Grayson & Philip, that is exactly what I was concerned about - some (Danny included) feel that referral programs are icky and corporate. This is good to hear and a large part of why I started this process with a forum post. Here's why I like referral programs:
- While plenty of people refer Beeminder out of the goodness of their heart, it would be nice to give them something in exchange for creating new users. Since we're all about incentives and disincentives (carrots and sticks) at Beeminder it seems perfectly fair to appropriately reward people for creating new users. Money or free premium plan months are the most efficient ways to do that.
- Speaking of incentives, knowing you might actually get something from referring people, beyond the warm fuzzies of helping your friends achieve your goals, might motivate you to write that blog post, have that conversation, etc. I know I have a Beeminder-related blog post I've been sitting on for almost a year I might finish if there was a potential "bounty" at the end.
- I am by no means a gung-ho "grow at all costs" gal but we definitely need to grow Beeminder so that the wonderful folks that made it (Danny and Bee) can be paid close to what they'd be making at a "real job". Unfortunately for us, that means we have to spend money on marketing. There's two ways to do that:
1) more paid advertising - most likely more facebook ads and google ads. Meaning we give more money to giant companies.
2) more grassroots growth - most likely a referral program and affiliate relationships with other allied brands/users. Meaning we give money to people we like (you!) instead of giant companies.
The reason I like grassroots growth over paid advertising is precisely because Beeminder is so scary. If Beeminder the company tries to convince you that Beeminder is a great idea, you may feel like you're getting scammed. If a friend explains how it's helped them lose weight, finish their PHD, exercise through depression, read 52 books in a year, it helps add credibility to the case. But I understand for some affiliate/referral programs take the edge off the recommendation.
It's really good to get your feedback, as your worries were precisely what we were afraid of when considering this strategy. Given that Beeminder is a rather confusing/scary concept for many, it might be time to invest in more explanatory marketing materials (perhaps incentivizing youtube creators with an already large following into using Beeminder for a month?) rather than referrals.