Essential Referral Emails: Part 1 – The Share Email

— February 17, 2017

When I think email, I think emeh. When I think about email marketing, well, I guess I get a little more excited. I guess. Subject lines, open rates, preview text, unsubscribes, dayparting, segmentation. These are the steady drumbeats of much of retail marketing. Thankfully, a steady drumbeat of innovation is keeping it interesting – triggered emails, dynamic content, predictive segmentation, push messaging for example. Okay, that feels better.


Another way to look at email is as an aide or enabling technology. Extole, for example, would never be considered an email marketing technology. But, each week, our advocacy platform sends hundreds of thousands of emails. Used thoughtfully, email helps better capture the power of your advocates.


In this occasional blog series, we’ll look at the details of each of the essential emails for an effective refer-a-friend program. At the end, you’ll have a great framework for making sure that your referral email system is top notch.


Used thoughtfully, email helps better capture the power of your advocates.


laptop and mobile email marketing


Before getting started, it’s probably good to establish some guiding principles that every email that is part of a refer-a-friend program should take into account.


CAN-SPAM Compliance


You could engage tens of thousands of your customer advocates with your referral program. It’s essential that referral program emails follow CAN-SPAM requirements by honoring the preferences of everyone who participates.


Responsive Design


The majority of emails from the Extole platform are opened on mobile devices. Every email in your refer-a-friend needs to look and work great on mobile.


Reliable Delivery


With email, the rubber hits the road at the inbox. An email sent but not inboxed is worthless. Reliable delivery is critical to make sure you get the most out of every send.


Part 1: The Share Email


From: your advocate


To: her friends


When: at key moments of delight during the customer journey


Purpose: to share an authentic, personal recommendation that results in high-converting traffic to your site


When you let your existing customers use email to send personal recommendations about your brand or product, they will send compelling and powerful emails. In fact, email is the highest converting referral channel – more effective than sharing on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It’s also easier than a share link for referred friends to find later.


Make sure your email sharing includes:



  • an easy way for advocates to access their email address books;
  • copy that encourages advocates to share with multiple friends;
  • a default share message in the voice of an actual person and that avoids marketing or brand copy;
  • the ability for the advocate to customize or replace the default copy;
  • a persistent, un-editable brand message the describes the offer and that is sent with the personal advocate message;
  • an effective and personal default subject line so that referred friends will open the email;
  • a call to action (typically a button) that prompts referred friends to visit your site to take advantage of the offer shared by your advocate;
  • the ability for your advocates to change the email subject line;
  • address validation to ensure proper input and to protect against self-referral;
  • content validation to make sure that text entered by your advocate is high-quality and secure;
  • notification that the email was or wasn’t sent;
  • email sent from the personal email address of the advocate;
  • delivery to the primary tab or main inbox as opposed to the promotion tab or spam folder of the referred friend;
  • compelling preview copy so that the email looks good in the inboxes of friends using email clients like gmail;
  • the ability to honor opt-outs of referred friends;
  • easy access for advocates to program terms and conditions with explicit opt-in if necessary;
  • open rate, platform, and other delivery analytics.

The share email is heart of your referral system. By making sure your advocates are creating and sending amazing email recommendations, you’re building the rest of your referral program on a solid foundation.


Next up in this series will be the Advocate Thank You Email – an overlooked and important step in the advocate journey.

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