Your Guide to a Successful Referral Program Template

Updated on June 3, 2021

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

There’s so much that goes into referral program templates. It’s not just imaging, the reward, and the message that sets each brand apart.

Despite these core differences, however, referral program templates can be very similar. Each program’s design holds many of the same components to sister referral programs.

Take a look below at various parts that go into making a successful marketing referral program template. We’ll show examples and discuss key elements to making your program work in your favor.

Key factors for referral program success

These factors are key to any high-performing referral program template, including customer referral programs and employee referral programs. Use these elements in your own referral campaign, and check out these real-world examples for inspiration.

A visible referral program

In order to find word-of-mouth growth through your referral marketing program, the program needs to be visible. It sounds simple, but it’s also easily overlooked. Be sure that your program is easily seen by customers, by promoting it via email, social media, on your website, and more. Images, clear buttons, and calls to action should all be in play with your referral program.

A program that’s easy to join

Customers won’t work harder than they need to. Make it easy for your customer base to refer others, and for your new customers to sign up. Taking out any potential hard work can ensure a larger success rate, and customers who are more willing to join your cause.

People should be able to refer their friends in as few clicks or taps as possible. It also shouldn’t take much time for them to enter the necessary info. Use a contact form that gets basic information, but don’t include too many boxes, as too many questions can turn customers away. Keep this in mind at every turn in order to keep it simple.

Multiple options to refer friends

The more options a customer has to invite their friends and family members, the better chance you have of meeting them on their medium of choice. Allow loyal customers to invite new customers via social media, email, text messaging, and more. And be sure to include a referral link, so customers can easily copy, paste, and share in the most convenient way for them. The more options you have, the better chance you have that they’ll complete the referral and pass it on to others.

Customer referral program templates: Focus on the two personas

When you design a customer referral program, you need to create a template that focuses on two personas. This will help both sides make and act on referrals through your new referral program. There is the advocate (we’ll call this person “Anna”) and the referred friend (we’ll call this person “Rex.”)

Anna the advocate

  • Anna is the advocate, the person invited to join the referral program (asked to share your brand with friends).
    • The advocate is sometimes called the existing customer, program member, or ambassador.
Anna the Advocate: Referral program template

Anna will see:

● Referral program headline

This is the first thing Anna will see about your program. It announces that a referral program is available and lets her know about its benefits. You can place it on a landing page, on an invite, or anywhere else you promote the program.

● Referral program invite

Anna will get this invite to introduce her to the program. It can be sent via email or social media. The invite should tell Anna about the program, as well as what she can get for joining and referring friends.

● Referral program page or pop-up

Next, Anna will see a pop-up or landing page for the referral program. This is where she can invite friends to check out your brand, via the referral program. It should advertise referral rewards (what prize do they get for purchasing or signing on with a brand). The invite Anna sends should include a link directly to this page. Easy peasy.

● Referral message template (sometimes)

In some cases, it’s best to provide a prewritten message to encourage the existing customer, AKA advocate, to send invites to their friends. By creating existing content for Anna, the pressure is off of her. But there should also be space where the advocate can add to or adjust the message to make it more personalized.

This message could be shared by email, social media. Anna doesn’t have to see the message, but Rex eventually will see it in the invite.

Rex the referred friend

● Rex is the person that the advocate (Anna) shares a brand with, using the referral program. The referred friend is sometimes called the referral or lead.

Rex the Referred Friend: Referral template

Rex will see:

Referral program message

This is the message from Anna that invites Rex to check out your brand. Even if your brand writes the message, it should sound like it’s directly from Anna. Remember, Anna can also personalize it, but either way, it should sound informal and boast excitement about the brand.

The message can be received via email, social media, or any other direct contact method.

Referral landing page

If Rex clicks the link in the referral program template message, this is where the link will take him. The link is a direct line to the referring customer’s page or a signup area: the referral landing page.

This page shares about your brand, and has the aim of convincing Rex to make a purchase. It should be informative, explain the reward incentive for a first purchase, and show why there is value in using your brand.

5 essential components of a referral program template

Now that you know the two parties involved in the referral program, what they see, and the basics of what each template element should entail, let’s take a deeper dive into these successful referral program elements and how you can incorporate similar elements into your own referral program template.

There are many best practices you can use to create more success for your referral program. With key elements in place for each template piece, you have a better chance at increasing ROI through your referral process.

