guide for Small Businesses

Are you struggling to attract customers and grow your eCommerce store? Look no further! In this ultimate guide, we’ll walk you through creating customer referral programs to skyrocket your small business. No budget for referral marketing? No problem! We’ve got you covered with easy-to-understand explanations and actionable steps to set up effective referral programs, even if you’re new to the concept.

Now, let’s begin!

What is a referral program?

Referral programs, also known as “refer-a-friend” programs, allow any type of business to incentivize its existing customers to recommend the brand and its products to their family and friends.

Referral programs actively encourage people to refer others to a business, commonly known as word-of-mouth marketing.

Customers who participate in referral programs receive rewards such as brands’ products free cash, store credit, etc. Despite upfront costs, referral programs significantly increase long-term revenue by fostering customer loyalty.

If you’re wondering why you should have a referral program and how to run one, let’s explore how it will bring affection to your small businesses.

What is a referral program?
TréSkin Referral Program

Benefits of a referral program for small businesses

Implementing a referral program can do wonders for small businesses. You don’t want to miss out on excellent benefits such as:

Building better customer relationships

Building strong customer relationships is the lifeblood of small businesses. What sets them apart is the trust and personal touch they provide to customers, making them feel valued and part of a close-knit community.

Referral programs play a crucial role in strengthening these relationships.

When customers refer their friends, they become active participants in your business’s growth, deepening their connection and sense of ownership.

By fostering such engagement, you can cultivate lasting loyalty and an enthusiastic customer base that propels their success.

Creating loyal customers

Referred customers have a remarkable 18% higher likelihood of staying loyal to your small business. This increased likelihood stems from the fact that they were referred by someone who already knows them, fostering a higher probability of affinity and loyalty.

Moreover, by providing appropriate referral incentives such as discounts or store credits, you create a compelling reason for customers and their referrals to continue patronizing your business.

These incentives reinforce customer satisfaction, nurture ongoing engagement, and contribute to the long-term success of your firm.


Referral programs are a cost-effective and efficient way for brick-and-mortar firms to promote their business compared to traditional ad methods. When customers recommend your business to their friends and family, it’s like receiving valuable free advertising that money can’t buy.

Instead of targeting strangers with ads, you can focus on existing customers who already appreciate your brand. Their recommendations carry more weight and trust, just like getting advice from friends.

Referral programs bridge the gap between loyal customers and new potential clients, making them a smart resource management strategy for businesses.

Creating a viral loop for your business

This cycle gains even more significant momentum by implementing a referral program that facilitates easy sharing.

When customers share your referral program on social media, their friends instantly become acquainted with your brand. As some of these friends become new customers, there is a strong probability that they will also share the referral program with their friends.

This changes a continuous cycle, often referred to as a viral loop, which propels the success of your referral marketing program to new heights.

Benefits of a referral program for small businesses
Benefits of referral programs

How successful are small business referral programs? 

Small business referral programs have proven highly successful in driving growth and customer acquisition. Numerous studies and success stories demonstrate the effectiveness of referral programs.

Annex Cloud says referral marketing delivers conversion rates 3-5 times higher than other channels. Customers referred to your business bring in a profit margin that is 25% higher than customers acquired through other methods. Refer customers are four times more inclined to refer to your brand.

Around 60% of small businesses receive a significant portion through referrals. Implementing referral strategies has proven beneficial for up to 86% of companies, leading to business growth within two years.

According to statistics on small businesses, this is particularly crucial for small ventures, as approximately 82% of their owners attribute their new business primarily to referrals.

But will referral programs indeed be worth your efforts?

Witness the Stats that Pop:

👉 People Pay 2X More Attention to Friend’s Recommendations!

👉 92% of Consumers Trust Recommendations in People They Know!

👉 The Retention of Referred Customers Are Greater than Usual Customers

👉 Referred Customers Boost Profit Margins up to 25% through Referrals!

Referral marketing is the key weapon behind not only big brands but also small and medium-sized brands’ growth.

So, yes, referral marketing works.

By bringing in loyal and profitable customers through recommendations from existing customers.

