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How to Promote a Referral Program for Virtual Events

You’re probably wondering how to get more attendees for my online event, right? Well, get your attendees to refer them! Referral marketing leverages the power of word-of-mouth by rewarding your existing audience in exchange for a referral.

All you have to do as a virtual event host is enable your attendees to spread the word on various channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and WhatsApp., through Email invites or private conversations.

On getting referrals, referrers are rewarded accordingly and as promised.

Sounds easy right? BUT how do you promote your refer-a-friend program for your online event?

What are the referral marketing best strategies to use for your virtual event?

During the past 5+ years, we have tried several different kinds of configurations to get referral marketing working for our clients who want to promote online events. Here are the very best proven strategies and tips that we keep recommending over and over again.

Virtual Event Referral Marketing Strategy #1 – TIMING

Start promoting your online event at least 4-5 weeks before. Referrals campaigns are all about capitalizing on the time between attendee signing up and your online event and launching it. Once an attendee is convinced enough to give up his email address to sign up for your event, your focus must switch to selling passes and get them to refer others. You have to understand that it takes time for attendees to get on with referring your event and for someone else to sign up to your event.

Virtual Event Referral Marketing Strategy #2 – REWARD LADDER

Have a reward structure that gives out more rewards as a referrer gets your more referrals. Say for example: 2 referrals will earn you an e-book, whilst 5 referrals will unlock an exclusive video collection, 15 referrals will qualify a referrer to a free 1-on-1 session with you.

Create a reward ladder. Do not just give one reward and that’s it. That will kill the fun and will not gamify your online event referral program. When a referrer reaches a milestone you have to give them another milestone to look forward to and so on. 

Virtual Event Referral Marketing Strategy #3 – Email Sequence

Once an attendee signs up or at least shows interest in your online event by giving up their email address, you must get them on an automated email sequence that will keep them up to date with the latest news about your online event.

The email sequence offers a unique opportunity to get the word out about your referral program. We normally recommend the following guide as a minimum to promote your referral program:

  • Add a short paragraph about your referral program at the very bottom of every email you send out. Briefly describe the rewards awaiting those who will refer others
  • Add at least two dedicated emails to your existing email sequence, specifically describing your referral program, how easy it is to go about sharing and what are the benefits of promoting your online events.

Virtual Event Referral Marketing Strategy #4 – Exclusivity

A successful referral program is one which makes the participating referrers feel exclusive. By doing a recommendation to your online event, not only the referral is going to gain but even themselves who are taking the leap they are getting their hands on exclusive rewards – ideally rewards which cannot be otherwise bought or else which is limited and/or very expensive.

It has been proven time and again that the feeling of exclusivity is a main driver in referral programs. If the rewards provided can be obtained otherwise, such as buying them, then it feels like this is yet another upsell.

Virtual Event Referral Marketing Strategy #5  – Integrated within your funnel

It is really important that once an attendee signs up for your online event, they are automatically registered with your referral program. Make sure that your referral campaign is fully integrated with your funnel. Don’t ask your attendees to sign-up again for the referral program as that extra step will really hinder your referral numbers.

Virtual Event Referral Marketing Strategy #6 Simple messaging

Simple messaging / simple rewards / simple structure – No multi tier structure, no fancy drawings, no lottery style. The simpler the better. The messaging has to be very clear so that you avoid confusing or sounding like a ponzi scheme. The benefits have to be clear for both referral and referrer.

What are the typical results you should expect from your Virtual Summit Referral Program?

You’re probably wondering what the main factors are that will have a drastic effect on the numbers obtained from your online event’s referral program. Luckily, we’ve got you covered!

After doing 100s of one-on-one calls with virtual event hosts and actively designing their referral program we’ll tell you about the two crucial elements that have a huge impact on the numbers you get from your referral program.

a. Promotion

Having a referral program integrated with your online event is a step in the right direction but it is not enough. Once an attendee is acquired, promoting the referral program has to be top in your agenda. You can promote your referral program in several ways:

  • Ask for referrals straight after an attendee signs up
  • Use your email sequence to reminder all your attendees that you have a referral program
  • Place sharing widget on speaker pages, agenda pages and also streaming pages

Promotion needs to start way before launching your online event. At very minimum, promotion of the referral program should start around 4 to 5 weeks before the launch. Timing is of an essence, meaning start promoting your referral program a couple of days before your online launches will not give enough time for your attendees to do the recommendation and successfully get you referrals to convert.

b. Rewards

Having a perfectly timed, well planned and excellent promotion strategy but weak rewards will not get your attendees motivated towards taking the leap and engage with your referral program. Rewards play a very prominent role in your referral program. It will make it clear to your potential referrers how well versed you are in what your audience is craving for and how willing you are to give out value in exchange for expanding your reach.

Rewards don’t have to necessarily cost a fortune but they must provide additional value (if possible exclusive only) to referrers who have shared your event within their network. Most online event hosts who are new to referral campaigns tend to focus on monetary value as rewards such as giving out partial refunds of tickets or give out free VIP tickets on referring a certain number of referrals. From our experience and statistics, these kind of rewards tend to draw very little attention when compared to rewards that extend and enhance the experience of the overall online event. More later on about what makes good rewards.

Now that you know what moves the needle you might be curious about actual numbers. Whilst, not every benefit provided by a referral program can be directly measured, we are going to outline typical results that referral programs return for summit hosts who actively promote it in the recommended way. For instance, having a sense of community is a very difficult aspect to measure. These are called indirect benefits which in this section we are not going to get into.

From our experience a successful referral campaign will drive the following results:

  • 15%-19% increase in attendees through word of mouth. This means that for every 100 attendees are acquired via all channels you stand to get anywhere between 15 to 19 new referred attendees. 
  • 2-2.5x conversion rate for referred attendees. Not only a referral program will bring in an extra 15% to 19% increase in your attendees but referred attendees tend to convert at least twice as much when compared to other attendees. This means they are more likely to buy tickets or premium passes or convert to your backend offers.

Equipped with these two statistics now you know what you stand to gain by simply adding a referral program to your marketing toolbox!

Virtual Events Referral Program Case Studies

Here are some great virtual summit hosts that we have worked with. These are just a few of those who have successfully implemented a referral program for their online virtual event and benefited from it.

Liam Austin, Co-Founder Entrepreneurs HQ

“What we really love about EarlyParrot is the ability to send email invites. That has helped us to get more referrals for our lists”

EntrepreneursHQ In-depth Case Study

David Cover, HomeSchool Summit

‘An extra 2,000 opt ins through our opt in form and I’m estimating an extra $5,000 to $10,000 in sales’

“When you can add a system like EarlyParrot, that allows you to give people bigger and bigger rewards depending on how many of their friends click their link, or opt in to your form through their link. Yeah, now we’re talking. And that’s why we saw some really, really good results from EarlyParrot”

Vasil Azzrov CEO Growth Marketing Conference

“We used a software called EarlyParrot… we got 1,000 referred attendees out of 7,500!”

This is Nathan Latka interview Vasil Azzrov CEO Growth Marketing Conference about how they registered 7,500 For Virtual Event in LockdownLinked to the part where Vasil breaks down how he got 7,500 registered attendees.