Institute a Referral Marketing Program Now

A Powerful and Inexpensive Way to Get More Clients

In this article I’m going to show you how to get more clients by using a maneuver that nearly all of use periodically. It’s a tactic that can land you lots of new customers without you spending a dime to acquire them.

The problem with this tool is that it’s rarely formalized, and as a result business owners significantly underachieve on reaching their full potential.

The power of referral marketing

So what’s this powerful, inexpensive tactic that offers such an amazing customer building opportunity for business owners?


Yep – referrals. Referrals are one of the most powerful sales generating tools around. And all too often marketers fail to reap the full rewards that referrals bring because they don’t have a formalized, systematic process in place. 

How referrals generate their power

Referrals get their power from the fact that consumers are naturally inclined to be weary of advertisements and sales pitches. To get around this weariness, we consumers instead resort to asking our family and friends for advice. Since we tend to trust the advice of our loved ones and assume that they have our best interests at heart, we tend to act on their referrals.

And of course… seeking out advice is significantly easier than doing our own research! Why not follow the advice from someone that has your best interests at heart, and has already done the research and experimenting for you?

Science proves it!
Studies show that:
  • Consumers are 200% more likely to pay attention to recommendations that come from friends than from any other source
  • According to the Wharton School of Business, a referred customer has a lifetime value that’s 16% higher than those of non-referred customers
  • 83% of satisfied customers say that they’re willing to refer, while only 29% of them actually do! (This means there’s a significant opportunity to for you.)
So there you have it. Referrals results in more customers, increases the value of customers to your business, and there’s significant opportunities to increase the odds that your customers will refer your business.

How to quickly double your referrals in 3 simple steps

Step #1: Ask. Yes, really, just ask. Far too many business owners miss the boat on this easy, yet critical step. And when you do ask, don’t just ask: “Hey, do you have anyone in mind that you could refer my services to.” No – you’re way better than that!

Instead, frame your question like this: “I really enjoy doing business with you, and I’m sure you’re friends with other people who share your high values and taste. Who do you know that could benefit from my services?” Notice the difference? This subtle yet powerful difference has a dramatically different impact on a client because it already assumes that your client knows someone who’d benefit from your service. And, it forces your client’s brain to start scanning around for people they know. Your client almost can’t help BUT give you name.

Step #2: Get their contact info. As soon as your client shares a name, ask them to spell their name, then you repeat it back - twice. Spell then repeat twice. Spell then repeat twice. Easy. Then immediately ask for their phone number. Since most people have their mobile attached to them 24/7, chances are your client has instant access to the referred person’s contact info (if your client doesn’t have their phone number, ask if they can connect the two of you though email for Facebook).

Step #3: Contact the referral immediately and make a compelling offer. Don’t make the mistake that 98% of other business owners make and sit on the referral for weeks. Call them the same day. Follow-up immediately and make a compelling offer. The longer you wait the less powerful your referral becomes and the less likely you’ll ever reach out to them.
Stumped on what a compelling offer could be? It’s much easier than you think. Examples:
  • If you sell homes, invite the prospect to a monthly lunch and learn where they can get free food and advice on market and interest rate trends
  • If you’re a personal trainer, offer a free 20-minute health assessment. (A good friend of mine offers “Go Giver” bootcamps to prospective clients – check it out. This tactic works like gangbusters for their business.)
  • If you’re a copywriter, offer to do a free assessment of the prospect’s website homepage
  • If you’re a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert, offer to do a free keyword search for your client and advise them on several improvements they could make
This is list could go on and on. The point is: ask for the referral, immediately get the referral’s contact name, and contact the referral that same day with a compelling offer. That’s all you need to do!

Wrapping it up

If you follow these 3 steps, you will dramatically increase the number of referrals that flood into your business. As opposed to taking many weeks and months to land new business through online and offline advertising, referrals can lead to new business in a day. And remember, referred business = more frequent, and more profitable business. 

Contributed by Dennis Paresa

Dennis protects business owners from wasting their money on marketing that doesn’t work. He’s a marketing & innovation consultant who helps business owners increase sales, become more productive, and leave a legacy. Visit him on the web at

Five Ways To Provide More Certainty For Your Clients

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the need for data to help provide some level of certainty in a volatile market. Yet there are additional ways to help provide more certainty for your clients. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Focus on cash flow: Rapid expansion in deal flow based on speculation tends to lead to bubbles. Investments that bring in cash flow are much less risky and offer much more flexible holding periods.

  2. Reduce the leverage: The vast majority of problems in market downturns are the result of leverage. Investors who have purchased investments in cash can usually afford to wait out downturns in any market. Many borrowers don’t have this luxury. In down markets, cash rules and is typically able to find great asset bargains.

  3. Help plan for due diligence: Help coach your clients through conducting a formal due diligence process. Sit down with them before you look at properties or opportunities and decide under what scenarios and terms an investment is a good fit. It’s easier to be rational before you are actually looking at deals that require down payments or signed contracts. Then take them shopping for the opportunity that fits their chosen profile.