How does a referral program work for small businesses? 

The program typically rewards the referrer and the new customer, creating a win-win situation for all parties involved. Here’s how it generally works:

Setting up

Step 1: Create a straightforward referral program with enticing rewards, like discounts, cash rewards, or free products/services.

Step 2: Set up a referral tracking system using unique codes or links for existing customers to share.

Step 3: Inform current customers about the program through emails, social media, newsletters, or in-store signs, explaining the benefits and how it works.

Encouraging Referrals

Step 4: Motivate existing customers to refer friends by sharing their unique code or link or asking contacts to mention their name when purchasing.

Tracking and Rewarding Referrals

Step 5: Track referrals accurately using unique codes or links and verify new customers’ eligibility for the referral reward.

Step 6: Reward the referrer and the new customer after a successful referral.

Promoting Repeat Referrals

Step 7: Encourage ongoing referrals by creating a tiered or continuous referral program with rewards for multiple successful referrals.

Analyzing Results

Step 8: Analyze the program’s effectiveness by measuring new customers acquired through referrals, program costs versus traditional marketing, and its impact on sales and growth.

Keep it simple, communicate clearly, and ensure that referrers and new customers are rewarded for participating in the referral program.

How does a referral program work for small businesses?
Understand a referral program work for small businesses

Best Practices for Small Business Referral Programs

To maximize the success of your small business referral program, six key best practices to follow for your small business referral program are you should ensure simplicity, clear CTAs, valuable incentives, easy social sharing, leveraging your small business advantages, and efficient management with referral program software.

Explore in detail below!

Make it simple

Ensure your customers easily grasp the referral process and its benefits when applying for the program. Keep your explanation brief while including essential terms and conditions.

Also, clarify the requirements for customers to qualify for rewards and whether rewards can accumulate.

Note that some customers are unfamiliar with the term referral marketing, so you can keep them understood by explaining how referrals work and what they will get. 

Display a clear, enticing call to action

Ensure your call-to-action (CTA) stands out and is easy to locate. Place a prominent headline at the top of your referral landing page using a large font size. Consider making it bold or highlighted for added visibility. Follow the headline with a clear and easily identifiable CTA button.

Effective CTAs capture customers’ attention, succinctly encourage them to refer, and communicate the incentive offered.

referral program ideas
Display a clear, enticing call to action in the referral program

Offer valuable but cost-effective incentives that relate to your business 

Consider offering incentives to the referrer and their friends and allowing for cumulative rewards. These incentives can include store credits, gift cards, and discounts.

You can only provide free discounted products or services after customers successfully refer several people. To make it more engaging, implement a point system that gamifies the experience and shows customers how close they are to earn an exclusive perk.

Another gamified approach is holding a raffle, where each referral allows the customer to win a more significant gift card, store credit, or another valuable prize from your business.

Using charitable giving as a referral incentive can also be effective, especially when donating to a local charity in your community. For instance, your business can pledge a fixed amount to the local food pantry for every referral.

referral program ideas examples
Charitable giving as a referral incentive examples

Make social sharing easy for customers

Simplify the process of sharing on social media for your customers. Focus on social media because it’s where your customers naturally share with their friends on a larger scale.

By incorporating social sharing into your referral program, you can achieve more with less time and effort.

Ensure that sharing on social media is highly user-friendly to customers. Include buttons with pre-written message templates that each customer can personalize. These templates can be easily shared with a single click of a button.

Use your position as a small business to your advantage

Leverage your small business’s distinctive personality, which sets you apart from big-box stores, and infuse it into your referral program. Incorporate community-oriented messaging to highlight the sense of belonging.

Craft feel-good messages that revolve around supporting friends and your business. For instance, use phrases like “Share the love” to evoke a positive and friendly sentiment.

Include images that symbolize friendship or community connections to enhance the community aspect further.

Use referral program software to make managing your referral program even easier 

By using referral program software, you can streamline the tracking and managing of referrals, making it more efficient and less time-consuming. This software typically offers features such as automated tracking, personalized referral links, and built-in analytics to monitor the success of your program.

