The telco-driven Isis wallet is working to transform its consumer base into its newest sales force.

The mobile wallet venture of AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile already signs up 20,000 consumers a day through the carriers' in-store sales teams. To make the most of those new users, it is offering them up to $150 in gift cards if they sign up their friends.

The promotion differs from previous Isis marketing ventures in that it focuses on enrollment rather than ongoing use. Consumers get a $10 card for each friend they convince to sign up (with a limit of 15 referrals), and the friend gets the same reward.

"Our hunch was that the validation of the referral from a trusted source would lead to a more active and engaged new customer," says Jaymee Johnson, head of marketing for Isis.

"Our initial data has borne that out … new referral Isis Wallet users are more active than the average wallet user," says Johnson, who did not provide specific numbers.

Isis has made several strong marketing moves since its formal launch in November. It has offered hundreds of dollars in statement credits to Wells Fargo and American Express users, and has rewarded using Isis for specific activities such as taxi rides and food purchases.

A free smoothie promotion at Jamba Juice has resulted in 270,000 free drinks for Isis users, which the food chain is predicting it will give away a million by the fall. Jamba Juice says Isis use is growing by 50% each month in its stores.

"Isis is the only one out there marketing its product" and helping consumers activate it on phones, says Brian Riley, senior research director and analyst with Boston-based CEB TowerGroup.

"The Google Wallet is kind of asleep, and you can get a product like a Chase Wallet, but you have to do it yourself," Riley says.

Still, the strategy of obtaining friend referrals "is not novel" to marketing plans, Riley adds. And it will be difficult for Isis to determine the benefit of any activations until they can gauge long-term use, he says. "You can get people to sign up if you give them $10, but how are you going to get them to use it?"

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