Avoid These 7 Detrimental Mistakes In Referral Marketing Campaigns

With happy customers come a loyal fanbase. And what better way to grow your fanbase by letting your existing customers refer your brand to others! 

However, referrals can be fickle if you’re not doing enough to spread the word about your brand. In fact, only 29% of customers will refer brands to other people. So, what’s the hold up?

The truth is, while your customers can act as cheerleaders and vouch for your brand, it isn’t enough to let them go about it on their own. In fact, sometimes people forget to do so. Therefore, referral marketing isn’t just your customers’ job; it’s YOURS also (well, mainly yours).

In this article, we’ll explore the 7 common mistakes in referral marketing that can potentially flush your efforts down the drain. And, we’ll discuss the ways that you can prevent said mistakes from happening to you. Read on, marketers!

1. Having Unhappy Customers

Your customers ALWAYS come first! 

If your customers aren’t happy with something, then it’s imperative that you get to the bottom of it right away. Why? Because referral marketing relies heavily on your customers giving a good word about your brand. If they’re not happy, then they’ll let everyone else know it. While everyone has a right to their opinions, a negative word about your brand may scare potential leads and customers away for good.

So, make sure that your customers are happy. Listen to their feedback, if there are any questions or concerns. And, be sure to improve your products and services accordingly, so that customers will know that you’re listening to them, and being transparent with them. In this way, they can at least say: “Well, although this brand isn’t perfect, they still go out of their way to fix and update their product (or service) right away.”

2. No Pre- Or Post-Launch Promotions

Your referral program should be discoverable across multiple avenues on the Internet. That means making promotions before and after launching your referral program. 

Pre-launch is when you prep your customers for the actual launch. How? By doing the following: 

  • Sending an email or newsletter
  • Mentioning the launch in your email signature
  • Starting a countdown to get the fanbase hyped
  • Reminding and engaging with customers, and not being too in their faces, AND
  • Offering amazing perks and incentives (which is what we’ll get into in the next section)

You can also do these things post-launch, even updating customers how the referral program did at launch. (Besides, people love to hear good news!) 

3. Boring Incentives

People want reasons to refer your brand to others. In other words, what can they gain from talking about your brand? 

Why not offer incentives to convince people to give a good word about you?

“However, it’s important to think about what incentives to offer. Otherwise, giving boring or antiquated incentives can make people view your company in a negative light,” says Will Cilton, a writer at Paper Fellows and BoomEssays.

Therefore, consider doing the following:

  • Offering freebies. People love to get things for free. OR,
  • Offering more elaborate gifts. If you feel that your current incentives aren’t faring well with your fanbase, then don’t be afraid to spend money on better rewards.

Remember: The incentives are meant for your customers, not you. 

4. Lack Of Sharing To The Public

Believe it or not, word-of-mouth is still a form of referral, especially when it comes to sharing news about brands. But what happens when people aren’t talking about your brand?

First, you’ll need great brand ambassadors for your initiative. Who are your brand ambassadors? Your customers, of course!

Here are the qualifying traits of a brand ambassador:

  • Credibility viewed by target audience
  • Knows the ins and outs of brand marketing
  • Is professional when talking about a brand, AND
  • Knows how to build relationships

These traits all delve into the word-of-mouth ideology, because simply talking to people about a brand is more impactful than just sharing a post on social media. Even everyday conversations can pass of as being a brand ambassador for your brand. Who knows? You might get a few hundred newcomers saying that they were “referred” by their family, their friends, and so on! Such referrals are priceless!

5. Not Perfecting UX

User experience (UX) is essential to websites – Your brand’s referral marketing campaigns are no exception!

“Like any website or online program, referral programs need to have great UX design. In other words, your program needs to be easy to navigate and simple to use,” explains Daniel Rich, a tech writer at State Of Writing and Essayroo.

With that said, your referral marketing strategy needs to consider the following for great UX design:

  • The less details, the better. People want it straight-up. So, be sure that your referral initiative is to the point. Worry about the details later, once people are comfortable with learning more about your referral program.
  • Make your message clear. Again, don’t worry about details, until people are comfortable with learning more.
  • Make social sharing easy to implement. Since people are more likely to share things on social media these days, make sure that you have social sharing buttons that they can press to share their referrals right away.
  • Links should be direct. No one wants to enter a never-ending stream of links to click to get to the promised incentive of referring someone to your brand.

6. Launching Prematurely

The last thing you want is to launch a referral program prematurely, meaning that you’re unprepared for accepting a flood of referrals from your enraptured fanbase. Or, you launch your program with little to no people knowing about it. 

As mentioned in a previous section, pre-launch promotions are beneficial, since people love to get hyped about an upcoming event. Therefore, it’s important to plan ahead of time, before jumping to your program launch. 

In addition, consider the fact that it can take time to get referrals. In other words, you won’t get referrals overnight. It takes time for customers to think about it, and then decide whether or not to take advantage of your invitation to refer others to your brand. If they’re not ready to refer your brand, then respect their wishes. 

But the most important reason why your referral program has launched prematurely is perhaps you haven’t A/B-tested it before launch. If you haven’t A/B-tested your program, then things can go wrong at launch. 

So, your best bet is to A/B test your program, and launch when it’s ready. Plus, give your program time to gain traction from willing customers.

7. Autopiloting

Finally, autopiloting your referral marketing strategy is NEVER the way. While automation has taken marketing practices by storm, even automated processes still need human intervention. The same is true for referral marketing. 

With referral marketing, you’ll need to keep track of the following tasks: 

  • Creating campaigns
  • Reviewing campaigns
  • Revisiting campaigns from before, AND
  • Revamping campaigns that have proven their potential

As you can see, all of these tasks need to be considered and accomplished on a regular basis, in order for referral marketing to work for you and your brand. 

If you let your referral program run on automation, chances are, things can go wrong during its run. If things go wrong, that can cost your company time, money, and resources. 

So, make sure you have a follow-up for assessing the effectiveness of your referral program. Follow-up assessments allow you to spot any errors or inconsistencies and fix them before launch.

Plus, don’t stop at just one assessment. Have ongoing assessments aimed at testing and improving your referral program. In this way, your program will work for everyone that wants to refer your brand to other people.


While tooting your own horn is beneficial for your brand, you’ll still need more and more people talking about the brand, and referring it to interested parties. Therefore, your referral program must be able to make referrals simple. 

However, if your referral program is left vulnerable to the mistakes named above, people won’t take your initiative seriously, and neither will they take your business seriously. While referral programs aren’t always an easy fix, they can (and should) still be fixed. 

So, just to recap, avoid these 7 mistakes in referral marketing campaigns:

  • Not keeping your customers happy
  • Lack of pre- and post-launches
  • Offering boring incentives to those who join the referral program
  • Not allowing people to share at their leisure
  • Not having good UX design
  • Not planning when and how to launch your program, AND
  • Leaving your program on automation

While it can take a while for your referral program to gain support from your loyal fanbase, that’s normal. There’s no need to rush things, or give up. Just avoid these mistakes, and work to improve your referral marketing campaigns, so that you and your customers are happy.

Guest article written by: Emily Henry is a writer and editor at Academic Writing Service and UKWritings Reviews. As a business writer, she guest-posts on various online business magazines and forums. As a content writer at OX Essays, Emily specializes in education, digital marketing, and entrepreneurship.

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