Questions to Ask When Drafting a Referral Marketing Message

As we’ve mentioned a few times, communication is a big part of a referral channel’s success. It keeps referral sources engaged and when done correctly, keeps your referral program top-of-mind with sources being educated on fresh new offers or deals.

But “correctly” is the key word here. If you bombard your referral sources with message after message that doesn’t actually say anything, eventually, they’ll stop paying attention even when the message is important.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to make sure that your referral marketing message is solid.

Who is your audience?

This question is, on its surface, very basic: who are you sending this message to? Is it going to referral partners, customers? Both or neither? Knowing who you want to target means that you’ll know, at a base level, how to approach the message.

But it also goes deeper. Do you have an in-depth understanding of your partner or customer base? Do you know who they are and how they operate? If not, you should. Understanding your audience intimately is the first step toward crafting a message that they’ll actually want to read.

Knowing your audience means that you know how, when, and why to contact them.

What do you need to say?

Why are you sending this message? Is it because there’s a new deal you want customers to be aware of? An incentive or contest for referral partners? A new product that you want them to start pitching?

Whatever it is, condense your message into a single sentence. And from there, build it out. Stay focused and concise, and don’t take too long to get to the point — the longer the message is, the more likely it will be that the recipients won’t read all of it. And many will skim, anyway, so put your most important part in the first sentence.

Your customers and partners have limited time — so don’t waste it.

How can you make this message stand out?

Is your open rate down? If so, it could be because all of your messages sound the same.

This goes into the last point of knowing what you need to say, but it goes further than that. For example, if you’re revealing a new incentive or contest, why? What’s the occasion? How can you make the email reflect that occasion that makes it stand out from the incentives and contests you’ve done in the past?

Don’t let your emails blend into one another in your audience’s mind. Make sure that you make this one unique — but, of course, don’t sacrifice readability or conciseness to achieve this.

Has anyone else read this message?

If you can, we definitely suggest sending someone on your team a “test” before sending out the message to its recipients. Not only will they be able to catch simple things like grammar and spelling mistakes, but they’ll also be able to let you know if you take too long to get to the point, or if something is too confusing.

By following all of these steps, you can create a powerful referral marketing message that your recipients will actually read and respond to.

Get Inspired! Promote Your Referral Program like These Brands

Promoting a referral strategy is a daunting task. It helps to have a plan for every phase of your referral program’s life, but that can be difficult to put together when you don’t have any concept of where to start.

That’s why we gathered some of the most exciting referral program marketing techniques. We’re breaking down how these brands did them, and how you can apply them to your own B2B business.


Tesla is known for its innovation, and its referral program is no different. Making the most of its excited and incredibly loyal fanbase, it created a referral program that saw over 40x ROI!

What can other businesses learn from Tesla’s referral program marketing?

  1. Cultivate loyalty. This is the driving force behind Tesla’s success. Tesla fans are incredibly loyal, with most of them willing to evangelize the cars for free. Almost all of Tesla’s success comes from word of mouth.
  2. Offer incentives your customers — and partners — want. Tesla calculated their incentives carefully and made sure that they were giving their customers what they actually wanted. You should be doing the same thing — calculate incentives based on your audience.
  3. Stay top of mind. Elon Musk is still generating headlines everywhere he goes, which means that customers have no opportunity to forget him or his business. While you probably won’t want to take that route, regular communication with your partners can achieve the same effect.


Rothy takes a smart approach to referral programs by using post-purchase pop-ups to encourage referrals from happy customers. While this is a reasonable way to approach B2C referral marketing, many B2B companies might find it difficult or pointless to implement.

This does not mean that B2B companies should ignore these tactics altogether, however. Here are just some things that can be learned:

  1. Ask for referrals at the right time. Timing is key for referrals. Asking for them when your customer or partner is happy with you and ready to sell you to someone else is far more effective.
  2. Make your partners happy. Even if you aren’t necessarily trying to sell your partners on your product or service, you should still be making them happy and excited to be a part of your channel.
  3. Be direct but simple. Pop-ups are attention-grabbing. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to have the customer or partner’s attention forever. Notice that Rothy kept their message short and sweet — and you should, too.


Companies like Huckberry have had great success with referral contests — offering special prizes to whoever brings in the most referrals in a set amount of time. Huckberry used a lot of the tactics that we already discussed: short, effective messaging and powerful incentives. But they also had something more.

What can your business learn from this?

  1. Make referring fun. A little friendly competition makes participating in a referral program feel less like a chore and more like a game. This will make referring for you more memorable, and feed into your channel even after the campaign is over.
  2. Give things a deadline. Deadlines help add a sense of urgency to your referral channel. Instead of telling partners and customers to refer whenever is convenient, having a set, near date will prompt many into action.
  3. Be creative. While Huckberry offered a traditional cash prize, they had a little extra fun by offering bourbon along with. These tiny, humanizing touches will make your referral campaign more memorable and fun.

