How to Write Great Emails Asking for Referrals!

Published December 21, 2012 by Alvinl+ in Optimizing Your Referral Program

Most marketing and sales folk know that word-of-mouth is a powerful tool to generate new sales, and that the old adage goes  “If you don’t ask, you won’t get.” That’s why it makes sense for salepeople to ask for a referral if they have just made a successful sale of say a lawn mower, property or car.

In the new economy of the Internet and ecommerce, online stores can also ask for a referral from a customer immediately after a sale. That’s what ReferralCandy does with an automated email to your customers. Assuming they like your product (and a good product always comes first), they’ll be happy to share it with friends that might want it too.

But what do you say in the email? Here are some tips and best practices that we’ve found through our interactions with numerous online retailers who are our clients.

#1 – Keep Emails Short and Sweet

So your customer has just bought that hot new item from your shop and is happy and excited by their purchase. She opens an email from you, only to find that it’s a long and winding road without a clear call-to-action telling her what you want her to do. So she quickly closes the email, moves on, and the opportunity is lost.

While there are certain cases where long and complex emails are better (e.g. you are telling a great story and building it up slowly), in general, you want to keep your emails asking for referrals brief.

For example, in the sample email below, we’ve kept the email short and made a simple call-to-action “forward this coupon link” in a prominent colour and position at the bottom of the email.


Keep your referral emails short and sweet with a clear CTA.

#2 – It’s All About the Customer, so use “You” more than “I”

A simple rule in marketing is to demonstrate value to the customer. In other words, it should be about “You”, not “I”, “Me” or “We”. Demonstrate how your customer can benefit (e.g. get $10 cash!). As a general rule, if your email contains the words “I” or “we” more than the words “you” or “your”, you might want to look closely at rewording it!

Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. If you were reading your email as a customer, would you like what you are reading?

3 – Have your Email Design Suit your Brand

If it’s at all possible, you should use emails designs and text that suit your store’s character. What colours, fonts and designs best fit the message and image of your brand?

For ReferralCandy users, you can find out how to customize the design for your email based on our templates at the FAQ page below: Can the design for referral emails be changed?

Bonus Tip: Be Specific in what you Ask for!

Finally, here’s an advanced tip that requires a bit of creativity and judgement. Referrals are often more effective if you are making a specific ask. For instance, instead of asking

“Do you know anyone who wants these nutrition supplements?”

You can ask,

“Brad, can you think of 3 friends who would want to get ripped with these awesome Bion-X supplements? Forward this coupon to them today!”

We think the second sentence would definitely be more persuasive! So long as the email is well-crafted and creative, it should lead to better conversions.

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Alvinl is the marketing and customer happiness guy at, the refer-a-friend app that increases your sales through word of mouth. In his spare time he loves geeking out on technology, psychology and economics news.