What do the best referral programs have in common?

Three things mainly:

  • Amazing referral incentives
  • Targeted promotion
  • A large base of brand advocates (customers)

You will find these three qualities in all successful referral programs.

But we also understand that every business is unique, with different needs and challenges. The referral program you implement should be targeted to your specific audience and fit into your overall referral marketing strategy.

Thankfully, there are many successful referral programs that you can draw inspiration from.

We have picked 15 of the best referral programs that you may consider implementing for your small business.

But first…

Why Does Your Business Need Referral Programs?

As a business owner, you may be using many lead generation strategies to generate qualified leads. Why not have your customers market your brand too?

Referral programs help you do just that, and more.

The best referral programs help to optimize your sales cycle, produce qualified leads, and use your trusted customer voices to take your marketing efforts up a notch. A referral program also generates better ROI than most other marketing activities as you only pay for each successful referral.

Here are a few reasons why your business needs referral programs.

  • Generate more leads as nothing works better than personal recommendations from happy customers
  • Attract more warm and targeted leads because people trust personal recommendations more than brand advertising
  • Gain loyal and valuable customers because they have been referred by people who already have a favorable view of your brand
  • Increase your customer retention rate since referred customers tend to stay longer with your brand
  • Referral programs rewards your existing customers, which helps increase customer engagement
  • Expand your reach by using your existing customers as your brand advocates
  • A referral program is pretty inexpensive compared to other marketing methods. Therefore, it offers great ROI

Here is an example of a referral program.
Referral Program

Image Source: ReferralRock

15 Best Referral Programs to Consider for Your Business

Creating a referral program for your business could be a lengthy process. But, what if we told you there was an easy solution?

You can automate the process by using referral marketing software. All you need to do is input the details of your program in the software, and get going.

Let’s make it easier for you.

Here are 15 of the best referral programs in the market. Use these referral program examples to create the ideal referral program for your brand.

1. Dropbox

Dropbox is one of the most popular file hosting services in the market. With Dropbox, you can keep your personal and business files safe, whether you’re at home, in the office, or on the go.

Dropbox’s referral program rewards its customers with extra storage space for referring friends, as shown in the image below:
Dropbox

Image Source: Dropbox

Why does Dropbox’s referral program work?

Here are the reasons:

  • Dropbox made the referral program a part of its onboarding process. Because it was easily visible, more people were willing to participate in the program.
  • The messaging was very clear and people knew exactly what they were getting. The conditions of the referral program were crystal clear.
  • The referral program did not involve too many steps and made it easier for customers to refer a friend.

2. Tesla

Tesla spends $0 on advertising.

Yes, you read that right.

Tesla does not have an advertising budget. And yet, it is one of the biggest companies in the world.

How did Tesla drive growth with a $0 advertising budget?

The answer is simple.

With an extremely powerful referral program. Yes, Tesla relies on its huge customer base to promote its products.

Tesla’s referral program is no longer applicable for its electric vehicles, as of September 18, 2021. However, you can still earn referral rewards for the Solar Roof and Solar Panel.
Tesla

Image Source: Tesla

Tesla’s referral program rewards its customers $300 for each Solar Roof or Solar panels referral.

Now, why does Tesla’s referral program work?

Here’s what we think.

  • Tesla’s referral program works because customers are happy with its products, and are willing to promote them to their friends. Product quality is key when it comes to driving customer loyalty.
  • Tesla knows its target customers well. It has been able to create a referral program that aligns with its customers' values. That’s why the company has been able to drive incredible growth, only with a customer-centric referral program.
  • Instead of using traditional marketing methods to acquire new customers, Tesla decided to capitalize on its happy customers. Despite having no advertising budget, Tesla uses its current customers to serve as advocates for its products.

3. Bandier

Bandier, the luxury activewear brand, has one of the best referral programs in the market. Besides curating emerging labels from around the world, Bandier also sells well-known sportswear brands such as Nike, Adidas, Reebok, and Under Armor.

brand gives its customers $25 (in store points) for every friend that they refer.

The best part?

The friend gets $25 off too on their first purchase.
Bandier

Image Source: Bandier

And, it doesn’t stop there.

If you refer a friend, you will continue to earn points for all successive purchases that your referrals make.

