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There are many ways to promote a business, such as the use of social media, email marketing, and video marketing. For example, Airbnb successfully produced a video that went viral, which helped grow its brand. Other practical online marketing activities include referral marketing and affiliate marketing, which leverage word-of-mouth marketing.
Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is a tactic used to generate natural discussions about and recommendations for a company. Getting people to talk about your business, brand, product, or service is the goal of this type of marketing. While individuals will discuss companies organically, some enterprises use referral programs to stimulate WOMM.
Referral marketing is the method of promoting products or services to new customers through referrals. Referrers are often incentivized to promote a company’s product. For example, CreativeLive, an e-learning website, has a refer a friend program. The referrer can give a friend $15 off her first class and receive $15 off his next one. Both parties gain a discount.
Referral programs might also be known as:
- Ambassador program
- Customer reward program
- Invite a friend
- Loyalty program
- Refer a friend
- Referral program
- Rewards program
CreativeLive, like many companies, uses affiliate marketing alongside referral marketing. Affiliate marketing is a performance-based advertising model. An affiliate (publisher) promotes a product or service online and receives compensation for achieving a specific objective or action. A merchant (advertiser) specifies the goal, which is usually a valid sale. For example, a merchant will pay the affiliate a 30 percent sales commission. The merchant may use one or multiple advertising models, for instance, cost-per-action/acquisition (CPA), cost per sale (CPS), cost/pay per lead (CPL/PPL).
Referral Marketing Versus Affiliate Marketing
Both referral marketing and affiliate marketing offer incentives to increase WOMM, but they’re very different. Some merchants use those terms interchangeably, so let’s compare them to understand their differences.
Referral marketing targets mainly existing and loyal customers. Affiliate marketing aims to recruit bloggers, YouTubers, publishers, and creators who may not use the product or service.
Referral and affiliate marketing programs use software to administer and manage users and compensation. There are many software applications in the market at different price points. So, one type of marketing isn’t necessarily more costly than the other.
Tracking & Software
Referral program tracking cookies may not expire, whereas most affiliate programs limit conversion periods to 30 days. Secondly, many referral programs issue first-party tracking links, for example, airbnb.com/c/chadt2. Affiliate programs use various tracking methods, including first and third-party cookies. Lastly, most affiliate tracking apps offer reporting, payment processing, deep linking, and web page for merchants to upload marketing materials. Referral programs frequently miss in those areas.
Making Money Online
Referral programs aren’t designed to earn a living online. On the other hand, millions of publishers globally do affiliate marketing and make part- and full-time incomes.
Compensation & Commission
Referrers usually receive account credits, discounts, gift cards, and rewards but not cash to spend elsewhere. Merchants typically pay affiliates cash on a one-time or recurring basis. The commission may be a variable or fixed amount.
Referral programs typically have caps on how much referrers can earn, whereas affiliate earnings are limitless.
Referral and affiliate programs have guidelines to prevent abuse and scams. A company’s terms of service and partnership agreement will outline program rules an details.
There isn’t as much of an onus to disclose the use of referral links because users don’t get paid cash. By contrast, affiliate marketing puts a premium on disclosure and transparency to educate consumers, reduce conflicts of interest, and create a fair marketplace.
Best Referral Programs
Merchants typically link to their referral programs in their website menus and footers. Many of the companies listed also have affiliate programs on the top affiliate networks, including ShareASale, Impact, CJ Affiliate, and FlexOffers.
Acorns is a micro-investing app that helps people save and invest for the future. Learn about the Acorns referral program.
- American Express
American Express offers charge cards, gift cards, rewards, travel, personal savings, business services, insurance, and more. Learn about the Amex referral program.
Betterment offers everyday banking services, online retirement advice, and investing for your personal goals. Learn about the Betterment referral program.
Binance is a cryptocurrency exchange that provides a platform for trading 100+ cryptos. Learn about the Binance referral program.
- Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab offers investment advice, products, and services. Learn about the Charles Schwab referral program.
- Chase Bank
Chase offers credit cards, mortgages, commercial banking, auto loans, investing, financial planning, checking, and business banking. Learn about the Chase referral program.
Coinbase is a digital currency exchange and wallet where users trade digital currencies like bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin. Learn about the Coinbase referral program.
