Newsletter Referral Programs: What, Why & How

In the digital age, newsletters have proven to be a powerful tool for businesses to communicate with their audience, share insights, and build strong relationships. Indeed, one of the most effective ways to boost your email subscriber base is through a newsletter referral program. If you are looking into referral program ideas, give newsletter referral programs a shot.

Nielsen's research shows that a whopping 84% of people trust word-of-mouth referrals more than any other type of advertising. According to McKinsey, in certain industries, word-of-mouth generates over double the sales of paid advertising. You heard (or saw) that right, twice the amount of sales of paid advertising!

Without a doubt, word-of-mouth marketing is considered the most influential and desirable method of achieving growth in any field, and a newsletter referral program can help to facilitate this. Let’s explore the concept of newsletter referral programs, understand their importance, why businesses should consider implementing them, and how to effectively set up and run a newsletter referral program.

What is a newsletter referral program?

A newsletter referral program is an email marketing strategy where you incentivize your existing subscribers to refer your newsletter to others. This is usually done through a system of referral rewards or incentives, which can range from exclusive content to discounts, merchandise, or other benefits.

By incentivizing your existing subscribers to refer their friends and contacts to sign up for your newsletter, you can tap into their networks and expand your subscriber base. Its success relies on investing time and energy into creating a noteworthy product or service that satisfies customers, and finally motivating them to share their positive experiences.

Satisfied subscribers (or customers!) are more likely to recommend the product, service, or content they enjoy to their friends, family, or colleagues. Your subscribers’ peers will likely fit your customer profile, too, so it’s an incredibly efficient way to reach your target audience. If you are looking to take your email marketing strategy to the next level, this is your next step!

What are the key components of a newsletter referral program?

Here’s a brief outline of the six key elements of a newsletter referral program:

  1. Incentives: Rewards given to subscribers for successful referrals, such as discounts, freebies, exclusive content, or other rewards.

  2. Referral Link: A shareable unique link for each newsletter subscriber to share with their network and potential new subscribers.

  3. Sharing Mechanism: Share referral links or implement a share button in your newsletter for subscribers to easily share your content.

  4. Referral Tracking: Track the number of referrals generated by each subscriber.

  5. Reward Distribution: Once the new subscriber successfully signs up, the referring subscriber becomes eligible to receive rewards. 

  6. Promotion: Regular reminders and promotions encouraging subscribers to share the referral link.

infographic explaining 6 important components of a newsletter referral program

Why should businesses consider implementing newsletter referral programs?

Here are five key benefits of launching a newsletter referral program:

  • Organic growth: newsletter referral programs leverage the power of word-of-mouth marketing, driving organic growth as satisfied subscribers spread the word about the newsletter.

  • Cost-effective: Compared to other advertising methods and marketing strategies, newsletter referral programs are a more cost-effective way to acquire new subscribers. Additionally, the incentives are not necessarily monetary - e.g., an exclusive piece of content can be used as a reward for every successful referral.

  • Increased email engagement and higher customer retention: Rewarding your subscribers will keep them engaged and motivated. Referred subscribers are more likely to be interested in the newsletter's content, leading to higher engagement rates and lower unsubscribe rates. Additionally, referred customers have a 37% higher retention rate and an 18% lower churn rate, which makes cost per acquisition go a long way.

  • Trust, credibility, and community: People are more likely to trust recommendations from their peers, making them more likely to check out your brand or products. People are 4x more likely to buy when referred by people they know. This adds credibility to the newsletter's content and brand. Newsletter referral programs can also help build a strong community around your brand as your subscribers become your advocates.

  • Expands subscriber base and increases customer acquisition: Newsletter referral programs can significantly boost your subscriber numbers as people are more likely to trust recommendations from someone they know. This helps your company reach a wider audience and acquire more customers to hit business goals such as increasing paid subscriptions or boosting e-commerce sales, depending on what your business is.

Newsletter referral marketing examples

There are many benefits to creating a newsletter referral program. While it may be easy to list them, you might be wondering – do they actually work? Well, here are some in action! 

Morning Brew

Morning Brew is a daily newsletter that breaks down what is happening in the world of business for millennials (a.k.a young professionals). The Morning Brew newsletter referral program was an incredible success; it enabled the newsletter to increase its number of subscribers from 100,000 to 1.5 million in a mere 18 months. Additionally, 30% of original subscribers were referred to the newsletter.

Morning Brew's call-to-action to subscribe to the Morning Brew newsletter

What’s even more impressive is the fact that of all ‌subscribers, those referred through email have a 75% conversion rate to the company's landing page. This has shown that a newsletter referral program is one of the most powerful growth tools in email.


The GIST is a women-led, Canadian sports media company that runs a newsletter and a podcast called "The GIST of It". This covers both men's and women's sports and aims to connect with everyone in the sports community, no matter who they are. As of 2023, the GIST of It newsletter has over 700,000 subscribers.

The GIST sends out sports content 4 times per week. Their newsletter-centric approach includes having the newsletter sign-up front and center of their homepage, similar to Morning Brew. Each newsletter also makes it easy to share interesting news through a button.

