Referral Marketing Checklist

A handy reference checklist to create a referral campaign that doesn't suck.

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8.9x ROI
1,875 new users
$562,500 potential new revenues
*All figures shown are estimations based upon calculations that will define your approximate financial returns and Maitre does not guarantee any finanical returns nor are we a financial advisory body of any kind. Also, the actual ROI is likely to be higher than our estimation, because our calculations don't consider people referred by other referred people.

Step 1: Set a goal

What do you want more of?

As many great thinkers have said before, it’s important you know thyself.

Deciding the aim of your campaign will help you to define the messaging and approach in a way that resonates better with your target audience.

What is the goal of your referral program?
Here are some examples:

  • Leads
  • Brand Awareness
  • Sales / Downloads
  • Demos

Answering this question will help you greatly later on when you write the copy for your landing page and emails and when you choose the rewards.

Step 2: Choose a referral event

A referral program is like making a phone call. There are two distinct categories of people involved, the ‘ADVOCATE’ and of course, the ‘REFEREE’.

The Advocate (also called "Referrer") is the one making the referral. They’ve usually purchased from you before and trust your brand, prompting them to want to share their experiences with their friends and family.

The Referee is the person being referred to your business. They’re a new customer who could also become a repeat customer if they can find value in your brand.


Which event triggers a successful referral?

In order words, what does a referred person have to do in order to be considered a referral?

If your goal is to increase leads/signups, then the referral event will be simply a signup. However, if your goal is to grow sales, the referral event could be a purchase or a demo scheduled with a sales rep.

Should you reward both Referrers and Referees? - YES!

Rewarding both sides of a referral makes sure that both new and returning customers feel valued, regardless of their relationship with your brand.

Step 3: Choose your rewards

When it comes to referral marketing, the rewards you choose are ultimately what will make or break your referral program.

How should you reward Advocates and Referees?

Rewards fall into six main categories:

Company Currency

A reward currency is exclusive to the company and revolves around the idea that you reward people with "more" of your product or service.

For example, online storage companies can reward users with an extra amount of storage for every new user that signs up or buys a service. Companies like Dropbox have used this type of reward to grow and acquire new cloud users.

This is one of our favourite rewards. If you can easily and cheaply give out more of your product or service, then this might be the best type of reward for you.


If you’re offering discounts, participants will find it easy to understand the value they’ll receive, making participating in your program an easy decision for both existing and new customers.

Cash incentives and percentage discounts are very popular types of referral rewards. However, their effectiveness largely hinges on how relevant the product is to the target audience. Relevant customers are likely to take advantage of the discount or coupons in order to save some cash.

On the other hand, the invitee may not be interested in making a purchase. So it is important to know who your customers well.


A bundled product refers to a combination of products of other companies. Let’s say you deal with a movie service, you can bundle one year of Netflix free subscription, popcorn and 3 tickets to a cinema.

This is exactly what FlixWatcher did to get 5,000 highly targeted subscribers in 6 weeks. Bundles are a great way to make the perceived value of your rewards bigger.

They are also a great option when your product alone is a weak offer (e.g: it's a free product).


Exclusives are rewards that money can’t buy. Think a ticket for an invite-only dinner or a 1-to-1 coaching session with Tony Robbins.

This type of reward works exceptionally well for high-value, expensive products or for people who can sell their personal brand.

Exclusives are one of our favourite type of rewards because they elevate your brand credibility.


If you’re running a loyalty program in tandem with your referral program, offering points as a Referrer reward is a fantastic way to keep the two programs connected.

Referrers earn points for referring their friends to your business. They can then use these points to "buy" extra services, creating a virtuous circle.

A points-based referral program is best suited for transactional businesses, like ecommerce and retail.

Free Products

Is the ‘something for nothing’ approach and the powerful and often irrational rush that people get when they are given free stuff.

Free Stuff, Free Samples, and Free giveaways are just some types of freebies to offer your customers with.

Free lowers the barriers to entry and usually generate a lot of engagement. However, be wary of spammers and people who are only interested in your freebie.

The Golden Rule:
No matter what kind of program you’re running, Referrers should always be rewarded with value.
When deciding if a reward makes sense, ask yourself:

Would I genuinely refer this product to a friend if I was offered this reward?

Ideally, you want to remove all the guesswork and ask your customers directly. If you have a good relationship with a few of them, ask them what they think about your rewards and if they would invite their friends. If the answer is no, try to figure out why.

Step 4: Optimize the user journey

Design a dedicated landing page for your program that will allow you to track the analytics of your campaign as well as give your audiences a more relevant place to understand your offer without the noise and clutter of the rest of the calls-to-action on your website.  

Tie in your existing branding and style but less is more when it comes to conversion. If you simplify the conversion process with a simple form for registrations or sign-ups then your audience will find it easier to complete the action.

*Bonus Tip:
Make it very simple for your users to get their referral link and easy to share it with their friends. Simplicity is key; the majority of people will decide whether or not they will refer their friends according to how simple it is.

With ReferralHero, once a form is completed, users see a screen which features a referral link along with an invitation to share on all the major social networks.

Be aware that the user journey doesn’t end when the user signs up. In fact, that’s just the beginning.

As soon as they sign up you should send them a 'Welcome email' that explains in very simple words how your referral program works and how they can get the rewards.

After a while, some people will naturally “forget” about you. You should gently remind them  a week or two after they sign up.

Another great way to keep them engaged is to send them an email when they get their first referral (ReferralHero does all this automatically).

Step 5: Craft the right message

The message that your customers communicate to their friends is extremely important.

A strong and clear message will make the difference between simple “shares” and real conversions.

Here’s the top messaging tip takeaways:

  • Make it personal
  • Communicate clear value
  • Show what you sell
  • Use catchy headlines

Headlines matter – especially when it comes to your referral program. If you haven’t picked this up yet, the headline is what will draw your participants in. A good headline should provide the gist of the program within a single sentence. It should also…

  • Tell what your program is all about
  • Explain the benefits of joining
  • Make them feel invited and valued

Here are a few examples of headlines that work:

  • Give $20, Get $20
  • Refer a friend and get 15% Off
  • Get a free month for every friend who becomes a paying customer
  • Invite 5 friends for 30 minutes personal coaching
  • Spread the word and get ‘free socks for life’

The trick here is to ask yourself: “Would YOU buy it?” - Make your message as clear and enticing as you can.

Step 6: Choose your tools

Making sure that you’ve got a solid tool helps you deliver a seamless experience and can get you up and running in no time.

The choice of building your referral tool in house vs buying an off-the-shelf solution comes down to time and budget. However, bear in mind a couple of things:

  • Cost: Building even a very simple referral software will take you several dozens of hours. At market rates, it means the cost will be between several hundreds to several thousands dollars. In comparison, most off-the-shelf referral tools cost as low as $100/month.
  • Focus: even if cost is not a problem, you should consider the cost opportunity of working on something that is likely not your core business for days or even weeks.
  • Feature set: an off-the-shelf solution has been tested and optimized across many campaigns and is constantly maintained.

On that note, check out ReferralHero, a white-label, all-in-one referral marketing platform used by over 6,000 companies.

It's simple, powerful and requires zero technical skills.

Simply signup and create your first referral campaign.
And with our concierge onboarding service, we can help you design and setup the perfect referral program for your business.