1. Referral program headline

The referral program headline catches advocates’ attention and convinces them to click and learn more about the program. It’s used in multiple places. You’ll place it front and center on your referral program page, as well as wherever you promote your program (in email invites, on social media, etc.).

How to write a convincing referral program headline

There are a few proven steps to writing an effective headline for your referral program. First, you should keep it simple and to the point. Short and to the point is the way to go. Next, list your incentive to grab readers’ attention. Finally, sharing should be fun!


  • Get a FREE (product) when you Refer-a-Friend
  • Share the Good News and Earn
  • Refer Friends and Family: ($X) for Each Signup
  • Give Good News and Save
  • Earn X% Off Your Next Purchase When You Share
  • You Save, They Save! Get $X for you AND a Friend

Referral headline example: Omsom

Omsom’s headline “Give a starter, get a starter,” complete with a fire emoji, is fun, eye-catching, and used in multiple places (the email invite and referral program page). It’s a referral bonus that certainly grabs attention, with an emphasis on the rewards that both the advocate and friend can earn.

omsom referral headline example

omsom referral headline example 2

2. Referral program invite

The next step in the referral template process is to design the referral program invite, to get potential advocates excited about and ready to refer friends.

Referral invite templates: Essentials for all invites

What should you include in a referral invite? There are a few key pieces of information that are important to include.

Why you’re contacting the customer: They want to know who’s emailing them and why. Think of it as a job description for new hires. What do they need to know? How can you “fill the open positions” for referral program advocates? This will help you fill in the gaps.

 Your headline is also important: this makes a compelling subject line if you’re using email to reach potential customers. Get them to open your message and tell them why they should stick around. Customers won’t read lengthy messages, but want to know what you’re about right from the get-go. Include this in your subject line or the first line of your message to keep them from clicking away or ignoring your query.

You also want to include the benefit: what’s in it for them? Are there extrinsic rewards on offer? How about the intrinsic reward of helping a friend? This is sure to get their attention.

Finally, close with a clear call-to-action, including a button with a  direct link to the program page: This will take them exactly where they need to be, with no downtime and no waiting.

Referral email templates for inviting friends

Besides the essentials for all invites, referral invite emails should have a compelling subject line. Grab your readers’ attention and tell them what they need to know right off the bat.

Even if it’s already in the subject line, remind them what they can get for sharing your brand. This is a good reminder and can reassure them of what they’re getting into. Including something like “Get $X when you Refer a Friend” and explain the rest toward the bottom of the page. It’s a great way to keep their interest and get them to read more.

Where possible, you should also include a thank-you for your customer. If they purchased, reviewed, got in touch with customer service, etc, these are all great reasons to thank the customer. You want them to feel appreciated for taking the time to reach out or purchase. A simple but heart-felt thank you can do wonders for making your new customer feel appreciated.

Finally, it’s a best practice to include an eye-catching image. Give your viewers something to grab their eyesight and a focal point. Consider a hero image, which shows someone enjoying their reward. A big and bold call-to-action also helps show users where to click while grabbing their visuals.

Types of referral email invites

Take a look at these different kinds of email invites in order to find the best template for your referral program.

Personalized email invites

When individuals receive a personal email invite from your company, including their name and a custom message, they’re more likely to share your brand because they appreciate the time you took to write directly to them. Given that, this type of message works especially well to invite your best customers to refer.

Personalized emails can work just as well for companies that have a longer sales process. Larger companies or brands that sell more expensive items (or services) usually take longer to reel in their customers. Users will also want to feel like they are being taken care of before signing up to refer others. Therefore, a personalized email can do just the trick.

Email users and introduce yourself, ask if they have any questions about the company, and build that relationship from the start. A quick example is saying hello, asking if they have any questions or need help, and letting them know you’re available to reach in the future. A good time to send this email is a few days after a purchase, or once a user has signed up but hasn’t yet completed the sales process with your brand. Then, after you’ve taken time to build the relationship, send the personal invite to your referral program.

Mass email invites

Mass emails are a great way to announce your referral program when it’s first launching. This is an email that you send, well, to the masses. Let all of your customers know you’re creating a referral program and how they can get involved. This type of email is far less personal, but it’s a great way to spread the word about what you’re offering.

When sending a mass email you should include what the program involves, how they can earn, and how to get started. You can even send them to a pre-launch page where they can sign up to be notified once the program is up and running. Or if you’ve already launched, point them toward a landing page where they can get started referring.