  4. Practice what you preach: If you can’t have certainty, it certainly helps to know that other intelligent people are also investing in the same thing. Some refer to this as the lemming factor. One could also refer to it as the respect factor. I wouldn’t hesitate to put my money in with Warren Buffet’s on any transaction. It’s also hard to win the respect of your clients if you don’t buy what you sell.

  5. Use testimonials and other investors: As an extension of #4, it is helpful for investors to connect with other people who are investing. This can not only aid in expanding their knowledge of the market, but also assure them that they’re not the only one buying right now.


Show Me The Data

On Friday I had an interesting phone conversation with Tim Miner of Investment Riches. He was talking to me about his changing business model and shared an interesting statistic. Two years ago, when he was in the beginning stages of his website launch, more than 70% of his surveyed readers felt confident that they understood their local market. In the most recent survey, less than 15% still felt confident.

This is not surprising if you consider that investors tend to become overconfident in their own skills when the market is good and overly insecure when the market is bad. This is similar to the change in investors' perceptions of their understanding of the stock market after the dot-com bubble.

What it means is that there is opportunity for investment providers that can help their clients feel comfortable with a market or investment. Consumer confidence is at a 16 year low because people don’t know what to expect. Uncertainty begets fear.

While you can’t give your clients full certainty in terms of a guarantee without the likelihood of violating investment regulations, you can provide them with the information to help them understand the market, the risks and the changing investment climate.

The good news, for anyone in the industry, is that there isn’t one clear investment that investors feel certainty about right now. That wasn’t the case nine years ago when investors were certain about the stock market. It also wasn’t true three years ago when investors were certain about the real estate market. With inflation continuing to spike the prices of food, transportation and commodities, investors are losing purchasing power by doing nothing. Historically hard assets retain their value much better than fiat currency.

Jerry Maguire may say, “show me the money,” but uncertain markets say, “show me the data.”


Dealing With Client Disputes

In my personal experience, I’ve found that the easiest way to anger anyone is to make assumptions about their intentions, their character, their intelligence or their actions. I was reminded of this when I disputed a small charge on one of our corporate cards this week. I received a blunt e-mail that ending with the following:

“So how does this make us liable to refund your money? We state clearly in
our terms that we do not issue refunds on membership fees after 7 days. However,
you are opening a claim nearly a month later?

I am happy to assist you within reason, but it appears you did
not attempt to understand how the service works in the first place.”
In my mind, I had a good reason for not submitting a claim until 30 days later, namely that we hadn’t received (and thus reviewed) our monthly credit card statement. I also felt that I had attempted to understand how their service works and did not find it suitable for our company. Although this gentleman’s comments weren’t blatantly malicious, they did come across as impetuous. I found myself getting emotionally charged and reading tone into his questions.

Here are five quick tips for making sure you don’t alienate your clients when dealing with a dispute with your business:

  1. Always give your clients the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best intentions. Nine times out of ten, you'll find that their intentions were good. Assuming anything else is a recipe for anger escalation.
  2. Ask clarification questions in a respectful tone. There are two ways to answer a question. You can ask a question looking for an answer or you can ask a rhetorical question, where you phrase it in a way that sounds like you already know the answer. Be careful: Rhetorical questions come across as condescending.
  3. Don’t take it personally. It’s difficult to listen to people complain about your product or service, which you probably have great pride in, without taking it personally. Yet removing yourself emotionally is the only way to ensure you make decisions based on what’s best for the business and not your own personal sense of justice.
  4. Remember that the customer may not always be right, but the customer always wins. It’s not worth winning a battle that ultimately costs you the war. The customer always wins, whether it is by finding an amicable solution or by talking negatively about your business.
  5. Make sure your client feels heard. There is nothing more frustrating than feeling like a business is not listening to you. You can make clients feel this way by making assumptions and filling in the blanks. Resist the temptation. Listen and you may discover that the problem is much different than you originally thought.

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Marketing Insight: Using “Funny” In Your Advertising

There is a reason companies pay the million-dollar-plus premium to reserve ad space during the Super Bowl: Brand recognition. But in a day and age when ad agencies are creating as many creative hits as they are nonsensical misses, the question must be asked: In marketing, when does using “quirky” and “funny” actually make sense?

One of the more challenging issues in blanket marketing is recognizing your audience—or, rather, marketing to all audiences. This is made even more challenging by the simple fact that what’s funny or quirky to a 14-year-old (namely, bathroom humor) is going to be different than what’s funny or quirky to a fiftysomething (aging humor, incontinence, etc).

The solution? Know thy audience. And tread carefully with the funny.

Now, I concede that “funny” is subjective. But that’s the point—your funny, quirky and creative new marketing or advertising campaign will work best if you can do two things: make it intuitive to viewers and get to the punch line quickly. The less your readers have to think or try to make sense of what you’re saying, the better.

