We are living in rather hard economic times. The cost of living is going up, employment is a challenge after the Covid shockwaves, and most businesses are also struggling to make ends meet.
In light of this, you could easily dismiss someone telling you that you could earn money constantly in Kenya today without ever needing to attend gruelling rounds of interviews, work in the sun all day or fill out loads of paperwork.
But that is exactly the reality of many Kenyans who have embraced referral programmes as one of their passive income streams.
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If you desire such an arrangement, welcome to the world of referrals. Here, you get paid to recommend a product or service to your friends, family and networks.
If they take favourable action e.g. buying a product, signing up for a free service etc, you are given either a cash payment, a commission equivalent to a pre-agreed percentage of the transaction value or at the very least, a percentage discount on your next purchase.
A referral programme is a campaign arrangement where a business gives incentives to its customers to recommend its products to their family, friends as well as those within their networks including colleagues, schoolmates and neighbours.
Businesses, both small and large, create their own referral programs as a way to reach more people. The idea is that if you love a certain product or service, chances are that your friends and family may also love and benefit from this product/service.
You know, the “show me your friends and I will tell you who you are” effect? It is a win-win for all parties involved, you recommend a good product to a friend so they get to enjoy the benefits, you get a commission or discount for the referral and the business gets a customer.
Think of it as your local shopkeeper asking you to recommend his milk to your friends and relatives and for every customer you bring - you either get a cash prize or a discount on your other purchases.
Referrals have particularly picked up with the rise of the digital economy where various companies are seeking to sell more products and increase awareness about their products from a more authentic and authoritative standpoint.
Referrals are a form of marketing in the sense that one person who has experienced a given product or service, is given some form of payment - usually through a commission/discount - to market the said product or service to his or her friends, family and acquaintances.
Referrals are all around us, especially in the digital economy. There are multiple variations of how referrals are executed.
The most common one is where after using a certain product or service, you are given a special link or unique code which you share with your friend.
If and when the friend buys in - usually by either registering or making their first purchase, you are given some reward. The reward could be money, a voucher, a discount on future purchases, etc.
To succeed in this type of referral programme, you have to research the most valuable products and services that come with referral deals and activate your network of friends, relatives and other contacts including those who follow you on social channels, and who trust your word.
Another type of referral is one that is more mass-targeted. Individuals who mostly run this type of referral mainly use blogs and social media platforms.
However, the concept remains the same, you are given a special code or a special link that tracks all those who sign up or purchase the product or service through your referral.
Unlike the first type where one may simply be sending the link or code directly to their friend’s WhatsApp inbox, here one will be creating articles or even videos and social media posts about the product to get his blog readers and social media followers interested in the product or service.
For example, one may write a detailed blog post reviewing a mobile phone that they have already bought and give the referral link or special code to their readers to use if they want to purchase the same phone. For every purchase, one gets a referral fee, discount or voucher.
Individuals who run this type of referral programme typically have an audience, say a blogger who writes about travel, reviews of a given hotel and gets a referral fee for every blog reader who books the hotel.
Memelords and other content creators have also found this to be a lucrative passive income route where, as the audience enjoys the memes, they can try out various embedded referral codes earning them money all year round.
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The third referral programme does exactly deal with the sale of products or services but is common in online freelancing work. Organisations the world over are facing challenges getting the right talent, despite the prevailing unemployment levels.
These organisations, therefore, take the word of their existing employees or freelancers to get likewise qualified members of staff.
For example, if you are a good data entry clerk for a client you met on Upwork - one of the popular online freelancing sites - the client may offer to reward you a certain amount of money for every freelancer you refer.
Referral programmes are generally categorised under passive income streams. That is money-making options that do not require much involvement or time commitment to set up and manage.
Nevertheless, if you are keen on making a good amount of money via referral programmes, you need to be tactical and create a structure that enables this goal - to maximise your earnings.
It is important to have a product or service that has perennial demand to assure yourself of a regular income throughout the year. A product that is in demand in this respect is also one that will resonate with the people you expect to refer.
You want to increase the chances of your network seeing the same value that you have experienced yourself. Since a referral is closely linked to a testimonial, you want to choose a product/service that you have either used or have good knowledge about such that your network will easily see the benefit and buy-in.
The higher the demand for this product or service, and importantly, the more aligned the product is to your target audience’s needs and values, the higher the chance that you will be getting a high and regular income.
Trust is a big factor in the referral process. Thus, it is important to create a strong network of people who require the product or service you want to recommend.
For example, you could regularly check up on your friends and remind them about the product you recommended to them.
You could even offer assistance if and when they have challenges, say when downloading an app.
Let them know you are the go-to person for anything around the range of products/services you choose to focus your referral side hustle on.
Social media has made it possible to increase the reach of your messages. WhatsApp, for example, offers an example to make referrals - through Whatsapp status or in your groups.
If you are keen on making a significant income from referral programmes, it pays to make sure your social media followers are well aware of what you do.
Make regular updates, share tips that paint you as the expert in the matter and also join related social media groups and other communities where people who may be interested in the product/service you are promoting may be resident.
The more referrals you have, the more discounts and/or cash prizes you win. It is therefore important to track them and understand which groups and channels are more appropriate for the product you are recommending.
For instance, if you shared a referral link in a certain family WhatsApp group, confirm the number of people who signed up and their characteristics so you can replicate that success in your future referrals.
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The first motivation for a referral programme, from a business standpoint, is that buyers are more likely to take the word of their friend, relative, acquaintance or someone with some of social capital - in their purchase decision journey.
Secondly, referral programmes are relatively economical compared to other forms of advertising and marketing, such as billboards, television, and radio programmes.
More traditional forms of marketing and advertising involve upfront payment - without a guarantee that there will be results.
Referrals, on the other hand, can easily be structured in such a way that a company spends only when a deliverable is achieved. You can be paid at different levels depending on the type of product or service you are promoting. These include; being paid for every customer who fills out a KYC document, when they register for a service even if they don’t pay, or only when a customer actually pays for something.
You could also be paid at multiple points. You get a smaller fee whenever someone registers for a service and a bigger fee when that customer pays for the said service.
One example of this tiered approach is the Zenka Referral Programme. Under this opportunity, you earn Ksh10 for every friend you refer and they register on the app. If that friend goes ahead to borrow his or her first loan, you are paid Ksh200 after they repay it.
This is why brands are willing to compensate those who can refer customers to them since they lower their costs of acquiring new clients.
Referrals have emerged as a popular way of earning passive income. Companies are looking for people who will recommend their products to friends and family for the growth of their client base.
To be successful in earning discounts or cash prizes, get a valuable product or service that is beneficial to the people you refer. It is also important to utilise social media, such as WhatsApp Status, Whatsapp Groups, Telegram, and other platforms to ensure you share with as many friends and relatives as possible.