SparkLoop Review: Effortlessly grow your email list with referrals

10th August 2021

TL;DR

Ever wondered how Morning Brew, The Hustle and TheSkimm gained millions of newsletter subscribers? SparkLoop makes it easy to reward your subscribers for sharing your newsletter with their audiences, tapping into their loyalty and putting your growth on autopilot. A game changer for effortless newsletter growth.



Loved

  • High-quality growth
  • Ease of setup
  • Automation
  • Giveaways

Loathed

  • Landing page design
  • Small number of templates

The Story

What is SparkLoop?

Growing your email list can be hard. Step up SparkLoop - a high converting, totally scalable email referral scheme in a box.

Referrals mean prizes and SparkLoop makes it easy to tier rewards, track and trigger them, and create one giant referral loop. It works seamlessly with all the top email marketing providers – Mailchimp, ConvertKit, Campaign Monitor, Drip, and the like – with no developers or code needed.

If that’s not enough, SparkLoop can also power giveaways, entice new subscribers with social proof and convert them with a single-click elsewhere on the web.


Louis Nicholls & Manuel Frigerio

Meet the Maker:
Louis Nicholls & Manuel Frigerio

The story of this SaaS marriage begins at a chance meeting at a tech conference in London in 2019. Shortly afterwards, one of Louis’ consultancy clients commissioned Manual to build them a referral program – a supercharged version of his ReferralHero referral tool.

Fast-forward to August 6th, 2020 and SparkLoop was born. Their vision for the tool is to be the “default, no-brainer newsletter referral tool for the largest newsletters in the world.” Easy to use, proven to work and much loved by customers, SparkLoop now helps thousands of email authors to acquire new subscribers cost-effectively and faster than ever. Their impressive list of clients includes James Clear, Tim Ferriss and Shane Parrish, they’ve formed formidable partnerships with the likes of ConvertKit, and built free tools such as Proof and Reactions for anybody keen to grow their email newsletter.

The Product

How we tested SparkLoop

Lured by its promised returns and stories of “50k new subscribers in 5 months” I was genuinely excited to try SparkLoop.

SparkLoop offer a free course of email list growth gold that comes with a free 30-day trial of SparkLoop Pro. Perfect for anybody wanting to test the water. Spread across 5 emails it offers bursts of inspiration and best practice, with a focus on applying the same tactics to your own campaign.

SparkLoop newsletter referral course   Surges.co review

I’d use SparkLoop to acquire new subscribers to my Marketing #SaaSclub newsletter. It has a low starting point of 500 subs and with that I wasn’t sure a newsletter referral program would work for my (tiny) audience.

I also didn’t want to blow the bank on rewards. Surges is a side project after all. So rewards would be largely free and digital only, unless a subscriber was sending serious numbers my way.


Getting started with SparkLoop

Course completed, connecting SparkLoop to your email provider takes just a few clicks.

SparkLoop claims you’ll be referral-ready in 17 minutes. Once connected, individual subscribers are given a unique referral link directly into the body of your newsletter and any referrals are automatically detected and rewarded according to the criteria you set.

Both parties get their own SparkLoop dashboard, so it keeps them motivated and gives you a bird’s eye view of your entire campaign. The whole process is super simple, however for anybody needing a bit more handholding, SparkLoop offers a free concierge onboarding service.

Features you’ll love

  • 📨 More referrals, more rewards

    Incentives are subscriber superfood.

    With SparkLoop you’re in total control of rewards. Choose from a single reward, multiple reward tiers, or recurring rewards. Whether you want to give away merch, discount codes, exclusive access, free membership for a few months or a free e-book, SparkLoop makes it easy to create, track and optimise rewards that actually work.

    Screenshot 2021 08 10 at 10.53.39

    SparkLoop is extremely polished. With very little effort you’ll have a good looking and highly effective viral referral scheme on your hands.

    I’m on a side project budget, so will be going for affordable and easy-to-create rewards. Think digital “thank you”s and drop-shipped swag, with a total budget of $250.