In 2006, in an effort to further its foray into resurrecting classic trends, the Gap made what was in my opinion a fatal marketing mistake with a simple and honest pair of pants. Their product, the newest rendition of the “new” black peg-leg flat-front pant, was sure to be a worldwide hit. Classic? Overwhelmingly, yes! I have a pair, my mother has a pair and so does my grandmother. Unfortunately, the Gap ad team also decided to resurrect one of the most sacred icons of fashion, the late, great Audrey Hepburn, and dub her dancing over the also-sacred AC/DC rock ballad “Back in Black.” Even worse? It was all in the form of iPod-wannabe animation, voiced over with lines from Hepburn’s classic, “Funny Face”:

By trying to revive a classic that could, by most individual definitions, transcend generational trends, the Gap ad team managed to (in a failed attempt at quirky) make three fatal marketing mistakes: First, they corrupted a graceful film icon in a classic film (“Funny Girl”); second, they shamed a classic wardrobe staple; and third, they perverted a monster-ballad by rock legend AC/DC. And all in one minute and five seconds.

Now here is a refreshingly good and memorable example of funny, quirky, stick-to-your-ribs marketing and a personal all-time favorite: Tide’s “Tide To Go Stain Remover” Super Bowl commercial.

The Tide marketing team has an edge because of their product: Who doesn’t spill on their clothes? Their product is easily marketed to everyone including busy moms, suited working professionals, yearbook-picture-taking high schoolers and people of all ages who care about their appearance. This ad seals the deal by associating a relatable situation—an uncomfortable job interview—with their product.

Here are three suggestions to market yourself using humor (carefully, now):

1. Be only as funny as you need to be:

Coming up with a game is a great way to get viral with your marketing. A favorite are the monkeys from CareerBuilder. I still send my friends, family and colleagues talking monkey e-cards. Perhaps I’m the only one who thinks they are funny. Why? Because monkeys don’t talk, and when you dub a female British voice over a video of a male monkey chewing gum and wearing a fruit basket on its head and send it to your friend, it’s just plain funny.

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously (but beware the limits)

In the ever-stuffy environments of insurance, banking and office supplies, who can forget the dancing elves from Office Max, or the naked bank executives from Washington Mutual?

3. Funny and quirky are almost always applicable

Particularly when involving something that isn’t traditionally funny. Axe body wash/spray is a great example. Is body odor funny? Only if you’re a 10-year-old boy, and it’s not your own. Otherwise it’s embarrassing. But the commercials are quirky and mostly funny because they make light of the idea that women will flock to men that smell good. Proceed with caution here, as this is a narrow truth.

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Google Me

Google has become more than the brand name of a search engine. It has made its way into the dictionary, a documentary and even a low-budget hip-hop video. It has come to mean more than the mere act of looking something up on Google--it has come to mean the act of searching for information on a given person, place or thing on the Internet.

Service providers and businesses should take note. It is likely that prospects are searching for you before and/or after meeting you.

Anytime I receive an e-mail or am introduced to a new contact, the first thing I do is type their name into Google. This usually turns up link requests, interviews, content partnerships, etc., most of which are relatively benign. Yet that’s not always true: I’ve found notices from the SEC, information on campaign contributions, provocative personal pages on MySpace and even essays written by an individual when they were in high school.

It has become more important than ever for service providers to be accessible through the Web. It has also become more important to manage one’s identity and perceived identity through the Web.

You will be Googled.

For you’re reading enjoyment, here’s an excerpt from the “About Me” page from the number one result when searching for my name, “Jeremy Ames.” From

Ok, if you have not figured it out, my name is Jeremy Ames. You are visiting my personal web site. Good stuff, right? Just kidding. Some of you may know me as Fizch. That has been my nick name for years and I use it as my gamertag as well as many other forum id's and online identities.

I am from Arlington, TX. I have lived here most of my life. I like it here, and I will probably live here the rest of my life. I have seen other parts of the world, just not as many as I would like. I would still love to visit Europe, Australia, and even South America. It had just better be warm.

I was born and raised a metal head. I grew up listening to Black Sabbath's paranoid. My dad would wake us up on the weekends blaring his old 8-track copy all the time. I have to say obviously I did not mind as it turned me into the metal head that I am today. Thanks dad! I play thrash metal guitar and I have played the guitar for 15+ years. It is a passion that I developed in my teen years and I have always stayed in practice. It was not until recently that I felt comfortable enough with my playing to really pursue a position in a band though. When I learned to play, I was all about playing in a band, but believe me, it sounded like complete crap. I recognize that fact, thus I have held out until my playing ability was up to par with the type of music that I wanted to play.

You’ve been warned. Reserve the URL for your name today.

Sometimes It’s Best To Just Listen

“Women like silent men. They think they’re listening,” quipped French playwright Marcel Achard.

I think women are not alone. As consumers we are rarely listened to by salespeople. Too often we are steamrolled by pitches designed to address all sales objections, not cater to our specific needs. As a result we have a natural aversion to these sales pitches. They seem impersonal and manipulative.

Perhaps that’s why the most successful sales people I know are also the best listeners. They start conversations with questions and tailor their sales pitch to their client’s responses.

It also tends to help them when negotiating on behalf of their clients, as I was reminded by Raisin Bran Crunch’s infamous commercial:


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