This article was originally written by a Viral Loops customer here. Viral Loops has not altered or influenced its contents and opinions.
As marketers, you may have seen referral campaigns running amok. And might have wondered how effective these are or even how to execute one. In this article, I will address these questions and help you set up a referral campaign of your own.
One of the most popular case studies on referral marketing is the one for Dropbox’s giveaway referrals, which helped them grow by 3900%. Or where Hustle grew its subscriber base to 300k with a milestone referral campaign. I am listing below a few more case studies on referral campaigns that you can peruse-
Most of these referral programs are integrated into the respective program’s funnel- from visitor to purchase/sales. This makes sense because the resources required to create a referral campaign are massive and should hit at something concrete with a lifetime value.
However, we at Mailmodo recently created a one-off referral campaign for the Email Masterclass that we launched for our audience with updated best practices, the latest trends, and advice from some of the best in the industry. And in this article, I will discuss how we did this guerilla tactic without burning too many resources.
Setting up a referral campaign as a distribution tactic & not a lifetime growth lever
Our idea was to use the referrals to distribute our course far and wide. We wanted to create a loop where folks would refer friends, colleagues, and network audiences to our course and get rewarded with free access to our Email Masterclass and even Amazon coupons.
We spent 1–2 days setting up the referral campaign and now can reuse the same setup/stack to create referral loops/campaigns for other campaigns. And here’s the result that we got at the end of 2 weeks of running the campaign
This was an amazing result for us. Apart from the number of folks that joined the campaign, our links were shared 146 times, which meant more awareness about our course and also, hopefully, for our brand.
So if you want to create a similar referral campaign with a small operational effort and use it to reap benefits for your brand, growth, or product marketing campaigns, read on.
How to create a quick referral campaign
To start with, be clear about your objectives as you create the referral campaign strategy and how it fits into your marketing plan. Our objective for this campaign was to get coverage on our email marketing course, which we had created exclusively for marketers, content creators, and startups.
Once you are clear with your objectives, you move to the most important part of creating any referral program: strategizing the whole loop of referrals and how and where you can add virality.
Step 1: Creating the referral loop
For this, you need to figure out which kind of referral strategy you want to use. Some of the most common ones are:
- Asking folks to refer ’N’ number of folks to get a certain reward. This is usually known as Milestone referrals.
- Asking folks to refer folks and be a part of a leaderboard. The more they refer, the higher their chances of winning. In this case, there is a campaign expiry date post in which the rewards are disbursed. This is usually known as Leaderboard referral.
Now, there can be other formats for the referral campaigns too. But these two are the most fundamental mechanisms of a referral campaign.
We decided to use the leaderboard referral mechanism, which helped us run a time-bound campaign before launching the course. Here’s how we visualized the virality to play out in our campaign-
Step 2: Budgeting & rewards
Next, you want to be clear on your budgeting and the rewards you offer for the winners of such a campaign.
You want to incentivize your users to share your link and add more people to the referral funnel. In our case, we announced Amazon Vouchers for the top 50 members on the waitlist. We also added a free course coupon for the Top 500 referrers. In a way, we were incentivizing the top 50 spots.
Step 3: The marketing ops for the referral set up
Now comes the critical part of creating the referral campaign- the actual setup.
For this, we evaluated several tools like Referral Candy, Growsurf, and others but settled on Viral Loops. Our decision was based on evaluating the UI/UX of each of these and pricing considerations. Now the other tools that I mentioned are also great, and you should look at your objectives and referral loop to pick the right tool.
After creating the proper campaign in Viral loop, we connected our Email Masterclass landing page with Viral Loops for tracking and recording referrals.
In this step, remember to take care of the following, which are easily missed-
- Creating the right forms with proper messaging
- Improving the social share copy is essential
- Ensure that if you use the same landing page for both referred and referring participants, the messaging should enable both and provide more context to the referred folk.
Step 4: Setting up email drip sequences to engage
Even though most referral campaigns run on web pages or apps, the essential part is to keep engaging with the referral participants once they leave your website or app. To do this, email can be a great medium. We created an email strategy for our participants. Here are all the emails we sent out
- A referral email nudge as soon as the participant joins the campaign
- A follow-up weekly referral nudge to all the participants along with results on where they were on the leaderboard
The best part about our email sequences was that we used Mailmodo to create interactive referral widgets that participants could fill inside the email. Take a look at it below 👇
So here’s how interactive emails helped us get more referrals
- In the first email of the sequence, the user gets a welcome email wherein they can refer a friend inside the email itself.
- If they refer a friend, an automated email is sent to their friend, inviting them to join the course with their referral link, all updated inside emails.
All of this was working on auto-pilot for us. 🚀
If you want to implement this for your campaign, you can check out Mailmodo or DM me for a walkthrough. ✌️
Step 5: Sharing the referral campaign
We relied on our existing audience to help us reach this content to a newer target group. For this, here’s what we did-
📱 Shared our Referral campaign on our socials, newsletter, and to our partners and stakeholders.
🤝 Used employee evangelism to get our seed list of initial referrers.
👯♀️ Shared it in communities focused on marketing and email marketing.
📼 Our team also created a series of memes & reels to raise awareness for this campaign on social media.
Soon, slowly and steadily, we started seeing referrals signing up and adding their friends and colleagues to the referral loop.
Step 6: Distributing the reward
Once you are done with your referral campaign, dispatch the rewards as soon as possible.
Note that there is a logistical issue you need to think of- many of the brand coupons (e.g., Amazon coupons) have to be created specifically for different countries. So if you are dealing with a global audience, you might want to plan the disbursement of coupons well in advance. To resolve this, we partnered with Xoxoday to help us distribute the rewards.
Best practices when creating a referral campaign
Here are some of the learnings that we discovered during this campaign-
- Explaining every precise detail about your asset (in our case, the Email Masterclass) and the referral expectations is essential. It helps build curiosity and demand and eliminate doubts.
- Having a referral set up is not enough. Your asset should be valuable and something that people want to engage for. In our case, we positioned our course uniquely to show upfront value to the folks. We banked on our experience as an ESP and collective email marketing experience and the fact that we had updated best practices and learnings in the course. Moreover, we discussed interactive and AMP emails, which aren’t included in any other online course.
- We gamified the referral process with Viral loops and added a dashboard to the landing page that anyone could see anytime. This helped folks to know where on the leaderboard they were.
- We ran the distribution for the referral campaign with a fair share of guerilla marketing tactics. We consistently posted our referral program on relevant communities, social media, and platforms. We built an upcoming product page on Product Hunt, shared updates on Reddit, and Indie Hacker to bring more visitors to our landing page. This was possible by planning and strategizing the distribution ahead of time and deciding weekly goals.
- The operations bit is a bit tricky. Setting up the landing page or connecting to tool referral tools/softwares might take time. So prepare in advance and define action items with deadlines.
That’s all, folks!
If you want to set up a referral campaign and have any questions, feel free to ping us. Also, if you are interested in our Email Masterclass and would like to access it for free, ping me on LinkedIn, and I will send you a coupon.
You can connect with me on LinkedIn here.