N26 provides mobile banking services. It offers current accounts and other banking services, letting customers manage their finances via smartphone. Learn about the N26 referral program.
Revolut is a money transfer and financial services app that allows you to hold, exchange, and send funds without fees. Learn about the Revolut referral program.
Robinhood allows people to invest in stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptos, all commission-free, right from their phones and desktops. Learn about the Robinhood referral program.
SoFi is a new kind of finance company taking a radical approach to lending. Learn about the SoFi referral program.
TransferGo is a money transfer company for migrant workers who want to send money back to their families. Learn about the TransferGo referral program.
TransferWise is an online service that lets people send and receive money internationally at mid-market exchange rates for a low fee. Learn about the TransferWise referral program.
Wealthfront helps you earn more interest on your cash, get advice on how to manage your savings, and automate your investments. Learn about the Wealthfront referral program.
- Varo Money
Varo Money offers premium bank accounts, savings accounts, and tech-first features to help people manage their money. Learn about the Varo Money referral program.
You Need a Budget (YNAB) helps you break the paycheck to paycheck cycle, get out of debt, and save more money. Learn about the YNAB referral program.
- Constant Contact
Constant Contact enables individuals and business owners to create and share professional-looking emails in minutes. Learn about the Constant Contact referral program.
Fiverr is the largest online marketplace for freelancers with services starting at five dollars. Learn about the Fiverr referral program.
FreshBooks provides small business accounting software. Users can send invoices, track time, manage receipts, file expenses, and accept credit cards. Learn about the FreshBooks referral program.
GetResponse enables users to send email newsletters, campaigns, online surveys, and follow-up autoresponders. Learn about the GetResponse referral program.
Mailchimp has email marketing, ads, landing pages, and CRM tools to grow your business on your terms. Learn about the Mailchimp referral program.
MailerLite provides affordable email marketing software for bloggers, marketers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. Learn about the MailerLite referral program.
RingCentral provides enterprise communication and collaboration solutions. It empowers today’s mobile and remote workforces. Learn about the RingCentral referral program.
Zoom combines video conferencing, meet, chat, and mobile collaboration tools to make communicating with others easy. Learn about the Zoom referral program.
Canva is a graphic-design tool that helps people create images, logos, thumbnails, and more. It provides access to millions of photographs and templates. Learn about the Canva referral program.
Crello is a visual editor to easily create videos and graphic designs for social media, print, or any other web-based project. Learn about the Crello referral program.
Lyft is a ridesharing company that offers car rides, scooters, and a bicycle-sharing system. Learn about the Lyft referral program.
Uber is a global transportation company that facilitates ridesharing, food delivery, and bicycle-sharing. Learn about the Uber referral program.
CreativeLive offers online courses in photography, video, music, business, productivity, self-development, and art. Learn about the CreativeLive referral program.
Pluralsight is a technology-focused education destination. It offers 6,000+ courses and helps you to quantify your skills and grow in your role. Learn about the Pluralsight referral program.
Udacity offers online courses in programming, data science, artificial intelligence, digital marketing, and more. Learn about the Udacity referral program.
Food & Grocery
DoorDash is an on-demand food delivery service. Learn about the DoorDash referral program.
- Sam’s Club
Sam’s Club is a chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs owned and operated by Walmart. Learn about the Sam’s Club referral program.
Walmart is a multinational retail corporation that operates a chain of discount department and grocery stores. Learn about the Walmart referral program.
AT&T sells wireless products, plans, and consumer electronics. Learn about AT&T personal and business referral programs.
Sprint sells cell phones and wireless calling plans. Learn about the Sprint referral program.
T-Mobile sells mobile products, plans, and consumer electronics. Learn about T-Mobile referral program.
Verizon sells wireless products, plans, and consumer electronics. Learn about the Verizon referral program.
Airbnb provides access to millions of vacation rentals, homes, and experiences for personal and business needs. Learn about the Airbnb referral program.
Dropbox is a file hosting service that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software. Learn about the Dropbox referral program.
Groupon features daily deals on the best stuff to do, see, and eat in a variety of cities across the United States and the world. Learn about the Groupon referral program.
SiteGround offers excellent hosting, and it’s one of three companies recommended by WordPress.org. Its server technology, security, speed, and reliability are the best in the industry. Learn about the SiteGround referral program.