Building a referral program is no easy task. There’s a lot to consider when building a program. Unfortunately, many programs don’t get the attention they deserve. They were hastily slapped together in a spare development cycle and just sit there.

Referral programs have so much potential to become a strong acquisition channel for your product/service. It’s just a matter of being aware of some of the common problems and what you can do to avoid them.

1 – Poor User Experience

poor user experience quote

Whenever you look to change the user experience of your product it should always involve a large amount of research and planning. Without careful consideration to the users’ experience a referral program can end up doing more harm than good.

Any change you take within the product must be approached as high risk/high reward and teams must put resources behind these initiatives.

2 – Unclear Call to Action

refaround referral program example

This referral program is desperate for some improvement. One of the areas that needs work is the unclear call to action. Though there is a big blue button on the page, it’s all the way down at the footer.

I’d recommend they use graphics to clearly communicate the benefits of making a referral as a plain text approach is unappealing to most users.

3 – No Re-Engagement Process

problems with referral programs
Image courtesy of kibsri/

When a user makes a referral for your product or service that shouldn’t be the end of the road. Most programs only show their users the referral discount when it gets applied to their invoice.

You should create re-engagement notifications to keep users aware of the progress they are making with your program. This motivates the users to stay engaged with the program and continually make invites for your product/service.

READ:  3 Referral Program Mistakes That Don't Work and Why!

4 – Unnecessary Friction Points


problems with referral programs
Image courtesy of mapichai/

Reducing friction is always at the top of the list when we think about conversion rate optimization and user funnels. It’s no surprise that this same principle heavily factors into the success of a referral program. Unfortunately, this is an area that gets neglected time and time again whenever a referral program is built.

Some programs make a user create a separate account just to make a referral. We understand why it happens, it takes more development time to properly track and fulfill the rewards. It’s a nice shortcut to achieve the result you’re looking for, sadly it’s a crucial flaw in many programs as it causes unnecessary friction for your users.

Being able to complete the entire referral process within your app leads to a streamlined user experience and increased program engagement. Which helps your referral program create the results you’re looking for.


Creating a referral program should never be implemented on a whim like other marketing experiments. When changing the user experience of your product/service you should involve resources from across your engineering, design and marketing teams.

They all play a crucial role in the success of your program so you can avoid common mistakes like:

  1. Poor User Experience
  2. Unclear Call to Action
  3. No Re-Engagement Process
  4. Unnecessary Friction Points


brandon gains linkedinBrandon Gains is the Growth Marketing Lead at Referral SaaSquatch – the customer referral platform for tech companies involved in SaaS, Media and E-Commerce. You can connect with him via email brandon at or on twitter @brandongains.