30 March 2023

The power of referral marketing: Using email to build customer loyalty

Сreate your best referral email
Table of contents
  1. Understanding how referral program works
  2. Designing high-converting referral emails
  3. Optimizing email referral programs for SEO
  4. Personalization and segmentation strategies
  5. Email automation for referral programs
  6. Measuring and analyzing referral email performance
  7. Legal considerations for email referral programs
  8. Wrapping up
Understanding how referral program works

Are you looking to give your sales a boost cost-effectively and efficiently? Well, you might want to consider email referral marketing! As one of the most powerful marketing tools out there, referral marketing can do wonders for your business. With email referral marketing, you can tap into that potential, take your sales to new heights, and make your customers happy. And happy customers are loyal customers. So, let's take a closer look at the world of referral marketing campaigns, how they work, and their benefits. Provide you with tips and best practices for creating a successful email referral program, show you how to measure your referral program emails, and highlight some legal considerations to keep in mind.

Understanding how referral program works

To grasp the inner workings of referral programs, we must first familiarize ourselves with the concept of a referral program and the various types that can be implemented. By doing so, we can effectively clarify the goals and gain a deeper understanding of the numerous advantages referral programs can provide.

Definition of email referral programs

These programs are marketing campaigns that incentivize existing customers to refer new customers to your business using a unique referral code or link. A referral marketing campaign can help you tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing, driving new customer acquisition and boosting customer retention.

Implementing an email referral program can take time and effort despite its benefits. Businesses need to design attractive incentives, craft persuasive messaging, simplify the process, and overcome common obstacles such as low participation rates or fraudulent referrals. But most of the work can be simplified and accelerated with complicated email templates.

Stripo email referral incentive 

All you need to do — click and get what fits best.

Types of referral programs

There are various types of these programs, including one-sided and two-sided incentives, tiered rewards, and gamification-based programs. The type of referral program you choose should align with your brand identity, target audience, and marketing objectives.

Designing high-converting referral emails

In order to design a successful referral program email, it is crucial for businesses to establish clear goals and objectives. What do they aim to achieve through their referral program? Increased sales? Boost in customer loyalty? Higher brand awareness? Once the goals are set, businesses can determine the most fitting incentives to encourage their most loyal customers to refer their friends and family to their business.

Visual design

Importance of visual design in referral emails

An eye-catching visual design is essential for capturing your customer's attention and conveying your brand identity. It should complement the email's content and make it easy for recipients to understand the referral offer and process.

Stripo email referral template

(Source: Referral email template at Stripo)

Best practices for visual design

  1. Use a clean and organized layout.

  2. Incorporate your brand colors and logo.

  3. Include relevant images or illustrations.

  4. Utilize white space for better readability.

Examples of effective referral email designs

Although many effective email referral systems are available, Dropbox and Airbnb stand out. Dropbox offered customers more storage space for referring friends. On the other hand, Airbnb’s referral program gave existing customers travel credits for referred contacts who made a reservation.

These types of email marketing were successful because of a number of distinct elements and tactics, including tailored messaging that connected with their customers, obvious and alluring incentives that encouraged them to spread the word to their networks. Lastly, the email ends with clear instructions on forwarding the referral link to their friends so they can both start redeeming rewards. Businesses may develop efficient referral programs that encourage client acquisition and improve their bottom line by utilizing these tactics.


A simple design with clear visuals showcasing the referral reward of referring friends.

Dropbox clear referral design

(Source: Referral design on Dropbox)


A personalized and visually appealing email with a clear call-to-action.

Airbnb email referral incentive

(Source: Airbnb referral program on buyapowa)

If you want to save time, effort, and resources, consider utilizing templates curated by a team of skilled professionals. By using these templates, you can give your business the boost it deserves. It's a smart move that can help you streamline your workflow and easily achieve your goals. Don't hesitate to take advantage of this resource — it could benefit your business's success. Сheck it out for yourself.


