Monday, December 3, 2007

Effective Referral Gifts (Part 3 of 3)

"Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep, and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved." ~ Medieval German saying

Jack Bergstrom writing here. This is the last of my mini 3 part series on Effective Referral Gifts. This article was written for my friends here at BookCliff Vineyards. They produce great award winning wines and whether you use their wine as a referral gift or drink it yourself, you will be making a great choice!

I thought it might be fun to do a little bit of time traveling together. I am going to set the "WayBack" machine for May 1989. Hold on to you hats!

I had just quit my well paid and extremely stressful and miserable job as a retail mega-store manager. I had left this steady paycheck with great benefits to fulfill one of my own a company and control my own destiny. To do this, I had started an executive search firm and a temporary employment firm. The hows and whys of this particular choice would be many hours of fun to review, but would be well off target for our conversation today.

I rapidly discovered that my number one mission in my new company was to generate new business. In fact, it soon became obvious that if I did not figure out how to generate new business, in a consistent way and at significant levels, that I would be forced to close my company and go back to work for someone else. This was not acceptable and I vowed to learn whatever I had to learn in order to make my company a success.

One of the areas of business growth techniques that I mastered was the use of referral gifts and it made a huge difference. When someone referred my company, we were grateful! When someone gave my company a testimonial letter, a topic worthy of much review in its own right, we were very grateful! Our gratitude took many forms depending upon our finances and how much business was generated by the referral. As rough guidelines:

  • If someone referred us, without even worrying about if the referred company used us or not, we sent out thank you notes immediately. We rewarded these referrals immediately with genuine gratitude.
  • If someone referred us, and it generated business, we also took them to lunch or dinner.
  • If someone wrote us a testimonial letter, we sent notes, fed them and did whatever else we could within reason and within the laws of the IRS to reward them. (Testimonials are a great tool in their own right and can themselves be transformational for your company!)

Additionally, as my business grew, we became very savvy about the likes and desires of our important contacts at each client company. For those that liked wine, we could reward them with great bottles of wine selected just for them. In those days I wasn't smart enough to do custom labeled wine, as you can get here from BookCliff Vineyards, but I certainly would now! For those that liked food, we sent them great food or were forced to go out on great dining experiences with them! So how did all of this work? Extremely well!

For simplicity, let's just look at the holiday season. My first Christmas season owning this company we passed out a few cases of wine, perhaps a dozen more expensive gift baskets and 50 or so decorative tins of Scandinavian cookies. The second Christmas we passed out perhaps a dozen cases of wine, perhaps 50 of the more expensive gift baskets and close to 200 decorative tins of cookies. By my 4th and final Christmas before I sold this company, we literally had pallets of gifts delivered to us. It would then take my salespeople and myself 2 full weeks just to deliver these gifts personally and say "Thanks for the business" and "Thanks for the referrals". This was the most rewarding time, personally and from a generated business standpoint, that we would ever spend in the entire year.

What is the lesson from this long story? Referral gifts work. Properly thought out and implemented, they work staggeringly well. Now you still need a really great product or service! If people refer you and you do a lousy job, nothing will save you. There are of course many other areas in your business that you must be continually improving as well, but we will talk about those at other times.

"Life is much too short to drink bad wines!" ("Das Leben ist viel zu kurz, um schlechten Wein zu trinken!") ~Anonymous saying from Germany

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