Why a Referral Channel Isn’t the Same as Brand Advocacy

If you’ve just started to research a referral channel, you might be asking yourself, “Do I really need to automate a referral program? Our business already has fans that promote it on social media.” And while social media promotion from fans of the business are important to a business’s growth, this isn’t a referral channel. This is brand advocacy.

Now, brand advocacy is a great tool! This is organic, unexpected promotion, and it can be great for bringing in new leads. But it comes with its own set of challenges, and isn’t always the most sustainable way to bring in leads and grow revenue.

And that’s where a referral channel comes in.

Here are some of the key ways that a referral channel differs from brand advocacy, and why businesses should consider including an automated referral program into their lead generation strategy.

A Referral Channel is a Long-term Commitment.

While brand advocacy can encompass a fan who only tweets about your brand once, a referral partner or customer is someone who regularly interacts with your brand to give referrals.

That said, some referral partners are more active than others, and this is okay! Unlike other channel methods, a referral channel can be a great way to nurture your long tail partners and get the most out of their limited interaction.

How do you keep referral partners and customers active? Communication is a big part of it. Involving sales and special promotions are other ways to ensure maximum participation. Also, calculating the right incentives is an important part of keeping those in your referral channel engaged.

All of this can be very time-consuming, which is why automating your referral program is such a good option for so many businesses.

A Referral Channel is Scalable.

While brand advocacy is hard to grow past a small number of customers, a referral channel isn’t.

Referral channels can be scaled based on the needs of your business and referral partners. By keeping an eye on the right metrics, you can make sure that your business is growing at the rate that it needs to.

Scalability is another thing that automated referral channels can help with. By scaling your channel appropriately, you can make sure that your referral channel benefits your business, your partners, and your customers. This level of control simply doesn’t exist in brand advocacy.

A Referral Channel is “Always On.”

When managed right, a referral channel is a consistent source of leadgen and revenue. This is very different from brand advocacy, which can stop and start. A referral channel is managed by your business, which means you can keep track of how often referral partners and customers are generating leads and act accordingly.

Referral leads are, on average, more likely to convert to deals than other leads. This means that a referral channel can always be generating revenue for you on a consistent, trackable basis.
This is the main reason that businesses turn to a referral channel over other forms of lead generation, such as brand advocacy. And with software like Amplifinity, tracking the success of a referral channel is easier than ever.

Making the Case for Referral Incentives

Over the past few years, referral incentives have become more researched and understood. More people are understanding their value, learning how to properly implement them into their channel. But in spite of this growth, there are still some people who consider incentives to be suspect at best — or at worst, unethical.

People who are against referrals generally consider them to be bribes, and worry about the ethical implications of “buying” referrals from partners and customers. They believe that partners and customers should be giving referrals because they genuinely believe in their product or service, not because they are expecting to get something out of it.

And that much, at least, is perfectly true! Great referrals come from people who are genuinely happy with your product or service and want to pass on that knowledge to other people, and an incentive should not be the sole motivator for a referral.

But does that mean that incentives are bad?

The dictionary definition of incentive is “something that incites or has a tendency to incite to determination or action.” It’s easy to see how some people might look at this and come away thinking of incentives as simply “bribes.” But for referral partners and customers, this definition is far too limiting.

Because the incentive rarely “incites” the referral. Instead, incentives are a way to say “thank you” to a partner or customer for giving it.

After all, our partners and customers are busy. And they’re taking the time they could be devoting to something else to make a referral for you. When looking at it that way, it is easy to see why incentives matter. Incentives show that their referral is appreciated, and that you don’t take their work for granted.

They also make referrals fun. Trying to get that next incentive or reward is like a game for some partners and customers. And who doesn’t like games?

But what about . . .?

Even with this major misconception out of the way, some reservations about referral incentives linger.

For example, some might worry that incentive programs aren’t sustainable. But with automation software, this is no longer a concern. Automation also helps combat the worry of fraud or abuse of the system.

Still others are put off by the cost that referral incentives have inherently attached to them. But when you consider the fact that referral partner leads convert at a much higher rate than standard leads, and when you consider how incentives can encourage repeat referrals from partners, then the investment quickly becomes worth it.

But what incentives should I use?

Even if you’re considering an incentive program, it can be difficult to know what kind of incentive you should be giving your partners and customers. Turning to research can help you figure out where to start.

For partners, The trend is moving towards ACH rewards. The most popular amount is between $101-1000, with the average reward amount being $182.

For customers, gift cards are king, taking up 52% of referral incentives. The most popular incentive amount ranges between $41-100, with the overall average being $110.

These statistics offer a good baseline, whether you’re looking to start an incentive program or if your current program isn’t delivering the results you want for the investment that you’re putting into it.

How do you build a incentive strategy?

Building an incentive strategy is simple, but not easy. You need to find the correct mix of appropriate amount, structure, and motivation.