Tone and voice

The tone and voice of your referral email should be consistent with your brand identity and resonate with your target audience. It should be engaging, persuasive, and concise.

Elements of persuasive copy

  • start with a compelling subject line to increase open rates;

  • use clear and concise language to explain the referral process;

  • highlight the benefits for both the referrer and the referred;

  • include social proof to build trust;

  • create a sense of urgency to prompt action.

Examples of captivating referral email copy


A short and straightforward email with clear referral rewards for both parties.

Uber referral email

(Source: Uber referral program on pagewiz)


A persuasive email that highlights the value of the product and encourages customers to share it with friends.

Evernote email referral

(Source: Evernote referral email from business2communityl)

Calls-to-action (CTAs)

A well-crafted CTA is crucial for driving action in referral emails, it can greatly influence the success of a referral program, increasing conversion rates and generating more sales or leads. CTAs need to be clear, prominent, and persuasive to encourage customers to share their unique link or referral code with others. This vital component nudges referred customers to engage and become new clients or subscribers.

Tips for creating effective CTAs:

  • use action-oriented language;

  • make the CTA button stand out with contrasting colors;

  • place the CTA strategically within the email for maximum visibility.

Examples of successful referral email CTAs


A bold CTA that encourages customers to invite friends and earn rewards.

Glossier referral email

(Source: Glossier referral email on Pinterest)

Stripo referral email template

Harmonious CTA, focusing customers' attention on getting a benefit.

Stripo referral email template

(Source: Referral email template at Stripo)

Optimizing email referral programs for SEO

Do not underestimate the importance of SEO in referral marketing campaigns. While SEO is typically associated with website content, it can also play a vital role in referral emails. Optimizing your emails for SEO helps improve their visibility in search engines, driving organic traffic to your referral landing page and ultimately increasing the number of referred customers.

SEO best practices for referral emails

Keyword research

Identify relevant keywords related to your referral program and incorporate them into your email content, subject lines, and meta descriptions. This will help search engines understand the context of your emails and improve their search rankings.


In your referral emails, include links to your website, blog posts, or other relevant content. This not only provides additional value to your customers but also helps improve your website's search rankings.

Image optimization

Optimize the images in your referral emails by using descriptive file names and alt tags and compressing them to reduce file size. This will improve your email's loading time and enhance the overall user experience.

Measuring the success of your referral email SEO efforts

Track the performance of your referral emails using tools like Google Analytics and monitor key metrics like organic traffic, bounce rate, and conversion rate. This will help you understand the effectiveness of your SEO efforts and make necessary improvements.

Personalization and segmentation strategies

Personalizing and segmenting your referral emails can significantly improve their relevance, engagement, and conversion rates. By tailoring your emails to different customer segments, you can create more targeted and compelling messages.

Techniques for effective personalization and segmentation

Demographic segmentation

Group your customers based on factors like age, gender, location, and income. This allows you to create targeted referral emails that resonate with each demographic group.

Behavioral segmentation

Segment customers based on their past interactions with your brand, such as purchase history, browsing behavior, and email engagement. This can help you identify the most loyal customers and tailor your referral emails accordingly.

Trigger-based personalization

Send personalized referral emails based on specific triggers, such as a recent purchase, milestone, or customer anniversary. This creates a sense of relevance and timeliness, making customers more likely to engage with your referral program.

Examples of personalized and segmented referral emails

Stitch Fix

A personalized referral email that addresses the customer by name and highlights their unique referral link.

Stitchfix referral email

(Source: Stitch fix’s referral program on cloudspongel)


A segmented referral email targeted at customers who frequently purchase a specific product, offering relevant rewards for referring friends.

Starbucks referral email

(Source: Starbucks referral program on referralcandy)

Email automation for referral programs

Email automation can streamline your referral email campaigns, ensuring timely and consistent communication with your customers. It also frees up time and resources, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your referral marketing program.