The GIST's newsletter's sharing mechanism for newsletter referrals as part of their newsletter referral program

At the end of each newsletter, there is also a reminder to promote referring the newsletter to a friend with four simple steps. They even have a unique referral link ready to go.

The GIST's newsletter's section to refer the newsletter with a unique referral link in their email marketing

With such a large audience, the GIST has also included a job board to their newsletter, which has helped to acquire more newsletter subscribers. It is estimated that the job board also makes about $5,000-7,000 a month.

How else did they grow this model referral program example grow their newsletter subscriber list in addition to their newsletter referral program? Through cross-promotions, paid advertising, advertising on other newsletters, and giveaways and co-registrations. They are very specific with the brands they work with to make sure that they align with their brand voice. Examples of brands they have worked with in the past for these growth strategies include Altra Running and Female Startup Club.


Girlboss is a group of resilient, inquisitive, and driven females transforming the meaning of achievement based on their personal definitions. Its purpose is to educate, engage, and empower women to find success on their terms, through their content, and especially through their daily newsletter.

There are over 250,000 Girlboss Daily newsletter subscribers. With job postings, career advice, meaningful insights, and different subscriber segments, they are not only able to scale but also personalize content for different segments of their community.

Girlboss' call-to-action to subscribe to their newsletter and start earning referral rewards

Through the newsletter, current readers are also encouraged to promote the newsletter to friends to earn rewards, which has contributed much to its success. In each newsletter, there is a section that promotes products they are affiliated with as well, which generates affiliate commission for the company, too.

Turn your newsletter referral program into a growth powerhouse with Partnero

Before launching a newsletter referral program on Partnero, here are some things you should consider. 

Position Yourself For Success

What’s the best way to win a F1 race? To start at pole position, of course. Launching a referral program is no different. Here are some key considerations. 

  1. Define your goals and target audience for your newsletter

    This determines the type of content you want to include. You can also plan what sections you want to include and how you want to engage your target audience. An important thing to keep in mind is shareability. Signing up for the newsletter should also be an easy process!

  2. Choose the right incentives or referral rewards for newsletter referrals

    It's important to make sure your newsletter subscribers are incentivized. Decide on how you want to reward your newsletter referrals.

  3. Create compelling referral messages

    Whether you want to include a button or a solid section on how to refer to your newsletter, you need to think about how to make this process easy and compelling. You want your subscribers to want to share your newsletter, so craft these messages and its call-to-actions carefully!

  4. Think about how you want growth and maintenance strategies

    Come up with strategies to promote your newsletter referral program. You will also need to figure out how to track and measure the success of your program (referral tracking is super important!), and continuously optimize and improve your program.

Integrate Partnero to your GTM tech stack

Now you can launch your newsletter referral program with Partnero in a few simple steps!

First, you’ll need to log in to your Partnero account (or sign up if you haven’t yet!) and create a new referral-type program. You’ll then be able to:

  1. Connect to your email service provider and sync your subscriber list. During the synchronization process, each subscriber will be assigned a unique referral link that they will be able to use to refer new people to your newsletter.

  2. Choose the right incentives by understanding what motivates your subscribers and offering them incentives that they find valuable.

  3. Create rewards and set conditions for when the reward should be issued. For example, send the subscriber a free e-book when they refer five people or reward your subscribers with Amazon gift cards: boost participation with valuable, flexible, and easy-to-use rewards.

  4. Set up a branded subscribe portal where existing subscribers will be able to track their progress in real-time.

  5. Design the subscribe page where referrals will be sent to sign up.

  6. Make it easy to refer‌ to. Provide a simple and straightforward process for your subscribers to make referrals. Embed a referral section to your newsletters for frictionless sharing.

Customize, Automate, Track, Promote, and Relax

Once you have integrated and created a newsletter referral program on Partnero, here are some additional steps you can take to increase the reach of your program and its success.

  1. Automate digital reward fulfillment: When the reward criteria is met, automatically reward your subscribers with coupon codes, useful content and Amazon gift cards.

  2. Design a white-label subscriber portal: With your own branded portal, subscribers can have a unique partnership experience and track their progress in real time. Additionally, offer a branded subscription form for new referrals. Make sharing your newsletter a unique experience.

  3. Automate subscriber approval and enable email notifications: You can automate the approval process to increase your subscriber list quickly. You can also set up email notifications to alert partners of updates to the newsletter or to your newsletter referral program.

  4. Promote your referral program easily: Embed a referral section to your newsletters to promote your newsletter referral program with each newsletter you send. Make it easy for subscribers to access and share their unique referral link. 

  5. Track and measure the success of your program and make adjustments as needed, using Partnero’s referral tracking system.

Grow your business by launching a newsletter referral program with Partnero

Newsletter referral programs can be a powerful tool for businesses to grow their customer base and increase customer loyalty. By understanding what they are, why they are beneficial, and how to effectively implement them, businesses can leverage the power of word-of-mouth marketing to drive growth and success.

A newsletter referral program is also a great way to build your community, spread the word about your products or services, and reach a highly targeted audience. Take your email marketing strategy and referral marketing to new heights. Getting your newsletter referral program started with Partnero is a breeze, and it requires little effort to keep it going. Don't wait - begin using Partnero now!

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