original photo by Brian Gratwicke

How to build a referral program inspired by Dropbox

Your existing user base is probably one of the most powerful user acquisition channels.

With PPC ads being more and more expensive and long-tail search terms too competitive, word of mouth is a great choice as an acquisition channel.

You get high value signups at an effective CAC, much lower than promoting your app on Facebook or Twitter.

People always tend to listen to recommendations from friends that’s why word of mouth is so powerful. The point is to get your users to talk to their friends about your product. In other words, create a viral loop.

Viral loop are the steps a user goes through between entering the site to inviting the next set of new users.”- Andrew Chen

… and this goes over and over again.

Users usually need a small push to start telling their friends about how great your service is. That’s why it’s 100% important to incentivize your users to invite their friends. This is what Dropbox did and boosted its viral growth.

Dropbox went from 100,000 to 4,000,000 users in 15 months.

You know the “Refer friends, they get X and you get Χ too.” It’s classic nowadays.

Super simple referral dashboard with a clear goal for the user. Invite friends for extra GB.

That’s how they did it, starting with 100,000 users and after 15 months they were up to 4,000,000. 😱 Amazing, huh?

Word of mouth is a huge growth source.

Along with Dropbox many more companies started a referral like this. Airbnb, Instacart, Lyft, Teespring, Uber and many more.

Build your own Dropbox-style referral 😎

1. Select the right rewards.

Reward your users every time they do something important for you. A good reward is something that will be valuable to all your users.

Offer benefits for both sides, your users and their friends who haven’t signed up yet. You need to encourage both sides of the table in order to increase your conversions.

  • A reward needs to be very appealing to the user. Badges, unlocking features, etc., only appeal to a subset of users.
  • Users should start seeing the benefit early, after the first few invites.

Rewarding your users is something that you should do in a regular basis, so brainstorm with your team a lot and come up with something valuable.

2. Build motivating emails

Wouldn’t it be great to make inviting addictive? You can design a nice little email that every user can send to their friends and invite them over.

I know, cats are the most motivating thing on the web

What is great about this email is it can serve a couple purposes. First, it helps your user share your product to her friends. Secondly, it requires almost zero effort, just enter email and click send.

You know, sometimes a good email can save lives.

Keep the viral loop strong. Additionally, the email that the referred individual gets needs to be simple and personable.

3. Design a referral dashboard

Create a page, just for your referral campaign. This will be the page your users will visit in order to invite their friends and see their referral activity.

Your referral dashboard should have some basic things:

  • Powerful and clear proposition in the headline
  • Social sharing options. Social proof increases user sharing
  • Multiple sharing tiers
  • Your user’s activity, how many friends signed up and how many rewards they have collected so far
  • Multiple sharing options to increase user sharing

Ready for it? 🤓

Building your own referral program can be hard and requires some development time.

Instead, you can build a referral campaign with Viral Loops.

We offer a referral template inspired by Dropbox. With this referral template you will be able to build virality in your product. Your users can invite their friends to sign up. After the invitee signs up, both can get rewarded, with the same or different rewards.

That simple! 😎

Here’s our amazing dashboard and that’s our referral template inspired by Dropbox. Pied Piper already uses it. 😝

To wrap-up, in order to build your own referral program you have to:

  1. Select the right rewards.
  2. Build motivating emails
  3. Create a referral dashboard
  4. Choose Viral Loops and start creating.

We just released our solution for startups. So if you’re a startup and you want to grow, visit this page.

If you run out of ideas, always remember:

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
– Pablo Picasso

Liked it? Just hit 💜 to let us know :)

We’d love to get your feedback, so feel free to leave a response below.

If you’d like to build Viral Loops together, join our community.

Viral Loops is the all-in-one viral marketing platform to launch your 
referral programs, sweepstakes, competitions and pre-launch campaigns.