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How to Unlock SaaS Growth with Referral Emails: 10+ Examples (Free Template Included)

Email marketing is the perfect channel for promoting your referral program. But how do you write a great referral email?

Krista Melgarejo
Krista Melgarejo
How to write referral emails for your SaaS product.

Referral programs are fabulous for reaching warm leads and growing your SaaS business. Your customers' heartfelt recommendations work much better than cold outreach or paid media.

Meanwhile, email marketing is the ideal channel for promoting your referral program. Referral + emails = a match made in heaven.

But how exactly should these emails look?

We dug deep into our own inboxes — and asked around in the community — to collect a list of 10+ referral emails to inspire your writing. You will also learn who should be receiving these emails, and when to send them.

For the bigger picture, check out our Atomic Emails method for writing high-performing email campaigns.

What is a referral program?

A referral program is a marketing tactic used to increase word-of-mouth to acquire new leads through your existing customers.

First, you encourage existing customers to share your product with their friends. In return, they are rewarded every time their referrals convert into a qualified lead (or a new customer).

Referral vs. affiliate program

While referral and affiliate programs involve similar mechanics, there are a few key differences between them:

  • Customer referral programs involve your existing customers. They're encouraged to share signup links with people they know.
  • Affiliate referral programs involve third-party content creators (like bloggers and influencers). They publicly promote your product with trackable affiliate links, and earn rewards if someone makes a purchase.

In this article we'll be focusing on customer referral programs as part of your lifecycle marketing efforts.

How can a referral program help your SaaS business

Referral programs are easy to implement and cost relatively lower than other tactics (like running ads). It makes them perfect for small startups, and even more powerful for larger companies.

Here's how a referral program can help your SaaS business grow:

  • Increase brand awareness. Referral programs encourage word-of-mouth marketing from satisfied customers to build positive brand awareness and social proof.
  • Decrease customer acquisition costs. Not counting the upfront cost of setting it up, referral programs generally cost lower than other marketing tactics (e.g. ads) because you only pay whenever a referral converts. You can even lower the cost by offering incentives that come at no cost to you (i.e. enabling advanced features for a certain period).
  • Increase conversions. Referred leads are high-quality leads vetted by your users. They're very likely to become paying customers.
  • Build customer loyalty. Because the program relies on an established relationship between your existing customer and their social network, the new customers are more likely to stay loyal to your product.

What can you offer as a reward?

Unlike affiliate programs that give out monetary commissions to participants, referral program incentives can come in various forms.

You can reward your customers with:

  • Cash compensation that you can add to the referrer's account balance.
  • Tokens or credits they can use on your platform.
  • Access to "pro" features (lifetime or time-limited). This especially works great with free accounts.
  • Moving the referrer up the waitlist if you're in the pre-launch phase.
  • Any other benefit that brings value and scales easily.

To make your program scalable, we don't recommend using high-touch rewards like calls.

It's common to offer mutual rewards for both parties involved. This way, everyone has a material reason to use the referral link (instead of simply sharing the recommendation via word of mouth).

Who should be invited to your referral program?

Referral programs rely on customers who are already familiar with your product, so segmentation is king. Ideally, the recipient should match all of these criteria:

  • Using the product for at least 2-3 months
  • Using the product right now (not an abandoned account)
  • Receiving value from the tool (not a paying account with zero success metrics)

10+ examples of referral emails from SaaS brands

#1. Braintrust

Thanks to Sukh Saini of Engyne for this example.

Subject: Refer and earn with these jobs on Braintrust

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of Brainstrust's referral email

Braintrust is a decentralized talent network that connects organizations with highly skilled technical freelancers.

This email is simple and straightforward. The heading immediately asks the user to refer Braintrust to their network so they can earn credits on the platform. They tell the user to simply share the unique referral link or forward the email so that their colleagues and friends can get started.

#2. Indie Worldwide

Thanks to Sukh Saini of Engyne for this example.

Subject: Invite your friends to join Indie Worldwide, get a referral bonus when they sign up.

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of Indie Worldwide's referral email

Indie Worldwide is a community for indie markers and bootstrapped founders.

They opted for a plain text format for this straightforward email. Unlike the previous example, this lets the user decide if they want to join the referral program or not.

What can be improved?

  • The details about the incentives should be highlighted in bold so the reader can easily spot it.
  • The link could be placed after "Use the link below to sign up and get your referral link" instead of in the P.S. section.

#3. Outdoorsy

Subject: Give $50, Get $100 for yourself

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of Outdoorsy's referral email

Outdoorsy is a marketplace for renting RVs directly from local owners.

The heading immediately lets the user know what they can get in exchange for a successful referral. To further motivate the user, Outdoorsy tells them that as a bonus, their friend can get free money too — a perfect example of a mutual reward.

They then talk about the incentives the user and their friend can earn for a specific activity with the platform. The email ends with a CTA button so the user can start referring Outdoorsy to their family and friends.

#4. Digit

Subject: You're on the list

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of Digit's referral email

Digit (now Oportun) is a platform that aims to help its members reach their financial goals.

This is another example where readers are asked to share a referral link so they can move up the waitlist. Unlike the Webflow example, Digit's email shows the reader their place on the waitlist so it motivates them to invite more people if they want to move up.

#5. Airbnb

Subject: Earn travel credit for your next adventure

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of Digit's referral email

Airbnb is a marketplace for short and long-term homestays and experiences.

We like that instead of just using the usual "refer" or "invite", Airbnb uses "Share your love of travel" for this referral email campaign. This shows that it's not just about inviting family and friends to join the platform, but it's also letting them enjoy the wonders of travel too.

