My review of SparkLoop (and how it's helped me boost list growth by 9.9%)
I love shiny objects.
And I think one of the reasons I'm most excited about getting Create & Sell off the ground is that I now have a good reason to play with new toys do serious research that helps creators like you and me 😂
You may have noticed at the bottom of my emails that I've included a giant referral area with a personal progress meter, upcoming reward, and list of "active" rewards?
That's my referral program in action.
And, so far, it's worked out pretty well!
9.9% of my subscribers joined because an existing subscriber referred the list to them, either by mentioning it on social media, dropping a link in their newsletter, or just DMing someone they thought might be interested.
What I'm using: SparkLoop
Powering Create & Sell's newsletter referral program is a new product called SparkLoop.
It's plug-and-play: I linked it with my ConvertKit account, and a few minutes later it was ready to go.
What SparkLoop does is pretty genius...
It assigns a number of custom fields to every subscriber in your database. These fields include things like whether someone came via referral, how many referrals someone's generated, their unique referrer ID, and more.
Using this data, you can automate the sending out of rewards, incentivize people with custom campaigns, and... well, really whatever!
I really like how SparkLoop handles this. Rather than them trying to dictate how someone should be rewarded something, it's up to you to lay the groundwork. They handle all the messy backend stuff, like determining that a new opt-in came from a particular subscriber.
Is a referral program worth the effort?
With so many different list growing / revenue boosting tactics out there, is setting up a newsletter referral program really worth it?
For Create & Sell it has been. Just a few days into it, 91 new subscribers have come from referrals. And based on my experience with a larger, older list I run (Double Your Freelancing, 50k subs), a ~10% referral rate this early is pretty damn good.
Gamification works. Incentives work.
And if you're producing solid content, I think people are generally OK with sharing you with their network.
I asked the team at SparkLoop for a few mini case studies, and here's what they sent back:
Corey Haines, of SwipeFiles, is averaging just north of $1k/mo in added lifetime value to his list because of referrals. (His subscriber LTV is $30)
James Clear is adding thousands of new subscribers per month by giving away free PDF after 3 referrals.
Aleyda Solis has gone from ~300 new subscribers a month to over 1,000.
But do I think that just having a newsletter referral programs means your list growth is going to explode? Nope.
A few foundational pieces need to be in place first:
You need to actually have a list. Multiplying by zero is still... zero 😀
This list should be fairly active and established. I probably started a bit prematurely considering the age of Create & Sell, but I was able to move over a few hundred people from my existing email list, Double Your Freelancing, almost overnight.
You should be making money off the list. This will allow you to put a quantifiable value on a subscriber, which will help you with determining what your rewards program will look like.
You should have a solid set of reward tiers.
You should have a clear call-to-action in your non-sales emails that encourage people to promote your list.
How I set up the Create & Sell referral program
In talking with Louis (one of the founders of SparkLoop), he recommended an easy-to-reach reward that the majority of your subscribers should be able to receive.
I settled on 3 referrals for the first reward tier.
My reasoning? Most creators probably know at least 3 other creator-types who might be interested in this list.
Once reached, those referrers are now auto-segmented start receiving a fortnightly newsletter that exposes more behind-the-scenes data than I'd typically share publicly. (Hat tip to James Clear's "Secret Newsletter" for this idea.)
My second tier, at 10 total referrals, is a discount code for Mastering ConvertKit (which, otherwise, never goes on sale.)
My thinking here would be that someone who could get 3 referrals probably could eventually get to 10 – especially with my prompting in the footer of each newsletter.
Since the discount is valued at $100, this means I'm valuing a subscriber at around $10 – which sounds about right.
Beyond the second tier, the recommendation was to appeal to those who have significant clout with their own audience and could promote you more heavily. I settled on a few different offers for power referrers: free coaching from me once 25 referrals is hit, and then a free copy of Mastering ConvertKit should someone hit 100.
And just a few days in, Nico at Failory did exactly that. He casually mentioned the list in a recent newsletter, and is already at 46 referrals!
It should be 'set it and forget it'
When it comes to building an audience, I prefer spending all my time creating (i.e. writing) and delegating to systems to handle the stuff that actually makes me money.
For example, I'm writing this review email today – Issue #002 – and all the newsletter referral bit is going to automatically be included at the bottom of this email.
Setting that up was a one-time effort that I'll rarely ever need to touch, and that's what I'd recommend you do.
The easiest way to do that is to make your referral call-to-action part of your email template. Whenever you're sending a non-promotional email, this template will be responsible for including your referral CTA automatically.
A good CTA should do more than just have a link/button that says "Share this" – I really think that one of the reasons my referral program is off to such a good start is because it's:
Set apart from the email actual content
Includes a progress bar. Games have trained us since childhood to always want bar progress to tick forward.
Shows someone what they're personally tracking toward (the next reward)
Most importantly, there's a bigggg button that screams "click me!"
Here's what my CTA looks like, and what someone would see if they've referred 4 total subscribers:
Once your CTA is set up, now you just need to configure the automation that triggers whenever a subscriber hits a particular threshold.
Doing this in ConvertKit is pretty straightforward:
Download my call-to-action template
I have my first official giveaway for Create & Sell 🎉
If you sign up for SparkLoop (free for up to 2.5k subscribers), I'll send you the exact template I use to power my referral call-to-action, along with a video overview on how to use it.
While the template is designed for ConvertKit, it should be able to be adapted to other email marketing platforms.