Can a referral program really take a new brand and develop more than 200,000 subscribers in a few short months?
Quite simply – yes it can. As an early adopter of The Hustle, I have seen first-hand how it went from startup into respected media publication in just a couple of years.
Here, we are going to detail exactly how you can copy the tactics used by The Hustle, using ReferralHero, describing the ambassador program which took it to one of the hottest media outlets for millennial’s in a super short time
What did they achieve?
- Built a list to 70,000 subs from launch in 4 months.
- Today they have more than 2,000,000 subscribers and growing.
- Seven-figure revenues (that’s right, 7 figures!!) within a couple years.
How did they do this? Aside from the wicked brand and product, the ambassador program certainly helped. In this article, we are going to dissect what they did right and how you can copy their activities play by play.
First a little background…
The Hustle is a media publication whose main media outlet is their mailing list. Everything they do is driven towards capturing an email address, in fact, you can’t even view content without giving your email. A bold move for any company.
Their aim was to be your trusted news pal targeted at tech-hungry Millennials who don’t have time to sit down and read a spreadsheet newspaper. I compare it to a cross between The Wire & Tech Crunch.
The writing style is super conversational, slightly cocky and quick to skim read. It was hard not to love from the start.
Referrals were a major driver in growth…
The referral program was, and still is, one of the main drivers of The Hustle’s success.
Founders Sam Parr and John Havel aren’t shy about telling people about it either. It was quite simply the special juice in their tank.
Let’s get into what made their campaign a success!
Don’t Just Ask for a Referral…
Most companies simply ask for referrals and hope their audience helps them out. Begging isn’t an option with The Hustle’s program. They created incentives, tracked results and created a viral mechanism based on the fundamentals of a ReferralHero Viral Lead Magnet.
ReferralHero is a suite referral tools for marketers, which allows you to easily create viral campaigns similar to the one The Hustle and others have run. Getting your customers to do the marketing for you is what we believe the most effective form of marketing.
let’s get to the nitty gritty…
Step 1: Choose the right referral tool for the job
The Hustle’s ambassador program is a classic viral lead magnet.
How does it work? Fans sign up and they are able to unlock various bonuses depending on how many friends they persuade to sign up. The more people they refer, the bigger the bonus they unlock.
Here is what they were gunning for…
Step 2: Get the opt-in just right
Firstly – Give people a reason to sign up.
What are they signing up for? A prize, some great content, joining a club.
The Hustle use a lot of humor, cockiness, and exclusivity to entice you to sign up. Your incentive could be your product, it could be a prize bundle, just make sure the copy is clear and people instantly know what you are about.
Here’s how the Hustle looks…
The Hustle starts with a simple opt-in form with some amazingly cool emails that follow. Immediately you feel like you’re part of an exclusive club.
Here it is…
How this looks on ReferralHero
Within the ReferralHero dashboard, you can create a sequence of emails, we’ve called them ‘Automation emails’. Sign-ups receive automated emails based on actions such as first sign-up, first referral or you can even create custom emails.
Here are some ideas for emails you might send:
- Give people a reason to keep sharing and inviting their friends
- Provide a strong call to action
- Follow it up with what you want them to do next
- BONUS: Send some useful content in the first email
Step 3: Offer prizes for referrals | The Hook
The Hustle clearly values their virality. The ambassador’s page link is on every email and easily accessible from the homepage. When building your ReferralHero referral campaign, position it where it is likely to pick up organic traffic from the rest of your site.
Being able to tempt your traffic into referring contacts is going to be the real killer element of your referral campaign.
The Hustle will most likely have an advantage over your campaign as they have generated a lot of brand love over time and this is difficult if you are just starting out. If you are struggling to come up with the prizes, we actually created a list of successful prizes that have run campaigns with us previously.
Here quick run down of some general idea themes…
- Merchandise (t-shirts, hoodies, key chains, coffee mugs etc…)
- Free products or services
- Anything else your creative little mind can think of.
Getting this right will be the difference between success and failure. Remember, we are essentially gaming a viral loop, and the way we do this is by incentivizing a referral.
Let me remind you of how it looked on The Hustle…
They used what we call a Viral Lead Magnet, where a user unlocks various prizes depending on the number of referral milestones they reach.
Top tip: On the landing page tell people how to refer (The Hustle don’t do this )
It’s a decent page, copy is concise and it’s obvious what I need to do next.
In the dashboard of ReferralHero, we make it easy for you to choose the milestones (or bonuses) so you can follow a similar method…
You select the number of referrals they need achieve to hit the next bonus.
As each bonus is met they receive an email. This is your opportunity to further encourage referrals and remind people of how they are able to do so!
Step 4: Make it easy to share
This is where you send the fans go out to do all the work for you. Share and spread the word. With ReferralHero we track every referral across multiple channels, wherever they share.
When setting up the campaign make sure to include all of the major sharing channels: email, Messenger etc. We actually created a meta-analysis on 3.6 Million emails to see which was the best.
From our analysis, Messenger & Whatsapp were highest converting but the largest number of referrals were via Facebook posts and Tweets, so whatever you do enable these. We do also have a host of other Chinese social media platforms like WeChat.
Step 5: Engage with your sign ups
We created automated emails that are triggered when users perform certain actions like successfully refer someone or they achieve prize, be sure to set these up, they will increase engagement with your contest and ultimately lead to more referrals.
Don’t forget manual engagement as well. If you search for your competition on Twitter I am sure you will find users sharing your competition or product. Be sure to @reply them and make a noise on their behalf. They will love it and it is a great way to foster loyalty.
Step 6: Track Referrals
Seems obvious right. This campaign wouldn’t have worked if they had no way of tracking the referrals.
Which is also why tracking is at the core of why we built ReferralHero. Each sign up is given a unique code; this code is used to track across multiple mediums like Facebook, Reddit, Email, wherever really.
ReferralHero will track everything and let you see exactly how fast your campaign explodes. Edit the campaign or hold special event campaigns with quick contests enticing your team with the best possible incentives.
ReferralHero is here to help you every step of the way!