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What is a refer-a-friend program?
Refer a friend programs, also known as referral programs, are a marketing strategy designed to leverage the power of your existing customer base. In a nutshell, a referral program is a mutually beneficial system where your satisfied customers are incentivized to share your brand with colleagues, friends, and family.
This referral process comes in many forms, from distributing promo codes to sharing unique referral links, and it almost always offers double-sided rewards (or incentives). Double-sided rewards imply that both your brand advocates and the person they referred to your brand get rewards for participating in your referral program.
Some referral programs offer single-sided rewards, but based on our experience, and the examples we will provide below, double-sided rewards yield more results in the long run.
This article will explore examples of great refer a friend programs across various industries. Whether you are just starting out or you are looking for ways to improve your marketing strategy, the examples below offer great customer referral program ideas you can apply to your program.
But before we get into that, let’s see what it takes to create a successful referral program.
Key elements of successful referral programs
A good referral program offers much more than your typical referral system. It leverages your existing customer base to establish a community of loyal program members.
But how can you achieve this with your referral program?
To maximize the potential of your referral program, you need to incorporate several key elements that will give your existing customers enough motivation to refer your brand to others and make sure that your program is running effectively.
Clear marketing goal
Do you know what your referral marketing goal is? Do you have one goal or more? You see, your referral program should have a clear marketing goal. Maybe you would like to acquire new customers or raise brand awareness. Or maybe you just want a simple referral program to boost your sales.
Whatever the reason for implementing a referral program, make sure that you have a clear marketing goal, as it will help you tailor your program to achieve the results you desire.
You may not think this far ahead when implementing a referral program, but referral rewards are one of the key components of every referral program. Depending on the referral plugin you choose, rewards can come in different forms, such as discounts, exclusive access, free shipping, etc.
Check out this list of the best WooCommerce referral plugins for 2023.
The majority of referral plugins focus on different types of discounts, but whichever referral rewards you choose to have in your referral program, they should be enticing enough to drive new referrals, but not too expensive to damage your business.
You should also make sure that your program offers double-sided rewards as that will get more people engaged with your program.
Real-time tracking and analytics
A good referral program should allow you to monitor its effectiveness in real-time. This means that you need to be able to track all aspects of your program, such as referral revenue, referral traffic, average conversion rate, lifetime referral value, etc.
Real-time tracking and analytics help you make necessary tweaks to your program which ensures that it’s running smoothly at all times.
We cannot stress how important personalization is for your referral program. Personalization makes your customers feel valued and heard. Even a simple thing such as sending a reward email with the customer’s name can go a long way in creating a loyal customer base.
Additionally, being able to create custom messages that match your brand can boost the effectiveness of your referral program and create a community unlike any other.
Referral program promotion (and communication)
Your customers should always be in tune with your referral program. You may not think that regular communication matters, but the effectiveness of your program will only be as good as its promotion. This means that you should reach out to your customer base regularly through your social media, email, or other marketing channels.
Other key elements worth mentioning:
- User-friendly program – make sure that you communicate your program clearly and intuitively because a smooth user experience will get more people to engage with your referral program.
- Transparency – you should always be – honest and transparent with your customers. Referral marketing relies on clear communication and will help you build trust with your customer base.
- Program-oriented message templates – if you want to encourage referrals, provide your customers with program-oriented message templates they can easily share with their friends and family. These templates should highlight the benefits of your product or service.
To create a customer referral program that brings in new referrals, strengthens customer loyalty, and boosts brand advocacy, make sure that all key elements work in synergy as that will make your program a valuable asset to your marketing strategy.
Check out our list of 10 Must-Have Features in a Referral plugin.
These customer referral program examples should provide you with enough ideas to start your own referral program and connect with your customer base on a whole new level.
Explore these inspiring customer referral program examples for creative ideas you can use to kickstart your very own referral program, allowing you to create a more meaningful connection with your customer base.
Fiverr Referral Program
When someone mentions an online freelance marketplace, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably Fiverr. But for those who haven’t heard of Fiverr, it is a platform where freelancers can offer their services across a wide range of categories.