The brief copy details what the user and their friends can get for the successful referral. The graphic showing a user giving the love of travel to their family and friends is a nice touch.

#6. Webflow

Subject: Webflow Ecommerce beta referral link

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of Webflow's referral email

Webflow is a tool that lets you design, build, and launch responsive websites visually.

Their email asks the reader to spread the word about their Webflow Ecommerce beta in exchange for moving up the waitlist. Aside from the copy-pasting the unique referral link, readers are also given the option to share it via social media.

What can be improved?

Letting the reader know their place on the waitlist might further motivate them to spread the word to their network.

#7. ClassPass

Subject: Want 100 credits, [First name]? 🤑

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of ClassPass' referral email

ClassPass is a fitness and wellness membership platform that lets users access fitness studios, gyms, salons, and spas around the globe.

The email copy explains that for each conversion, the user can earn 20 credits. To further motivate the user, ClassPass is sweetening the deal by adding 40 more credits if they get 3 successful referrals. The email ends with a CTA button so the user can start inviting their friends.

#8. Wise

Subject: Friends don't let friends get ripped off

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of Wise's referral email

Wise is an international money transfer company.

This email immediately tells the user that they can earn cash while their 3 successful referrals can get fee-free transfers. They then proceed to break down the steps of how this works, with each step accompanied by a simple graphic.

The email ends with a CTA button so the user can start inviting their friends and family.

#9. Help Scout

Subject: 🎁 Do you know about our referral program?

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of Help Scout's referral email

Help Scout is a dedicated customer support platform built for growing teams.

This email immediately tells the user that they can earn up to $250 for their successful referrals. They then detail the steps the user should do to refer Help Scout to their network. They also include an email and social media templates so the user can simply copy-paste and share it to various channels.

#10. Firstbase

Subject: Get up to $250 for each friend you refer to Firstbase

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of Firstbase's referral email

Firstbase is an all-in-one platform that helps anyone build a US business.

This email was sent out to let users know about Firstbase's new referral reward structure. They talk about how this new structure has a higher payout than their previous one and discuss the rewards the user can earn for the successful referral. They highlight the important figures in bold, which is great for readers who are just skimming the email.

They also include a CTA button so it's easier for the user to invite their friends and acquaintances to the platform.

#11. HeadshotPro

Thanks to Jamie Sutton for contributing this example.

Subject: More for you (and less for your friend)

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of HeadshotPro's referral email

HeadshotPro is an AI-powered platform that lets you generate professional headshots.

This email tells the user that they can give their friends a 30% discount for their orders using a special discount code. In exchange, the user can get 100 new AI headshots added to their account when their referral pays for the order.

What can be improved?

As we mentioned above, referral programs and affiliate programs have different participants.

While mentioning the affiliate program at the P.S. section might entice some users, not everyone might be a good fit. The email should have just focused on the details of the referral program so that it's not confusing to the user.

#12. Brex

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of Brex's referral section in the newsletter

Brex is a popular neobank. Their AI-powered spend platform lets you spend smarter with integrated cards, expenses, travel, and payments.

Brex includes this referral section in their newsletters. The copy is short and sweet, discussing what the user can earn when their referral signs up and spends money with Brex.

#13. DigitalOcean

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of DigitalOcean's referral snippet

DigitalOcean is a provider that offers cloud computing services and infrastructure as a service.

DigitalOcean includes this short snippet in the end of their payment receipts. The short copy lets the user know that they can earn $25 in account credit for each successful referral. They then link to the user's referral program page so they can start spreading the word about the platform.

#14. Shine

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of Shine's referral section in their emails

Shine was a platform for inclusive mental health and wellness support.

Shine included this referral section in their emails, telling the user that they can get their Shine Premium membership for free for a successful referral.

Unlike the previous examples, they are asking the user to refer their company, school, or organization to the platform instead of just individual users. Since this is such a big ask from the user, it's only fair that they get their Premium membership for free.

#15. Dropbox

SaaS Referral Emails: Screenshot of a section in Dropbox's email that's asking for a Dropbox Capture referral

Dropbox is a popular cloud file storage service. And when most of us think about referral programs, this brand is always top of mind.

Dropbox included this in one of their newsletters. They're letting the reader know that they can get an extra 2 hours of recording time or storage limit for free in Dropbox Capture when they refer new users. They link to a referral page so the user can start inviting more friends to the tool.

Full-text template for your referral email

Ready to write your referral email? Here's a full-text template for you. For other use cases, we recommend these referral email templates from Referral Rock.

Hi [Name],

Thank you for trusting us to [what pain point your platform addresses].

Do you know someone who could also benefit from using [name of your tool]?

If so, we'd like to invite you to our referral program.

For every referral that becomes a paying customer, you get [reward] for helping our business grow.

Get started by sharing your unique referral link with them:

[Unique referral link]



[Role at company]

Grow your SaaS business and reward customers

When done right, referral programs help your business grow while also increasing customer loyalty. Don't ignore this precious opportunity.

We hope that this guide helped you figure out exactly how to get started.

For more information on SaaS email marketing strategies, we recommend these guides:

To see how this applies to your business, please book a demo call so that we can recommend specific strategies for your lifecycle model.

About the author
Krista Melgarejo

Krista Melgarejo manages marketing and podcasts at Userlist. Krista is a scientist turned writer and digital marketer who helps businesses with their copywriting and automations. They also had their creative work published in two anthologies.

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