    One of the former free course graduates, Aleyda, advised: “it’s really important to have a reward for 1-3 referrals that costs nothing so that every subscriber knows they’ll get something in return for sharing.” Wise words.

    The SparkLoop rewards library is full of inspiration for potential rewards. Go check it out!

  • 💌 Baked into your newsletter

    SparkLoop lets you bake a referral program into your usual newsletter.

    Connect it up to your MailChimp, ConvertKit, MailerLite, Campaign Monitor, Active Campaign or Drip account for amazing two-way data sync. This allows you to track new subscribers, insert unique referral links in your newsletter and for your referrers to attract new subscribers with a single click. No form filling needed!

    Subscribers can share the referral link any way they please, including on social media or by adding a section to their own newsletter. The single click sign-up is a win/win for everyone.

    One of the main reasons this all works so well is because it’s unshakably upfront and simple. “Refer a friend” or “Send to a friend” links are usually hidden away at the bottom of emails. SparkLoop makes the ask a lot more direct and appealing, so it’s no wonder it’s powered the growth of The Hustle, theSkimm and countless other newsletter success stories.

  • 🎁 Reward emails and fulfilment – easy-peasy

    Don’t fret about fulfilling all those rewards. You’re busy enough.

    SparkLoop can be setup to automatically send a congratulatory email to referrers due a reward. If the reward is digital (e.g. a PDF, discount, course etc), you can include a link to download it in the email itself. Clever!

    Whilst we’re on emails. SparkLoop can also automate ‘You’ve made your first referral’ emails and those to your new subscribers resulting from the campaign. Merge tags, such as ‘name’, ‘number of referrals’ and ‘referrals needed for next reward’ keep referrers feeling values and motivated.

  • 📈 Dashboards for all - keep motivating

    SparkLoop referral dashboard   Surges.co review

    SparkLoop keeps everyone in the loop with super simple and easy-to-find dashboards.

    Everything referrers need to stay motivated (subscriber count, reward tiers, key links) is in one place and wrapped in your branding. Referrers can also directly access their individual dashboard by following the unique link in your emails – no messing around with logins and lost passwords.

    The unique referral link means every new sign up is permanently credited to the referring subscriber’s account. SparkLoop ensures the all-important mix of accuracy, transparency and fun needed for any referral campaign.

    As the campaign owner, you’ll get a day-by-day breakdown of new subscribers, new referrals and traffic to your landing page. You can also see top referrers to drop them a “thank you” note, outside of the rewards system.

  • 🏆 Giveaways - inject more urgency

    Giveaways are great if you’re starting with a small audience or want to build your list even faster.

    SparkLoop giveaways   Surges.co review

    The Refer-to-Win Giveaway is very similar to the normal referral program you might run with SparkLoop, but instead of rewarding referrals with prizes, they get entries into a prize draw. The more referrals they make, the better their odds of winning. You know the score.

    SparkLoop powers these end-to-end too. It’ll even pick a winner for you, ensuring a fair draw. You can select the start and finish date, the entries per referral, the number of prizes and advanced anti-fraud measures (e.g. double-opt-in entries) to stop anyone gaming the system. Just like a SparkLoop referral campaign, Giveaways can also be embedded directly into your email newsletters.

  • 📝 Subscribe pages – a single editable template

    Although SparkLoop’s one-click subscription link is a godsend, you may also wish to send people to a landing page.

    SparkLoop’s Subscribe pages are designed with conversion in mind. They’re super minimalist, featuring just enough info to persuade and reassure potential new subscribers. However, I have to say I prefer Unbounce’s advanced landing pages, boosting better looking templates, building grid, social proof, A/B testing and AI optimisation.

    Still, it’s a much-needed feature and will do the job of converting traffic into subscribers. Make sure you point yours to a custom domain (e.g. subscribe.example.com) and don’t forget to set your success message.

Things to consider

  • SparkLoop doesn’t have a free plan, however it does have some amazing free tools!

  • SparkLoop Magic Link – one-click sign-ups

    Friction is the nemesis of newsletter traction.

