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Everything You Need to Know about Referral Email Templates

Mark Zuckerberg once said that a trusted referral is the holy grail of advertising. Indeed, people tend to trust and pay more attention to recommendations from friends and relatives, which makes referral marketing a priceless tool for multiplying business revenues. 

Some entrepreneurs believe that all it takes to turn customers into promoters is providing quality products and delighting people with excellent customer service. 

Of course, some referrals will come to your company naturally. Still, the statistics show that out of 83% satisfied customers who are willing to refer others to a product or service, only about 29% actually do. These figures teach us not to have a laissez-faire attitude toward referrals but to grasp the opportunity offered by word of mouth.    

In fact, people actively seek referrals and are ready to give them. According to recent research

  • 82% of consumers proactively seek referrals from peers before making a purchasing decision, and 

  • 88% of consumers would promote a product or service if they get some kind of incentive. 

All that remains for a business is to create an appealing referral program and make it easy for customers to act upon a referral request. 

How to Spot Referral Opportunities

Before we talk about the best referral email templates you can use for referral marketing, let’s make sure you identify all the referral opportunities available to your business. 

Here are some ideas about whom to ask for referrals: 

  1. Existing customers

  2. Leads who are not ready to buy from you

  3. Other companies

  4. LinkedIn connections

Existing customers

Your customer base is the best place to start looking for referral opportunities. Of course, the main goal is to make existing customers refer friends to your products and services. But you should not stop there. You can also ask customers to refer others to any piece of useful content you have created by sharing it in a private message or in social media. 

When you set up a referral or a reward program, you not only get a new client but also increase the number of repetitive sales to the existing customer base. Even $10 off the balance can make the customer purchase from your store and not any other.  

Leads who are not ready to buy from you 

It seems counterintuitive to send referral emails to those who have turned out not to be interested in your products or services. Still, doing so can bring great results. 

In his prominent book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini emphasizes that people do not like to feel obligated. If you or your sales reps have spent much time spreading the word about your company, answering questions, pointing out useful content, and delivering case studies, then leads are likely to feel willing and obliged to give something in return. If your offer doesn’t suit them and they decide to reject it, they are likely to feel uneasy (this is also the reason why many people choose not to communicate with sales reps at all). 

It is within your power to make everyone involved feel at ease. Ask the leads to share your offer with those who might be interested. They’ll be likely to do this even if you provide no incentive; just to feel that they are not obliged to you anymore.  

Of course, such referral emails should only be sent if you have actually delivered some value to the recipients. If you were just using a free email address list to bombard leads with sales pitches, they are more likely to become detractors rather than promoters of your business.        

Other companies 

Ask your partners and other companies that can cross-sell your products or services for referrals. These companies don’t necessarily have to be actual customers with the first-hand experience of your products, but their referrals will still matter a lot. First, they will introduce you to their own customer base and thus leverage the credit of trust their customers have already given to them. Second, a referral from another company shows that you are a trusted brand that enjoys the respect of other businesses on the market. This might be even more important than showing that your individual product or service is good.      

LinkedIn connections

When prospecting, it is important to consistently generate quality leads on LinkedIn. It is easier to reach decision-makers you want to have in your network if you ask your second-degree connections to refer you to them.

Anyleads has a great tool that will let you find all the employees who work for a particular company. Besides, any employee with whom you share friends or interests can become a potential referrer to their company. 

When to Ask for a Referral 

An experienced marketer can spot various opportunities to ask for a referral in day-to-day communication with a client. At the same time, there are certain moments when customers are most inclined to favorably receive your request. These are the best times to ask for referrals: 

  1. Soon after the client has received the product (accessed the product) or soon after a kick-start meeting/call for the delivery of the services. At this point, clients are in high spirits and inclined to receive almost any option positively. Later, miscellaneous events may weaken this enthusiasm.

  2. When a client compliments your product or service or expresses readiness to refer. Cialdini outlines a psychological need to appear consistent. Cialdini’s Principle of Consistency suggests that once people make a decision or perform an action, they feel internal pressure to behave in a way that is consistent with what they have done or said. To benefit from this principle, ask for a referral immediately after a client expresses their satisfaction. Alternatively, ask about satisfaction with your product or the readiness to refer before making your referral request. 