Getting unlimited rewards. What could be better than that?

Why is it such a successful referral program?

Here are our thoughts.

  • Bandier’s referral program is extremely attractive to its existing customers. Happy customers will feel motivated to tell their friends, and get rewarded in return.
  • Unlimited rewards in the form of points encourages customers to make more than one referral. More referrals means more qualified leads for the company.
  • It is one of the best referral programs, especially for businesses with a limited budget. You are giving your referring customers in-store points, which they can redeem for exclusive discounts. So, you are not only earning new customers, but getting repeat business from your existing ones too.

4. Scribe Media

Scribe Media is a professional publishing and media services company that helps entrepreneurs, experts, and executives write, publish, and market their books. It also has one of the best referral programs, offering significant rewards and referral points to its customers.

Here is how the Scribe Ambassador Program works.
Scribe Media

Image Source: Scribe Media

The best part?

Besides the referral bonus, you also get referral points that can be used to earn attractive gifts, as shown in the image below.
Scribe Points

Image Source: Scribe Media

Why does this referral marketing program work and why is it the best?

Here’s why.

  • The monetary rewards are substantial. The possibility of earning money is quite exciting for customers who have already experienced their services.
  • Awards for referral points such as a Tesla car, are also motivating enough to get existing customers to refer other people
  • Existing customers get a unique referral link that they can post on their social media channels, blogs, personal website, and more. This not only helps get more referrals, but also helps the company widen their reach.

5. Google Workspace

Google Workspace provides cloud storage, collaboration tools, and productivity applications for businesses of all sizes.

Their referral program gives you different rewards depending on your Google Workspace plan, as shown below.
Google Workspace

Image Source: Google Workspace

The only downside to this referral program is that your earnings are limited to 100 users per referred account. If you want to avoid these restrictions and earn more, you may join their affiliate marketing program.

Why is it a successful referral program?

Our thoughts are:

  • Google Workspace’s referral program rewards you per referral you make. Even though the limit is 100 users, it is a substantial number to earn some money on the side.
  • For every successful referral, the money is deposited directly into the referrer’s bank account. Of course, this referral program works differently for different countries. So the rules may vary depending on where you live.
  • The program offers tiered rewards which multiply with the number of users you refer.

6. T-Mobile

T-Mobile is one of the leading names in the telecommunications industry, and one of the largest wireless network operators in the US.

To refer friends to T-Mobile, you must own a Sprint or T-Mobile postpaid smartphone plan, and remain in good standing with that plan throughout the referral process. T-Mobile’s referral program lets you earn $50 per referral, up to $500 a year.
T-Mobile

Image Source: T-Mobile

Why is it one of the best referral programs?

This is what we think.

  • By referring friends and family to open a new postpaid account, T-mobile customers can earn $50 Virtual Express Prepaid MasterCard per referral
  • Customers get a unique referral link that can be shared on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook. Besides acquiring new customers, you also widen your marketing reach.
  • Easy to use referral dashboard enables customers to see the status of their referrals. They can see if their referral is “successful,” “pending,” or “unsuccessful.” The transparency not only helps build trust and customer loyalty, but also drives engagement.

7. Moo

Moo is an online print and design company that designs and prints products for marketing or promotions. You can create and customize business cards, notebooks, and so much more with it.

With Moo’s referral program, you can earn between $20 and $150 per referral, depending on who you refer.
Moo

Image Source: Moo

Why is Moo’s referral program the best?

We believe the reasons are as follows:

  • Referring customers get a $20 Moo gift card per referral and $150 per referral if they refer a business
  • The referrals also get benefits. They can get 25% off on their first order, free company templates, and even bulk discounts.
  • Rewards are in the form of company gift cards, which encourages people to do repeat business with Moo.

8. Casper

Casper.com is an ecommerce website that sells sleep products online. Its award-winning mattresses, pillows, sheets, and more are high-quality and manufactured in the US.

Besides award-winning products, Casper also has one of the best referral programs in the industry. Casper has had incredible success with their referral program, generating higher returns than their marketing investment.
Casper

Image Source: Casper 

Why does this referral program work?

Here are our thoughts on this.

