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If you believe that your customers are your brand’s best advocates, you may be on to something. 

According to ThinkJar CEO, Esteban Kolsky, 72% will tell six or more people about a positive experience they had with a brand. 

The above stat should be more than enough to give you the encouragement you need to launch a referral marketing campaign.

Still, if the thought of emailing the thousands of customers on your contact list gives you pause, fear not. You can save yourself the grunt work by leveraging referral marketing automation. 

What is referral marketing automation?

Referral marketing automation is the process of using technology (i.e., referral marketing software, email tools) to administer a customer referral program.

Every referral campaign has repetitive tasks that are better automated. Imagine having to do all these things on a case-by-case basis:

  • Create and send out unique referral links or referral codes
  • Disburse cash rewards or other forms of compensation (e.g., gift cards) for successful referrals
  • Deploy referral emails (whether of the onboarding or reminder variety); and so on

Manually handling such tasks would be inefficient and the entire process would take forever. 

That’s where referral marketing automation comes in. 

It saves you valuable time while leaving the heavy lifting of these mundane tasks to your chosen software platform. Meanwhile, loyal customers who sign up for your referral program will enjoy a streamlined referral process that motivates them to help you grow your customer base.

Why automating referral programs is essential

Here are four reasons you should automate your referral program and give your satisfied customers a seamless experience:

  • Enhances referral conversion rates: using referral program automation tools to run your program can give your conversion rates a boost. Every automation tool, from the referral marketing platform to the email software, helps ensure an efficient process.

By automating all aspects of your program, you can ultimately ensure your happy customers who successfully refer new ones get the incentives they deserve on time. This will help inspire them to refer more customers to you, boosting referral conversion rates in the process. 

  • Reduces manual effort: The biggest upside to referral program automation is how it reduces manual effort in administrative and routine tasks. Thanks to automation, these processes–from the sending of notifications about referral rewards to the delivery of these rewards–run in the background and on schedule. Mistakes typically attributed to human intervention can also be avoided.
  • Cost-effective: Automated referral programs are more cost-effective than manual referral programs. Since they require less human intervention, you ensure less expenditure on manpower. At the same time, you get excellent results with their streamlined processes.
  • Helps track and improve referral program performance: Automation can help you track the referral marketing efforts of individual advocates more efficiently. You can easily view key metrics (like conversion rates) that tell you whether your program is providing a decent return on investment. The data you receive will help you fine-tune your referral marketing strategy, ensuring that it appeals to the right target audience and yields optimal results. 

If you want your business to experience the above-listed benefits, follow in the footsteps of the 76% of companies that use automation. In particular, incorporate the use of technologies into your referral marketing programs.

How to automate your referral marketing program

But how exactly do you do that? Here are some tips:

1. Promote your referral program with technology

Before your advocates can promote your products or services, they need to know your referral program exists. Thus, referral program promotion is key, and the good thing, is, you can automate this.

Using your email marketing software, you can create a trigger email that's automatically sent out when your customers perform an action. For example, an email like the one sent by Cometeer can be automatically sent when the customer purchases from you.

Just make sure you use an email checker to verify the emails of your customers prior to automation. You want to make sure your emails reach your intended recipients.

referral program with technology

Another way you can automate the promotion of your referral program is through scheduled posts. You can use a social media scheduling tool to send promotional posts to the social media channels you market on at preset times.

This method saves you the trouble of manually posting to each social media account. Besides, if you publish your posts at a time your target audience is active, you’ll likely generate better results.

Consider incorporating referral widgets into your website as well. Either embed them into specific web pages or have them pop up while the customer browses your website, as shown below:

referral program with technology

Just as in the example above, highlight the benefits of joining your referral program in the headline. You want to make sure these are the first things your customers see.

If you don’t do this, they’ll more likely just ignore and discard your offer. You can use a generative AI platform to come up with engaging headlines that incorporate your program benefits. 

2. Enroll customers into your program automatically

Using automation to promote your program, however, won't guarantee enrollees. Some customers simply may not have the time to fill out your forms, however short they may be.

Automation, again, can help you solve this issue. 

If your referral marketing platform includes the feature, you can automatically enroll customers into your program when they trigger an event. The action they take that triggers their automatic enrollment could be one of the following:

  • Purchasing from you: You can program the referral marketing software to automatically add customers to your program when they buy from you.
  • Signing up for your newsletter: Prospects who sign up for your newsletter could someday convert into customers and then advocates. There's no harm in adding them to your program from day one before using email marketing tools to warm them up.
  • Filling out a form/answering a survey: If you've built up an email list, you can use promotional emails to enroll future advocates into your program. In this case, the trigger could be the customer clicking the "Submit" button after completing a survey or registering for a free seminar.

In the alternative, consider importing your email list into your referral marketing solution, which will then automatically generate referral links for each contact.

3. Ensure seamless integration of referral marketing software across other multiple platforms

As we’ve already seen, automation can help you keep your program organized. Rather than manually tracking every referral, or updating customer records, you can rely on software to do it for you. In addition to saving you time and energy, it’ll keep issues like duplications and human error at bay. 

Achieving this level of automated organization requires that your referral marketing software, in particular, seamlessly integrates with your other automation platforms like your email marketing, customer relationship management, and lead generation tools, and others. With your referral marketing platform automatically syncing relevant data from these tools, you can have up-to-date information about your program. 

This is data you can also use to ensure a seamless referral marketing program process, and boost results.

Let me explain with an example. Among the many benefits of Xoxoday, a referral software solution, is its integration with enterprise applications such as WooCommerce. That means businesses like you can just connect your rewards store.