But did you know that Fiver has a great referral program?
Fiverr’s referral program says that when you refer a friend to their platform, you are eligible for a reward in Fiverr Credits. This means that in order to use the credits you need to be a member of their platform. Luckily, joining Fiverr is entirely free and you can start referring friends as soon as you sign up.
Their program offers double-sided incentives and states that you, as the advocate who is a part of their referral marketing program, get a 10% commission on the first purchase your friend makes – up to $100 per purchase.
Your friend gets a 10% discount on their first purchase, but that 10% is also limited to a maximum of $100. Additionally, anyone can earn up to $500 Fiverr Credits as long as they come from qualified purchases.
The fine print says that a qualified purchase implies a successfully delivered and completed service, but the service must be paid with an external payment method. Also, note that Fiverr Business accounts are not eligible for their referral program.
What can you learn from Fiverr?
Fiverr has a simple, yet effective implementation of a referral program. They are clear about their program benefits and offer rewards for both advocates and their friends – this helps encourage active participation and strengthen customer loyalty.
And yes, Fiverr does offer referral credits stacking, a component that is not entirely present on WooCommerce, but they also implemented a simple referral program – a feature that every WooCommerce referral plugin offers.
Google Workspace Referral Program
With over 2 billion users worldwide, Google Workspace boasts one of the most profitable customer referral programs ever. Interestingly, one would expect their program to be quite complex, but it’s quite the contrary.
To join the Google Workspace referral program, you need to fill out a form offered on their program page. All users receive a unique referral link and a referral code they can share with friends and family.
Referral rewards can vary depending on the Google Workspace plan you choose. You can receive rewards based on each plan. For example:
- Business Starter – $8 per user
- Business Standard – $15 per user
- Business Plus – $23 per user
Since every Google Workspace account can have multiple users and referral rewards are user-based, this means that you can earn a hefty amount simply by referring a single person to open a Google Workspace account.
Here’s an example of how that would work in three simple steps:
- You refer a person to a Business Standard plan through your unique referral link or referral code
- They open an account and add 10 users to their business plan
- You earn $150 – $15 per user who joined that Workspace account
Google Workspace referral program does have a limit and it says that you receive a single-time incentive for each new user you refer, with a maximum of 100 users per referred account and up to 200 users annually.
However, it is possible to refer more users (up to 99 annually) but you need to join Google’s affiliate marketing program which is designed for higher volume referrers.
Another limitation worth mentioning is that the Google Workspace referral program is only available in 24 countries.
What can you learn from Google?
It’s evident that Google, being a giant, can afford to experiment with its referral programs and adjust them accordingly. However, their current referral program is quite simple and showcases how being straightforward with your customers can go a long way.
You refer new customers to us, we reward you per customer.
Outside of different tiers, a basically identical program can be created with WooCommere referral plugins where advocates are rewarded for every new friend they refer to your business.
T-Mobile Refer a Friend Program
T-Mobile is a telecommunications company and one of the major players in the United States with over 116 million subscribers. They also offer a simple but efficient refer a friend program.
To become a member of T-Mobile’s refer a friend program, you need to subscribe to one of their smartphone plans. Once you are subscribed, you will receive a unique referral link that you can share with friends and family.
T-Mobile will reward you with $50 for every friend you refer through their program and you can earn up to $500 annually. However, T-Mobile customers can only refer friends who haven’t been a customer before.
What can you learn from T-Mobile?
The value of T-Mobile’s refer a friend program is the diversity of the plans they offer. They have plans with a lot of benefits and give discounted rates for First Responders, Military, and customers over the ageo of 55.
Depending on the industry you are in, a similar component can be applied to WooCommerce referral programs where users from a certain category have discounted rates for products & services. This may require an additional step in terms of verification, but it could be a great incentive for your customers.
Harry’s Referral Program
When you think of shaving companies, you probably think of large brands such as Gillette or Wilkinson Sword. And that’s exactly what Harry’s set out to change. They offered simple, high-quality products at a fair price, but they added a little twist – they created Harry’s Shave Club, a referral program that offered free products in exchange for referrals.