  • When customers refer a friend they get a $100 Amazon gift card. The referred customers get 20% on their order. So, there is something in it for both the existing customer and the people they refer.
  • Anyone who leaves a positive product review or Net Promoter Score is automatically promoted to their referral program. By doing so, they leverage their best customers to promote their brand.
  • Casper uses their referral program to not only identify happy customers but also improve their customer experience. Delivering an excellent customer experience creates more loyal customers who don’t hesitate to refer their brand to others.

9. Fabletics

Fabletics is an activewear brand that offers high-quality, stylish workout clothes at affordable prices. From loungewear to Yoga gear, you can find a wide range of clothes and accessories on this ecommerce platform.

Fabletics’s referral program gives referring customers $40 in store credits for referring their friends and family.
Fabletics

Image Source: Fabletics

Why does the Fabletics’s Refer-a-Friend program work? And why is it the best?

Here’s why.

  • This referral program gives you $40 per referral and an upgrade to VIP subscription.You can save up to 50% every time you shop.
  • The referral credits have an expiry date. So, your customers must use them before they expire, which translates to more repeat business.
  • The referral incentives cannot be transferred to a bank account. They will need to use it on shopping from Fabletics, which is another sure fire way to increase ecommerce sales.

10. Uber

Uber is well known for its ride-sharing app. Besides ride-hailing, it also offers mobility-as-a-service, package delivery, food delivery, and freight transportation.

It also has an incredible referral program.

What makes it one of the best referral programs in the market is that the program is built into the product itself. Every customer gets a personalized referral code as soon as their Uber account is activated.

When other customers sign up using their referral code, they get $5 off on their next ride.

New customers also benefit because they get $2 off on their first three rides.
Uber

Image Source: Voucherify

Why is it one of the best referral marketing programs in the market?

Here’s why.

  • Besides being enticing, this referral program is easy to access. All riders need to do is tap on the “free rides” option in the menu.
  • The referral program is extremely mobile-friendly, which makes sense because Uber is a mobile app. Being able to send a quick referral on the go adds to the convenience of this referral program.
  • The program offers dual rewards, both to the referring customers as well as the referred friends. The referral bonuses are spread across the first few rides, which encourages your referred friend to become a loyal customer.

11. FreeAgent

FreeAgent is one of the best finance referral program examples there is. It is a cloud-based accounting software designed specifically for small businesses, freelancers, and contractors.

FreeAgent’s referral program gives a 10% discount to the referring customer as well as the new customer. As long as you and your referred friends are subscribers of FreeAgent, the discount continues. So effectively, you can have discounts for life.
FreeAgent

Image Source: FreeAgent

Here’s why this referral program is the best and working well.

  • Every customer gets a unique referral code. Each time a customer refers another, they get 10% off their monthly subscription fee for perpetuity. By referring more people, customers can have a FreeAgent subscription for free.
  • When customers refer more than 10 customers, FreeAgent appoints them as “evangelists.” Becoming an evangelist is an easy way to earn a tidy sum of money every month. With such incentives, people will be more willing to refer other people, which can help boost your sales conversion rate
  • FreeAgent has also made it quite easy to refer people, which is another reason for the success of this referral program. You can share a referral link embedded with your referral code and pass it on to friends. You may also post it on your website or share it on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

12. PayPal

PayPal‘s referral program is one of the best because it gives customers cash rewards.

To refer friends to PayPal, customers only need to send 1 cent to someone who does not have a PayPal account. The friend needs to register on PayPal, linking their bank account and spending $5 within the next few months.

When the friend they have invited has spent $5, both the customer and their friend get $10. If that doesn’t motivate you to invite friends, what will?
PayPal

Image Source: PayPal

Here’s why PayPal’s referral marketing program is the best.

  • Clearly, PayPal’s referral program follows a dual reward system. The fact that it’s a monetary incentive makes it even better. If you want to make your customers feel like they are truly being rewarded, this is one of the customer referral program ideas you must follow.
  • The referred person needs to spend at least $5 before either party gets a reward. This is an effective tactic to get people to spend money, and get a reward in return.
  • PayPal uses money as a reward because it’s a financial service. A lesson to learn when creating your own referral program is to use a referral incentive that relates to your business.

13. MeUndies

MeUndies is an apparel company, specializing in loungewear, underwear, and sleepwear for both men and women.

