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Last year at The Newsletter Pro, we introduced an amazing referral campaign. We offered a trip to Vegas to any client whose referral became a client, including airfare, hotel, and the opportunity to race exotic cars on Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Some people thought I was crazy to offer such an expensive prize, but I didn’t spend more than is typical for a cold lead. Once the program was complete, our cost per new referred customer was just under what it would normally cost us to get a new customer from a cold source. To me, that sounds like a huge win.

I talked about this concept in my book No B.S. Guide to Maximum Referrals and Customer Retention. Basically, you should be willing to spend as much or more per referred client as you normally spend to acquire a customer from a cold medium. Why? The answer is simple: statistically, referred customers are worth more than customers from other sources. Which is why as soon as we came back from Vegas this year, we were already planning for our next big event.

A Can’t-Miss Experience

Our new referral program is all themed around the classic movie “Top Gun.” When we sat down to come up with the next program, we asked, “What’s bigger than racing exotic sports cars around the Las Vegas Speedway?” The answer we came up with was dogfighting above the desert in acrobatic airplanes.

Our new experience is going to allow anyone who qualifies (by referring one person who becomes a customer of The Newsletter Pro) to join us in Vegas. But this time, we are going to jump in a plane with a former military pilot, take to the skies, and dogfight above the desert. This will be one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences you’ll never forget. Between the Top Gun experience, the hotel, a prime networking opportunity, and a few other surprises, this will be an experience our customers won’t want to miss.

Killer Promotions

But, all this being said, having an amazing experience is not enough. You must have marketing muscle behind the event. We are taking what we learned from last year’s program and have totally revamped both how we ask for new referral partner signups and how we’re helping our referral partners share our resources so they can get in on the trip.

One of the mistakes we made last time was not offering the employees a chance to win for helping us get new referral sources. So, this time, we’ve created three ways for our employees to win prizes based on how much they encourage customers to sign up and refer to us. With any big promotional push, it’s imperative that one of the big drivers be a focus on employee engagement.

Once we have someone interested in becoming a referral source, we send them to a landing page to opt in. You can see an example of that page at Once they’ve opted in, we create a landing page for them to send their referrals to. This page tags the referral to a referral source inside our CRM software so we know who referred whom. Here is an example of the page each referral source gets to send their referrals to:

On the page above, you’ll notice that we’re promoting a free gift, which is a copy of one of my books. This lead magnet is just one of many we will use over the course of the referral campaign.

Dedicated Communication

After someone opts in to be a referral partner and they have their own landing page, we now need to encourage them to promote. We do this through phone calls from the employees, regular emails, promotions in our newsletter, and direct mail to keep the referral source excited about going on the trip.

One big mistake many make is thinking that once they’ve told someone about the contest once or twice, if that person is interested, they’re done promoting the contest. But that’s simply not the case. Personally, I get busy, and even if I have good intentions, without reminders and some poking, you won’t get much out of me — even if it’s an amazing trip like the one we are giving away.

It may be simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you’ve nailed the contest and promotional materials, you’ll be well on your way to success, but it takes effort. Every day, a little bit needs to be done to make this program work.

Now that you have a brief overview of our program, I want to challenge you to think bigger and take more risks with your own referral program. Spend as much or more on a referral as you would pay a marketing company to generate a new customer for you. Create promotions. Help your customers and referral sources promote by giving them tools they can use.

If you take my advice, at the end of the day, you’ll have a killer referral campaign, your customers and referral sources will earn a cool prize or experience, and you’ll get dozens, maybe even hundreds, of amazing new customers.

Shaun Buck

Shaun Buck

Shaun Buck is the co-author of No B.S. Guide to Maximum Referrals and Customer Retention (Entrepreneur Press, March 2016) as well as CEO of Boise, Idaho-based The Newsletter Pro, the largest custom print newsletter company in the…

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