Listen, I’m pretty competitive.
Whether it's a game of football or who can finish a beer first, I’m in it to win it.
But even my competitive streak has never driven me to invest $18,000 toward winning a contest. I mean, that’s how much a brand-spanking-new 2017 Honda Civic would cost me.
So needless to say, when news of a man who shelled out this much cash for a chance at winning a Jet.com referral marketing contest crossed my desk, I was intrigued to say the least.
Who am I kidding? I questioned his overall sanity.
And I wondered what in the heck this company had offered to inspire him to spend the equivalent of two years of uni tuition.
The short version is this: Before its launch, Jet.com (a startup wanting to compete with Amazon.com) ran a growth hacking contest.
Besides the fact that some guy invested $18k securing a win, Jet.com gained quite the number of “insiders,” which most certainly contributed to their later multi-billion-dollar acquisition.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s dig into this brilliant referral marketing campaign, then you tell me...
Could you copy this model and inspire that kind of investment from your referral marketing participants to grow your business—or perhaps come even just a little close?
It may not be as difficult as it seems.
Jet.com’s Recipe for Referral Marketing Success
1. Give the people what they want.
Jet.com knew that the only way to ensure a strong launch was to build some online buzz; and what better way to do it than to hold a contest?
But this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill giveaway offering a free product, swag or a cash prize, Jet.com decided to tempt participants with something more valuable—shares of their business.
And they weren't just giving away a share or two... they were giving away 190,000 shares spread across 10 winners.
Here’s the breakdown:
At the end of the contest, the winner earned 100,000 shares of Jet.com stock (no, that wasn’t a typo. I said 100,000 shares).
Participants in places 2 through 10 received 10,000 shares each.
Your actionable tip:
Ok, so you might not have 190,000 shares of your stock you want to part with. But the takeaway here is that you must give participants something of value.
Logically, people are going to put more effort into your contest if you are offering something they actually want.
A free t-shirt is nice, but not many people are going to invest much time or energy for a chance to win a shirt to add to their probably-already-overflowing drawer of tees.
So don’t just copy your competitors. Think outside the box and offer something that hasn’t been done before.
2. Show participants their progress along the way.
What did contenders have to do to add these shares to their portfolios?
Simple. Get people to sign up as a Jet.com Insider.
At sign up, each contest participant received a unique sign-up link so that Jet.com could attribute referrals. Participants shared these links with friends and promoted Jet.com’s insider program on social media using their unique links.
People hoping for a win didn’t have to guess as to how they were doing. There is a reason stadiums have a scoreboard, after all.
In this same vein, Jet.com provided regular email updates to content participants showcasing their place on the leaderboard.
A virtual leaderboard—a sure way to motivate the competitor in all of us—tracked those with the most referrals, specifically, the top 10.
By feeding their referrers a steady diet of data, Jet.com empowered those racing for the top spots, keeping the contest alive day after day.
Your actionable tip:
Follow Jet.com’s lead and give your participants information on how well (or not well) they are doing.
Your ultimate goal is to get as many leads as possible.
By reporting your referral program competitors’ progress, you encourage those going after the prize to ramp up their efforts, in turn ramping up your lead list.
3. Get the word out far and wide.
When Jet.com launched its referral program, they managed to obtain some serious media attention, which worked out to their advantage.
The man who ended up winning those shares learned about the program when in a Bloomberg Businessweek article.
Were this program not featured there, he might have never discovered it. And Jet.com would have been down the 8,000 referrals he generated.
By getting the word out, Jet.com managed to catch the attention of their contest winner—father of two, Eric Martin works as a product specialist…or I should say, worked. He also ran for Congress in 2012, but his run ended in a disappointing 5th place finish Republican primary.
Martin heard about the Jet.com contest and entered it late in the game, starting in January despite the fact that the contest had been going on since November.
In the case of Eric Martin, it wasn’t slow and steady wins the race. It was, instead, pretty much the opposite of the Tortoise in the Hare.
In just three weeks, he signed up 8,000 people by investing 18K between Facebook advertising and marketing the promotion on Swagbucks.com and GiftHulk.com, giving him the #1 spot on Jet.com’s leaderboard.
Your actionable tip:
Posting your program on your website and social media channels and hoping for organic traffic isn’t going to be enough. Pay to play with boosted social posts and traditional media to spread the message and get the attention of a larger crowd.
You can’t just depend on an “Eric Martin” finding out about your promotion accidentally.
So how did Jet.com make out in the end? And what about Eric Martin?
At the end of the day, the referral program model worked out pretty sweet for Jet.com.
Yes, they gave away 100,000 shares, but they ended up getting what they wanted – a strong customer base.
Before they even launched, Jet.com had amassed quite the collection of customers — 350,000 to be exact, thanks in large part to their referral program.
The company had some hiccups—they had to give up on charging a $50 membership fee three months after launching, for one—but it looks like it worked out pretty well for them. Their big payday came when Walmart.com bought them for $3.3 billion in early 2016.
Oh, and as for Eric Martin...while he’s keeping mum as to exactly how much this deal netted him, experts say it somewhere between $10 and $20 million.
He’s suddenly seeming very wise indeed…
And in case you were wondering, Eric Martin himself is still at it. He won 50,000 shares of investing start-up Nvstr in May of 2017.
So, do you want to create a campaign similar to Jet? We've got you covered.
This template is inspired by Jet.com. People can join your competition, just by putting in their info. Then, the more friends they invite, the higher they climb up the leaderboard.
It's that simple!
In case you’re interested to build a giveaway like Jet.com, we have your back! Save yourself some time.