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How to Run a Referral Contest to Grow Your Business

How to Run a Referral Contest to Grow Your Business

Written By: author image Stacey Corrin
author image Stacey Corrin
Stacey has been writing about WordPress and digital marketing for over 10 years and on other topics for much longer. Alongside this, she's fascinated with web design, user experience, and SEO.
     Reviewed By: John Turner
reviewer image John Turner
John Turner is the co-founder of RafflePress. He has over 20+ years of business and development experience and his plugins have been downloaded over 25 million times.

Want to use referral marketing to grow your business? Running a referral contest is a fantastic way to encourage your ideal audience to engage with your brand. As a result, you’ll not only expand your reach but gather valuable business leads to grow your customer base.

This article will teach you how to run a referral contest to increase the success of future marketing campaigns.

What is a Referral Contest?

A referral contest is a contest that requires users to share the giveaway with their friends to enter

Referral contests are pretty straightforward. Users have to share (or refer) your contest to a friend or people in their wider network to participate. Then as a reward for participating, they’re entered into your prize draw.

Referral contests are an effective marketing strategy for acquiring new customers because they target a specific audience. Moreover, they use word-of-mouth marketing tactics to increase your contest and referral program’s reach.

For example, let’s say you want to promote your pet store. First, you’d target your contest to an audience most interested in your products, like pet owners.

To enter, that audience would have to share the contest with their friends. For their friends to enter, they’d have to refer friends from their network, and so on.

As you can see, as more people share your contest, the number of people exposed to your brand grows. That results in more giveaway entrants, transforming them into leads and potential customers. It’s also an excellent way to engage your existing customers, turning them into loyal customers and brand advocates.

How to Run an Effective Referral Contest

Now that you know what a referral contest is, let’s explore the best way to run one for your business. Just follow the steps below to get started with your first referral sweepstakes.

1. Determine Your Referral Contest Goals

The first step is to determine why you want to run a referral contest and what outcome you want to achieve.

Without clear contest goals, you won’t know the right audience to target or how to incentivize them to enter your giveaway. You could even end up with results that don’t help your business in the long term.

Your referral contest goals could be:

  • Raise brand awareness
  • Promote your customer referral program
  • Grow your social media followers
  • Increase your newsletter subscribers
  • Attract more website traffic
  • Promote a new product or service
  • Engage your current customers

Once you know your contest goals, you’ll have an easier time building the rest of your giveaway.

2. Find Your Target Audience

With your contest goals in place, you’ll need to find the audience who’ll help you share your referral link online.

Going back to our pet store analogy, we might discover that the people most likely to engage with our referral contest hang out on Instagram more than on Twitter and Facebook. That discovery means we’d have to make our contest appealing to Instagram users.

Depending on your contest goals, think about where your audience hangs out online and how you’ll reach them effectively. The best way to do that is to look through your social media analytics and look at the content that’s popular with a particular audience.

You can also look at demographic and interest reports in Google Analytics to see metrics about specific audiences and how they find your business.

look at your google analytics interest reports to find your target audience

3. Decide How to Encourage Contest Referrals

Now that you’ve determined your contest goals and target audience, you need to decide how to get those people to enter your giveaway. If no one enters your contest, they won’t be able to refer their circle of friends, resulting in a giveaway that doesn’t lead to many referred customers.

The most important incentive is the type of prize or perks you offer for your contest. You need to ensure your grand prize is desirable and valuable enough to spur your audience into action (more on that later).

You should also think about how users will enter your contest. Naturally, one way to enter should be to refer a friend. Yet, the most popular giveaways offer multiple ways to participate, rewarding users with bonus entries.

For instance, the primary way to enter could be to refer a friend. For a 2nd entry, you could ask users to subscribe to your email newsletter, and for a 3rd entry, you can ask them to follow you on Twitter for more special offers.

add bonus entry actions for users to secure more referral contest entries

To give your referral contest a competitive edge, you could create a leaderboard showing participants who have referred the most people or earned the most giveaway entries. You can then offer distinct referral rewards for the most and best referrals.

4. Choose a Highly Desirable Prize

People won’t make much effort to enter your referral contest if you don’t offer a prize they want. Therefore, your prize should be desirable to your target audience, valuable, and high quality.

In fact, if your giveaway prize is particularly popular, it has the potential to make your contest go viral, generating massive brand awareness, new followers, and entries.

Some popular prize ideas include:

  • Large cash prizes
  • Free products or services
  • Gift cards or certificates
  • Events or holidays
  • Branded swag
Choose a highly desirable prize for your referral contest

You can also check out this list of proven contest prize ideas for more inspiration.

Remember to ensure your prize is relevant to your target audience and brand so that you can attract more contest entries from your ideal audience.

5. Write Your Referral Contest Rules

The next step in learning to run a referral contest is to plan out your giveaway rules. This ensures that your contest is fair and gives participants all the information they need to participate.

Here are some suggestions on what to include in your giveaway rules:

  • The minimum age of contestants
  • If your contest has location limits
  • When the giveaway starts and ends
  • How users can enter the giveaway
  • What the giveaway prize is
  • How you’ll pick a winner

You should also include information about whether your referral contest is sponsored or affiliated with anyone.

