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How to Write a Referral Email Your Customers Will Love

Posted by Moises Godoy | May 27, 2021

When you run a referral program, email is one of the best distribution channels to support it. Especially when you want to let your customers know about the rewards they can earn.

Sometimes creating a good referral email can be complex, yet once you dig deep down and realize that there are some effective elements that can help to make it stand out, it’s simple.

Here we break down these elements and how they work together to give shape to a fantastic referral email.

Elements of a Successful Referral Email

While there isn’t a specific formula that guarantees immediate success for referral emails, there are some elements that are key to increasing that probability. Here we gathered some of them: 

1. A simple and clear subject line

The subject line is the first thing we see in our inbox. Hence the importance of making it as relevant as possible.

Maybe you’ve heard or even read many times that you have to make your subject lines short, simple, interesting, clear, clever, catchy, clickbait, and a bunch of other adjectives. The list can go on.

But, do you really need to hit the checkmark for all of those?

Well, not necessarily. You can notice that I started this section with only two of those adjectives: simple and clear.

Honestly, it’s all it takes to craft a good subject line.

You don’t have to make it too complicated. Less is more and the clearer, the better. Sometimes, trying to impress your customers with your subject line can lead to your email being in the spam folder.

Spam words to avoid

It’s important to mention that there are some words that are commonly used in spam emails. So you might want to avoid them when creating your subject lines. Here’s a list of some of them:

  • Click here
  • You are a winner!
  • Claim your prize
  • Exclusive deal
  • Offer expires
  • Lottery
  • This isn't spam
  • Order now
  • Limited time

Examples of subject lines

Instead, you can use these subject lines as a reference:

  • Hey John! Your friend Sarah gave you $10
  • 15% off in your first month 
  • You have 25$ for your next purchase
  • Give your friends $5 and earn $10

Many email service providers allow you to A/B test your subject lines so you can track which one performs better.

2. Incentives or rewards

Make sure you explain your reward offer very well. This is your chance to convince your future customers to sign up for your product or to redeem an offer.

It's also important to let them know about any terms or conditions as well.

Don't leave space for guessing and be as detailed as possible about what type of reward structure you use. Is it one-sided or two-sided? Do you have a gamified referral program? If so, how does it work? 

Providing this information in the referral email will help you clear out any doubts users might have.

If you're not completely sure about the rewards of your customer referral program or you need more ideas, you can take a look at these 41 Referral Program Examples for inspiration.

3. Personalization

Personalization is important for good marketing in general, but in the case of referral emails is key to provide the customer with a great experience.

By speaking the same language as your customers and doing it in a friendly way, you'll get better results. This should remind you of the importance of knowing them very well and being in constant touch. It’ll make everything easy for you.

But how can you personalize your emails and what does it involve?

Well, a good starting point could be calling your customers by their names. This sounds simple but delivers great results. The user feels you’re addressing them more directly.

Of course, it doesn’t stop there. You can use birth dates, job titles, their company name, product recommendations based on past purchases, etc.

Personalization has its foundation on data. And all of it starts with your email subscribe forms, the more custom fields you add, the more relevant information about your customers you’ll have to use later.

Some email personalization stats to keep in mind:

  • When only the subject line is personalized, emails have an average open rate of 7.4% and a click rate of.4%.
  • When message only is personalized, emails have an average open rate of 18.8% and a click rate of 2.1%.
  • When message and subject line are personalized, emails have an average open rate of 5.9% and a click rate of.2%.

Personalization from your end as a company is important too, that’s why Growsurf supports customization for your referral email by allowing you to set up a custom email address.

It’ll help you build trust with your customers over time since they’ll see your name and email address in their inbox. This will help you boost your open rates because they can identify you as a reliable source.

4. Good Design

A great benefit of emails is that you have certain freedom when it comes to design. It’s one of the best ways to express your company’s DNA and communicate your ideas better.

Your logo, color palettes, typography, graphics and everything else that your branding involves is another communication channel where you can stand out. It’s also a way to build recognition and loyalty from your customers.

Templates are the best resource to make this process easier whenever you have to send out an email.

But good design in emails doesn’t have to be all vibrant colors and fonts. It can also translate into placing all of these elements we mentioned before in the right place.

5. Strong CTA

You got the recipient’s attention with your subject line, engaged them with your visuals and copy. Now it’s time to encourage them to take action. This is a step you should never overlook.

But where do you place the CTA? Good question! It can be a button itself if that’s the case. For example, this could be:

  • Sign up now
  • Try for free
  • Start your free trial
  • Join now
  • Get it now
  • Redeem your offer

Make sure that your CTAs are supported by the benefits your customers will get. You may ask, what do you mean by this? 

