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7 Simple Methods for Expanding Your Email List through Referral Marketing

Rhys Williams
By Rhys Williams — November 22, 2023 -

Read time:  3 mins

Your email list represents a crucial revenue generator for your business. Increasing the number of subscribers is essential to your growth.  

But you shouldn’t see referral marketing and email list building as a simple numbers game. It's about cultivating genuine connections with your most enthusiastic customers and turning them into ambassadors for your brand. 

Your brand fans will relish the opportunity to share your brand, but only if you get your messaging right, catching them at the time they’re most likely to share and refer. 

So how do you identify when the right time is? And can you use your entire customer base to help build a bigger, stronger email list? 

We’ve put together a list of the 7 best methods and tactics to help you expand your email list through referral marketing and, in the process, cultivate a customer advocacy community.


1. Incorporate your list building into an overall referral marketing strategy

You’re not building a big email list just for the sake of it: Your email building campaign should strengthen your referral marketing efforts. Similarly, you should develop a referral marketing strategy that uses email as one touchpoint amongst many that you use to build relationships with your customers. 

Getting referral marketing right means appreciating where your customers are in the referral journey. A deep understanding of your customers is needed to know when to send that email promoting your referral programme. 

Should you incorporate the referral request into your welcome campaign? Would it have more chance of success if you waited until after your customer has had a chance to properly experience your product or service? 

Going all out for the referral, with a link that captures email, will work with highly engaged customers — those who’ve already referred many times before, for example — but others who haven’t quite reached the same level of enthusiasm may nevertheless be happy to refer their contacts to an email list in exchange for a small reward. 


2. Leverage social sharing

Encourage your current subscribers to share your emails and referral marketing program on their social media profiles, spreading the word to a wider audience. It’s a great way to turn your audience into your most effective promoters. 

  • Embed social sharing buttons in your emails and newsletters — Make sharing your content effortless, something your audience can do with just a click. 
  • Make it shareable — Quality matters. If your content is engaging, informative, or even just plain fun, people will want to share it. Create content that resonates with your audience, something that they find useful or entertaining enough to pass along to their friends.
  • Personalise the experience — If you use data to understand what your audience likes and tailor your content accordingly, your customers are more likely to share it with others who have similar interests. Using personalisation helps you meaningfully expand your email list to people who are more like your current customers.
  • Create a community — These techniques will not only expand your email list but also help you develop a community of engaged followers who are excited to share your content.


3. Create incentives

Offer attractive incentives or rewards for customers who refer friends and family to your email list, such as discounts, exclusive content, or freebies.

When using this tactic, carefully calibrate your incentives. Your top referrers who are already enrolled in a VIP or loyalty program may already be happy to share your content purely because they love your brand. 

For those customers and subscribers you need to entice with incentives, use these tried and tested referral marketing tactics:

  • Rotate your offers to keep things fresh.
  • Use time-sensitive offers to create a sense of urgency.
  • Offer incentives to both the referrer and the person being referred. This makes it a win-win for both parties.
  • Gamify the experience by rewarding subscribers when they hit referral milestones (like the 5th, 10th, or 20th referral they make).

4. Optimise landing pages

Whether you’re getting people to sign up to an email list or to join your referral programme (or both!), ensure your referral landing pages are user-friendly and appealing, making it easy for people to sign up. If someone has a hard time filling out a form on your site, they’ll be disinclined to inflict the same hassle on their friends. 

Make your landing pages simple, clear and mobile-friendly. They should have a strong call-to-action (CTA) that makes it obvious you want them or the people they’re referring to sign up to your list. Action-oriented language like "Join the Party," "Get Exclusive Access," or "Be the First to Know" are more enticing than a plain "Submit". 

5. Segment your list

Divide your email list into relevant segments so you can send targeted referral campaigns. The more you’re able to segment and personalise, the better your chances of success.

Mention Me’s customer advocacy intelligence platform lets you identify those customers who refer the most. You can segment by referral behaviour and tailor content to those most likely to fill your list with high-quality leads.

To make this method work, you need to know your audience like the back of your hand. What excites different groups of customers? Should you offer discounts? Or maybe exclusive access or previews would make certain groups more likely to add more names to the list.

6. Use a 'Tell-a-Friend' button

Include a prominent 'Tell-a-Friend' button in your emails, making it convenient for subscribers to refer others with a single click.

Follow a few simple steps and you’ll have an incredibly effective way to turn your existing audience into your most enthusiastic promoters:

  • Placement is everything — Make it as easy as possible for your subscribers to spot and click.
  • Incentivise the share — If you’re offering incentives, shout about them! Put offers of discounts or exclusive access right next to the share button.
  • Make sharing personalised — Allowing subscribers to add a message gives your campaign a personal touch and makes the referral feel more genuine.
  • Use referral tracking and show appreciation — Keep an eye on how often the button is used and by whom. Send a thank you note or a small reward to your top referrers. Acknowledging their efforts can turn them into long-term advocates for your brand.

7. Use your list as a way to build engagement

By incorporating list building into your overall marketing strategy, you’ll expand your list at the same time as deepening engagement with your audience across touchpoints.

With each of our methods, think about how you can use them as an opportunity to turn your customers into active participants in your brand's journey. The key to successful referral marketing lies in understanding your customer's needs and preferences and tailoring your approach to resonate with them. 

This approach lets you identify who your truly valuable customers are: the ones you can build long-standing relationships of trust with, turning them into passionate advocates for your brand and driving sustainable growth from within your own customer base.


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