Every new customer who joined their program could accumulate rewards. The more referrals they made, the larger the reward. It didn’t take long for Harry’s Shave Club to become one of the most popular referral programs of all time. Their program was so popular that in just one week they had over 100,000 sign-ups and close to 20% of those sign-ups made a purchase.
As for their referral program today, Harry’s referral program offers double-sided incentives, where the advocate gets $5 off their next order for every new store customer, and their friend gets $5 store credit, as well.
Members of Harry’s referral program can earn up to $50 from referrals. The rewards are given as in-store credits.
What can you learn from Harry’s?
One of the reasons why Harry’s referral program became legendary is that customers were offered tangible rewards. They would rack up referrals and exchange them for actual products that were delivered to them.
Modern referral plugins operate a bit differently, but some of them like WooCommerce Refer a friend PREMIUM offer the option to generate a coupon on every nth referral. For example, you can offer a tangible product to advocates who referred 5 friends to your store.
Tesla Refer and Earn
Another example of a legendary referral program comes from none other than Tesla. Their program was so successful that it turned Tesla into a trillion-dollar company. Nevertheless, the company shut down its referral program in 2021 because it became so expensive to run that it started to increase production costs.
Luckily for all fans of electric vehicles, Tesla re-launched their referral program in 2023 and introduced referral credits. Tesla customers can now redeem referral credits for Supercharge miles, products in their online store, AND join the Cybertruck raffle.
Existing customers who refer their friends will get referral credits based on their friend’s purchase. However, only a new Tesla customer counts toward the referral credits. No credits are given for referring existing customers.
Here is the summary of available referral credits:
- Model Y – 2,000 credits
- Model 3 – 2,000 credits
- Model S – 3,500 credits
- Model X – 3,500 credits
Friends who come through a referral link and purchase a product with Tesla will earn buyer benefits – usually a small discount. Once the purchase is made, they are no longer considered new customers and can only make referral credits. Customers can redeem these referral credits for referral benefits.
On top of that, Tesla is nearing the launch of Cybertruck so all customers have the option to spend 500 referral credits to join the raffle for the Cybertruck. Fingers crossed!
What can you learn from Tesla?
Small businesses can’t afford to operate their referral programs beyond a certain point. Tesla had the advantage of covering the cost of their referral program, but even their trillion-dollar company status couldn’t help them maintain it indefinitely.
Here’s what can you learn from their mistake.
In order to remain sustainable, referral programs need to be balanced. Invest time into finding the right balance between the incentives and their costs. Next, create a program budget and stick to it.
The best way to learn if the program is working is to set clear program goals, track referral metrics, do A/B testing, and compare the program’s costs with the benefits it generates.
Hostinger Referral Program
Hostinger is a web hosting and domain registration company that provides hosting services for websites and domain registration services to individuals, small businesses, and organizations around the world.
Hostinger offers a referral program with double-sided incentives that gives advocates 20% commission for each new successful referral, and their friends 20% off their first purchase. On top of that, Hostinger’s referral program rewards commission even if your friends click on your referral link and create a valid account on their platform – though a 45-day probationary period is required to receive the reward.
Nevertheless, there are a few things to keep in mind when joining their referral program:
- The commission is paid out only through PayPal and Wire transfer
- Advocates collect their commission once they earn $50 via PayPal
- If Wire transfer is chosen as the payment method, advocates can collect their commission once they earn $100
- New referrals must sign up for an annual plan with Hostinger
- Advocates receive their commission after the 45-day trial period is over
What can you learn from Hostinger?
If you are a large-scale company operating through the WooCommerce platform, you could consider offering a reward payout. It may require a bit of tinkering with the referral program, but you could create a referral program that offers your customers a solid passive income.
However, make sure to implement a state-of-the-art fraud prevention system as such programs are almost always targeted by fraudsters.
Zoho Refer a Friend
Zoho Corporation, often referred to simply as Zoho, is a software company that provides a suite of cloud-based software applications designed for businesses.
