Newsletter Referral Program Case Study: 339,000+ Subscribers

Posted by Chris Tweten | Nov 26, 2021

the news Gained 339,000+ Subscribers with GrowSurf

the news ( is a tech and finance newsletter, delivered Monday to Friday.

They strive to make you smarter in 5 minutes a day, giving you everything you need to know to start your day well informed of what’s going on in Brazil and around the world.

If the news had to describe their content in 5 words, they would be:

  • Objective
  • Relevant
  • Pleasant
  • Useful
  • Intelligent

Their conversational, laid-back tone is what brings readers back for more everyday with their easy-to-digest approach to delivering news. Pop culture references and custom GIFs are a few tools in their casual communication tool belt.

coffee pouring gif

We talked with Hernane Ferreira, co-founder of the news to give you a rundown of how their referral program earned them over 339,000 subscribers using GrowSurf and Campaign Monitor.

the news’ Referral Program

Although they didn’t have a formal referral program before signing up with GrowSurf, they were using member get member strategies to gain subscribers. At the end of each email, they had a simple CTA asking readers to share with a friend if they liked their content.

As time went on, they started seeing that many people were referring the news to their friends, but didn’t have a good way to measure results or truly take advantage of this word of mouth marketing.

Knowing referral marketing was a massive opportunity, Ferreira looked for referral program software with Campaign Monitor integration and tried out the first to stand out: UpViral. UpViral has a good reputation in Brazil, but the unfortunate thing about their campaigns is that all their share URLs contain their brand name.

Their first referral campaign with UpViral was a flop because upon seeing the word “viral” in the link, people thought they might have been sent a virus rather than a newsletter recommendation.

From here, the news looked to alternative platforms. This is where GrowSurf came into the picture back in March, 2021.

Leaderboard Rewards

leaderboard reward system

5 Referrals: Monthly Recap

20 Referrals: Saturday Edition

50 Referrals: Pack of Stickers

100 Referrals: Coffee Mug

250 Referrals: Custom Edition Content

Leveraging Giveaways to Drive Referrals

On top of having a leaderboard reward system, the news also takes advantage of giveaways to drive referral subscribers. They recently ran an iPhone giveaway campaign that resulted in over 100,000 referrals.

Following the success of this campaign, they are now experimenting with different kinds of giveaways that will resonate with their readership.

Knowing how to choose referral incentives that your subscribers actually care about is a key element of a successful referral campaign. Just like any other growth channel, experimentation and feedback will help you find a path to scaling.


Visibility is the most important thing when promoting your referral program.

Plugging your referral program at every communication touchpoint with your user base will greatly improve your engagement rates, resulting in compounding growth.

the news signs off each of their emails with a breakdown of their referral rewards and a share button CTA.

referral program email footer

Favorite GrowSurf Features

Campaign Monitor Integration

“Setting up the Campaign Monitor GrowSurf integration was really easy. I did the installation myself and I don't code. I'm not a developer and I could do it easily.” Hernane Ferreira, Co-Founder of the news

Documentation: GrowSurf Campaign Monitor Integration

CSV Export

Export is crucial in using GrowSurf with Campaign Monitor to optimize referral campaigns. By exporting new signups as a CSV, Ferreira was able to easily track revenue generated from referrals.

Referral Campaign Analytics

Real-time analytics can be incredibly useful when optimizing your referral campaign. From the GrowSurf dashboard, the news makes use of the at-a-glance campaign metrics.

Referral Marketing is Cost-Effective

Let’s get straight to the point here:

“GrowSurf referrals have a 3x cheaper CAC than signups from Facebook and Google ads.”

While this isn’t average performance for referral signups, here are a few compelling referral program statistics to consider:

  • Referred customers have a 37% higher retention rate
  • People are 2-10x more likely to rely on word-of-mouth than paid media
  • 84% of consumers trust the recommendations of others over other forms of marketing

PPC Leads vs Referral Leads

Did you know that the churn rate of referred customers is 18% lower than other channels?

The readership of the news defies this widely-accepted principle of referral marketing. They have found that Facebook and Google ads brought in readers that were slightly more qualified than those from referrals.

Although this was only a slight margin from their findings, it’s worth noting.

Referral Program KPIs for Newsletters

Above all else, monthly user growth is the most important KPI for newsletters.

“If you aren't growing and evolving, you're standing still, and the rest of the world is surging ahead.” Louise Penny

While Louise Penny said this of life in general, it especially rings true with running a newsletter. We are in a constant battle for peoples’ attention online and if you can’t sustain your growth, you’re a sitting duck.

Aside from monthly user growth, the news shared a few important metrics they track:

  • Revenue Generated from Referrals: How much revenue are new referrals bringing in?
  • What % of referral program participants have earned each reward? the news tracks reward fulfillment with GrowSurf to optimize performance of different audience segments.

Referral Fraud

Referral fraud is a huge concern for companies that are new to referral marketing. When you're offering valuable rewards to your customers, it's inevitable that a small % of them will try to game the system. Fortunately for the news, we were able to help prevent a lot of the referral fraud attempts in their campaigns.

Think about it this way:

If just 1% of your customers create fraudulent referrals to earn rewards, how much money would you lose?

You would not only lose out on money, but your time that will never be recouped as well.

Double Opt-Ins

Although this isn’t a foolproof method, double opt-ins discouraged the vast majority of self-referral attempts using (fake) second email addresses. Advocates should not be allowed to earn rewards for referring themselves!

Influencer Marketing is a Powerful Tool in Referral Marketing

Influencer marketing has experienced unprecedented growth among brands looking to increase reach, brand awareness, and boost conversions. Using influencers in referral campaigns can be an incredibly effective way to scale up.

Identify Influential Users

Influencers are always in need of useful and relevant content to feed their followers.

“People like to follow influencers that provide value, so we keep those influencers close—and not just with rewards.”

Sitting at the top of the news’ referral leaderboard are a handful of influencers that have already earned every reward they have to offer.

What happened next is a valuable lesson in pragmatic marketing: Ferreira simply asked their top referrers some simple questions:

  • What do you want?
  • What could the news do to help you grow?

Unsurprisingly, influencers were most interested in a feature in their newsletter, while others were interested in meeting the team and visiting their offices!

Cold Outreach to Influencers

Having a strong grasp of criteria you want in an influencer is key to recruitment.

At a basic level, influencers should already be sharing content that is similar to the content you’re producing. This makes for a frictionless experience for the influencer to bring you referrals.

Request a demo of GrowSurf

Set up your referral marketing program with software that lowers your customer acquisition cost and saves you gobs of time.

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