How to make a Referral Program that Delivers Tangible Results

By Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder
Published: Mar 22, 2024
Creating a referral program that delivers tangible results involves understanding its mechanics, identifying your target audience, choosing the right incentives, and effectively designing and promoting your program. In this article we'll explore each of these elements in depth, providing actionable insights and practical tips to help you launch a referral program that drives meaningful growth for your business.

Creating a referral program that delivers tangible results involves understanding its mechanics, identifying your target audience, choosing the right incentives, and effectively designing and promoting your program.

How Referral Programs Work

Here’s a simple breakdown of how these programs usually go:

  • A customer likes your product or service and thinks their friends might too.
  • You give them a special link or code that they can share.
  • They tell their friends about you using that link or code.
  • A friend buys something using the link or code.
  • You find out which customer helped you get that sale.
  • You say thanks by giving them something nice, like a discount or a free item.

This starts a good cycle: more sharing, more thanking, and you can see which ways of sharing work best.

The Benefits of a Referral Program

Referral programs are really useful for helping businesses grow. Here’s why they’re so good:

Drives Growth Through Word-of-Mouth
  • When your current customers like your stuff, they’ll tell their friends. This gets more people talking about your business.
  • A big chunk of people (84%) really trust what their friends and family recommend. So, when a friend suggests they check out your business, they’re more likely to actually do it.
  • This can start a chain reaction. One person tells another, who tells another, and so on. This can quickly bring a lot more customers to your door.
Builds Trust and Credibility
  • Friends telling friends about your business is more believable than just seeing an ad. It makes people trust you more.
  • Customers who come to you because a friend suggested it are more likely to buy something.
  • These customers also tend to stick around longer. They’re less likely to stop using your service or buying your product.
Delivers High-Quality Leads
  • When a friend tells another friend about your business, it’s usually because they think it’s a good fit. This means the new customer is more likely to be interested in what you’re selling.
  • A lot of people who sell to other businesses say that referrals bring in the best leads. These leads are more likely to buy something.
A Cost-Effective Channel
  • Getting customers through referrals usually costs less than other ways of marketing. You get a good bang for your buck.
  • About half of the marketers out there think referrals bring in leads cheaper than other methods.
  • The only thing you’re really spending money on is the thank you gifts for customers who bring in their friends.

In short, referral programs are a smart way for businesses to grow. They help build trust and bring in customers who are more likely to stick around and buy more over time.

Step 1: Setting Clear Objectives

When you’re kicking off a referral program, it’s super important to know what you want to achieve. Let’s break down how to set clear goals and figure out how to tell if you’re hitting them.

Set specific, measurable goals

Instead of just saying you want more referrals, aim for something you can count, like getting 100 new customers from referrals in the next 6 months. This helps you keep track of how you’re doing.

Here are some goals you might consider:

  • Get 30% more people to sign up through referrals
  • Make 5% of your sales come from people referred by friends
  • Cut down the cost of getting new customers by 15%

Choose relevant KPIs

KPIs are the numbers you watch to see how well you’re doing. Pick ones that match what you’re trying to achieve. If you want more referrals, look at:

  • How many people sign up because of a referral each month
  • What percentage of referrals actually buy something

If you’re trying to spend less on getting new customers, check:

  • How much it costs to get a customer through referrals compared to other ways
  • How much money you make from referrals versus how much you spent to get them

Set realistic targets

Make sure your targets make sense based on:

  • How your referral program has done in the past
  • What’s normal in your industry
  • What resources you have for the program

Aiming too high can make it seem like your program isn’t working, even if it is.

Use benchmarks

Looking at what’s normal for other businesses can help you set good goals. For example:

  • Usually, 10-30% of referrals end up buying something
  • The best referral programs can make up 2-5% of a business’s sales

Check these numbers once a year to make sure your goals still make sense.

