To coincide with the holiday season, The Globe and Mail consumer sales team promotes a subscription referral programme to all of its employees. Vendors and clients generously donate prizes, which are used in weekly draw incentives to drive new print and digital subscriptions.

Employees use The Globe and Mail’s intranet or a Facebook app created specifically for the programme, which is in its fifth year, to promote the offer to their networks. For each new subscription, the employee receives a ballot in a weekly draw for a wide array of prizes.

We created the programme to increase employee engagement. Our strong relationships with vendors, who happily contribute prizes, allow us to conduct a referral campaign at no cost to us.

Previously, we received more than 40 prizes, but most were of smaller value. We found during the past two years that referrals were at their highest during the weeks offering larger prizes. We received many inquiries to our internal e-mail about the prizes and decided less is more and that larger value prizes would drive more referrals.

This year, our team offered donors silver-, gold-, and platinum-tiered prizes options. Based on different increments of value of prizing, we offered those that donated prizes (our printers, brand engagement teams, telemarketing companies, and other service providers we pay for services) greater levels of exposure for their brand, depending on the value of the prize. Those at the highest level received official sponsor recognition on internal posters and e-mails.

This year’s campaign has a smaller list of prizes but with greater value, including two brand new latest-generation iPad tablets and Toronto Maple Leaf hockey tickets. The higher level of referrals has already shown that greater value prizing drives higher engagement.

Our team uses the internal Yammer messaging system and our internal e-newsletter to communicate results and drive more referrals. Weekly draws and staff notices naming the employees with the most referrals helped drive more than 1,000 new trial subscriptions last year (end of 2012/beginning of 2013).

VIA Preference was our official partner for this programme, and the company sponsored all the trial subscriptions acquired. In addition to this, they were able to promote their membership programme.

Each new subscriber also received a special 40% discount off our regular subscription rates, following the complimentary subscription period. This exclusive rate is only for friends and family of The Globe and Mail.

Historic paid conversation rates for this programme are around 20%, and retention is about 86% after six months.

Staff engagement has increased each year. We saw 1,800 referrals in 2011; 4,400 referrals in 2012; and we already have more than half of last year’s total referrals with more than two-thirds of the prizes still to be handed out.

One tip: Internal contests offer a lot more legroom when it comes to the legal small print, but we still made sure to clearly outline rules on the intranet Web site. More engagement means more questions, so we’ve found we have to be prepared.