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Market Your Referral Program

Building awareness is essential for referral programs to be successful. If your customers don’t know about your program, they won’t make referrals—and you'll miss out on a stream of new customers. We recommend creating an integrated marketing plan for your referral program, just like you would for any other customer acquisition channel.

In this doc, we'll give you step by step instructions to help you create a marketing plan for your referral program.

Step 1: List your channels

Start by listing all channels you can use to get the word out about your program. Aim for a combination of evergreen and one-off channels with high engagement rates. Your goal is to use this combination of channels to reach 100% of your active customer base at least 5 to 8 times within 1 month of launching.

Consider using some of these common channels to market your referral program:

  • Social media

  • Employee email signatures

  • Company website pages and blog posts

  • In-app messaging

  • Email marketing

  • Hold messaging

  • Interactions with the Sales and Support teams

  • Community message boards

Step 2: Create your key messaging and CTA

For each channel in your list, plan out your key messaging and call to action (CTA). Make your CTA clear and concise—it should highlight the benefits and rewards for participants.

An effective CTA appeals to one of three motivators: self-interest, social connection, or altruism. Knowing who your customers are and what motivates them is a key piece in structuring your program and CTA.


Speak to the reward and what the participant will get for engaging. Self-interest is a highly effective CTA. It works especially well with money-related services.


  • Save 25% on your next purchase

  • Earn $50 per referral

Social connection

Focus on how the reward helps the participant’s network. Social connection works well in highly social services and can be powerful when people are being asked to engage their friends and family.


  • Give a friend a meal on you

  • Gift a free month


Make the case for helping others discover the value of the service or helping the company grow. Altruism works best for cause-based services, like charitable giving or buying from local businesses.


  • Spread the word about Acme StartUp

Step 3: Establish a schedule

Now that you've listed all of your channels, establish a schedule for how often you'll promote the program on each channel. Plan not only for your program's launch, but also for ongoing communication.

Time frame


Within 1 month of launch

Reach 100% of your active customer base 5-8 times.

Within 3 months of onboarding to your product or service

Reach each new customer 5-8 times using a variety of channels.


Reach 100% of your customer basis.

Don't shy away from sending an email and an in-app message in the same month or even the same week. Messages sent via different channels likely have different content, length, and audiences, and are not likely to feel repetitive to your customers.


A well-crafted program is of high value to your customers. They appreciate being reminded about ways they can earn desirable rewards by doing engaging, fun, and simple tasks.

Tips for your schedule

As you create your schedule, keep the following in mind:

  • Prioritize your high-performing channels.

  • Create a plan for launch and a plan for ongoing marketing throughout the year.

  • If your business is seasonal, consider adding extra support at key times of the year.

  • Add extra marketing activity during special promotions, offers, or changes in your program.

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