Maximizing Impact: Strategies for Successful Referral Programs

By Meagan Kral

Maximizing Impact: Strategies for Successful Referral Programs

In business, there’s really only one way to get leads that are virtually guaranteed to convert to customers without having to lift a finger: receiving a referral.

Like picking up a twenty dollar bill on the street, referrals often come unexpectedly but will very quickly turn into a boon for your bottom line.

In fact, there are plenty of businesses out there that get 100% of their new customers from referrals. These are usually service-oriented companies where a single client can make up a significant percentage of revenue, such as financial planners, law firms, and talent or sports agencies. And you don’t have to create an elaborate marketing plan or wait six months to start seeing a return.

This guide goes beyond the basics, offering innovative techniques and insights to elevate your referral program strategy. Explore a curated collection of additional resources, expert advice, and industry secrets that will empower you to transform your existing customers into brand ambassadors, driving word of mouth referrals and increasing customer engagement and growth.

Real Results: KickoffLabs’ Referral Program Wins

Selecting an effective referral program strategy is crucial for success. We’ve included some examples of top KickoffLabs users who transformed their existing audience into brand ambassadors. These success stories highlight the strategic design and execution of referral campaigns that not only engaged their target audience, but also significantly increased referrals and business growth.

Santana Snacks

Santana Snacks leveraged customer personas and a referral program to significantly lower their lead generation costs, generating over 20,000 leads via referral marketing. By understanding their target audience deeply and utilizing referrals effectively, they achieved a high conversion rate and substantial viral growth. Their success underscores the importance of a well-defined customer persona and the power of referrals in amplifying brand reach and engagement before launching their product.

Santana Snacks Referral Program


Travlwear’s referral program played a pivotal role in their successful funding of over $95,000 on Indiegogo. By engaging potential customers early through a prelaunch waitlist and utilizing a mix of friend referral tracking, reward levels, and viral boost mechanisms, Travlwear not only validated their business concept but also established a strong foundation of supporters and backers.

Travlwear refer a friend program


Swheat’s referral program is a standout case of how a pre-launch strategy can drive significant engagement. Leveraging KickoffLabs’ platform, Swheat collected over 20,000 leads by incentivizing potential customers through a referral system. This approach not only amplified their brand awareness, but also built a substantial customer base before their product officially hit the market.

Swheat referral program


Glowforge’s referral program was a groundbreaking strategy that propelled them to launch the most successful 30-day crowdfunding campaign in history, raising over $27 million. By cultivating an initial list of over 10,000 leads through a friend referral system, Glowforge significantly amplified their reach. The campaign’s success was bolstered by a high viral boost, with a substantial portion of leads generated through shared referrallinks.

Glowforge referral program


Walker’s referral program allows customers to save money on their purchases. By referring a friend to the store, customers can receive a unique referral code that will give them a 10% discount on their next purchase. In addition, the referred friend will also receive a 10% discount when they use the referral code. This program is an excellent way for customers to save money and for friends to get a discount on their purchases.

**Walkers referral program

Best Practices to a Successful Referral Program

With these actionable tips, you can start getting more referrals right away. Most of these ideas can be implemented with less than an hour’s worth of work, but the additional revenues that you gain can have a positive impact on your marketing efforts that lasts for months, even years.


  • Create a Simple Rewards Program: A rewards program doesn’t have to be a complicated, multi-tiered system with a complex set of rules. In fact, rewarding your customers for sending you referrals could be as simple as regularly tweeting their names, or devoting a section of your website to recognizing people who have brought you business.

  • Ask a New Customer: Why them? For one thing, since they just agreed to exchange some of their hard-earned money for your product or offering, it’s likely that they still have a positive view of your organization. And since they are new, they probably haven’t referred anyone to you in the past. Their network is completely untapped. Be reasonable about it: you don’t want your new customers to receive a referral request immediately after they click the “buy” button. Also, when you reach out to ask them for a referral, check in with them first and see how they like your service or product so far.

  • Make it Easy for Customers to Refer You: Many companies miss out on referrals simply because their customers aren’t even aware that they are looking for them. The odds are good that you’ve missed out on an opportunity to let your customers know that you are open to referrals.

  • Spread Knowledge in Your Industry’s Community: Did you know that around the world, consumers are 43% more likely to buy a new product when they learn about it through social media? In today’s world of marketing, information is power. If you can provide people with what they want, they are more likely to refer you to their friends, family members and colleagues. Social media is the perfect forum on which to establish your organization as a thought leader. You can create a strong foundation for gathering referrals on social media by answering questions that your existing customers have, but this is only the beginning.

  • Ask Customers for Feedback: This might not seem like a direct way to get referral, and compared to these other methods it may not get you referrals instantly. However, by talking to your current customers about what they like and don’t like about your offerings, you can get a sense of what it’ll take to get more referrals from those who buy from you. Remember, a customer who is satisfied but not blown away by your service might continue to be a customer, but they probably won’t go out of their way to recommend you.

  • Run a Fun Referral Contest: Who doesn’t like taking part in a contest? Your customers get to enjoy some friendly competition, plus the chance to win a great prize. And when a contest ends up getting you exponentially more referrals, your organization wins as well. You don’t need to make it an elaborate contest. For example, you might have each participant compete to see who can get you the most referrals within the contest’s timeframe, whether that is one week or one month. Another idea is to create a sliding discount scale, where the more referrals a contest entrant provides, the more they get rewarded by your business.

Sams refer a friend milestone program

Whatever you decide to do, make sure that your contest is easy to share and easy to sign up for. Include links on all of your social media feeds and send out an email to everyone who might be interested in participating. You could even set up a recurring contest every month or quarter, depending on the level of interest and how much time you have available to devote to your contest.

Instant Action = Instant Referrals

Additional Resources

Ready to Launch a Successful Referral Program?

Getting more referrals isn’t rocket science, but it does take one thing: commitment. You have to devote yourself to putting in the energy it takes to listen to what your customers are saying, let them know you want referrals, and answer the questions that they have.

If you can do all this successfully, you’ll have a new problem: how to handle all the new business you get from word of mouth referrals.

Read the complete guide: Referral Programs

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