Quick question: When is the last time you deleted a promotional email from your inbox or marked it as “spam”?

Probably a few minutes ago.

Well, that’s exactly what B2B buyers are doing to your marketing messages (i.e. tuning them out).

What does grab our attention is a personalized recommendation from a friend. According to Linkedin, 84% of B2B decision makers start the buying process with a referral.

If B2B brands build engaging referral programs, their customers could be helping them connect with like-minded professionals—who are more likely to take notice and buy. So here’s a few B2C referral program examples your B2B company can use as inspiration for your own referral strategy.

1. Hulu Plus

How it works: This streaming service’s referral program benefits both the referrer and the person they helped sign up. Current Hulu Plus customers receive free streaming service for two weeks for every new user that signs up using their personalized link (up to a whole year). When successfully registered, these brand-new Hulu Plus members are also granted a complimentary two-week period to enjoy the service.


Ideas to steal: Rewarding your customers will encourage them to invite their friends. But providing the same perks to the people they refer can be even more effective. Your customers will feel more inclined to refer knowing both parties will benefit. Plus, prospective users are likelier to register if there’s something in it for them. This can also strengthen your relationship with new customers since they’ll feel appreciated from the start–bringing you one step closer to turning them into loyal brand advocates who will refer others in the future.

2. Airbnb

How it works: Airbnb’s revamped referral program encourages customers to refer their network by offering cash credits towards future Airbnb accommodations. But it’s their simple and convenient method of allowing users to contact their friends that makes this program unique. When users log on, they’re given the option to import their contact from Gmail and send customized emails. To make the process even easier, Airbnb recommends contacts they believe would be interested in the promotions they’re offering.


Ideas to steal: Making referring simple and convenient is important. Nobody wants to spend extra time trying to figure out how they can invite their friends and advocate for your brand. With this referral program, Airbnb does the work for their customers—all you have to do is click “Send”.

3. Tesla Motors

How it works: Tesla Motors expanded their successful referral program by offering different levels of rewards to Tesla owners who met criteria in four categories:

  • Top referrals by region. Owners who referred the highest number of qualifying leads in their region (North America, Europe and Asia/Pacific) were rewarded with a Ludicrous P90D Model S (worth approximately $167,247 CAD), and an exclusive VIP invitation to the Model 3 unveiling event (accommodations included).
  • First to 10 by region. The first owner to refer 10 qualifying leads in their region received a Tesla Powerwall Home Battery with all of the installation costs included.
  • 10+ qualifying referrals. All the owners who made 10 or more referrals were invited to attend the exclusive Model 3 unveiling event.
  • 5+ qualifying referrals. Each owner that made 5 or more referrals received an invitation to the Gigafactory opening event, with transportation costs included.B2C Referral Program Examples_TeslaCar

Competition was so intense in this referral program that one owner sold more than 188 Tesla cars in less than 2 months–which translated to $16 million in new business for Tesla. (Who needs car dealerships when you can have passionate advocates instead?)

Ideas to steal: Creating levels of perks will drive your customers to compete for bigger and better prizes. Having more than one category of rewards will also benefit those who don’t have a large network but would appreciate some perks.

4. NatureBox

How it works: NatureBox, a healthy snack delivery subscription service created a timely campaign to drive referrals. During the the Super Bowl, NatureBox offered their customers (and their referred friends) 50% off snacks for their Super Bowl parties. All they had to do to secure the offer was share a customized promo code via social media or email.B2C Referral Program Examples_Naturebox

Ideas to steal: Giving your B2B referral program a timely theme is an effective way to capitalize on current events (especially ones your advocates are passionate about) and generate excitement for your product.

5. Trunk Club

How it works: Although not technically a referral program, clothing subscription box company TrunkClub has created a share-worthy experience for their customers. Each order comes in their unique packaging and the stylist who chose the items for the customer even sends a handwritten note explaining why they selected each piece and how to care for the garments. This personalized experience delights their customers so much, many of them eagerly share their purchases on social media.

Ideas to steal: Wowing your customers can lead them to share something positive about your brand on social media. This digital shout-out is like a passive referral to your customers’ entire networks. To subtly encourage your customers to do this, give your customers a referral code or hashtag whenever you delight for them—like when they first use your product, or have a support problem successfully resolved.

referralreserch2015cover-232x300-transReport: What You Should Know About B2B Referrals

Based on a survey of more than 600 B2B professionals from across North America—including sales, marketing, operations and executive leadership—this research uncovers some striking findings about the impact of referral leads on sales pipeline and revenue growth.

Download now

Read more: