Referral programs help you increase your customer base by tapping into trusted recommendations from your existing customers. But before that can happen you’ll need to convince customers to use these programs and share your brand with their friends.

Effective calls-to-action (CTAs) catch customers’ eyes and reel them in so that they’ll participate in your referral program.

So, designing a powerful referral program call-to-action is essential. Your CTA must be enticing enough to convince customers to share with friends and must be easy-to-find.

But what words and phrases are the most effective in referral calls-to-action? Where are the best locations to place a CTA? And most importantly, what are some examples of the best referral program calls-to-action, and what tips can you pick up from them?

Why you need referral calls-to-action

On a referral program page, banner, button, or pop-up, the call-to-action is a concise but catchy slogan—the text that’s easiest to find. It quickly summarizes what you want your customer to do (refer) and what they’ll get out of it (any customer incentive that you’re offering, or any intrinsic reward that comes with sharing).

Why are CTAs so crucial? Texas Tech reports that 83% of happy customers are willing to refer friends to a product or service, but only 29% actually do. So, many customers need a little extra motivation to share, through a referral program—and calls-to-action are key to this nudge. CTAs capture customers’ attention and pique their interest in your referral program, without overwhelming them.

Effective CTA Words and Phrases: 11 Examples

So, what are the best words, phrases, and message types to use in your call-to-action? Let’s check out these stellar examples from real referral programs.

1. “Give $5, Get $5”

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Colourpop’s refer a friend program uses a dual-sided reward, which makes the CTA pop.

Why This CTA Works:

This call-to-action frames referring as a gift your customers can give to their friends.

Also, it’s balanced and concise. The double-sided reward means the customer is motivated to refer, and the friend will have a greater incentive to buy!

Even though the CTA itself doesn’t signal a cumulative incentive, it draws people in long enough for them to see that this incentive stacks—every time they refer a new customer, the referrer earns another $5.

2. “They Save 20%, You Save 20%”

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Lime Crime’s referral campaign shows the dual-side reward front and center and that acts as a big driver.

Why This CTA Works:

Similar to the “give $5, get $5” CTA above, this type of CTA signals a double-sided offer (this time with a percentage discount). But here, the savings your customer and friend will receive are the focus of this CTA— the giving element gets mentioned in other text.

3. “$25 for you, $25 for your friends”

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Why This CTA Type Works:

Here’s yet another CTA type focused on a double-sided offer from Gilt. But this CTA type mentions the reward first (and in Gilt’s example, the reward is in a larger font). The reward is even more likely to capture customers’ interest now!

4. “Get Free _______” (Free Product CTA)

Freebies work really well as a CTA, they drive people to do something, for the benefit of earning something ‘free’.

Example: Dropbox

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One of the most popular referral programs out there is from Dropbox, and their CTA works really well for them.

Example: MeUndies

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MeUndies referral program really catches your attention with the word free.

Why This CTA Type Works:

Few words capture customers’ attention faster than the word “free.”

It’s hard to say no to free product, especially if it’s from a brand you already love. “Free product” calls-to-action harness customers’ love for your products, and their eagerness for free stuff, to encourage them to share.

Dropbox’s referral program is one of the most successful referral programs ever, and they offer free storage space right in their CTA. Thanks to their program (and their enticing CTA), Dropbox was able to double their growth every 3 months. Plus, their users sent 2.3 million referrals in just one month. This is even more proof that a “free product” CTA works!

If you’re offering your customers enough credit to purchase a flagship product as a referral reward, don’t be afraid to pitch your offer as “free product” in your CTA, like MeUndies does. That way, your program will have a better chance of catching your customers’ eyes!

And remember: offering free shipping in your CTA counts as a “free offer” too. This lets you ride the power of the word “free” in a more cost-effective way.

Here are some other CTA phrasing ideas if you’re offering something for free:

  • Free socks when you refer a friend
  • Share for free stuff
  • Invite your friends for a free month

5. “Get $20 for every new customer you send our way.”

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Moo’s refer a friend program shows off their product and uses a nice reward amount to drive users.

Why This CTA Works:

Signaling about a cumulative reward is built into this CTA—referrers get $20 for every new customer they refer successfully. The conditions of the offer (that referrals must become new customers) are concisely woven in, too. If your referral is cumulative, letting people know right in the CTA is an awesome tactic. And if you can fit basic conditions in too, that’s even better. Plus, notice how the bright green CTA button drives your eye – that’s a great tactic for getting people to click.

6. “Share The Love”

Using emotional language is also a great way to get people to act.

Example: Shipt

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Shipt uses a feel-good message to grab your attention.

Example: Ghostbed

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The referral program from Ghostbed, also uses the word ‘love’ to create a feel-good moment.

Why This CTA Works:

This CTA reminds customers how much they love your product—the driving force behind any successful referral— and encourages them to pass on that love to their friends.

The act of sharing a product that friends might enjoy, not an incentive, is the motivation in this CTA. It’s all about the intrinsic reward! So, this CTA is great for a referral program that does not offer an incentive.

However, it frequently does lead to a referral incentive, as is the case with the Shipt and Ghostbed programs.

7. The Friendship CTA

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Walmart Grocery’s referral program takes the feel-good moment on a different spin and let the users know that the friendly thing to do would be to refer.

