Customer Success Story: How a national festival used referral rewards to gain leads and boost awareness

This content discusses the success of the National Cherry Blossom Festival's refer-a-friend giveaway campaign and its impact on lead generation.

By Jane Vance ・5 min read
Best Practices
Customer Stories

Traveling internationally has become more and more popular. In fact, international travel from the United States rose 6% between 2017 and 2018. That’s probably why we’ve seen so many different types of travel-related campaigns over the last few years! Everyone from airlines to hotels, luggage companies to camera manufacturers want to take advantage of increased travel.But what’s travel without a friend? Refer-a-friend contests are perfect for travel-related giveaways, as these giveaways normally include the chance to win prizes for “you and a friend.” If entrants share the contest with friends who then enter, they not only increase their chances of winning, but their friends get chances to win too (and assuming they invite the person who told them about the contest, that’s another entry).The National Cherry Blossom Festival created the Travel Blossoms Here giveaway as a smart campaign for reaching folks who are interested in leisure travel. The National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the friendship between the United States and Japan through an annual festival. They partnered with All Nippon Airways (ANA), an airline based in Japan, to give away a pair of economy class round-trip tickets to Tokyo.Why was this a smart partnership? Just like travel in general, the number of folks flying each year is increasing. The number of people flying from the United States to other countries rose 9% between 2017 and 2018, and it’s expected to grow another 6% in 2019. As you might have guessed, the growing traveling public is important to ANA’s success. Working with the National Cherry Blossom Festival to give away a trip to Tokyo gains ANA both brand recognition and leads.Along with a smart partnership, the National Cherry Blossom Festival also leveraged the power of ShortStack’s refer-a-friend feature to help promote the campaign and build their list. This customer success story will share the campaign details and results, as well as explain how the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s team set it up.

Contest Basics:

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual festival in Washington D.C. that commemorates the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Japan to the United States as a symbol of the friendship between the two countries. The National Cherry Blossom Festival’s Travel Blossoms Here Giveaway was created in conjunction with their event sponsor, ANA. The giveaway fits the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s target market nicely, because folks interested in a trip to Japan from the United States might also be interested viewing cherry blossoms (a flower often associated with Japan) in Washington D.C. and taking in a variety of multicultural performances.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival's "Travel Blossoms Here" giveaway. Built with ShortStack's Refer-a-Friend Giveaway templateThe giveaway ran from October 25, 2018 to April 16, 2019. The winner was awarded two roundtrip tickets from the United States to Japan on ANA. To enter, people simply visited the contest landing page and filled out the entry form. Entrants could gain extra entries by referring friends and subscribing to the ANA mailing list.

“Our goal for the campaign was to increase the brand exposure of both ANA and the National Cherry Blossom Festival. We receive 3,000 entries into the campaign, since for every 100 entries we received, ANA would plant a cherry tree in the DC area (up to a maximum of 30 trees).”~ Nora Strumpf from the National Cherry Blossom Festival

The refer-a-friend feature helped keep entrants engaged throughout the entire campaign. Entrants could only submit one entry to the contest. However, they could earn one additional entry for each person they referred who also entered the contest. Extra points were awarded if all of the following steps were completed:

  1. Entrants shared their referral URL (making them the referrer);
  2. Someone (e.g. a friend) clicked the referral URL (making them the referral);
  3. The referral submitted an entry of their own via the same form as the referrer.

Using the refer-a-friend feature encouraged folks to share the contest, which not only gained them extra points, but also served to promote the campaign and the National Cherry Blossom Festival itself.

Entrant were incentivized to share the giveaway by being offered an extra entry for each friend that entered using their unique URL.Entrants could also earn one extra entry by subscribing to ANA’s email marketing list. Incentivizing folks to sign up for a mailing list, especially when you’re working with a sponsor, is a great strategy for boosting leads. Folks who are on the fence about subscribing might see the benefit of an additional entry as the push they needed to sign up. Plus, when sponsors see the additional return on invest of leads and not just brand recognition, then they might be more inclined to continue supporting the cause in the future.

Entrants could also earn one extra entry by subscribing to ANA’s email marketing list.

Campaign Elements:

The setup for this campaign was simple. The National Cherry Blossom Festival team started with a template, which they customized to fit their needs and their organization’s branding. The campaign included just a few elements:

  • An entry form to collect contest submissions;
  • The refer-a-friend feature;
  • The field points feature;
  • The option to share; and
  • An autoresponder sent to entrants after form submission.

Contest entry was incredibly straightforward. People visited the campaign and submitted an entry via the form. If entrants wanted, they could check a box to sign up for ANA’s email marketing list and gain one bonus entry in return.

Entrants received an email autoresponder with their unique referral link.After form submission, a popup displayed the entrant’s unique referral URL. Entrants were encouraged to share the campaign immediately to start collecting referral points. The referral URL was also sent to the entrant via an autoresponder for later use. To receive a bonus entry for referring a friend, the referral had to click the referrer’s unique referral URL, then submit an entry of their own via the same form filled out by the referrer.

The Results:

The National Cherry Blossom Festival collected lots of leads for their email marketing list. They received 7,543 unique entries to the contest, which doesn’t include additional entries being doled out as bonus entries earned through refer-a-friend and the field points. This put them well over the 3,000 entries they needed for ANA to plant all 30 trees it pledged. Nora said, “We were surprised by how quickly we met our goal for entries into the campaign.”Likewise, ANA received over 3,800 new leads. The emails collected by both the National Cherry Blossom Festival and ANA will serve as qualified leads for upcoming marketing endeavours pursued by both teams.

“We were surprised by how quickly we met our goal for entries into the campaign.”

The campaign also received 39,552 views, with almost 60% of those views--23,236 to be exact--being unique views. The refer-a-friend feature helped to encourage sharing, as the campaign saw 2,329 shares via the campaign share links. One entrant earned 393 bonus entries via her referral URL! Plus, the autoresponder sent after form submission had a 33% open rate, so it’s likely folks were sharing the links they received via email as well.

Crucial ShortStack element: Refer-a-friend bonus entries

The refer-a-friend feature is a way to leverage the power of sharing to grow your leads. During the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s Travel Blossoms Here giveaway, over 550 participants received at least one bonus entry from a referral they sent to the contest, with the top referrer pulling in 393 bonus entries. These referrals lead to over 1,800 leads. The referrers not only gained points for themselves, but they promoted the campaign for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. By sharing the campaign, referrers also helped spread awareness of the festival.

Refer-a-friend campaigns incentivize sharing and boost leads

Social media sharing is a powerful tool. When done right, refer-a-friend contests encourage folks to share your campaign to boost their chances of winning and gather qualified leads for you. The National Cherry Blossom Festival’s campaign is a perfect example. The prize they provided through ANA fits their target market perfectly. In turn, the leads they collected and the brand awareness they gained through their refer-a-friend contest will fuel future marketing endeavors.

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About the author

By Jane Vance ・5 min read

Jane has over a decade of martech experience, with an emphasis in content marketing, UX, and customer success. Her combined skillset and years of hands-on experience make her a valuable player in the industry. In her free time, Jane loves quiet family dinners at home and a good book.

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