In both cases, the process of asking for a referral can be fully automated with the help of automated emails, an Anyleads tool. The tool will help you create an email campaign using a simple drag and drop editor. For example, you can create a scenario where a referral email will be sent to the customer the day after product shipment or delivery. If you want to ask for a referral after a customer completes a survey, you can set the following conditions: 

  • If a customer completes the survey (a survey link click or a ‘thank you’ page visit) then send a referral email;    

  • If a customer doesn’t complete the survey (no survey link click) then send a follow-up request to take the survey.    

How to Ask for a Referral

The best way to ask for a referral is to send a referral email. Here are the benefits of referral emails over other means of asking for referrals such as in-person or posting an offer online: 


Allows immediate action

Our world is very fast-paced and many people feel overwhelmed with information, personal responsibilities, and liabilities. Customers who promise to share your offer to their acquaintances via private message or over social media may forget to do so. If you ask for a referral in an email, your customers can act upon your request right away. Thus, you minimize the chances that they will forget to do so when they get back to their computers. 

Allows sharing insider information

Posting a referral offer online is not the best practice. If you offer a great reward for referring people, leads may wrongly associate your business with some kind of a pyramid scheme. By sharing the offer privately with people who have already bought from your company, you let them enjoy a sense of exclusivity and a feeling of being rewarded for being part of your customer base.  

Makes the information easily searchable

Yes, business cards may still be important in our digital world, but there is a chance that a person will lose yours or forget the details of your referral program. If you send your request in a referral email, when a customer meets a suitable person to refer to your business, she can easily find it in her email history. 

Allows automation 

Referral emails can be automated, which saves a lot of time. What’s more, by automating referral emails you may be sure that all customers get the right referral offer at the right time. 

Allows tracking statistics 

Asking for a referral in person, you can rarely get confirmation whether the person has actually acted upon your request or not. If you send a referral email with share buttons, you can calculate every click and see the overall conversion rates. With these statistics, you can test various referral programs and business email templates and constantly improve the ROI of your referral marketing.   

Best Practices for Designing a Referral Email

You should pay attention to the design of your referral email template to attract the most attention and compel customers to act. Here are some tips that will help you create an effective referral email.

Have a Compelling Subject Line

We are all busy and our inboxes are all overwhelmed with new emails. The average email open rate is just 15% to 24% depending on the industry. If people can’t guess from an email subject line why they should open and read your message, they are likely to ignore it or delete it.  

To create a good subject line, make it

  • Clear: according to 2011 research by AWeber Communications, a good subject line is ‘clear’ rather than ‘clever’. ‘Clear’ subject lines, which tell exactly what the message is about, get 541% more clicks than ‘clever’ ones (e.g. Could you hope for more? or It’s finally here!). 

  • Personal: think about your customers first and use “you” instead of “we”/“us” in the subject line. For example, instead of saying, “We have developed a great offer for all our clients”, say “{Name}, here is an exclusive referral offer for you” or address the customer directly, “Refer a friend, get 20% off.”  

Keep it Short and Simple

Make sure people can easily understand what you want them to do and what benefits they will get for doing so. The more effort customers will have to put in to reading your text or making sense of your referral program, the less likely they are to refer anyone (a phenomenon known as an excess cognitive load).   

A referral email should contain only the minimum required information

  • A personalized greeting

  • Reasons why you came up with the offer (works best with previous customers)

  • A clear request

  • A description of the benefits

  • An appealing call to action

  • A professional email signature

Make Calls-to-Action Easily Recognizable 

Today, users are used to clicking recognizable CTA buttons and links, so it is better to include one in your referral email template. Remember to draw attention to your clickable objects and links by adding more space around them and using contrasting colors. 

This is a simple thing that can have a dramatic effect on your conversion rates. For example, Intercom has revealed that adding a contrasting color that makes the link in an email more recognizable increases the number of clicks by 17.5%. 

[Source: Intercom]

Emphasize the Benefits to Both Friends and Advocates

To increase the effectiveness of your referral email campaign, make the offer appealing to both the referrer and the referred. Here is why this is important: 

  1. A discount or other benefit to a friend serves as a good reason for a referrer to reach out

  2. If referrers understand the benefits to their friends, they feel better about sharing.

  3. Any discount offered to referrers will increase the referral rate

If you don’t offer any rewards or gifts, describe what benefits a referred person will get from using your product or service so the audience will feel comfortable making referrals.  

Include Additional Conditions 

Don’t raise false expectations by hiding specific conditions in the footer or omitting them entirely. This can make a referrer upset and less enthusiastic to advocate for your brand on other occasions. 

