Morning Brew's Referral Program Gets New Subscribers Percolating

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"Our landing pages are designed to be minimalist and straightforward. You either sign up or you don't.... We use Google Optimize to test every aspect of our landing page, and that's especially important for optimizing incoming traffic from our referral program. We split our testing audiences into two main cohorts: referrals via email invites and all other referrals."

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That's from an article on the site Medium.com, by Tyler Denk, senior product lead for the Morning Brew, a newsletter-first media company that offers young professionals engaging, entertaining business news. In just 18 months, they increased their subscribers from 100,000 to 1.5 million.

Here are more of the reasons Denk cites for their success (and a little help if you don't want to embark on what Medium says is a 21-minute read):

Make it easy to share. Denk "created webpages that allowed Morning Brew's content (the full newsletter and the individual stories that comprised it) to be archived online. That made it possible for readers to share the individual newsletter stories on their social media accounts directly from the newsletter. The idea was that people who saw these posts would read the stories and sign up for the newsletter while visiting Morning Brew's website."

Build growth mechanisms natively into the product. We've all seen examples of this lately. I see it most now for special daily lotteries for popular plays, the latest being Dear Evan Hansen. "MULTIPLY YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING By entering your Twitter handle and following the Dear Evan Hansen page on Twitter, you can earn one additional entry." "By [following] the Dear Evan Hansen page on Facebook and/or Instagram, you can earn one additional entry per checked box." "Morning Brew has implemented a milestone-based referral program, which has a dedicated 'Share The Brew' section baked into every single newsletter we send," Denk writes.

Ace the tech part. The Morning Brew custom built their referral program. So every subscriber has a unique referral code, giving each person a unique link to share. When someone signs up, the referrer gets the credit.  

Simplify feedback. Readers just have to hit, "Reply" to offer comments. They "also leverage the passionate community of Morning Brew Insiders [to] conduct polls and facilitate discussions.

Establish rewards. For three referrals, you get Light Roast, an exclusive Sunday newsletter that costs Morning Brew nothing extra. Over 75,000 people get that—meaning they have each referred three at least three people. Five referrals gets you Morning Brew stickers. Ten referrals puts you into that Insider Community, a private Facebook group. And it goes up from there! 25 a shirt, 50 a mug, 100 a sweatshirt. So that means more free advertising.

Be clear, especially at the beginning. "People first need to know you have a rewards program (and how it works) before it can become effective," Denk writes. "Put yourself in the mindset of your users."

It's not quite gamification, but... They provide a real-time counter that tracks how many referrals someone has, along with some encouragement: "You're only X referrals away from receiving Y!" A previous progress bar was shuttled for the numeric counter.

Design a clear landing page. They tested layout of the page, header text, subheader text, text on the button, style of the form, color of the button, additional images, testimonials, etc. For their emails, they increased the conversion rate by over 4% through a few iterations involving the header, subheader text, button text, and button color. "That 4% increase in conversion rate leads to more than an additional 4,500 subscribers per month via the referral program alone."

Celebrate successes. Milestone emails are triggered after a first referral and then at 5, 10, 15, 25, 50, 100 and, ahem, 1,000). Writes Denk: "The purpose of these emails: to acknowledge the reader's accomplishment, show them how to redeem their reward (if necessary), and to motivate them to hit the next milestone." They call it "the referral pipeline" and they want people to climb up it.

And again, make referring easy. There are easy-to-follow directions, a "Copy Link" button, a way to put their link in your email so your friends come up automatically. They also give users an elevator speech to give to friends. "However it is editable, so if the user so chooses, they can add their own flare to the message or start from scratch." People who get an email invite convert at 75%; others convert at 35%.

There's a lot more, believe it or not, in Denk's article. It was quite generous of him to share all that.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…