Once you have identified past referral sources, you now have a profile of potential referral sources. You have a reward system in place. Now it’s time to make a visit to their office or store. There is one secret strategy that will do more for your referral relationship program than anything else.
What is this powerful secret? Food. Yes, food. In particular, donuts, chocolates, pizza, lunch, candy, snacks, etc. Food is the international language that everyone understands! Food is the one thing that can gain the attention that you cannot get any other way. The reason is that feeding someone taps deep into the Law of Reciprocity, which says, “If you give me something, I give you something.” With food it goes deeper. It penetrates our most primitive make up. If you feed me, I owe you the time of day. If you give me a treat, I owe you at least a couple minutes of time!
Remember the Five Point Marketing Message from earlier? What a great time to share it—while they are partaking of the delicious brownies or candy you just brought! If you walk in with sales materials, what’s their posture? Busy! Too busy to talk. But if you walk in the door with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts, they will listen to every word you have to say! It’s amazing, and I have seen it work over and over again.
I first learned this from my wife, Denise. She’s in radio sales, and I noticed that she would take her clients milk and cookies in the afternoon, bring them lunch. She even had a company that made custom chocolate bars and she had the client’s logo branded on the chocolate bar.
Just about every night she’s wrapping gifts for clients and people in her network. All of the closets in our house are jammed with gifts that don’t belong to anyone yet. She buys things as she sees them, then when there’s a need, the wrapping begins! I finally “got it” one hot summer morning when she was walking out the door to go to work with a laundry basket full of things for the pool—squirt guns, goggles, and flip flops. “Where ya goin’ with that stuff?” I asked. “Oh, a lot of my clients have kids, so I’m bringing them stuff for the pool.” Hmmm…, I thought to myself.
I decided to try it out.
There was a large potential referral source that I had called on 11 times (yes, eleven times). I had nice brochures and a nice introduction, but I didn’t have the secret weapon. Every time I went into this place, I got the same response—a stiff arm came up along with, “We’re real happy with the people we’re using right now. Thanks for coming by.” But this time I went to the grocery store and bought a little box of chocolates for $2.99.
I walked in and a lady down the hall noticed me come in. I introduced myself and she responded with the same stiff arm answer. She obviously didn’t see the chocolates, so I said, “But I brought chocolates” with a little smile on my face. You should have seen her body language change! It went from the Nazi stiff arm to standing in front of me holding the box of chocolates almost close to her heart. I could almost hear her thinking, Who is this nice man bringing me chocolates! Within seven days we began getting referrals from that company. And they became a consistent referral source for us from that point on.
One of my early members increased his business $30,000 per month by making Friday “Donut Day.” He and his wife loaded up the truck with branded boxes of donuts every week and set out to see as many referral sources and accounts as they could. I ran into him at a conference recently, and he told me it continued to work so well that he now has other people delivering donuts on a regular basis. That is the case with us as well.
A final food story that is instructive is about an auto repair shop called Freedom Automotive. My service company has a nice clean fleet of vehicles parked outside. Freedom Automotive obviously noticed the fleet, and one morning a box of donuts and a little card from Freedom Automotive showed up at our office. The next week, another box of donuts. After about the fourth or fifth week, I saw my operations director walking down the hall with a fistful of donuts and Freedom’s card. He said, “We should at least give them a try.” (I mean after all, they might stop sending us donuts if we don’t, right?)
So we called Freedom, and they came to the office and gave us a presentation. They charged more than the shop we currently used. “Yeah, but the shop we use doesn’t even say thank you. They don’t care about us,” we argued to ourselves. In Freedom’s presentation, they showed us how following their maintenance plan would actually save us money. Who do you think we use? Freedom Automotive. This took place about 20 years ago, and we still use them today. I know what you’re wondering, Do they still have donuts delivered? Yes, they still have donuts delivered.
Find out what your major accounts and your referral sources like and take it to them. If they like Dove bars, take Dove bars to them. If they like Starbucks chocolate-covered Espresso beans, bring those along with you when you visit.
We have all of our existing and potential referral sources on a route. Every month we deliver cookies, pies, cakes, or whatever. We have a number of other “food strategies” too. For example, we cook breakfast for referral sources, hold referral appreciation lunches, and more.
What if your referral sources aren’t local? You can ship stuff. There are a variety of gourmet food baskets you can order online. Recently a man who owns a franchise called Candy Bouquet International became a client of ours—they make custom candy bouquets. I use a program called Send Out Cards (the greatest marketing tool of all time, which I will talk about later). With Send Out Cards, you can send along cookies, brownies, and many other gourmet food items.