Invites in the invoice or receipt

Another way to use your referral program template is through an invoice or on a receipt. In a quick line, you can say something like “Ask us about our referral program” or “Share and earn free product.” These are messages your customer will see right after they’ve made a purchase, which is a great time to engage – they’re hyped up about your brand and will be more likely to spread the word.

You can also add a line or two about your business, or exactly what customers can earn, to even further entice them to refer to friends or family members.

Re-engagement email invites

Re-engagement is when you reach out to a customer who might not have been active for a while. Sending them a text or email is a great way to get reacquainted and to see if they’re interested in your referral program. The email should let them know what they can earn and how to get started referring others.

Even if they choose not to engage in the referral program, it’s a great excuse to keep yourself top-of-mind and remind them to shop with a brand they love.

Indirect email invites

Indirect email invites include information about your brand that isn’t specific to the referral program. For instance, if you’re sending out info about a sale or a scheduled newsletter, you can include a CTA for the referral program. This is a smart way to plug your rewards program, and you can easily do so without compromising the rest of your message. Simply add a line or two about sharing, what customers can earn, and where to go in order to do so.

Referral email invite examples

Take a look at these proven referral reward examples for ideas on how you can incorporate best practices into your own referral program template.


bombas referral email invite

Bombas’ referral program breaks things down into steps and shows that the referral program is easy for both parties to use. It tells what you get (free socks!) how to get it (share with friends who place orders), and includes smart images of friends enjoying Bombas to support their message. We also love their two call to action buttons: the “get free socks” one above the fold, and the eye-catching pink one at the bottom that reads “refer a friend here.”

Daily Harvest

Daily Harvest referral invite email

Meanwhile, Daily Harvest uses colorful images of their box ingredients and step-by-step instructions, plus a bold call to action that invites advocates to “share $25.” Easy to read, easy to follow, easy to refer friends and earn.


Treehouse referral email invite

Treehouse offers a different kind of referral program, where customers can gain a stacking percentage discount on their bill for each new referral. If customers bring in five cumulative referrals, they eventually earn a free subscription. Like the previous two examples, the Treehouse invite lays it all out in a way that’s easy to follow and engage with.

Social media referral invites

Use these social media best practices in order to create a smart and effective referral program template that helps you draw in more customers. After all, social media is a great way to reach customers where they’re already spending time, without a big marketing budget. If customers are already on social media, why not reach them on their time? It’s a great way to grow your referral program and increase ROI.

Use your headline: Optimize your headline to draw in users. Remind them what they can earn and how they can save with the help of your referral program. This is the first thing they will see, so make it count!

Explain the program: Tell customers how your program works, in a way that’s simple and effective. You don’t want them to search for the logistics, so spell it out in a way that makes sense, reads quickly, and focuses on their reward.

Show what’s in it for the advocate: This is the big incentive, right? So be sure and let users know  exactly what they’ll be getting when they provide a successful referral. Whether it’s a discount, money, or product, play it up so they’re intrigued.

Change up your promotions regularly: Find new ways to entice your referring market by providing new rewards. You can try different options to see what interests them the most. If nothing else, a switch-up can reach new customers and get them to join in the fun.

Use eye-catching images: Images are what will make your entire program pop. Be sure to include pictures that show excitement and express just what new and referring customers can gain out of the referral program.

Directly link to your referral page/pop-up: Make it easy on your users and link them directly to the page. No mess, no fuss. Just a direct line to the referral program. This eliminates any guesswork of where the user is supposed to land, and it increases sign up rates for the referral program.

3. Referral program page (or pop-up)

This is the dedicated location on your website that advocates can access to refer friends. You might have a platform where users have an account. In this case each user will be able to access their own page that gives them credit for a referral.

However, this isn’t necessary. You can have a single landing page that funnels all traffic through your referral program. The referrer then gets credit through a link or with a code specific to them as your customer.

The referral program page is where your program invite sends your users. Alternatively, the “page” can be a pop up on the website that users can click.

Referral program page template: What to include

There are a few key things that you should include on your referral program page. They include:

Eye-catching headline: Grab your audience’s attention right from the get-go. Let them know what they can get, and how they can do it. Easy, exciting, and enticing.

Short details about the program: How does the program work? How do they refer? What do they get? Is there a limit? And so forth. Each of these questions should be answered clearly and easily on the page.

Compelling imagery: Images are what makes the sale. Include high-quality images that excite your users to join your reward program and earn their incentive.

