Issue #032

How (and why) I overhauled my newsletter referral programme

"You mean I could win a Nintendo...?"

When I was a kid, my elementary school hosted a magazine drive every year.

We were encouraged to walk around the neighbourhood and try to sell magazine subscriptions. The more we sold, the more rewards we'd unlock.

...And, yep, I wanted that Nintendo.

(Back then, I guess it was pretty normal for young kids to go door-to-door and hawk stuff. Weird how quickly things have changed!)

Most newsletter referral schemes are pretty similar (but with worse prizes... where are my moon boots?!)

  • Refer 3 people, get some exclusive PDF report

  • Refer 10, get something even better

  • Refer 50, I'll give you a nice shoutout on Twitter

Generally speaking, this has worked out pretty well for me – about 10% of all new subscribers are because someone on my list decided to engage with this widget and promote my list:

(BTW, Sparkloop is such a great product and makes doing all of this so easy, and I'm proud to be a customer.)

One email = one call-to-action

The other week, I had a call with a long-time reader and customer, Daniel Wallace.

He was intrigued by setting up a newsletter referral programme, but he didn't want to risk sacrificing sales of his own products.

"This would mean I have two call-to-actions in my email: a product promo, and a "share my newsletter" widget. Isn't that bad form?"

I agree with Daniel that, generally speaking, you really don't want to confuse people by offering up two "asks" in a standard nurturing email, like a newsletter (and definitely never in a sales email!)

The wheels started turning...

I want to have a referral programme.

But I also want to passively promote the various products I have for sale.

What's the best way to accomplish both without shoving too much stuff into an email?

My fix (I have no idea if this will work!)

After my call with Daniel, I've been stewing on the best way to solve the "two CTAs" problem.

Here's what I've settled on (at least for now):

  • Rather than offering reward tiers with pretty big jumps (i.e. 25 -> 100 referrals), I've settled at valuing each referral at $5

  • Whenever a subscriber refers someone new to my list, they'll get $5 added as "store credit" to their subscriber profile

  • Credit is automatically applied to any Create & Sell purchase. This means that if someone has $50 in credit and goes to buy an $80 product, they'll be able to buy it for $30 (without needing a coupon code or whatnot.)

  • I'm removing the old scoreboard style referral widget...

  • ...And adding a recommended product widget that includes any discounts you have available, and a hit list on how to get more credit

The new promotional widget at the end of each email ends up looking something like this:

This wasn't easy to set up, but I want to share how I did it with you.

I'm including instruction on how to build a custom recommendation + referral engine into Mastering ConvertKit, and bundling the code into my Creator Email Template Pack, however...

Next week I'm going to openly share with this list:

  • How I added a bank ledger (of sorts) to ConvertKit

  • How I'm automatically adding credit to subscriber profiles when referrals happen

  • What I had to do to get my order system to take into account someone's available credit (and how I made it tamper-proof)

  • How I got credit info to sync with my sales pages automatically

  • What I've done to not only highlight a recommended product at the end of my emails, but also to change bits and pieces depending on how much credit someone has

  • Some GREAT pushback I've received from really smart friends. This experiment might not work. I've received some advice on why it might not work, and I've been given permission to share these discussions with you 👍


I'm going to enjoy writing this all up, and I hope you end up learning a lot from it too.