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A Referral Example from Southwest Airlines

I’m a big Southwest Airlines fan and customer enough to get all of their promotional materials, so I was pleased to see this fine referral offer example hit my mailbox. (I currently have 49 drink tickets too – should I drink more of fly less?)

I’ve written extensively about the need to create referral offers that get people into the game playing motivation. These offers are often most effective with people inclined to refer anyway, but the right message can get them very motivated.

The offer from Southwest is one of the classic approaches that I cover in The Referral Engine.


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The offer is highly personalized and gives me a set of tools that can help me earn a free flight if I introduce four friends to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa. I’m not so sure that offer is that great, but what I loved is the four referral cards attached that make it super easy for me to put something in a friend’s hand.


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One of the keys to generating more referrals is to make it easy to refer you. By creating mailings like this that can be sent out quarterly if you like, you can keep your referral campaigns top of mind. When you create a set of rules and a game message (get a 100% refund, earn a free flight, get a carpenter for a day), and them equip your referral sources with the tools to win the game, watch out!

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  • http://www.AlexGPR.com AlexanderG

    This is cool. I like the cards–makes it so simple and tangible.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Exactly – that's what makes this such a great example I think – any business, regardless of size could do this.

  • http://www.OnlineMarketingMuscle.com/ Andrea

    Love it, the incentive of a free flight makes it a no brainer for people to refer others. Just apply this to your product or service and make it appealing to your target market.

  • Greg Digneo

    Hi John,

    A couple of points here.

    1. You should drink more AND fly less.

    2. More often than not we get so caught up in the technologies of sharing and referring such as Twitter and Facebook, that most of the time we forget about simple things like paper and mail.

    I like the fact that you can touch the cards and physically pass them along to a friend. They could have easily (and cheaper) sent you a PDF with a coupon code and asked you to forward it to four of your friends.

    By giving you a physical card to distribute, it somehow becomes much more personal.

  • http://bizdharma.com Himanshu Chanda

    I guess the idea is great. Apart from many things that you have already highlighted the key I believe is the card. We share tons of offers online, refer people and Retweet… End of the day its becoming all virtual. You will never tell a friend to thank you for the link you tweeted him. But you can expect a thank for the card that you passed on. Its real, tangible and acts as a gift. Now referring is not just a favor you do to the company, its a favor that the company does to you…

  • download rapidshare

    this is such a great example thanks for sharing. good job

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  • http://www.eksengps.com Ozan Adivar

    It seems very innovative but when we tried that kind of campaign in Turkey, it did not worked properly. So maybe it was my fault but similar campaigns made by other companies also could not gave the succesful results after our campaign.