How Giving Chocolate Brought Big Business
At the beginning of every year, I plan the marketing of my business for the next 12 months. Last year, when I took a closer look at the previous year’s sales, I realized that, although I did fine with traditional marketing tools (direct mail, website, email, etc.), most of my great new clients came from referrals. And when it wasn’t a direct referral, they usually said, “I heard about your firm from so and so.” The fact was that people were talking and work was coming in.
Just like we at EO learn from others’ experiences, my clients were sharing their good experiences with their friends, which resulted in business growth for me. The word-of-mouth marketing was happening without me doing a thing. It was like discovering that I had a goldmine under the house and never knew it. So, like a good entrepreneur, I saw a great opportunity to grow my business by asking for the referrals instead of passively waiting for them to happen.
My first step was to identify the people who were most likely to refer my firm to others. According to “The Anatomy of Buzz” by Emanuel Rosen, friends and relatives are the number one source of information for referrals. I took a closer look at my Rolodex and identified the top 12 clients who have become good friends. I only chose clients who provided the best work with the largest budgets. It was their circle of friends I wanted to tap into. The list was short but powerful.
As it was the beginning of the year, I planned the first phase of this “referral marketing plan” to start in February, on Valentine’s Day to be exact. I had less than four weeks to come up with something that would make my clients want to talk and open their Rolodexes. My team and I went to the local mall to see what was in the market that could inspire us to create an interesting piece. We walked away with 20 red, oversized, Chinese take-out boxes and 20 lbs. of chocolates. We knew that no one could resist chocolate! Next on our list was creating the “asking vehicle” for the referrals. We designed a custom greeting card that read, “Refer Your Love.” Inside, the personalized card told the client how much we enjoy working with them, thanking them for their business and asking them for names of people who might enjoy our services. We included a self-addressed response card, so they could give us names and phone numbers of their friends. We hand-delivered our packages on Valentine’s Day.
Within a week, the response cards started coming in. Of the 12 we sent, we received six back. That’s 50% return. Of the six cards we received, we got 12 referrals. We cultivated eight relationships and closed about US$160,000 in business in the next two months. And our cost? US$330, which included messenger services to deliver each package.
I realized that sometimes I have to ask for the business rather than waiting for it to come to me. My clients were happy to share their contacts with me, and I am sure they think of me every time they bite into the chocolates I sent. That’s a sweet place to be!