Skip to content
Jobber Academy
Sales and Marketing

14 Referral Program Ideas That Attract Customers (+ Examples)

June 21, 2023 9 min. read
Read More Start Trial

Building a customer referral program turns word-of-mouth marketing from an afterthought into your #1 source of new customers.

You just need to push for referrals nonstop and offer valuable, exciting rewards that make customers want to spread the word about your business.

To help you get started, here’s our list of great referral program ideas to try and the best ways to promote your rewards.

7 best referral incentive ideas

All the best referral programs offer valuable and exciting rewards that make customers want to spread the word about your business.

Before asking for referrals, choose one of these incentives:

1. Offer service discounts or upgrades

Discounts on your services are a practical, useful incentive to get your customers looking for referrals. You could offer a discount on a service they’ve already received, their next service, or an additional service they wouldn’t normally pay for.

Here are some examples of service discounts you could offer:

  • 15% off a house cleaning
  • $20 towards lawn maintenance
  • Free roof inspection and 10% off any necessary repairs
  • $50 off the next electrical repair
  • 10% off equipment for a garage door upgrade

Or, offer your customers a premium service or VIP treatment if they bring in a referral. That could be a one-time free hedge trimming service or a deep clean for the price of a regular clean. This might encourage customers to book your higher-ticket services again.

Be sure to calculate the profit you expect your new customer to bring in—and check that your discount pricing doesn’t eat into that profit completely.

2. Give gifts or cash rewards

For one-time customers who won’t need your services again soon, gift incentives are a good way to earn a referral. Here are some ideas for gift incentives:

  • Give a personalized gift that shows your most valued customers your appreciation. Choose a gift that speaks to their interests, like a gift card for a local restaurant, a sporting event ticket, or a deluxe tea and coffee set.
  • Send a branded swag set with items that customers can use on a daily basis, like water bottles, notebooks, stationery, and fridge magnets.
  • Offer prepaid debit cards of different sizes based on the value of the referral. For example, bringing a recurring customer should earn someone more than a one-time customer—and so should customers who book higher-priced services.

For example, Holtkamp Heating & Air Conditioning advertises a referral program on their website where they offer two tiers of Visa gift cards depending on the service booked:

Example of a referral program with prepaid Visa gift cards as an incentive

3. Give double-sided incentives

A double-sided incentive, commonly known as social gifting, rewards both the customer who brought you the referral and the new, referred customer.

Social gifting doesn’t just encourage your existing customer to find you referrals—you’re also enticing new leads to choose your services.

Service discounts work best as double-sided incentives. Your existing customer gets a good deal on their next service, and your new customer will get to experience your great service at a reduced price.

Here’s an example: Two Sisters Maid to Clean offers a free maintenance cleaning to referring customers, as well as a discounted cleaning for the new, recurring customer.

Double-sided incentive referral program on a cleaning company website

Alternatively, you could offer a gift or cash reward to your existing customer while your new one gets a special service discount.

4. Run a referral contest

Referral contests create excitement around recommending your business by offering a large prize for a select few customers.

Choose a high-value prize—like a free house cleaning, $300 towards a landscaping job, or a $500 prepaid debit card—as long as it’s within your small business budget and is worth the investment. Then, set a deadline so you can drive people to act fast.

Or, offer something less conventional. Bob’s Carpet Care runs a referral contest that offers a “romantic dinner for two” at a restaurant as the prize.

Referral contest example on a carpet cleaning company website

For your own contest, you could enter referring customers into a random draw to receive your prize. If you have a larger customer base, reward the two or three people who bring the most referrals.

You could also build excitement around your referral reward by keeping it a secret. Some companies offer a mystery box with assorted gifts, or one big prize like a $500 Amazon gift card.

5. Offer holiday-themed and seasonal incentives

Create excitement around your referral reward by tying it into a new season or a holiday. Seasonal and holiday offers are naturally time-limited, which encourages customers to find referrals faster.

Seasonal businesses can take advantage of changing weather to discount additional services. For example, if your lawn care company struggles to get snow removal customers in the winter, you could offer 40% off your plowing service for every successful referral.

You could also choose a holiday-themed referral reward, like a Valentine’s day dinner for two, or an electronics store gift card to help your customers shop for the holidays.

6. Donate to charity in a customer’s name

Some people prefer to not receive a reward or would rather contribute to a cause. For successful referrals, you could donate money to a charity of your customer’s choice or one that you’ve partnered with.

For example, if a referral brings in $150 worth of dog walking business, you can donate anywhere from 5–20% of that first fee to your local animal shelter.

You’ll give back to the community, attract customers who care about social causes, and get the word out about your business and its impact on your community.

7. Reward multiple referrals with points

A points program gives customers a reason to refer more people. Existing customers get points for sending you referrals, and those points turn into actual rewards—like a free service or a bundle of services. 