A motivating incentive: The incentive is what gets your current customers to sign up, and it’s what entices new customers to join your brand. Consider what type of reward would best work for your audience, and how you can excite them into participating.

Terms and conditions: What must be done in order to earn the incentive? Lay out the facts so customers know what to expect and how to earn their reward.

Multiple options to refer friends: Allow your customers to reach friends through any number of ways. Whether emailing, sharing on different social media platforms, texting, etc., you can gain more referrals through using many channel options.

(Bonus) FAQs, or a link to an FAQ page: Provide answers to frequently asked questions to provide more info for your customer … and to save your brand from responding to the same types of questions.

● (Bonus) Testimonials: Add clout to your brand by providing great reviews! New advocates will want to know others have had a great experience with your referral program, and testimonials are an ideal way to do just that.

Referral program page examples

Take a look at these referral page templates and how they funnel customers through the program with their use of best practices.

MeUndies (referral page)

meundies referral page

MeUndies uses a pop-up to promote their referral program. Once users click the message, they’re brought to the landing page shown above, which lays out all the logistics of the referral program. The page draws in the eye with a creative headline and an image of the reward – the undies you can get for free with the store credit. We also love how this referral landing page lets advocates customize their message to friends, and copy a referral link with one click for easy sharing.

Freshly (pop-up)

freshly referral pop-up

Freshly is another pop-up example – take a look at their use of color and multiple sharing platforms. Users can easily share their referral code in at least six different ways. It’s a design that makes things simple for the referrer, and ensures they will find a platform that they readily use.

4. Referral message

This is the message that is sent to the referred friend, directly from the advocate. It’s the referrer’s first impression of your business, so make it good. It’s designed to get the new customer to check out your website, and hopefully to patronize your business too.

The message should feel casual. Avoid being too salesy. Remember, this is coming from the friend’s perspective, so it should be informal and friendly, not pushing an agenda.

A personalized referral message can provide some serious user turnover, in a good way. When individuals receive a message that addresses them by name, that is sent straight from a friend and that is clearly customized for them – that means something. It encourages potential customers to sign up and purchase at a rate much higher than with other methods, because they trust their friend.  If you let the advocate actually write part of the message themselves, it tends to be even more effective.

Referral message template

Create your referral message template with a few easy steps. First, you can start with a fun or interesting note. This grabs readers’ attention and gets them to keep reading on. Next, ensure they know the message is from their peer. Include the right tone and verbiage so they feel as though they’re talking to a friend, not a big company.

After that, you should show them who you are as a brand. The tone, imaging, and wording should all feel on-brand for your company. Meanwhile, you’ll want to highlight the benefits of purchasing. What’s the reward they get for signing up?

Finally, close out with a clear CTA. Click Here. Sign up Now. Earn (reward). Or something along those lines, so new customers know exactly what to do next.

Referral message example: EveryPlate

In Everyplate’s referral message, the brand uses a light tone.  EveryPlate draws the friend in with the incentive, mentions the advocate who referred them by name, and lays out the benefits of signing up for a subscription (“you decide, we deliver, you devour”). Cooking references are included to stay on-brand, and imagery (including pictures of the reward the friend can earn) makes the entire thing come together. Finally, users are encouraged to claim their gift with a clearly marked CTA button.


Everyplate referral message A

Everyplate referral message A

5. Referral landing page (friend landing page)

This page is where the referred friend ends up after clicking the link in the referral message. It’s the first thing they see when learning more about your brand. How it looks will depend on your business and the type of action you want leads to take. The landing page could be in pop-up form or a landing page, depending on your brand’s preference.

Referral landing page examples

Take a look at these landing page examples to see how these brands land more referral business through their website.


colourpop refer a friend

ColourPop goes all-out with a big, fun image. The other half of the page is dedicated to sharing the reward ($5 to shop), complimenting the advocate, and adding social and email links for the friend to create an account.

Morning Brew

morning brew referral landing

Meanwhile, Morning Brew keeps it simple. The brand also compliments the advocates, but then it jumps straight to the point. Users can enter their email, and done, they’re signed up to receive the Brew. A huge contact form leads them in the right direction, so there’s no missing the intended action.

Wrapping up: Create your own referral template

Create your own referral program template using the checklist included below.

referral program template by referral marketing school

To learn more about setting up your own referral program template, take a look at this guide for referral program ideas, and referral software that makes completing a referral program template easy.