Refer-a-friend campaigns have been around for a long time, but they’ve been a hot topic for several of my clients recently. While many are interested in running one, most find the process very confusing. What are the must-haves in a refer-a-friend program, who is supposed to get what, and when are they supposed to get it? The purpose of a refer-a-friend campaign should be to drive list growth and revenue. To be successful, it’s important to map out your plan and think through all the scenarios from the experience of both the referrer and the referee. sells body jewelry online, and their refer-a-friend campaign checks off all the must-have best practices. Let’s take a closer look at their process.

1. Invite subscribers to refer their friends.

First, craft a message that you will send out as a blast to encourage existing subscribers to refer a friend. To encourage participation, be sure to include an incentive. In their blast, includes a refer-a-friend callout front and center along with a 15% discount offer.

Refer-a-friend campaign: Step 1

2. Collect the referral details.

Once the subscribers click through the “Refer a friend” button, they are taken to a webform where they will enter their friend’s email address and can include a quick note to include in the email their friend will receive.

Refer-a-friend Campaign: Step 2

3. Thank your subscribers for the referral.

Once the referrer submits the referral details by clicking “Tell a friend,” they are presented with a thank you webform that confirms their submission was successful and provides their discount code for the 15% offer. From here, the person can continue on to the website to shop with their 15% discount.

Refer-a-friend Campaign: Step 3

In case the subscriber is not yet ready to shop or gets distracted, they will receive a thank you email as well. This thank you email looks a lot like the thank you webform, reiterating that their referral was successful and providing the 15% off coupon again. This is a good practice because not everyone is ready to buy right away. The follow-up email serves as a gentle reminder that they have a coupon to use.

Refer-a-friend Campaign: Step 3, Part 2

4. Notify the referee about the invitation.

You’ve taken care of the referrer, but what about the friend who was referred? They will receive an email clearly explaining that their friend has suggested they “join the party” with This message highlights what the person can expect by signing up for their email program and includes a nice clear “Sign Me Up” call to action button that can’t be missed. They are also enticed with 15% off at sign-up.

Refer-a-friend Campaign: Step 4

5. Collect the new subscriber’s details and add them to your list.

Once the friend clicks “Sign Me Up,” they are taken to a webform to enter their contact information and subscribe to’s email list. The new subscription immediately triggers an email that welcomes them to the party and provides the 15% off coupon code.

Refer-a-friend Campaign: Step 5

Refer-a-friend campaigns can work well as a blast to your list, but they can also be used as part of an automated lifecycle campaign, such as a welcome series or post-purchase series. Ideally, your email platform will allow you to create segments of subscribers who have received and opened the message in the past so you can suppress them from future sends, whether they be blasts or automated campaigns. As you can see, there are many steps to implement before you can go live with a refer-a-friend campaign. To recap, here is a checklist of what you will need to create in order to get started:

  • An email inviting subscribers to refer their friend.
  • A refer-a-friend webform.
  • A webform to thank your subscriber for the referral.
  • A follow-up email to thank the subscriber again and provide their promised discount.
  • An email to the referee that includes a big “sign up for emails” callout.
  • A sign-up webform to collect the referee’s contact details and add them to your list.
  • A thank you webform that lets the new subscriber know their submission was successful.
  • A welcome message for the new subscriber.
Have you run a refer-a-friend campaign? If so, what surprised you the most as you were working through the process?