Why This CTA Type Works:

This call-to-action uses friendship as a motivator. Most friendship CTAs contain a message about how referring will benefit your friends. Others contain quick, feel-good language focused on friendship, that casually gains attention and leads into the meat of the referral program. Instead of touting a referral offer, friendship CTAs show that referring is a way to be a good pal.

Other examples of friendship CTAs include:

  • Life is better with friends.
  • Show you care.
  • Want to help each other out?
  • Do it for your friends!
  • Come through for your besties.

8. The “Insider Info” CTA

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Casper’s referral program uses the word ‘friend’ to also drive their message.

Why This CTA Type Works:

This type of CTA creates an air of exclusivity, and encourages customers to pass insider information about your quality products to their friends. CTAs like this always carry the implicit message, “the info you have is too good to keep to yourself.”

Here are a few more examples of “insider info” CTAs:

  • Don’t keep the health to yourself!
  • Don’t leave your friends behind.
  • Don’t keep us a secret.

9. “Invite your friends.”

Example: Julep

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The Julep referral program lays it out plain and simple.

Example: Evernote

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Evernote’s referral program also uses a simple message to let the user know what to do.

Why This CTA Works:

Don’t underestimate this CTA. It’s simple, but it tells customers exactly what you want them to do. Conciseness for the win!

10. “Refer a friend, get ______.”

This type of CTA lets the person know what they get for completing the desired action.

Example: American Giant

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American Giant’s referral program tells you what they want, and then motivates you to do it right after.

Example: Anderson College

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Anderson College provides the user with a simple, but effective message.

Why This CTA Type Works:

This CTA also gets right to the point, but states what referrers will receive, too. Don’t be afraid to say “refer a friend” (or “spread the word”) right in your CTA.

You could also put the reward first: “Get 15% off when you refer a friend.” See what works best for you!

11. The Creative, Branded CTA

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Loot Crate plays a spin on their name and uses it to drive referrals.

Why This CTA Type Works:

This call-to-action captures attention with your own unique spin and stays on brand. It could actually fall into any of the above CTA categories depending on its message. (Casper’s “insider info” CTA in section 8 above is another great example of a branded CTA.) Inject your own flair into a CTA if you want. Just keep it concise and show customers what they’ll get out of referring.

Best Practices for CTA Placement (With 9 Real Examples)

Creating a successful call-to-action is not just about the wording you choose. It’s important to think about where you’re presenting your CTA, so it’s easy for your customers to find your referral program. How soon, and where in the funnel, should customers see your referral message? And where are the best places for your CTA? Let’s check out some of the best CTA placements.

Button/Link On the Landing Page

A call-to-action button on your referral landing page will contain a very short CTA. It will lead customers to your main referral page or pop-up (and to your main CTA.) Usually, this CTA will simply say:

  • “refer a friend,”
  • “tell a friend,”
  • “invite friends,”
  • “refer and earn”

A best practice is to place the CTA button “above the fold,” accessible before the customer needs to scroll down.

Try placing a “refer a friend” button in the navigation bar at the top of your landing page. In this example from Humble Bundle, the referral CTA is in the customer’s drop-down account menu. So, it’s easiest for existing customers to find.

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Source: Referral Marketing School

But anyone can access this referral CTA from MOO, even if they haven’t yet made a purchase. (It’s in the account menu, but also consider adding a referral CTA to your “about” menu.)

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Source: MOO

If your navigation bar has the referral CTA in plain sight (before customers need to open a menu), even better.

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Source: Hanna Andersson

And your button doesn’t always have to say “refer.” You could also use a CTA button with just your referral offer, to draw customers to your main referral page through the incentive. Greats nails this strategy with a “get $25” CTA that’s visible right away.

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Source: Greats

Or, you could put a CTA in plain sight and another in a drop-down menu, as Loot Crate did!

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Source for both images: Referral Marketing School

Hero Image

Join an enticing CTA with an eye-catching image, and place it on your landing page (or another frequently-visited page. Then, link to your main referral page. Consider setting up the hero image to appear only for existing customers, like Tobox did.

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Source: Prototypr

Referral Program’s Own Page

If you choose to dedicate a whole page to your referral program, your main CTA, and all your program info, will live here. So, you’ll usually have two CTAs when you pick this option: the quick one on the linking button or image, and the main CTA on the referral’s page. This on-brand “insider” CTA from MeUndies is an awesome example!

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Source: MeUndies

Referral Pop-Up

Instead of “living” on its own page, a pop-up will appear over the page your customer is browsing, and capture their attention with your referral CTA. Learn more about referral program pop-ups.

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Source: Tomorrow Sleep

Emails To Existing Customers

But think outside your website, too. Your satisfied existing customers are the most likely to refer. So, why not include a referral CTA in your emails to them? Here’s an example from when Bombas launched their program. Check out that eye-catching “25% off for them, free pair for you” CTA!

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Source: Bombas, via Milled

Key Takeaways

Concise, eye-catching calls-to-action are key to your referral program’s success. After all, they’re the first referral messages your customers will see!

A well-crafted CTA will tell your customers that you want them to refer, and show them the reward (extrinsic or intrinsic) they will receive for sharing.

Crafting a successful call-to-action isn’t just about the words you choose. You’ll also need to place CTAs where your customers can easily find them. And often, you’ll use a shorter CTA to lead your customer to your main referral CTA.

For example, you might have a CTA button in your landing page’s navigation bar, which leads to your referral pop-up.