Google gets serious about office apps: Offers $15 for referrals

We all know about the free Google Docs service, but Google also offers a subscription Google Apps for Business service. Now, Google will give its existing customers a $15 referral bonus for every new user they bring to this service.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Google just got serious—really serious—about taking on Microsoft Office, and Office 365 in particular. In a blog posting on March 10th Prajesh Parekh, a Google marketing lead, wrote "we’re offering a $15 referral bonus for each new Google Apps user you refer."

Google Apps for Business
Google will pay Google Apps for Business customers $15 a head for new users.

Well, that's one way to get customers!

Google Apps for Business is a cloud-based office suite. It consists of Gmail; Google Calendar; Google Drive; Google Docs; Slides, a PowerPoint-like presentation manager; and Sheets, Google's answer to Excel. There's also Google Apps for Business with Vault. This last program adds e-mail archiving for e-discovery to Google Apps. For some businesses this is a legal requirement.

Google Apps for Business costs $5 a month per user or $50 a year for users. There is no limit to the number of users you can have on this service. Google Apps for Business with Vault costs $10 a month.

There are also some third-party apps, such as Insightly, a small-business customer relationship management (CRM) program, that you can use with Google Apps. In addition, some Google programs, such as Hangouts for video-conferencing and Google Voice, a VoIP (Voice-over-Internet Protocol), are often used with Google Apps for Business even though they don't come as "official' parts of the office suite.

Parekh said, "When we discover something amazing – whether it’s a new local coffee shop or a tool that improves the way we work – we want to share it with people we know so they can also benefit."

"For those of us who use Google Apps, the ability to access all of our documents from anywhere on any device and being able to seamlessly collaborate with colleagues or customers across the world, are impressive moments," continued Parekh. "These are moments we want to share with friends and colleagues because the more the people in our networks use Google Apps, the more seamlessly we can collaborate with them -- whether it’s video conferencing via Hangouts, working together on Docs or sharing calendars. Best of all, it means we can all begin to experience a new way of working."

To encourage users to share to the "joys" of Google Apps, Parekh wrote, "To help continue the momentum, we’re launching the Google Apps Referral Program. The referral program makes it easy to share Google Apps with your network and show them how they too can use these tools at work." This program is only available to users in the US and Canada. "To show our appreciation, we’re offering a $15 referral bonus for each new Google Apps user you refer."

The fine print makes  Google Apps referrals sounds like a pretty good deal. You'll get $15 per user, and you’re rewarded for each referral customer’s first 100 users. A user is an individual account belonging to the customer domain. So, if you got a business to sign up with 100 users you'd get $1,500. Not bad, not bad at all!

Your earnings are paid directly to your bank account. Users that save your referrals will get coupons that will save them $10 per user for the first year. Believe it or not, you can refer an unlimited number of customers. To keep people honest, your referral amount will be based on the number of users who have paid for at least 120 days. So, you can forget about setting up FlyByNightRipOff.com and trying to trick Google into paying you heaps of money.

I must say that this sounds like a very attractive deal to me, and I'm sure it will to many other Google apps users as well.

Some people have already wondered how on earth it can be worth $15 a customer for Google. The answer is that even if you don't assume users will stay on a few years at $50 a year, or $5 a month at the low end, Google should be profiting after the first  three months of paid use. And as I pointed out, to get the $15 payout they'll actually need to be paying customers for four months. This only look like a loss leader. Google, besides denting Microsoft Office use, will profit from this deal.

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