In short, knowing exactly what you want to achieve and how you’ll measure it is key for a successful referral program. Keep an eye on how you’re doing, compare yourself to others in your industry, and adjust your goals as needed. This is how you make sure your referral program really makes a difference.

Step 2: Identifying Your Target Audience

Figuring out who you should aim your referral program at is super important. It helps you come up with rewards that actually get people excited about spreading the word. First off, you need to know who your best customers are and what makes them tick.

When thinking about your target audience, look at stuff like:

  • Industry – What kind of work do your customers do? People often recommend things to others in the same line of work.
  • Company size – Does your product work better for small businesses or big companies? This affects who might find your services useful.
  • Location – Are you focusing on certain areas? Referrals from other places might not be as useful.
  • Purchasing behavior – How do your customers decide to buy? If it takes them a long time to decide, your referral strategy might need to be different.

You should also think about the people your current customers might refer you to. Ask yourself:

  • Who are they likely to recommend us to?
  • What problems can we solve for these new people?
  • What rewards would make them want to join us as customers?

Understanding both your current and potential new customers helps you connect the dots with the right messages and rewards. For example, if the people being referred are bosses at medium-sized companies who care about saving money and being flexible, make sure those points are front and center in what you offer and say.

Making profiles of your ideal referrers and the folks they might bring in helps you pick the best rewards and ways to talk about your program. Look at what they like, what they need, and what might stop them from signing up. This way, you can make your referral program hit the mark by being super relevant and appealing.

The bottom line is, the more you tailor your referral program to fit what your ideal customers want and need, the more successful it will be. Keep things relevant, and you’ll see more valuable referrals coming your way.

Step 3: Choosing the Right Incentives

Picking the best rewards for your referral program is key to getting people excited and involved. Let’s look at the main types of rewards you can offer:

Monetary Rewards
  • Discounts: Giving discounts for future buys is a common choice. This works well for folks looking to save money.
  • Cash bonuses: Handing out cash for successful referrals gives a clear reason to participate. Just make sure the cash amount is tempting enough.
  • Gift cards: Gift cards, like those for Visa or Amazon, offer flexibility. Gift cards that tie back to your products can also be a good pick.
Non-Monetary Rewards
  • Exclusive access: Getting into special events or seeing things first can excite loyal fans.
  • Reputation building: Saying ‘thanks’ in public, or giving out special titles, can make people feel proud.
  • Free products: Getting products for free or at a discount is a great perk, especially for online shops.
Comparison of Incentive Options

The best rewards fit what your business does, what your customers want, and what your referral program aims to achieve. Think about mixing cash and other perks to interest more people. Using levels of rewards can also push folks to refer more over time. Keep checking which rewards get the most people involved and tweak as needed.

Step 4: Designing Your Referral Program

Designing a referral program that’s easy to use and actually works is key. Here’s how to do it:

Simplify the Referral Process

Make it super easy for your customers to tell their friends about you. The simpler, the better.

  • Give them a special link or code they can easily share through email, social media, or messages.
  • Let them share this link or code right from your site or app without having to log in again.
  • Add buttons for instant sharing on social media.

The less hassle it is to share, the more people will do it.

Ensure Mobile Optimization

Since everyone’s on their phones, make sure your referral program looks good and works well on mobile.

  • Make sure it looks right on all devices, like phones, tablets, and computers.
  • Make buttons big and easy to tap.
  • Let them copy links or codes with a single tap.
  • Cut down on steps and fields to fill in.

Checking how it works on mobile and fixing any issues will help get more people on board.

Personalize Referral Links

Giving each customer their own special link makes it more personal and lets you see how well it’s working.

  • Create a unique link for each customer when they sign up.
  • Add their name to the link to make it even more personal.
  • Make sure they can find and use their link easily from their account.

When customers have their own link, they’re more likely to share it.