UpPromote is the top-commended Shopify affiliate & referral marketing app, offering a comprehensive suite of features tailored to Shopify merchants, making it an excellent choice for managing affiliate and referral programs.

With Uppromote, you can easily set up and customize your referral program, track referrals and sales, manage gifts and commissions, and provide your customers with personalized referral links.

referral marketing program
Build Customer Referral Program with UpPromote

Referral program software for small businesses

With the help of referral marketing tools, you can easily manage your program for your small businesses. Here is why.

Why use referral program software?

A referral program software benefits small businesses in several ways:

Simplifies Management – Automate the entire referral process, making it easier to manage, saving time and effort.
Efficient Tracking – Accurately track referrals, monitor conversions, and attribute them to the right referrers.
Increased Reach – Features like personalized referral links and social sharing options enable customers to refer your business to their network easily
Incentivizes Referrals – Set up enticing incentives for referrers and their friends. You can offer rewards, discounts, or exclusive perks to motivate customers to refer others, driving customer acquisition and sales.
Analytics and Insights – Give you insights into the performance of your program and measure the effectiveness of different campaigns, and identify areas for improvement.

Difference between referral and affiliate programs 

Referral and affiliate programs are effective marketing strategies incentivizing individuals to promote a business. However, the two have critical differences:

Referral Program Affiliate Program
– Focus on existing customers referring friends, family, or acquaintances to the business.
– Rely on personal connections & recommendations to drive new customer acquisitions.
– Typically rewards the referrer and the referred individual with incentives, such as discounts, credits, or gifts.
– Referrers are optional to have a significant online presence or be content creators.
– Partner with external individuals or businesses (affiliates) who promote the products or services of the company.
– Affiliates usually have online platforms, such as websites, blogs, or social media channels, where they promote the business.
– Affiliates earn commissions or a percentage of the sales generated through their promotional efforts.

In short, referral programs primarily leverage personal connections and word-of-mouth marketing, while affiliate programs involve collaborations.

How to choose the best referral marketing program software?

Selecting the most suitable referral marketing software based on various factors, you should consider four key components:

Features and Functionality: Evaluate the software’s features, such as automated tracking, customizable referral links, rewards management, and comprehensive analytics. Ensure the software offers the necessary functionalities to support your referral program objectives.

Scalability: Assess whether the software can scale alongside your business’s growth. It should be capable of handling an increasing number of referrals, tracking data efficiently, and accommodating a growing customer base without compromising performance.

Integration: Check if the software seamlessly integrates with your existing systems and platforms, such as CRM, e-commerce, or email marketing software. Smooth integration will enable seamless data flow and streamline your referral program operations.

Pricing: Understand the pricing structure and terms of the software. Compare the costs against the features and value it provides to ensure it fits within your budget and offers a reasonable return on investment.

Best referral program apps

If you’re running a Shopify store and looking for the best referral apps to power your referral marketing efforts, consider these top options:


UpPromote is an all-in-one referral and affiliate marketing app explicitly designed for Shopify. With UpPromote, you can effortlessly establish and manage a customer referral program in minutes. The app offers extensive customization options, allowing you to tailor commission rates, gifts, and calls to action (CTA) to suit your needs.

Also, UpPromote provides reliable customer support around the clock, ensuring assistance whenever needed. When considering UpPromote, key criteria to evaluate may include ease of setup, customization capabilities, customer support quality, and overall user experience.


Pros Cons
– Friendly & easy-to-use app endorsed by thousands of users
– Create unlimited affiliate/referral programs with dynamic commission structures
– Manage & track ambassadors/ customers professionally
– Multi-language support
– Customization options
– Pricing may seem high for some firms


ReferralCandy is a widely-used referral app specifically designed for Shopify stores. It enables you to set up and manage referral programs seamlessly.