Xoxoday’s payout platform, Plum, can easily fulfill any order when your customers redeem their referral points (more on rewarding customers later). Some referral marketing platforms can also integrate with calendar tools so customers who want to redeem gifts can book appointments with you first.

That way, you can engage with your customers one-on-one, thank them for their efforts, and motivate them to continue doing what they’re doing before they claim the rewards.

Seamless integration of your referral marketing platform with other relevant tools also yields data you can use to make informed decisions and shape future campaigns.

For example, with seamless integration, you can track how customers sign up for your program (whether via email or website). So, if you find more people sign up via email, for example, you’d focus your promotional efforts on this channel instead. 

4. Sustain engagement with program participants via automation

assume every one of your customers is enrolled in your program. that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll already refer others to you. Many of them lead busy lives, so your program can get lost in the fray of many marketing materials competing for their attention. 

Luckily, automation can once again come to the rescue. You can send them reminder emails or notifications to prevent customers from forgetting about your program. These reminder messages can be pre-programmed to go out monthly or quarterly, ensuring that your program stays at the top of your customers' minds.

But that’s not all: when combined with your email marketing tool's powerful segmentation feature, you can identify and re-engage inactive subscribers on your email list. In this case, a limited-time offer could work wonders to encourage referrals:

The email from Uber Eats above is an excellent example of a re-engagement email. Consider emulating its time sensitivity and immediate reward factor to jolt your inactive subscribers into action.

5. Deliver rewards promptly to valued referrers through referral platforms, email software

If you successfully get your customers to refer others to you, you’ll need to hold up your end of the bargain by rewarding their efforts. 

You can use automation to deliver the rewards. Once your email marketing software and referral marketing platform are linked, set up custom workflows and triggers to automate the sending of these emails.

So, if someone uses your customer’s referral code to buy from your website, for example, an email like the one above can be automatically sent. 

Also, you can leave it to your customers to decide the reward they’d like. In this case, you could program your email tool to send them a link to a catalog containing multiple rewards to choose from.

Don’t forget to also connect the online store in question with your referral marketing platform, as I mentioned in point number 3. This way, you can easily track the redeemed rewards.

Xero: A Case study of successful referral marketing campaign automation

Just to give you an idea of how automation can help boost your referral marketing campaign efforts, let’s look at a real-life case study.

Xero is a cloud-based accounting software solution for small businesses. The company founded in New Zealand in 2006 now offers more than 1,000 third-party solutions and 300 connections to financial institutions.

With its impressive growth, it was recognized by Forbes as  the World’s Most Innovative Growth Company in 2014 and 2015. In 2020, IDC Marketscape recognized it as a leader in the cloud-enabled accounting apps niche.

But the company had to face challenges before it reached this current state.

The company relied in large part on its customer referral campaigns to rapidly get a share of the market when the United Kingdom introduced the Making Tax Digital for income tax self-assessment. The MDT then required businesses to use software to manage their taxes.

However, Xero encountered problems when it came to sending its physical gifts to loyal customers who helped promote the brand. There were stock and distribution issues that resulted in high costs.

There was also the issue of poor customer experience, with participants unable to choose their own rewards and their long wait before their physical gifts arrived. Xero was also unable to measure the return on investment of its customer referral campaigns.

Enter Xoxoday.

With Xoxoday, Xero was able to automate the distribution of its customer referral program rewards, and, as a result, achieve a staggering 25% increase in conversion rates, a 20% year on year growth, and a 60% increase in ROI on its marketing budget. 

What exactly did it do to attain those impressive results?

Well, using the platform, Xero automatically rewarded customers participating in the program with a £50 link for every successful referral, effectively cutting down on the physical gifting. Because of the ease with which customers could now avail of the rewards (they only had to click on a link), Xero managed to build a pipeline of 1900 customers in just four months.

The customer experience was greatly improved, too, as customers participating in the program could redeem their digital rewards in an instant and choose from a plethora of brands.

But that’s not all.

Xero also managed to save a lot of money. Since XoXoday charges only on the rewards redeemed and not distribution, Xero managed to reduce costs and get the most out of its marketing campaign budgets.

How to pick the right referral marketing automation tools

We’ve discussed how you can use different technologies to automate your referral marketing campaign. But how can you choose the right referral marketing automation tools? Consider these factors:

  • Ease of use: Choose tools that are easy to use and have an uncluttered user interface. You don’t want to spend too much time figuring out how they work. 
  • Customization options: Tools that offer plenty of customization options should take priority during your search. You’ll want to stay on brand when designing a program for your ideal customers. They should let you customize emails, offer templates, and more.
  • Scalability: As your program becomes more successful, the volume of referrals you get will grow. When that time comes, your chosen automation tools must be able to handle the influx of new advocates. Thus, make sure they’re scalable and can accommodate your needs well into the future.
  • Tracking and analytics: You’ll want tools that offer efficient tracking and analytics. You want data you can use to improve your future referral marketing campaigns.

Other factors worth considering include the amount of customer support you’ll receive and whether the tools offer flexible plans. 


Referral marketing automation is essential if you’d like to take a hands-off approach to your referral programs. It makes the process cost-efficient, eliminates manual effort, and could potentially boost your referral conversion rates.

How do you automate your referral marketing campaign? Start by using email and social media tools and referral marketing software to promote and enroll customers into your program.

Also, stay organized by ensuring your referral marketing software, in particular, integrates across multiple platforms. Use technology such as email automation to engage your program’s participants. Finally, automate your rewarding process to ensure your successful referrers receive the incentives they deserve promptly.

Are you ready to automate your referral program? 

Guest Contributor

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