Highlight Benefits Clearly

Make sure customers know what they’ll get by sharing. Spell out the rewards clearly:

  • List the rewards in easy-to-read points.
  • Use pictures or icons to show off the perks.
  • Share stories from other customers who’ve had great experiences.

Making the rewards clear gets people excited to share.

Continuously Optimize

Keep making your referral program better by looking at the data and trying new things.

  • Look at the numbers to see where people might be getting stuck.
  • Try different emails or webpage designs to see what works best.
  • Test out various rewards to see what people like most.
  • Keep an eye on social media to see what kinds of posts get people talking.

Always be on the lookout for ways to make your referral program better. Use what you learn to get more people involved.

By focusing on making it easy, personal, clear, and always getting better, you’ll create a referral program that people love to use and that brings in results.

Step 5: Integrating with Your CRM

Hooking up your referral program with your customer relationship management (CRM) system is a smart move. It helps you keep better track of referrals, figure out who should get a thank you, and manage rewards more easily. Here’s why connecting your referral program to your CRM is a good idea:

Streamlined Tracking

  • By linking the two, you automatically keep tabs on referrals, like how many you’re getting and where they’re coming from, right in your CRM. This means you don’t have to manually move data around.
  • You can see referral stats next to other important business info, helping you understand what strategies are paying off.
  • It also makes it easier to sort out referral leads and give them the right attention based on how they found you.

Accurate Attribution

  • Once a referral becomes a customer, the CRM notes this and tells the referral program to send out a reward.
  • This automatic process makes sure the person who made the referral gets their thank you, avoiding any mix-ups.
  • It keeps everyone happy because it cuts down on mistakes where someone might miss out on a reward.

Centralized Rewards Management

  • The CRM checks when a reward should be given based on the referral info and takes care of it through the referral program without you having to double-check.
  • You can see all the reward info in one place, right alongside other details about your customers.
  • You can even tailor rewards for different referrers based on how much they’re helping you out.

In short, making your referral program and CRM work together makes your life easier. It saves you time, gives you a clear picture of how well referrals are doing, makes sure rewards are handed out right, and keeps all your important info in one spot.

Step 6: Promoting Your Referral Program

Getting the word out about your referral program is key to getting more people involved. Here’s how to do it in a straightforward way:

Email Campaigns

Shoot an email to your customers telling them about your new program. Make sure to explain what’s in it for them and how it works. Add buttons so they can easily share it with friends. Don’t forget to send reminders now and then.

Social Media

Talk about your program on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Share stories of customers who’ve earned rewards. You can also run special contests to drum up excitement.


Put info about your program where people can’t miss it – like on your homepage or as a popup when they log in. Also, include a way for them to join right from their account settings.

Sales Team Outreach

Make sure your sales folks know all about the program so they can mention it when they’re talking to customers. Give them materials like flyers or slides to make it easier.

Referral Page Optimization

Set up a special page for people coming from a friend’s referral. This page should clearly explain why your service or product is awesome and encourage them to sign up. Try out different designs and messages to see what works best.

Tracking Performance

Keep an eye on how many people are signing up, how many referrals you’re getting, and which ways of spreading the word are working best. Use this info to make your program even better.

Optimization Over Time

Always look for ways to improve your program. This could mean offering new rewards, making it easier for people to share, or trying new ways to get the word out. The goal is to keep getting more people to join and share.

Step 7: Tracking and Analyzing Results

Keeping an eye on how your referral program is doing is super important. It helps you figure out what’s working and what could be better. Here’s a simple way to do it:

Define Relevant KPIs

First, decide which numbers are important to watch, like:

  • How many people sign up because of a referral
  • How many referrals each person makes
  • How often referrals actually lead to sales
  • How much money you make from these referrals
  • How much it costs you for each referral
Implement Robust Tracking

Use special software to keep track of these numbers. This lets you see what’s going well and where you might need to make some changes.

Segment and Analyze Referral Data

Look at your referral info in different ways, such as by who’s making the referrals, how they’re sharing, and what kind of rewards they prefer. This helps you spot trends.