Types of email automation tools and platforms

There are numerous email automation tools available, such as Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, and SendinBlue. These platforms offer a range of features to help you automate and optimize your referral email campaigns. To make it easier for you, you can export pre-made templates of your referral email from Stripo’s Editor to the tool you need in one click.

Tips for setting up automation for referral program email

Welcome emails

Automate the process of sending welcome emails to new participants in your referral program. This not only acknowledges their participation but also provides them with important information about the referral process and rewards.

Reminder emails

Schedule automated reminder emails to encourage customers to continue sharing their referral links and to keep your referral program top of mind.

Reward emails

Automatically send reward emails to customers who successfully refer a new customer, thanking them for their referral and providing details about their reward.

Measuring and analyzing referral email performance

Measuring the success of your email referral program is crucial to understanding the program's impact and making data-driven decisions to optimize it. Relevant metrics like referral conversion rates, referral acquisition costs, and lifetime value of referred customers should be chosen to assess program effectiveness accurately. These metrics can be easily tracked and analyzed using referral program software or email campaign software.

Businesses can then use the data to identify areas for improvement, such as modifying incentives, refining messaging, or streamlining the referral process. They can also optimize email referral programs for maximum ROI and better engage their customers by making informed decisions based on this data.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) for referral emails

Open rates

Monitor the percentage of recipients who open your referral emails. This can help you gauge the effectiveness of your subject lines and overall email strategy.

Click-through rates

Track the percentage of recipients who click on links within your referral emails, such as the referral link or CTA. This helps you understand how well your email content and design are driving engagement.

Conversion rates

Measure the percentage of recipients who complete the desired action, such as signing up for your referral program or making a purchase. This indicates the overall success of your referral email campaign in driving new customers.

Number of referrals

This KPI tracks the total number of new customers or subscribers acquired through your referral program. Monitoring the growth in referrals helps assess the impact of your campaign on customer acquisition.

Referral revenue

Referral revenue represents the total income generated from new customers acquired through your referral program. Tracking this KPI helps evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of your referral marketing efforts.

Lifetime value of referred customers (LTV)

The LTV of referred customers is the average revenue generated by a referred customer over their entire relationship with your business. Comparing the LTV of referred customers with non-referred customers can highlight the long-term value of your referral program.

Tools and platforms for tracking and analyzing email performance

Leverage referral email marketing platforms like Mailchimp, HubSpot, or Campaign Monitor to track and analyze the performance of your referral emails. These tools offer in-depth analytics and reporting features that can help you make data-driven decisions to optimize your referral email campaigns.

Tips for improving referral email performance based on analytics

Implementing an effective referral program email requires careful planning and strategic execution. Use the insights gained from your email performance analysis to make improvements in various aspects of your referral email campaigns:

  • experiment with different subject lines to increase open rates;

  • optimize your email design and layout to improve click-through rates;

  • personalize and segment your emails to boost conversion rates;

  • test different CTAs to determine which drives the most referrals.

Legal considerations for email referral programs

When designing email marketing programs, businesses need to be aware of legal considerations to avoid running afoul of anti-spam laws and promoting fraudulent referrals. In a considerate and professional manner, we should only send emails to those who have granted their consent by subscribing to our newsletter. It's crucial to honor their choice and cease all further correspondence promptly if they decide to unsubscribe. It's essential to seek legal advice when implementing a referral program to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. This can prevent businesses from facing legal issues down the road and help them maintain their reputation as ethical and trustworthy organizations.

Wrapping up

In this article, we've covered the essential aspects of creating a successful referral email campaign, including understanding how referral programs work, designing high-converting referral emails, optimizing for SEO, personalizing and segmenting your emails, automating your referral program, and measuring and analyzing performance.

By implementing the strategies and best practices discussed in this article, you can unlock the full potential of your referral email campaigns, ultimately driving new customer acquisition, building customer loyalty, and growing your business.

Don't wait any longer — start or improve your referral email program today by applying the insights and tips shared in this article. Harness the power of referral marketing to build strong customer relationships and propel your business to new heights.

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