With features such as referral tracking, automated rewards, and campaign customization, ReferralCandy makes it easy to launch and track the success of your referral marketing campaigns.

referral program software
Referral Candy
Pros Cons
– Exceptional ease of setup, making it incredibly user-friendly
– Customize landing pages & emails with chosen colors, and brand logo
– Support 12 languages
– No dashboard for ambassadors/ customers makes tracking their performance hard.
– Fraud check capabilities work excellent but limited
– UI is not clear

BON Loyalty Rewards Referrals

Bon is a powerful loyalty & referral program builder, suitable for small and medium firms and focusing on increasing customer engagement and retention. Businesses can incentivize customers to make repeat purchases with their reward points system.

The app offers easy customization options, allowing businesses to tailor their loyalty programs to their specific needs and branding. Setting up a loyalty program with Bon is effortless, even for users who need coding skills.

Bon aims to uplift customer retention rates and boost customer engagement by implementing captivating points, rewards, and referral programs.

referral program software
Bon Loyalty & Rewards
Pros Cons
– Effortless setup
– Tailor loyalty programs to specific needs, branding, and customer preferences.
– High pricing, especially for smaller or budget-conscious businesses
– Limited integrations

How to create a customer referral program?

Creating a customer referral program involves several key steps. Below is a simplified guide to help you get started

Build pre-designed customer referral templates 

Templates are invaluable for customer referrals. They can be customized to match your brand’s style and used by anyone within your company.

These customer referral templates include

  • emails for requesting referrals,
  • follow-up emails,
  • social media copy promoting your referral program.

They streamline the process and ensure consistency across your team. There are some free resources that you can collect, such as Hubspot; you can go straight to their website and take them.

Subject: Help us spread the word and earn rewards!

Hi [Friend’s Name],
I hope this email finds you well. I am reaching out because I value your opinion and thought you might be interested in our referral program at [Your Business Name].

We believe in the power of word-of-mouth and want to reward our loyal customers like you who refer their friends and family to us. If you know someone who could benefit from [describe your product or service], we would greatly appreciate you sharing the love and referring them to us.

You and your friend will receive [incentive/reward details] for every successful referral. It’s our way of saying thank you for supporting our business and helping us grow.
To make it even easier, we’ve created a personalized referral link for you: [Insert Referral Link]. Just share it with your friends or use it on social media.

Thank you for being a valued customer and considering supporting us through referrals. We genuinely appreciate your support!

[Your Name][Your Business Name]
Feel free to personalize this template with your business details, incentives, and a friendly tone to make it more engaging for your recipients.

Set your goals

Clearly define your objectives for the referral program. Determine what you want to achieve and prioritize your goals.

Consider if your goals are primarily focused on growth and revenue generation. You also aim to enhance customer retention and loyalty. Additionally, evaluate if your industry necessitates substantial trust-building efforts.

Once you have clearly defined your goals and objectives, the subsequent steps in creating your referral program will become more evident.

Here is an example goal of a small fashion brand

Increase Customer Acquisition Our target is 200 customers actively participating in the referral program, referring their friends to our online store.
Boost Online Sales 20% increase in online sales attributed to customer referrals during the program period. Our baseline online sales for comparison will be the average sales from the previous six months.
Measure Conversion Rate The target conversion rate will be 30%, indicating that at least 30% of referred customers purchase.

Look for sources that referrals come from

Research how referrals are reaching your business or if you’re receiving any referrals. Involve marketing, sales management, and customer support teams to understand how they have traditionally handled referrals. This assessment provides insight into your current strategies.

Additionally, determine the value of an existing customer. Calculate the number of referrals needed to break even compared to the time spent managing onboarding programs.

By doing the math, you can gauge the potential generated from referrals and adjust your marketing budget accordingly.

For example, suppose acquiring a new customer through other marketing efforts costs $100 on average, and your referral program can develop a new customer for $50. In that case, you can adjust your marketing spend to allocate more resources to the referral program, knowing the potential return on investment.

Decide the most fitted customer

To ensure referrals bring good results, clearly define the type of customer you seek before asking customers for referrals.

This way, your existing customers will refer individuals likely to buy from your business rather than simply providing names for the program’s incentive.

Place these customer descriptions prominently in your referral program, such as at the top of a form, to emphasize the importance of finding specific individuals who genuinely need your product or service.