With your rules in place, you can finally start building your referral contest, which we’ll explain next.

6. Build Your Referral Contest with RafflePress

The best way to build your referral contest is to use a giveaway tool designed to make the process as easy as possible.

RafflePress is the best WordPress giveaway plugin on the market. It makes it insanely easy to create any type of contest on your WordPress website and offers everything you need to reach your business goals.

RafflePress particularly excels when it comes to referral contests. The ready-made Refer-a-Friend giveaway template builds your contest in just a few clicks. It also populates your giveaway widget with easy 1-click entry actions to kick start your contest referrals. If you like, you can add bonus entries to grow your followers, email list, etc.

viral refer a friend

When you’re at the point of publishing your giveaway, you can do so with a standalone giveaway landing page, which removes unnecessary distractions to maximize your contest entries and leads.

Giveaway landing page live

If you’re not convinced, here’s how OptinMonster, a SaaS brand, generated 3,500+ new users from one giveaway.

To make everything a little bit easier, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on creating a viral refer-a-friend contest with RafflePress here. Just follow the steps to build a highly successful referral contest in no time at all.

Note: You can use RafflePress for free, but you should upgrade to the Pro version to get the best results.

6. Promote Your Referral Contest

After building your referral contest, it’s time to promote it to your target audience to start getting entries. Otherwise, you won’t secure the number of referrals you want, resulting in a contest that doesn’t meet your goals.

The easiest way to promote your contest is to share it on all your social media networks, like Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter, and ask people to tag their friends in the comments.

Promote your referral contest on social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

You can also promote your giveaway by:

Ensure you promote your giveaway weeks before it goes live so you can receive tons of entries, engagement, and referrals from day 1.

Don’t forget some of the best referral program ideas include social gifting with discounts and coupons. If you’re using email marketing to promote your giveaway, you can incentivize participation with special offers.

If you want to make your giveaway go viral, check out these contest promotion ideas.

7. Draw a Referral Contest Winner

You’ll need to choose a winner when your referral contest is over. How you draw the winner depends mainly on the type of contest you run.

For instance, if you run a referral contest that asks users to refer their friends, with a few extra actions for bonus entries, the fairest method would be to pick a winner randomly.

However, suppose your contest involves more complicated actions like uploading a photo or submitting a video. In that case, it’s a good idea to either judge the winner yourself or ask users to vote for the winner.

RafflePress makes it easy to choose a random winner for your giveaway. When the contest ends, navigate to RafflePress » Giveaways and click the Needs Winners link.

choose winner

You’ll then see a list of everyone who entered and each person’s total number of entries. Then it’s merely a case of clicking the Pick Winners button, selecting your options, and clicking Choose Winners Now.

pick a giveaway winner

The winner is then highlighted at the top of the participants’ list, so you can click to email them with the exciting news.

email the winner

8. Announce the Giveaway Winner

After choosing your giveaway winner, it’s a good idea to announce the end of your referral contest and the winner to everyone who took part. This will help you form better connections with the new audience you gained during your contest and thank them for making it a success.

You can announce your giveaway winner on social media, inviting them to take part in future contests. Or you can send an email newsletter following up with participants, thanking them for entering.

announce the winner of your referral contest on social media to build more engagement with your new audience

This is an excellent opportunity to get your new audience actively engaging with your brand long after the contest ends. So why not offer a small discount, so they’re not left empty-handed?

Related: How to Email Non-Winning Giveaway Contestants (5 Tips)

9. Analyze Your Referral Results

The final step in running a successful referral contest is to analyze your results. Doing so will tell you how many referrals your contest received and how you can improve future giveaways.

The easiest way to get the needed data is with MonsterInsights, the best Google Analytics plugin for WordPress. It makes it super-easy to track referrals to your contest landing page, website traffic, and other site activity.

MonsterInsights overview report

All your data is shown in easy-to-understand reports in your WordPress dashboard. You won’t have to leave your site to see your results in the native Google Analytics account dashboard.

You can learn more in this MonsterInsights review.

That’s it!

We hope this article helped you learn how to run a referral contest in WordPress. With a giveaway tool like RafflePress, you can effortlessly turn your referral contest and future quizzes into a massive success, generating tons of traffic, followers, and leads to help grow your business.

What are you waiting for?

Get started with RafflePress today.

And if you liked this article, why not follow us on YouTube for more helpful giveaway tips? You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter. See you there!

author avatar
Stacey Corrin Writer
Stacey has been writing about WordPress and digital marketing for over 10 years and on other topics for much longer. Alongside this, she's fascinated with web design, user experience, and SEO.

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.

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  1. Hi there! I’d like to launch a Referral Contest in which I’d like to ask the users to share my brand with their friends: to each new referred friend that creates an acccount on my website, will correspond 1 entry to the contest. Is that possible using Raffle Press?
    Also, if so, will the email communications be sent directly from your platform? Or will i have to link it to my CRM?
    Thanks a lot.

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