How to get free list signups in their thousands.

The biggest growth stories all have one thing in common.


The word viral gets over-used, particularly by video producers, desperate for a bit of clout, sending mildly amusing adverts to other under-emplyed video producers.

Virality CAN be engineered.

There’s a thing called the “network effect” where a system gets more useful the more people use it.

Being the first person with a telephone wasn’t much use, so you had to persuade your friends to get one as well.

Same with faxes, Facebook, WhatsApp, Zoom and every other tool for communications and sharing.

Dropbox grew spectacularly, not because they gave away some free storage space, but because they let you share that space with someone else.

Soon, people with no real idea how it worked were sharing huge folders.

That pretty much forced everyone to upgrade rather than go through the embarrassing conversation with your bosses and clients where you tell them to CLEAR THAT SHIT UP.

On a smaller scale, you can use this as an incentive for people joining your list.

I ran an absurdly successful campaign for a loyalty company where we offered a prize-draw incentive to join the loyalty scheme.

We tried loads of different things that were the flavour of the day. God knows how much money we spent with Apple on iPods, iPads and other gadgets that year.

Eventually, a chance conversation with one of our designers tipped me off to an idea.

We ran an incentive for a shopping spree on Oxford Street (London’s biggest retail therapy destination).

But the trick was, we decided to offer the prize to a group of 4 people.

Now, lets do a little maths here. The prize went up by 4x, but that doesn’t mean we had to 4x the promotion. We just had to get enough new members to cover the extra FIXED cost which was about £1,500.

Our member acquisition budget was around £1 per member, and I was adding about 50,000 leads to the database each month, so no biggie in this case to add another 1500 leads

[Side note, if you offer any sort of prize incentive, the response seems to get a big bump when the real value of it is over £1,000, so don’t play small.]

What we found was that when someone entered, they would also tell the 3 friends they wanted to take with them, and they’d enter as well. That gave each little ‘pod’ a 4x chance of winning.

After 3 months of running the campaign, we found out that for every name, we were getting at least another 2 in referrals.

All told we got another 200,000 members over the course of the year and they were GOOD members too – people who spent a lot on shopping.

(Remember what I said yesterday about keeping your eye on what king of customers you want to attract?)

Have a think about what parts of your product work better if they are shared, and if there’s anything you can do to get people to recruit their friends & colleagues into the list.

This is literally the recipe that Unicorns use to grow their business, so don’t sleep on it.

I also got our database guy to look at how close the ‘pods’ were to each other and we created a “bitch ranking” of people who would get invited into one “pod” but then create their own with a different group of friends.

Eventually we let people enter more than once and we had some people referring literally hundreds of friends. The number crunching you can do on these systems to find out your best referrers is pretty cool.

That’s all for today, I hope you can come up with something that helps your list growth as much as this did.  If so I’d love to hear about it.

Stephen Pratley
Copy & Conversion Consultant
The Conversion Co.

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