List your possible referral sources

Identify advocates for your business, including anyone you have been connected to.

Start by listing them, including current/ past customers, leads that didn’t convert, industry influencers, vendors, and more. This list will serve as a solid foundation for your referral program.

Pick up channels to run your referral program

To ensure the effectiveness of your referral program, it’s crucial to have a communication platform notifying both your business and the referred customer when a referral is made.

Here’s an example from BeeBoutique: the customer can share a referral code to a friend or family member through Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or another available option.

referral programs for small businesses
Easily share referral links with friends

Make a plan to reach out 

Now, you should begin creating a plan for reaching out to potential advocates and maximizing the effectiveness of your referral program

Refine your list: Narrow down your list of advocates to focus on your “inner circle” contacts. These individuals already recognize your business’s value and would refer you without any incentives.

Timing is key: Identify appropriate times to ask your inner circle advocates for referrals. Consider the nature of your relationship with them. Depending on your business, referral requests can be made later in the relationship or right after the initial sale or interaction.

Be patient: After making the referral request, allow a suitable waiting period before reminding them about the referral program. This waiting period can range from months to even a year.

Select your advocates carefully: Choose advocates within your inner circle who can effectively market your brand. Focus on those with whom you have a robust and standout relationship or who have successfully referred customers to you.

Avoid referral fatigue: Avoid overburdening your contacts with excessive referral requests. Strike a balance and maintain a healthy relationship with your advocates.

Determine your incentives 

When designing your referral program, consider the two options: an incentive-based program and a non-incentive program.

Incentive-based program: Decide the different levels or tiers of contacts in your list and decide which offers they will receive as incentives.

For example, you can segment your contacts into tiers based on their level of influence or potential referrals. Higher-tier contacts might receive more significant rewards or incentives compared to lower-tier contacts.

Non-incentive program: Some contacts may be more inclined to refer others without explicit incentives. Identify these individuals within your list and acknowledge their willingness to refer by providing special recognition, exclusive access, or personalized benefits.

For instance, when a customer refers a friend, they receive a $15 credit, while the newly-referred customer gets a $20 credit towards their first order. This mutual benefit motivates both parties to participate and increases the likelihood of successful referrals.

Create resources to alert your customers

Consider using multiple avenues of promotion beyond time-limited email campaigns. These can include newsletters, blogs, CTAs in email signatures, and product updates.

With these channels, you can continuously remind your customers about the existence of the referral program.

To support your referral program, create the following resources:

Tailored emails for different types of contacts informing them about the referral program.

A clear message describing the type of customers that align well with your business, helping your contacts visualize your ideal customer.

A well-defined workflow that guides your contacts through the referral program and notifies your sales team about appropriate follow-ups.

A dedicated landing page where contacts can provide their friend’s referral information.

Scripts for your sales and customer support teams to effectively explain the referral program to interested contacts.

A referral kit containing valuable resources for your contacts to share with their friends, such as case studies, testimonials, eBooks, or videos that provide insights into working with your business.

Regardless of your chosen medium, ensure that your promotional efforts are consistent, persistent (without being overwhelming), and aligned with your program’s revenue, growth, and retention goals.

referral programs for small businesses
Resource for customers about your referral programs

Set up tracking

Regardless of your company’s size, it is essential to have a tracking system to capture all relevant details, particularly for referred accounts. This ensures that no important information is missed.

Here are key elements to track:

Referred and referrer details: Keep a record of who was referred and who referred them. This helps you identify the source of referrals and acknowledge the referrers appropriately.

Referral timing: Note when the referrals were made to track the effectiveness of your referral program over time.

Conversion and sales: Track whether the referred accounts converted into customers or made a purchase. This data provides insights into the success of your referral program and allows you to measure its impact on sales.

Nurturing and follow-up: Establish a process to nurture and follow up with the referred accounts. This includes developing strategies to engage and encourage them to become loyal customers.

referral programs for small businesses
Track everything in your referral programs with UpPromote

UpPromote offers an insight analytics dashboard to help you track customers’ referral performance.