It also has one of the best referral programs because it uses a simple but tried and tested approach. The MeUndies referral program gives existing customers store credit toward future purchases.

Giving discounted products, store credit, or cash is a proven referral marketing strategy that has been known to work.

MeUndies runs one of those refer a friend programs that gives two-sided incentives. A referred customer needs to make a purchase of $12 or more and both parties receive a tidy sum as incentive for future purchases.
MeUndies

Image Source: MeUndies

Now, why is this among the best referral programs?

Here’s what we think:

  • Rewarding existing customers as well as the newly acquired ones is a fantastic tactic to create a successful referral program. Since the incentives match for both parties, they are more likely to sign on to the referral program.
  • Since the reward is in the form of store credits, customers will feel encouraged to shop from the brand. You not only get new sales opportunities, but repeat business as well.
  • Clients are given a unique referral link, which makes it easy to track and measure the success of the referral program.

14. Marriott Hotels

Next in line on our list of the best referral programs is Marriott Hotels. Customers can earn referral points when they refer other customers to the hotel’s loyalty program or credit cards.

If you are a Marriott Bonvoy member, you can earn up to 50,000 points for referring your friends and family. Of course, the friend you refer must complete a stay in one of the Marriott Hotels before you can earn any points.

You can earn 10,000 points per referral. Plus, whenever a friend you refer completes a stay in the first 365 days, you get 2,000 bonus points.

Marriott Bonvoy members can refer up to 5 new members per year.
Marriott Hotels
Image Source: Marriott 

Here are the reasons that make it one of the best referral programs:

  • It is easy to access and use. All you need to do is go to the Refer a Friend page and send a personalized referral link to your friends.
  • The best part is that the friend you refer also gets 2,000 points for each stay with an upper limit of 10,000 points
  • By automating the referral program, Marriott Hotels has made it easier for people to refer and new customers to sign up. Investing in a referral program software is a great way if you want to implement your own referral program.

15. Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is another one among the best referral programs you may take ideas from. You can refer friends and family to the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card and get up to 10,000 bonus miles per referral. You may earn up to 250,000 bonus miles a year.
Alaska Airlines

Image Source: Alaska Airlines

Here’s why it’s one of the best referral programs:

  • They’ve partnered with another company (Bank of America) to offer customers rewards for something they already use. Most people use credit cards for their daily purchases. So, why not win rewards too?
  • Offers dual rewards, something for the referring customer as well as the referred customer.
  • The referral program landing page is quite detailed. Such landing page optimization tactics make it easy for their audience to understand the program.

FAQs

1. What is the difference between a referral program and an affiliate program?

A. An affiliate program uses influencers on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok as well as third-party advocates to refer your brand to other people in exchange for a commission.

On the other hand, a referral program rewards existing customers to refer their friends and family to your brand.

2. How do you improve the referral process?

A. Here are a few tips to improve the referral process:

  • Make the referral program visible on your website
  • Give your customers a referral link or referral code to pass on to friends
  • Track referral results
  • Analyze the data for improvement opportunities
  • Gather customer feedback for further improvement

3. What kind of referral rewards work the best?

A. It’s best if the referral reward you choose relates to your business. For instance, Dropbox offers extra storage but PayPal offers hard cash. You will also need to decide whether you want to offer the reward per referral or for referring a specific number of people.

Some referral incentives you may choose are:

  • Cash rewards
  • Gift card
  • In-store points
  • Referral bonus
  • Discounted products

4. What are some effective referral marketing ideas?

A. Here are a few referral program ideas you can use to create the best program:

  • Offer a free or surprise gift per referral
  • Launch a seasonal referral campaign
  • Give cash, credit points, or discounts
  • Run a contest
  • Tier the referrals

5. How to create your own referral program?

A. Follow these tips to create a customer referral program:

  • Set your goals
  • Come up with the best incentives for referrals
  • List possible customer referral sources
  • Identify channels to host your referral program
  • Make a plan to reach out to customers

Conclusion

The best referral programs are extremely effective because they are a direct and authentic way to promote your business. Unlike other marketing methods, referral programs leverage your current customers to share your products and services with their network. And, there is no better brand advocate than a happy and satisfied customer.

What do you think are the best referral program examples you have come across? What is the most generous referral program you know of?

We would love to hear from you in the comments below.