When our startup, Bar None Games, launched in 2020, we knew we had built something special: a premier virtual team-building platform that offers everything from trivia games to interactive scavenger hunts to help hybrid and remote employees feel connected. 


But in those early days, with no sales or marketing function to speak of, we had to figure out—fast—how to get the word out and attract first-time customers. Our solution? A referral program that essentially turned our most enthusiastic customers into brand ambassadors. It quickly became a winning strategy that accounted for 50% of our sales by the end of our first year.  

Giving a nudge 

Creating a customer referral program is a smart strategy, especially for a young company, because it engages and rewards your happiest customers while also being an affordable way to drive word-of-mouth advertising—pretty much the most powerful type of marketing around.

As a small B2B company serving much larger companies, we discovered early on that some of our best ambassadors were team leaders who work across multiple functions—for example, a leader on the finance team who works closely with sales and marketing. Our early growth was super organic, as my co-founder, Spencer Fertig, and I mined our personal networks. But once we attracted one team leader within a company as a customer, they were often happy and willing to spread the word to their colleagues on other teams. 

However, sometimes they just needed a little extra “nudge,” so we created our referral program to do that. Here’s how it works: Anyone who has booked a team-building event with us receives an email with the opportunity to become a brand ambassador. By using their special ambassador code, they’ll get a perk for every person they refer, while also giving their referral a discount. 

We offer multiple tiers of rewards. First, there’s “Give $40, Get $40”; anyone who books via a referral gets $40 off the cost of their event while the brand ambassador receives a $40 gift card. Once they go beyond that first referral, we sweeten the pot by throwing in a Bar None Games-logoed hat after you reach five referrals, a discounted team game after 10 referrals and a branded YETI cooler after 20 referrals.

We promote our referral program on our website and in our email signatures.

Brand ambassadors also are invited to beta-test new games we are planning to roll out on our platform. We’re always looking for people who are open to games that may not be 100% finalized yet. What works? What doesn’t? It’s fun for them, and it’s a way for us to guarantee a high-quality experience as we go through the beta-testing process. 

Game on

Bar None Games has grown significantly since our early days, and last year, we did just over $1 million in revenue. We’ve worked with over 1,500 companies.

We still promote our referral program widely; although as the company has matured, we now get the bulk of our sales through other means. Outbound sales account for about half of our revenue; our partners—vendors who sell our products to their clients—make up about a third; and referrals account for the rest, about 15%.

That said, our brand ambassador program was instrumental in helping us get to this point and continues to be a critical ingredient to our success—as it’s hard to beat the impact of a personal recommendation by a happy customer.

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