Follow up on your referrals quickly

When you receive a referral, act quickly to take advantage of the opportunity. Don’t let the referral sit idle, as you might miss out on securing new customers. Remember that the person who referred them may have also recommended other businesses.

Also, the referred customer may have researched other options, so making a strong impression and standing out from competitors is essential. The sooner you make your mark, the better your chances of closing the deal.

Improve your referral program

Every business will have a unique and potentially different referral program based on their customer needs and preferences assessment. It’s important to understand that it may take time to determine what works best and what needs improvement.

So, you should:

  • Regularly test and evaluate your program
  • Collect customer feedback through surveys to gain insights and make necessary adjustments.
  • Continuously enhance your referral program to generate more leads for your marketing and sales teams.

Customer Referral Program Ideas

Now that we have discussed creating a referral program, let’s explore practical ways to implement this plan.

Contests or Giveaways

Contests and giveaways can motivate customers to refer new potential customers to your business.

To ensure you receive high-quality leads, it’s important to design contests requiring customers to generate conversions or sales rather than just providing contact information.

This way, you reward customers for bringing in valuable leads genuinely interested in your products or services.

best referral programs
Bagg giveaway referral program

Social Gifting

Motivating customers becomes easier when they don’t perceive your efforts as manipulative. Traditional approaches, such as offering coupons in exchange for referring a certain number of people, can make customers skeptical of your intentions.

Alternatively, you can use social gifting to encourage referrals without explicitly requesting them. This approach creates a more genuine and organic incentive for customers to refer others to your business.

Take an example of this brand, rather than incentivizing customers based on the number of referrals they provide, this offer focuses on rewarding customers for sharing a coupon with their friends.

By doing so, customers not only have the opportunity to give a gift to someone they know but also receive rewards when their referrals redeem the coupon. This additional incentive encourages customers to reach out to more people, maximizing their chances of earning rewards.

best referral program ideas
Social gifting referral program


Fundraisers provide a valuable way to connect with your customers’ values beyond your products or services. Engaging in a cause that resonates with your customers demonstrates a deeper understanding of their beliefs and aspirations.

Fundraisers also offer a referral opportunity as customers can easily share them with their peers. As more people participate and contribute, your business can gather a database of leads who share the same values.

This creates a natural opening to follow up with these leads and gradually introduce them to your products and services.

fundraisers referral program ideas
Fundraisers referral program

Customer Loyalty Tiers

Rather than relying on short-term contests or promotions, having a referral program that encourages customers to refer multiple people over an extended period is more effective.

One way to do this is by implementing customer loyalty tiers that offer rewards as customers refer more leads. Each tier comes with its own benefits, and when customers successfully refer a certain number of leads, they move up to the next tier.

This system keeps customers motivated to consistently refer new leads, even without the need for specific contests or promotions.

Customer Loyalty Tiers referral program ideas
Customer Loyalty Tiers referral program

Seasonal Campaigns

Running a seasonal referral program is a great way to generate excitement and drive success by capitalizing on the hype and viral potential.With numerous events and holidays throughout the year, such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or EarthDay, you have plenty of options. The key is to offer a compelling grand prize that aligns with the event’s spirit, ensuring that contestants find it enticing enough to participate.

Seasonal Campaigns referral program ideas
Seasonal Campaigns referral program

Exclusive Events

Customers appreciate being part of an exclusive community, and you can leverage this by organizing events exclusively for members of your customer loyalty program.

Customers can invite their friends and introduce them to your brand in a relaxed setting by offering additional tickets.

Instead of pressuring leads to make immediate purchases in your stores, they can attend company outings or events focusing on building connections rather than closing deals.

Referral Incentives (Store Credit, Cash, Discounts)

Businesses rewarding existing and newly referred customers with credits, cash, or discounted products as part of their referral program is a highly effective strategy that consistently delivering successful results.

MeUndies’ refer-a-friend program offers a straightforward two-sided incentive: customers can give a 20% discount to their friends and, in return, receive a $20 reward. When the referred customer makes a purchase of $12 or more, both parties are rewarded with significant discounts on future purchases.