    Add a free SparkLoop Magic Link your newsletter and let readers opt-in to your email-list with just one click. No need to go to a landing page or fill out a form. This moment of magic is perfect for contra deals and far more effective than placing an ad.

    Like the main SparkLoop product it works with most email platforms, including Mailchimp, ConvertKit, MailerLite, Campaign Monitor, Active Campaign, PostUp, Drip, SailThru, HubSpot and AWeber.

    Find out more
  • SparkLoop Proof – verified subscription stats

    I covered the power of social proof with Fomo. Build credibility to your claims by showing off honest stats, verified by SparkLoop.

    Because you’ve granted SparkLoop access to your email provider, it can automatically give up-to-date metrics on your newsletter numbers. The ‘Verified by SparkLoop’ seal of approval can be set to show your total subscribers or new subscribers added in the last 7-days.

    Why not go further and augment this feature with your own manual stats, such frequency, open rates and logos of big brands signed up to your newsletter.

    Find out more
  • SparkLoop Reactions – subscriber feedback

    Running a startup and sending newsletters can be a lonely affair.

    Sure, the dashboard offers some insights, but do you really know what your subscribers think of your content?

    SparkLoop Reactions lets your subscribers tell you in a snappy format – either with an emoji, poll or as NPS survey. It doesn’t stop there, you can share results with voters and keep the conversation going. What better way to get real engagement from your biggest fans.

    As with all of SparkLoop’s features, Reactions works with all the major email platforms.

    Find out more

SparkLoop Pricing

from $99 per month

Up to 20,000 subscribers

SparkLoop doesn’t have a free plan. Pay per subscriber and get all of the Pro features in every plan.

ConvertKit user? Get SparkLoop for FREE as part of ConvertKit’s Creator Pro package, which starts at $59/month for 1,000 subs ($167 for 10,000).


SparkLoop Alternatives

Viral Loops is the closest and biggest SparkLoop competitor. It offers the same code-free setup, 1-click integration with email providers, unique invite codes and tiered rewards, however has a broader range of templates beyond just growing your newsletter list. Viral Loops has templates for Shopify stores, Facebook Messenger, Prelaunch campaigns and Leaderboard Giveaways. This extra capability comes at a slightly higher cost as your subscriber numbers start to hit 25,000+.

SparkLoop Support   👍  or   👎

Creating a referral scheme involves a bit of upfront effort. Thankfully, SparkLoop offer a free course full of hints and how to content. ‘SparkLoop University’ as they call it, is only 5 emails so you’d be silly to start your campaign without it.

There’s also comprehensive support documentation, packed with step-by-step guides for every aspect of your referral scheme. And for anything else they’re only an email or tweet away.

The Verdict

Surges score

91%

If a professional referral scheme seems out of reach, think again.

SparkLoop makes it possible, easy and scalable, promising to work miracles for your email list growth.

Having never run one myself previously, I was blown away by how quick the whole process was with SparkLoop. Dreaming up perks, deciding tiers, embedding unique links into your newsletter and tracking and rewarding referrals is disarmingly easy. The one-click sign-up link is really the icing on the cake, removing any last friction that might deter someone from joining your list.

SparkLoop reliably attributes every new subscriber to a source and can automatically dish out digital rewards as your referrers move up the reward table. This keeps everyone fully in the loop and motivated to unlock bigger rewards – the cornerstone for any successful referral campaign. As humans, we’re hard wired to share, but we just need a little encouragement and the occasional incentive that SparkLoop presides over.

If there’s one criticism, it’s SparkLoop’s landing pages. They say the single template is the result of analysing hundreds of successful campaigns, but a bit more creative freedom would be appreciated. Still, that’s me being picky. Many referral campaigns won’t need a landing page at all.

It’s no surprise SparkLoop powers some of the biggest independent newsletters of all time. Having the best newsletter in the world means diddly squat if nobody knows about it. SparkLoop is a sure-fire way to create a stir about yours and acquire new subscribers cost-effectively and with minimal effort.

I’m excited to launch my own campaign and promise to report back with plenty of stats after its first 30 days.

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