friends or sisters sharing recommendations on phones

Generating Leads by Starting a Referral Contest

This guide offers a comprehensive strategy for harnessing the power of referrals through a contest format. It explains how to plan, launch, and manage a referral contest where individuals who refer the most clients within a set timeframe win a prize. This approach incentivizes your existing customer base and network to actively participate in your business’s growth. By focusing on exciting rewards, clear rules, and effective communication, you can significantly increase your client base and strengthen your relationships with current clients.

Tools & Skills Needed

  • CRM Software: For tracking referrals and managing participant data.

  • Communication Platforms: To announce, promote, and update on the contest.

  • Survey Tools: For collecting feedback post-contest.


  • Prizes: Select rewards that are desirable and relevant to your audience.

  • Promotional Materials: Design engaging materials to spread the word.

  • Tracking System: Set up a method for tracking referrals accurately.

infographic on how to plan a referral contest


  • Step 1: Planning Your Referral Contest

    Identify Your Goals: Before launching a referral contest, be clear about what you hope to achieve. Whether it’s increasing your client base, boosting brand awareness, or introducing a new service or product, your goals will shape the contest’s structure.

    Choose an Attractive Prize: The prize should be compelling enough to motivate participation. It could be one of your products, a free service, a cash reward, or anything that aligns with your business and appeals to your audience.

    Set Clear Rules and Criteria: Define how winners will be determined (e.g., the number of referrals), the contest duration, and any other conditions participants must meet. Clarity prevents misunderstandings and ensures fairness.

    Promote Your Contest: Use all available channels—email, social media, your website, and in-person interactions—to spread the word about your contest. The more people know about it, the more successful it will be.

  • Step 2: Engaging Your Network

    Leverage Existing Relationships: Encourage your current clients, friends, family, and professional network to participate. Personalized communication can make them feel valued and more likely to engage.

    Provide Tools and Resources: Make referring easy by providing referral links, promotional materials, or simple instructions on how to refer new clients.

    Keep Participants Updated: Regular updates on contest standings can spur ongoing engagement and competition, keeping participants motivated throughout the contest period.

  • Step 3: Managing the Contest

    Track Referrals Accurately: Ensure you have a reliable system in place to track referrals and attribute them correctly to participants. This could be through a CRM system, referral codes, or a dedicated landing page.

    Celebrate and Reward Winners: Once the contest ends, announce the winners publicly (with their permission) and distribute the prizes promptly. Celebrating winners not only rewards their effort but also shows others that your contests are legitimate and rewarding.

    Gather Feedback and Learn: After the contest, collect feedback from participants to learn what worked and what could be improved. This insight will be invaluable for future contests and other marketing initiatives.

A referral contest is an effective and fun way to generate new leads while engaging your existing clients and network. By offering attractive prizes, setting clear rules, and promoting the contest widely, you can encourage widespread participation. Remember, the key to success is not just in acquiring new leads but in creating an enjoyable experience that strengthens your relationship with your community.