Offer incentives in referral program
referral incentives programs with store credit and rewards

Product or Service Upgrades

Offering product or service upgrades as incentives for customer referral programs is a highly effective approach. Not only does it attract new leads, but it also motivates existing customers to continue using your products.

If you don’t have upgrades available, you can introduce customers to exclusive beta features, products, or services that aren’t accessible to the rest of your customer base. By doing so, you impress customers with your product development efforts and make them feel like part of an exclusive group with VIP access.

This strategy goes beyond simply rewarding customers for referrals; it encourages them to share positive feedback and enhances their overall customer experience.

Charity Connections

Customer referral programs don’t always rely on discounts or product upgrades. In fact, connecting your brand with a social cause that resonates with your customer base can be a powerful way to enhance your referral marketing efforts.

People are naturally drawn to supporting good causes, especially when they align with their personal values. Leveraging word-of-mouth marketing becomes even more effective when spreading the message about your customer referral program aligned with a social cause.

By doing so, you tap into the power of advocacy and harness the enthusiasm of your customers to promote your brand and refer others to participate in your socially aligned referral program.

Mystery Gifts

You don’t always need discounts or upgrades for referral programs. Linking your brand with a social cause that matters to your customers can boost your referral marketing.

People enjoy supporting causes that align with their values. Word-of-mouth becomes powerful when sharing a referral program tied to a social cause.

This way, you can leverage customer interest to promote your brand. Also, encourage others to join your socially aligned referral program.

best referral programs idea
Mystery box to attract people to join your program

Customer Referral Program Examples

Borst Landscape & Design

Borst Landscape & Design, a landscaping company serving Allendale, NJ, and the surrounding area, has an impressive referral program for their small business.

Borst Landscape & Design Referral Program Highlights:

  • Feel-good referral messaging emphasizing mutual success and appreciation.
  • A warm invitation to customers to participate in the referral program.
  • An enticing incentive of a $125 credit towards future services from Borst.
  • Cumulative reward that applies to every new client referred who signs a contract.
  • Clear and concise offer text with transparent terms and conditions.
best referral programs idea
Borst Landscape & Design referral program


Amuze is a clothing company that offers deeply discounted items from various popular brands.

What makes Amuze Referral Program stand out:

  • Simple and clean design for easy understanding.
  • Charming wording that appeals to customers: “Make your friends love you.”
  • A personalized sharing page provided for customers to share their referral links.
ideas for referral programs
Amuze refer-a-friend program

Healthy Paws

This pet insurance stands out with its referral program that benefits homeless pets. When referrals are completed, the company donates $25 to the referrers.

This type of referral is an intelligent choice for an animal-focused insurance business, as the compassionate nature of the reward is likely to resonate with both existing clients and potential customers, making it an attractive incentive for participation.

What we love about this program:

  • Particularly well-suited for an animal-focused insurance business
  • Serves as an attractive incentive, encouraging participation in the program
best ideas for referral programs
Healthy Paws refer-a-friend program


How do I create a referral program for my business?

You should decide on the incentive, define referral criteria, promote the program, and track and reward referrals.

What are good referral sources?

There are many referral sources, but the most effective ones are satisfied customers, business partners, online communities, and influencers.

How can I encourage customers to participate in my referral program?

To encourage customer participation in your referral program, you should communicate benefits clearly, simplify the referral process, offer attractive incentives, provide reminders and ongoing incentives, and show appreciation for participation.

  • How do I create a referral program for my business?
  • What are good referral sources?
  • How can I encourage customers to participate in my referral program?


In conclusion, small business referral programs provide an effective and cost-efficient way to leverage customer advocacy and expand your customer base.

By implementing a referral program, you can strengthen relationships with existing customers and make them feel valued while attracting new customers likely to have a high customer lifetime value.

Emphasize feel-good messaging highlighting the customer experience and community, and offer incentives aligned with your business, such as credits and discounts.

Consider using referral software specifically designed for small businesses to streamline the management of your program. With a well-executed referral program, you can harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing and drive sustainable growth for your small business.

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