The Referral Network

I met with a client once that was interested in getting their primary sales vehicle tuned up. It was a letter they sent to prospects. Seems that it worked very well at one time and then stopped working.

Not being familiar with their product or reasons why people would consider doing business with them just from a letter, I had to ask a lot of questions. Questions like,

  • Who gets the letter?
  • What’s the demographic profile of those who acted after receiving the letter?
  • What was their reasons for buying
  • Have you ever sold to people who didn’t get a letter?
  • Do you follow up on the phone with people that got the letter?

I was able to quickly determine something very important from these few questions. Almost every reason for doing business with my client was preceded by a need to do business with another business as well. So while he had been out prospecting with his letter, he was missing out on building a referral network with businesses who could be sending him prequalified leads.

The path of least resistance in sales is a referred prospect. In my client’s case, businesses in his referral network actually needed their prospect to buy his services before they could sell them theirs. He removed a big sales obstacle for them. But these businesses had grown accustomed to simply waiting for their prospects to deal with this obstacle on their own and then return. They were not empowered to speed up the process or assist in any way. But being able to refer prospects to my client made them empowered to not only help themselves but to also help the prospects by giving them a trusted means to address their immediate need (the obstacle) as well.

After a brief introduction and comparing of notes, each member of my client’s referral network will get monthly visits, phone calls, emails, mailed hand-written reminders and/or cookie platters reminding them that my client is ready and able e to help them close their sales more easily.

So, yes. I was being asked to fine-tune a sales letter, something I was happy to do. But the referral network I designed will create more activity than that letter could ever hope to.

Are you taking advantage of referral network opportunities? Do your prospects have an obstacle you could help them address with a referral? Sometimes referrals can come from anyone which is why business referral networks can be very valuable sources of new leads.

Share your referral stories in the comments.


Buy Local but maybe not for the reasons you think

Being the student of economics and dynamic systems I am, the “buy local” mantra never really sunk in with me. It didn’t help when a brilliant local economist confirmed my suspicions stating that it actually hurt the community more than it helped to reward merchants based on their locale more than on their ability to be competitive.

So for years I have been shaking my head over the feel-good proposition to forego doing business with national or regional chain stores with their usually better-than-wholesale-pricing and broad selections and instead seek out stores with usually higher pricing and less selection just because because they have local ownership.

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Credit unions need to rise up and be ready for “Bank Transfer Day”

Occupy Wall Street has been all the rage for weeks so I don’t think I need to say more about that. But there’s no real commercial winners or losers except for the poor merchants whose front doors face the makeshift campgrounds. But more recently, and maybe a little less known, is a movement culminating this November 5th called Bank Transfer Day that may make prepared credit unions big winners.

Like OWS, BTD is rooted in an emotionally driven social media foundation. It has over a thousand twitter followers and over 25,000 followers on Facebook.

Mainstream media has started to acknowledge the groundswell of interest in this . So are the credit unions reacting? I did a quick scan to see which of local credit unions are doing anything specifically geared towards BTD or if they are open on Saturdays as a regular course of business and here’s what I found:     Continue reading “Credit unions need to rise up and be ready for “Bank Transfer Day””

Magical QR Codes and Your Marketing

I have been asked about QR codes a few times now so maybe it’s time to put it out for public discussion.

First, what the heck is a QR code? If you understand store scanners you probably have some idea. In short it is a symbolic means of making information available to someone equipped with the ability to scan the symbol. QR codes differ from bar codes in their ability to hold more information, greater scanning accuracy and a smaller footprint.

So now that we know that a QR code connects people, who have scanning ability, to information, the question is begged, how can these be used to increase the customer experience?  Continue reading “Magical QR Codes and Your Marketing”

The most powerful marketing tool

Now that companies are able to quickly and widely communicate with their markets through a multitude of inexpensive channels, would you be surprised to learn most still fail to use the most powerful marketing weapon in their arsenal?

It’s sitting there, ready to be deployed and doesn’t cost anything. Most know of it, use it in casual conversation but when it comes to promoting products and services they fail to reach for it.

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Putting your shoes on before your pants

Do you put your shoes on before your pants? No, of course not. Things get a lot more difficult if you did, right? So why do you, mister and missus business professional, always insist on creating logos, graphics, signs, web sites, emails, and other business / product identifiers before you know who your target market is, what your best offer to them is and how best to reach them?

Committing to visual and messaging elements of your company’s marketing before understanding your market is much like putting your shoes on before your pants (or “handing a blind man a gun” or “the tail wagging the dog” if you love metaphors). You may be able to ultimately get your pants on but you’ll struggle, work really, really hard and look silly doing it.

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Learn sales and marketing from one of the best – a cab driver

Chris Brogan is a great resource of free flowing discoveries of what works, what doesn’t and new discoveries in business development and marketing. He just put up a quick post about how “his” cab driver (read the post to understand why I placed quotation marks around “his”) demonstrated incredible business intelligence, teaching “me more about business than most business books.”

I’ve ridden in dozen of cabs and only once, in Las Vegas, did a driver engage me as to my need for rides in the immediate future. And, like Chris, I too took advantage of the opportunity to call “my” cab.

Ask for the sale people. It’s right there if you’ll only ask.


Fun Marketing for Friday – June 24th

I spent several years selling computer bits and parts to companies across the US. This meant very unexciting orders of circuit boards, cables, adapters and such would be picked, boxed and shipped from our warehouse. The owner of the company had a great sense of humor and awareness of the customer experience. Long before I came on board, he had started to include a cheesy cheap plastic toy in every shipped order. It might be a plastic frog, an inflatable alien doll, a paddle-ball, etc. I think he looked forward to hearing that supply was running low because he could justify the time spent mulling over the latest Archie McPhee offerings.

This silliness helped center us in a company culture where no one was to take themselves too seriously. It also had a definite impact on the customers’ experience. First-time customers would call and thank me for the “gift” they found in their order. It was an unexpected surprise that got them out of their monotonous daily routine and made them smile. I had customers tell me that opening our packages had become a group event since in bigger orders they’d find several “gifts” and would battle over who got what. How many companies get their package arrivals announced on the customer’s company intercom?

We started realizing how important these trinkets had become and our faxed fliers, emails and mailers began referencing the “included with every order” item. Customers would ask us to confirm that they’d be getting a glow-in-the-dark skeleton with their order. Sometimes they’d complain that they never got the toys since their receiving dock staff would take them. I’d send those customers a package full of toys direct to their desk now and again. After all, they’re the ones choosing to do business with us, not the receiving dock staff.

All this from $0.75 cheesy toys included with orders costing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

I can’t tell this story without mentioning the one time when the response was not quite so positive. After doing a fax broadcast that mentioned we would be including one of several types of African Dart Frogs with every order, we got a very nasty fax back. The response was due to the absence of mentioning these were plastic frogs and the fax recipient thought it was actually possible we would toss frogs, live and of endangered species, into boxes being sent to our customers. It was a very colorful and scathing retort to our offer. So, much time was spent on and several eyes reviewed our response, ensuring no opportunity for confusion could exist.

But we did get a good chuckle out of it all the same. I still do.


Are your staff’s customer service priorities upside-down?

We’ve all been there. We’ve gone to a store, found what we want to buy and taken it up to the counter to hand over our money. And then nothing happens. Or worse, staff appear to have better things to do and walk right past or away from us.

In all likelihood, you’re not being ignored so much as the staff have been assigned what they interpreted as tasks of higher priority. They’re buzzing around doing all the busy work their boss has given them that MUST be finished before the end of their shifts. The company culture is all upside-down.

Continue reading “Are your staff’s customer service priorities upside-down?”