Zoho’s refer a friend program is straightforward – advocates are rewarded $3 for every referral that comes through their referral link and signs up for Zoho. Once the referral becomes a paying customer, advocates receive an additional 15% referral commission on their subscription fee. This fee is given as Zoho Wallet Credits.
The referred customer will get $100 in promo credits in their Zoho account, but only after they sign up. These credits can be used toward any purchase of a new Zoho app.
Zoho refer a friend program also states that the referred customer should not be an existing customer and that they should sign up within 90 days of clicking on the advocate’s referral link. Additionally, they should make a purchase within 90 days of signing up.
What can you learn from Zoho?
Zoho gives an additional incentive to advocates who make a successful referral. This can be a great way to keep your existing customers loyal, but it can also become expensive very fast.
Unless you have a clear marketing goal and detailed strategy for it, we suggest you stick to double-sided incentives.
NordVPN Refer and Earn
For those who are not familiar with virtual private networks, they are designed to enhance online privacy, security, and anonymity by creating a secure, encrypted connection between a user’s device and a remote server. NordVPN is among the top virtual private network service providers.
Their referral program is quite simple and offers single-sided incentives. This means that people you refer will not receive a reward for using your referral link.
So, what does NordVPN offer to customers who refer new people to their service?
Well, for every user that comes through your referral link, signs up to NordVPN, and stays an active user for a minimum of 30 days, you will earn 40% of what they spent. As simple as that.
Of course, you can’t refer existing customers to NordVPN, but you can refer as many people as you want – as long as they haven’t used NordVPN’s services before. You can earn up to $61 per referral.
What can you learn from NordVPN?
Sometimes less is more.
NordVPN could’ve implemented a complex referral program with multiple tiers, but they decided to keep it simple. Offering single-sided incentives is a great starting point for small businesses who are looking to expand their programs.
Sam’s Club Refer a Friend
Owned and operated by Walmart, Sam’s Club is a membership-based retail warehouse club chain. They sell a wide variety of products in bulk, from grocery items, electronics, and clothing to home goods. And they sell it at reasonable prices.
As for their referral program, Sam’s Club offers a double-sided incentive. Advocates get $20 after their friends join Sam’s Club. Referred friends who come via a referral link get a $20 discount on the price of their membership.
Nevertheless, Sam’s Club referral program does come with a few rules:
- Advocates can’t refer existing customers
- Referred friends have 30 days to join Sam’s Club
- A $20 reward will be loaded into the advocate’s savings account three weeks after their friend joins
- The reward is valid for 30 days after that
- Advocates can be rewarded a maximum of $100 (equal to 5 referrals)
- Walmart and Sam’s Club Associates can’t participate in the Sam’s Club referral program
What can you learn from Sam’s Club?
The appeal of the Sam’s Club referral program lies in its membership. To be a part of their program, customers must be members of the store. Membership exclusivity adds a sense of mystery and intrigue for customers, something which customers enjoy a lot.
When you combine that with reasonable prices and a seamless shopping experience, you get a successful referral program.
Purple Refer a Friend
Purple specializes in creating and selling innovative comfort products. They are known for their unique & patented mattresses, pillows, and other comfort-related products.
They also have a simple but efficient referral program that gives a $25 Amazon gift card for every successful referral that makes a purchase at their store. Referred customers get 5% off their first purchase, but in order for the discount to apply, the minimum order amount must be $200 and over.
Only new customers are eligible for the referral program, but the good thing about their program is that there is no limit to how many referrals you can make AND discounts can be combined with other offers.
What can you learn from Purple?
Purple’s referral program is quite basic, but it brings results. Advocates are not rewarded with in-store credits, but Amazon gift cards, which can be used to purchase anything.
When you combine that with a lack of limit on referrals and the ability to combine discounts with other offers, you create a program fit for everyone.
Referral programs have become valuable assets across various industries, both in the B2B and B2C sectors. They can tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing and help you expand your existing customer base.
However, building an effective referral program is not just about acquiring new customers. It’s about creating and nurturing lasting relationships and brand loyalty. Referral programs can help you offer more than a product or service – they can help you create a community of loyal customers who have the potential to lead your business to sustainable growth and success.