When it comes to your newsletter referral program, there's one golden rule.
If you want your audience to share and grow fast — you need rewards your subscribers really want to win.
And nowhere is that more true than for the most important reward of all: The trigger reward.
The trigger reward is key to your referral success. It's the very first reward (normally for 1-3 referrals) in your program. The reward everyone thinks they can win.
It's super important to come up with a trigger reward that attracts as many of your subscribers as possible. But that's no easy task. Unlike later rewards for 10, 20 or even 100+ referrals, you can't justify shelling out (much) cash for a reward that only brought in 1-3 referrals.
So — when it comes to free referral rewards that your audience will love — what should you choose?
You could take a look at our library of 14 free reward ideas. Or you could try out a completely new kind of trigger reward that's both completely free and highly effective for all kinds of newsletter audiences...
... the locked "insider" section.
What is a locked insider section?
The idea behind the locked insider section is ingenious — but also pretty simple.
Here's how it works:
First, you come up with a cool new section of your newsletter. Something people would love to read.
Next, you use some SparkLoop magic to "lock" that section of your newsletter. So that it's only visible to subscribers who have made a certain number of referrals.
Subscribers can "unlock" that section by making referrals (normally 1-3). But everyone who hasn't made enough referrals just sees a blurred-out section.
Here's an example from Justin Moore's Creator Wizard newsletter:
Why does it work so well?
Newsletter operators big and small have been getting amazing results with the locked insider section since we introduced it late last year.
And the reasons are clear...
- it's free to deliver (making it a perfect trigger reward)
- it doesn't take much work to fulfil each week
- it's highly incentivising — your subscribers will see a part of the newsletter they don't have access to and think "hey, I wonder what's behind there?"
Most importantly, a locked insider section can work for all different kinds of email audience.
- news/broad-appeal newsletters could feature a joke, a link, a blooper or a deal of the day in their insider section
- authors, creators and podcasters might feature exclusive bits of content from upcoming publications
- niche or B2B newsletters can share an insider tip, link, or thought from the writer
- local newsletters could feature a local event, a coupon for a local cafe, or something fun like reader-submitted photos of local landmarks
No matter who reads your newsletter, there's almost certainly a version of the locked insider section that'll drive free referral growth for you.
The locked insider section in action:
More of a visual learner? Here are three examples of the locked insider section being used successfully in real newsletters.
First up, Marketing Examined's Five Tactic Tuesday newsletter. Where — to unlock access to the fifth "bonus" tactic in the newsletter each week — you need to make two referrals.
Adam Ryan's Perpetual newsletter has a similar tactic.
Each week, he includes a graphic in the newsletter. To visually explain a key insight from the article.
But to get access to that graphic, you need to make at least one referral...
Then there's Pique Insider — the weekly newsletter of a large lifestyle and wellness brand.
Refer just one friend to their newsletter and you'll unlock the popular and fun "Mindful Manifesting" section. With personal tips for the week ahead.
How to come up with an insider section your readers can’t wait to crack open
So, what on earth should you include in your locked insider section?
That's a question only you can answer. Nobody knows your audience better than you do!
With that said, your locked insider section should probably be...
- Easy/quick to create: it shouldn’t be laborious or cost you much to pull together. For instance, if you’re offering “ten tips for training your dog,” you can make nine of them available and lock up the tenth one to entice readers to make a referral
- Intriguing: Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Why are they subscribed to your newsletter? What excites and motivates them? Tailor this insiders-only content to the person who can’t wait to read your stuff each week
- Exclusive/personal: Don’t deliver something that they can easily find somewhere else on your site. You can even consider making it a behind-the-scenes look at your business or include something more personal if you know your subscribers want to get to know you better
- Fun/playful: This is more of a “maybe” option, as it won’t work for everyone. But if you have the kind of brand where fun and playful works with your audience, you can consider something less serious for this section.
SparkLoop makes implementation easy: How to set up your locked referral section in 5 steps
Already know what content you'll use in your locked insider section?
Then there are five steps you need to follow to get it all set up in your email platform (ESP):
✅ Step 1: Create a segment in your ESP of all the subscribers who have made enough referrals to "unlock" the insider section
✅ Step 2: Create a segment in your ESP of all the subscribers who have NOT made enough referrals to "unlock" the insider section
✅ Step 3: Create the unlocked insider section in your email template — and make it only show to subscribers who have made enough referrals
✅ Step 4: Create a blurred out image of your insider section and add it to your email template — then make it only show to subscribers who have NOT made enough referrals
✅ Step 5: Make sure to add the referral link and social sharing options to your newsletter (so it's easy for people to get access)
And that's it!
The instructions for how to make your newsletter content visible only to certain subscribers depend on your email platform. This is something our SparkLoop experts can quickly help you with as part of our concierge onboarding service.
If you're a ConvertKit or Drip user, Brennan Dunn's Creator Email Template Pack includes an easy template for the locked insider section.