For example, you might give 20 points for each successful referral. Here’s how this points system could translate to rewards for a lawn care business:

  • 40 points: one free mow
  • 60 points: one free mow plus hedge trimming and mulching
  • 100 points: all of the above plus weed control treatment

READ MORE: 10 ways to increase revenue from existing customers

7 referral marketing ideas to promote your program

8. Leave referral cards at job sites

After every job, leave a card behind that promotes your referral program. A physical reminder about your referral reward can keep it top of mind—especially if it sits in the customer’s back pocket.

Like business cards, these should include your company name and service business branding, but will also need to explain the guidelines and incentives of your referral program.

Summit Chem-Dry uses this referral card to spread the word about their cleaning referral program:

A referral card from Summit Chem-Dry

If referred customers need to use a referral code or submit their information on your website, include the code or your website link on the card.

Be sure to follow up with your current customer over the phone to see if they’ve read the card and are interested in recommending your business.

9. Request referrals from your online client portal

With an online client portal that lets your customers submit referrals online, you’ll have an always-on referral collection process that saves you time and effort.

Through client hub, powered by Jobber, your customers can easily refer others to your business as soon as the job is complete.

Jobber prompts customers to share booking links with their friends and family, so you never miss an opportunity to generate quality leads.

A prompt message in Jobber’s client hub asking a customer to refer the service provider to a friend, showing social media sharing links

10. Use a review management app to collect referrals

Getting referrals takes elbow grease—but you can offload some of the work to a referral marketing app like NiceJob.

NiceJob automatically collects customer reviews, shares them across your social media channels, and amplifies positive feedback to generate online word of mouth around your business.

To help you collect referrals, NiceJob automatically prompts your happy customers to invite friends and neighbors to book your business.

NiceJob referral request as an SMS message

Pro Tip: Use NiceJob with Jobber to collect reviews faster from your existing field service customers.

11. Collect referrals on your website

Add a referral submission form to your service business website so that customers can easily share the contact details of people they want to refer.

You can build a form with Jotform, or a similar online form creator, and customize it with the contact details you want to collect.

Or use NiceJob’s referral widget—it’s a short form that collects referral submissions and helps you manage them in the same place you monitor your online reviews.

NiceJob referral widget

12. Ask for referrals and reviews in your customer service emails

Tell customers about your referral rewards after thanking them for their business. A written reminder in your service follow-up emails or texts doubles down and builds the program into your existing communication.

At the end of your customer thank you note, write one or two quick sentences explaining how they can send a referral and what reward they can get.

Requesting a Google review is another easy and effective way to get indirect referrals—positive reviews let your customers speak for you and strengthen your online presence.

Follow these instructions to create a Google review request link, and send it after every job. 

To save time asking for reviews, create a reusable script that tells customers why leaving a review is important and helps customers like them choose a great company. Here’s how that customer service follow-up email could look:

Example of a snow removal company asking a customer for a Google review over email

Never use rewards or gifts to request a review. It’s against Google’s review policy to solicit paid reviews—and you’re less likely to get an authentic, honest review anyway.

13. Promote referrals in your email signature

Mentioning your referral program in your email signature reminds customers every time they get an email from you.

Write a straightforward, one-sentence summary of what customers can get if they refer a friend. When you put the message in your email signature, put it in bold or change the font color so it sticks out.

This example from Everquote uses two short, simple sentences to promote their referral incentive.

Example of an Everquote email signature with referral link

When you use Mailchimp for your email marketing, you can easily add social sharing buttons to your email signature. Prompt customers to share their experience with your business directly on their profiles or to leave a review on your Facebook business page.

14. Build relationships with other businesses

Businesses you work with already, either as subcontractors, suppliers, or providers of related services, can be a great source for new customers. Reward them for getting you new leads by offering gifts or sending your customers their way.

When you send a referred customer to another business, and they send some to you, you can become each other’s exclusive partners in your respective industries. It’s a win-win partnership where you help each other grow.

If you’re a plumber, consider partnering with an electrical contractor. If you need to get painting contracts, build relationships with construction companies and real estate agents.

If you run out of businesses to contact, ask your customers to connect you with the other home service companies they’ve hired.

Tips for promoting your referral program

You need to make your referral program sound exciting if you want it to succeed. Follow these tips to make the program stand out to your customers:

  • Write an eye-catching headline. The one-sentence description of your program should put the referral reward at the start so customers immediately know what’s in it for them (e.g., “Get 50% off your next cleaning when you refer a friend”).
  • Put it in all your marketing. Promote your referral campaign on your flyers, brochures, door hanger advertising, and postcard marketing. When you spread the word beyond your current customers, you might incentivize leads to become customers with the perks your referral program offers.
  • Ask customers at the right time. Only ask for a referral when you’re confident that your customer has had a positive experience with your small business. A great time to ask is when you send your follow-up email after providing service.

There’s no shortage of referral program ideas—you can offer your customers great incentives in lots of ways. The only way to know which idea is best is by putting your favorite ideas into action.

Originally published in October 2019. Last updated on June 21, 2023.

Join over 200k service professionals that trust Jobber

Get Started