Here are the kind of conditions you should state upfront

  • a referrer gets a bonus only if the friend referred makes a purchase,

  • an offer requires a minimum purchase,

  • an offer has a deadline,  

  • a referrer should refer friends only from a specific area or with a specific status (e.g. if your services are only available in particular areas in your state or if you only work with large enterprises),  

  • a referrer must register in your system or have something like a PayPal account,

  • any other conditions that apply to your business or referral offer.

If explaining the conditions will make the letter too long, consider placing them on a separate page on your website and providing a link to it with clear notice that conditions apply. 

7 Excellent Referral Email Templates 

The following 7 referral email templates have triggered thousands of referrals and received much acclaim from marketers. Let’s see what has made them successful and learn from the best examples to create an effective referral email template for your own business.

  1. ZooShoo

  2. YooFoodz

  3. Riff Raff & Co

  4. DigitalOcean

  5. Bombas

  6. Ibotta

  7. AirBnB


ZOOSHOO is a retailer selling women’s shoes. This referral email contains short clear messages and appealing graphics to help form an immediate association with the brand and product. The email details the conditions and explains how the program works. The ‘share’ link very obvious and the share buttons use the recognizable branding of the respective social media sites.  



Another great referral email was created by YouFoodz,  a healthy meal delivery service from Australia. The strength of this referral email is personalization, in particular, the use of the name in the greeting. The message starts with the benefits for friends and portrays the referral as a great thing to do, “sharing is caring.” 


Riff Raff & Co

Riff Raff & Co is a producer of special toys for toddlers. Their referral campaign leverages the original users’ incentive to buy, explains why a user might need more toys and gives an easy way to get it for free. Excellent imagery coupled with the right tone and voice coaxes any caring mother to share the word. A single clear call to action button makes it super easy to act upon a referral request.    



DigitalOcean helps developers to launch and scale-up applications in the cloud. The referral message starts with a clear Give-Get message and an interesting gif image attracting users’ attention. A short text clearly gives all the conditions:
1. the money will be added to the account balance
2. a referral generating $25 in billings will bring you a bonus. 



The best things to borrow from Bombas, an athletic socks brand, for your referral email template are their calls to action. Note that there are two obvious calls to action with different messages, “Get Free Socks” and “Refer a Friend Here”, one of which is “above the fold”. This referral email is a good trigger for someone interested in Bombas socks to make a new purchase (see the “shop” link and the notice of free shipping). 



Ibotta, an app offering cashback when you pay with it in online or offline stores, has created an interesting campaign. Instead of giving discounts and bonuses on a holiday, Thanksgiving, Ibotta offers recipients the chance to earn money by referring friends (another great idea when asking for referrals). The message doesn’t tell much about the benefits to friends, but the appealing “Friendsgiving” tells it all. An obvious CTA button and a deadline prompting readers to act soon might have contributed to the email’s success too.   



Airbnb, an online marketplace for arranging or offering lodging, homestays, and tourism experiences, manages to explain the referral conditions in just three simple sentences and includes a clear and bright CTA placed “above the fold”. The subject line, “Earn travel credit for your next adventure” speaks to an Airbnb customer and gives a good reason to convert.   


Referral Follow-up and Thank You Letters

Following up on the referral request and saying thank you to the referring customer is just as important as sending a great referral email. 

Here are the types of emails you should send in your referral sequence: 

A Referral Email 

Follow-up Emails

Progress Emails 

Thank You Emails

Referral emails need to

  • show the advantages of referring friends, 

  • explain how to refer with a clear call-to-action  

  • give the details on any applicable  conditions 

If the referral offer has a deadline,

  • send a follow-up email that tells how many days are left and urge customers to act promptly

If the referral offer is not limited in time, 

  • repeat or remind about a referral request from time to time

If customers need to refer several people to earn a credit or get a gift, 

  • tell customers about successful referrals (e.g. tell which of their friends made orders)

  • encourage customers to send more referrals

Referral thank you emails should 

  • tell how much you appreciate the clients’ trust and efforts 

  • explain how and when the promised bonuses or presents will be delivered (if any) 

  • encourage the user to refer more friends and get even more bonuses (if applicable)

Takeaway Thoughts

If customers don’t spread the word about your business, it might be not because they didn’t like the service. Maybe, you just didn’t ask them to. Don’t make that mistake, set up an automated email asking for a referral. 

When creating your referral email template, be sure to

  • give customers a good reason to refer their friends, tapping into both external and intrinsic motivation,

  • mention any applicable conditions,

  • include an easy way to act upon your request.   

Remember that words of appreciation are priceless, so do thank your customers for any lead or customer they bring to your business. 




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