There are, as we’ve touched on before, 7 factors that go into a good referral strategy. When planning, you should consider the following:

  1. Calculation
  2. Timing and Multi-stage
  3. Multilevel
  4. Accrual
  5. Prospect reward
  6. Campaign Bonus
  7. Sales

While this can seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Exercise 11 in our Referral Guidebook is all about calculating incentives, and it comes with interactive worksheets that make this step — and every other part of building a referral channel — much less stressful.

Tips For Getting Your Sales Team Excited About Referrals

Your sales department is key to the success of your referral program, so it’s important to get them involved early and often. Here are some tips you can use to get your sales team excited about, and asking for, referrals.

Promote your referral program

To start, you need to promote your referral program to sales the same way that you are promoting the referral program to your partners and customers. Why? Because the more they know about the program, the more likely they are to be actively engaged in it. You can promote your program a few different ways:

  • Create an email blast – You can send email blasts to your sales team educating them on the program, and emphasizing the value of referrals.
  • Brand your program – By giving your program an internal brand, with a specific look and feel, you make it easily recognizable to the sales team.
  • Invest in promotional materials – Hang up flyers and banners in the office. Include details about the referral program to create awareness and understanding. You can even put flyers in common areas, like the company kitchen or bathrooms, that teach sales how to start asking for referrals. If you have the budget, you can also get t-shirts or mugs for the sales team. Make referrals an exciting initiative for the entire company!
  • Create a program owner – In all your promo materials, emails and flyers you should clearly identify who owns the program, along with contact information, so that anyone with questions, comments or concerns knows who to go to.

Structure your referral program to incentivize sales

By structuring your program in a way that enables advocate ownership, your sales team can override the normal lead routing rules. This makes it so any referrals that come from the advocates owned by a specific salesperson go to that salesperson instead of the regular routing rules. We find this type of referral functionality motivates sales to invite and nurture customers to become engaged advocates while working their referrals. This also helps motivate sales to meet quotas and get their commission.

Make it easy for sales to take part in the referral program

You can promote and incentivize your sales team all you want, but if it isn’t easy to see advocate and referral data, and recruit and nurture customers, sales won’t put the effort in. Your referral program shouldn’t add unnecessary work for your sales team. That’s why having the referral program data and functionality integrated into the sales CRM is critical. Functionality and data you should have includes:

  • The ability to invite customers to the program.
  • Seeing referring advocate information to reach out and qualify the referral and get a facilitated introduction.
  • Seeing advocate referral metrics in order to nurture them to refer multiple times.
  • The ability to input trackable verbal referrals for both registered and unregistered advocates.
  • See lead source as a referral.

For more referral program management tips and tricks, check out the resources section of

The Key to Keeping Your Referral Sources Engaged? Communication

Communication is the key to success for many things, especially a referral program. You’ve done the hard work of building your program and recruiting referral sources, now you need to keep them engaged. Here are some communication tips that can make a difference when trying to keep your sources engaged and active in your referral program.

Automate communication based on program status

A great place to start is setting up automated communication based on different statuses within your program. Once your customer, partner or other referral source is actively making referrals, you don’t want them to disengage from your program because of a lack of communication. Provide transparency, especially around the status of those submitted referrals currently in progress. By setting up automated communications triggered as the referral status changes, you can ensure that your referral sources will stay engaged while waiting for a referral to become successful.

Nurture communication based on program activity

There are a few different types of nurturing communications you can send to your referral sources to keep them engaged in your program between referrals:

  • Training Communication – If a referral source has a high number of referrals, but little or no success, send an email that helps educate the referral source on the target buyer and value proposition to ensure they are referring the right companies/people with the right message.
  • Engagement communication – If a referral source has low referral activity send an email that reinforces the product value proposition and the target buyer. You can also remind them where to find referrals and how to ask for them.
  • Educational communication – If a referral source logged in within a set number of days, but didn’t make a referral you can provide information on how to make a referral, what happens to a referral once it’s submitted and, again, reinforce the product value proposition and target buyer.
  • Thank you communication – If a referral source has a high number of successful referrals you can create a kudos campaign to recognize their efforts and encourage them to keep referring.

Regular Program Communications

Lastly, you can send out regular program communications. These regular value-added communications can keep referrals top-of-mind for everyone in your program. Topics you can focus on for these types of communications include:

  • Target buyer/persona spotlight with corresponding value prop.
  • A leaderboard of top members by referral success.
  • Tips on asking for referrals.
  • Success stories – highlight a story on how someone generated a successful referral.
  • Testimonials – get quotes on how great the program is and how easy it is to earn rewards.
  • How to earn incentives – the criteria needed and how payments are sent out.

The more you regularly communicate with your referral sources, the better engaged they will be – and engaged referral sources can help to increase the revenue generated by your referral program.

For more referral program tips and tricks, check out our blog.