For example, let's say you're an email automation company. You have a use case of an onboarding email series and you use "Start your free trial" as a CTA. You want to support that with one of the benefits customers get from using your service.

So it could be something like "Start your free trial and onboard new clients with one click" 

6. Social media sharing buttons

Email can be good for your customers, but maybe they have some friends who might be interested in your offer and they’re more likely to find out about it through other platforms.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Instagram, you name it. By adding these social media sharing buttons in your email you make it easy for your customers to share the content with their friends.

On the same note if you have mobile apps, then you can add a button that links to the AppStore or Google Play too.

This will help you reach more people and give you another alternative to track how many of your customers are more engaged on those platforms.

7. Content Hierarchy

Even though referral emails shouldn’t be too long, the reality is that most people will still scan through the content. This applies to both visual and written content.

The goal is to prioritize and organize the content in a way that’s friendly for the user to process it. There are many techniques to optimize content hierarchy, mostly for visual content like:

  • Proximity
  • Scale
  • Alignment
  • Color
  • Contrast

Yet, there are two common patterns in design that you should keep in mind for your referral emails:

  • F Pattern 

This is the most common pattern, especially for written content. Viewers scan the content from the top left to the top right and then down on the left side, looking for headlines and subheaders.

  • Z Pattern

The Z pattern is most used when there isn’t too much written content. Instead, with this pattern you can highlight other aspects like CTAs.

As its name indicates, users scan the content forming a Z. From the top left to the top right and then diagonally down to finish with another horizontal movement from left to right.

Importance of Automation in Referral Emails

There's a bunch of people involved in referral programs, that's why to be able to reach them through email, you need automation. Not only because it makes the whole process easier and faster, but also because it’s the way you can rely on multiple tools to get the most out of your referral emails.

For now, let’s talk about two relevant aspects of email automation that are involved in the personalization process:

1. Segmentation

The first one is segmentation, which allows you to send your referral emails to all those customers who might be the best fit for the offers and promotions you have.

  • Demographics
  • Job title
  • Age
  • Content they consume
  • Products they use 
  • Interests

You can use integrations with other apps to simplify this process. For example, you can integrate your email with your CRM or e-commerce platform to import the data and segment your customers.

2. Behavior-triggered emails

This goes hand in hand with personalization. Because having access to a behavior-triggered feature allows you to send an email when a customer completes a certain action. It gives you the chance to track where your customers are at in their journey.

This means that you can send an email to let your customers know about your referral program after they complete an action. Ideally, you’ll find out what those actions are and when they’re most likely to share it or participate in it.  

Segmentation and behavior-triggered emails play an important role in the referral email process.

Simply because both of them allow you to know a little bit more about your customers’ preferences at the same time you improve the email experience for them.

Types of Referral Emails

When we talk about referral emails, chances are we face one or even both of these two situations:

1. An email to encourage your customers to send invitations to their friends

Here we can see an example of an email sent by Setapp , a subscription service for iOS and macOS apps.

The email encourages customers to get their invitation link. Then they can share it with their friends and get an extra month for each who joins.

Image Source: Really Good Emails

What we can highlight in this example:

  • They have short paragraphs that explain very well how the referral program works.
  • They make clear the condition, which is the number of invitations the users get
  • Presence of some graphics to support the copy
  • A clear CTA placed strategically after the process explanation 

2. The reward/invitation email itself

In this case, we can see the example of Allset , which is a marketplace for local dinners and restaurants.

Image Source: Really Good Emails

What we can highlight in this example:

  • Only 2 paragraphs and the message is clear
  • Good branding: logo, typography and colors.
  • Social media sharing buttons to share the email content, as well as to connect with the company.
  • Links to their website and mobile apps.
  • A link at the bottom to address the questions the user might have

Referral Email Template

Considering the examples above and everything that we discussed in the post, here’s a basic referral email template you can use and modify according to your referral program and your customers’ needs.

Subject line: 

A gift from your friend (name)

Email copy:

"Hey (name)! 

Your friend (name) loved using (your product) and thought about you. That's why he wanted to share his referral code with you.

By using (name)'s code you can have free full access for 1 month to our product.

Here it is: REFERRALCODE2021

Sign up for free now!"

A Quick Summary

Don’t underestimate the power of good emails and use them to the advantage of your customer referral program instead.

Adding these elements to your referral emails will give you better results. You don't have to include them all if you've never done it before. Instead, you can play around and start by integrating them little by little.

Once you know what works and what doesn't, you'll have your customized formula for referral email success.

If you want to learn more about the influence of emails, you can take a look at How Morning Brew's Referral Program Grew to 2.5 Million Subs .

And if you look for a referral software where you can put these tips into practice, Growsurf is the way to go. Start your free trial now!

Ready to take action?

See how GrowSurf can help boost your revenue through the power of sharing

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