For example, check:

  • Which customers bring in the most referrals
  • Which rewards work best
  • Which ways of sharing bring in more referrals
Optimization and Iteration

Based on what you learn, tweak your program. This could mean trying new ways to share, testing different rewards, or getting more specific with who you target.

Keep trying new things to make your program better over time.

Ongoing Performance Reviews

Every so often, look back at how your program is doing. Make sure you’re moving towards your goals. If something’s not working, think about how you can fix it.

Keeping track, learning from the data, and making changes will help you get the most out of your referral program. It’s all about using what you know to make smart decisions.

Common Challenges and Solutions

Running a referral program isn’t always smooth sailing. Here are some typical problems you might face and how to fix them:

Tracking Referrals
  • Challenge: Keeping track of who referred who and if it led to a sale can be a headache and easy to mess up.
  • Solution: Use software that automatically keeps an eye on referrals as they happen. This way, you know for sure who to thank when a sale goes through.
Sending Out Rewards
  • Challenge: If you forget to send rewards or mix them up, people who referred others might get upset.
  • Solution: Set up your system to automatically send the right reward when a referral works out. This cuts down on mistakes and keeps everyone happy.
Monitoring Fraud
  • Challenge: Sometimes, people might try to cheat by making up fake referrals to get more rewards.
  • Solution: Put in safety checks to spot dodgy behavior, like lots of referrals from the same computer. Don’t let cheaters play the game.
Analyzing Performance Data
  • Challenge: Without good data, it’s tough to know what parts of your program are doing great and what parts need work.
  • Solution: Choose software that lets you dig into the details (like who’s referring the most, what rewards are best, how people are sharing) so you can keep making your program better.
Maintaining Engagement
  • Challenge: Interest in your program might drop if you don’t keep reminding people about it.
  • Solution: Regularly reach out with emails, run fun competitions, switch up the rewards, and find new ways to keep people interested.
Choosing the Right Incentives
  • Challenge: Sometimes the rewards you pick don’t really get people excited.
  • Solution: Try out different rewards and see which ones get people talking. Use your software’s data to guide your choices and switch things up based on what works.
Integrating with Other Software
  • Challenge: It’s a hassle if your referral info doesn’t play nice with your other business tools.
  • Solution: Pick referral software that works well with your CRM, email tools, and anything else you use. This gives you a complete picture without the headache.

With smart software, you can make the tricky parts of running a referral program a lot easier and use what you learn to keep improving. Staying ahead of problems can also stop them from getting big.


Referral programs can really help businesses like Floowi Talent bring in new customers and grow. But, to see real results, you need to plan and do things carefully. Here’s what to remember:

  • Be clear about what you want to achieve with your referral program. Think about how many referrals you want, how many of those turn into actual customers, and how much you’re spending to get each new customer.
  • Know who your best customers are and who they’re likely to recommend you to. It’s important to understand your audience so you can offer rewards that they’ll actually want.
  • Pick rewards that will get your customers excited about telling their friends about you. A mix of cash rewards, special perks, and saying thanks in a public way usually works best.
  • Make it super easy for customers to share about you. Use shareable links and make sure everything works well on phones too.
  • Spread the word through different ways – like emails, social media, and your website. Keep track of what’s working best and do more of that.
  • Connect your referral program with your CRM system to keep track of referrals and make sure the right people get their rewards.
  • Look closely at your referral data to see what’s happening. Use what you learn to make your program even better, focusing on who’s referring the most, what rewards people like, and how they’re sharing.
  • Watch out for any cheating, keep talking to your customers to keep them interested, and change up your rewards now and then to keep things fresh.

With ongoing tweaks and paying attention to the data, a well-thought-out referral program can be a great way for Floowi Talent to get new customers without spending a ton. The main thing is to make it worth it for your happy customers to spread the word.

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Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder

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