Posted December 5, 2008 1:07 pm by with 15 comments

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Andy’s Note: On a recent post, I was amazed at a lengthy and informative comment that was left by Lance Jepsen, author of Internet Marketing: Profits That Lie Hidden in Your Website.

With his permission, I thought you might be interested to read his advice on getting the most out of your “Refer/Tell/Recommend a Friend” efforts.


By Lance Jepsen

I’m always asked by clients how does viral marketing apply to my business? I think the great marketer Dean Hunt said it best, “Here is the secret that no other viral marketers seem to understand… getting 10,000 visitors of which 20% are targeted is BETTER than getting 100 visitors where 100% are targeted.”

Internet history is filled with stories of great products that conquered the world solely on word-of-mouth. Think Hotmail – the free email service that spread like wildfire and was eventually acquired by Microsoft for $300 million.

Hotmail spread by a process called viral marketing. Hotmail offered free email accounts for everyone. Anytime someone would send an email from their Hotmail account this marketing message would appear at the bottom: “This email was sent from a FREE Hotmail account. To signup for your own FREE Hotmail account visit”

We can adapt Hotmail’s viral marketing technique by using the “recommend a friend” or “tell a friend” PHP script.

The idea behind viral marketing is that you use a service you like, discover to your delight that it is free and tell your friends about it. Your friends tell their friends and soon the idea or product gains publicity like wildfire as its user base spreads like a virus.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to offer something free on your website in exchange for a prospect entering their email address.

A tell a friend form is the most commonly used form of viral marketing. It is also very easy to implement.

You need to have a web host provider that provides PHP. Most do. Next you need to upload the PHP file that instructs your web server to send an email and you need to modify your webpage to include the html form code.

There are many free tell a friend PHP scripts on the web. You can pick whichever tell a friend script is the easiest to drop into your web page. Just keep in mind that you want a tell a friend script that can accept at least 3 email addresses of your customers friends.

I see many websites that have the tell a friend form in the wrong place. Remember, you are using the KISS principle of web design where only one option is presented to your prospect at any time. That single option is THE option that you want them to take. Adding a tell a friend form on any webpage that displays before you close the sale violates the KISS principle of web design.

Most marketers will tell you to place your refer a friend form:

1. On the subscription confirmation page.

2. On any page where you offer a free lesson, free audio or downloadable software.

This is simply not correct. Think about it. If you place the tell a friend form on the same webpage as your sign up for a free subscription, they have not actually signed up yet. This means they do not know the quality of your subscription and so they certainly are not in a mood to refer you blindly to their friends.

If you place the refer a friend form on your free download page, that is even worse. Your prospect wants to download your software as quickly as possible and start using it to see if it meets her need. She has not even tried your software yet so why are you asking her to refer it to a friend?

The best web page to place the refer a friend form on is the thank you for purchasing web page. If you are using Paypal to accept online payments, then it is the web page that you tell Paypal to return your customer to on successful completion of their order. The refer a friend form should be displayed to your customers only, never your prospects.

For example, let us say that you are selling a software program. Your landing page from your Google ads should have on it a free trial version of your software offer if they enter their email address into your autoresponder form. Your prospect receives his download URL from your autoresponder in which case he downloads and uses your software for 3 days after which it expires. Your prospect clicks on the order button within your software which takes him to an order webpage. Your prospect fills out the order form and buys your software. He is taken to the thank you for purchasing web page that explains he will receive a serial key for his software program in about 30 minutes and a refer a friend form is displayed.

He has to wait to receive his serial key which he is told will take about 30 minutes. He can go out and take a smoke break while he waits to receive his email. He can also put in friends email addresses in your refer a friend form.

My own statistics show that 20% – 30% of your customers will put in at least two email addresses of a friend when presented with the refer a friend form at the precise moment I described above. Why is the conversion rate on a refer a friend form so much more successful when placed here than anywhere else? Because if he bought your software, it means he actually tried the trial version and likes it. He is much more likely to refer a friend after he uses your free trial version than before. Further, he is not trying to do something else when you present him with the refer a friend form. In fact, he has been told that there is nothing more for him to do but wait 30 minutes for his serial key to arrive by email. This timeout that you force on him after using the trial version and buying, and before actually receiving a serial key to unlock his software via email, is the perfect time to display to him the refer a friend form.

  • This is really great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    Actually putting a “tell a friend” in subscription confirmation page does make good sense. I’ll definitely try it out.

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  • So simple but yet so valuable. What would you advice on pages which only offers content (e.g. white papers) since there is no ‘timeout’ you can take advantage of.

  • Simple and powerful and I never realized these things. The best part of the tips for me is placing the refer a friend form in the thanks you page. While wait for 30 minutes before customers receive the serial key, I think they will choose to fill the form.

    Busby SEO’s last blog post..By: Chalicious

  • Leo

    Very good insight. I actually have never used the tell-a-friend script because I always thought that it was kind of intrusive to the friend’s friends. After all, don’t we all get enough junk as is in our emails. Of course, this is coming from a personal opinion and not my professional side.

    Leo’s last blog post..Internet Marketing Techniques That You Can Use Today

  • Wow, thats a heck of a comment and great advice. Thanks for sharing Lance!

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  • Great post. Your the first I’ve seen use this technique. I will try it. Thanks. I like the strategy of telling them it will take 30 minutes or so to get the email. lol.

  • Thanks for sharing with that realy interesting and useful

  • Jason Kuiper

    Very good stuff! I have never used tell a friend myself, but will start using this technique.

  • I have heard, or read rather on Andy Beard his blog that there are certain dangerous security leaks in those types of scripts. Or, at least there is a possibility they can be hacked pretty easy. I never use them.

    Super Affiliate Traffic’s last blog post..Super Affiliate Traffic by Erick Rockefeller and Howie Schwartz

  • PS3

    There must be plenty out there that are safe though, especially if you have been referred to one by a friend!

  • Thanks to share with us this tips. It is really very nice.

  • This is simply fantastic advise. Thank you.

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  • JT

    Two words here…”think viral”…period.

    JT’s last blog post..Zen and PPC campaigns

  • Refer a friend on the thank you page is absolutely powerful! I often see too many companies wasting their thank you page.

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