Of Course I have a Referral and Follow Up System!

A referral and follow up system…  You may be asking yourself what do I need that for?  I was reminded about a pretty well know fact after reading yesterdays post on Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch titled My Most Excellently Flawed Referral Survey.  The survey questions had to do with the percentage of your business coming from referrals or word of mouth.  Here is what John found:

69.3% felt over 50% of their business came by way of referral and yet, 79% further admitted they had no well-defined system to promote referral generation.  The conclusion is we know how important referrals are yet we don’t take the time to create a system to attract them!

John also asked if you are not getting a consistent flow of referrals why not?  20% of the participants of the survey just skipped this question!  Maybe after realizing so much business comes from referrals and acknowledging they have no system that thinking about why was just too much must for those in the survey to handle?

For years I have heard and seen similar numbers like this.  Business owners and top sales professionals say things like the live for referrals yet if I ask the simple question of what do you do when you receive a referral I more often than not get a blank stare.

Receiving more referrals is pretty simple and there are many ways to do this.

  • Simply asking your customers for referrals or people they know who can also use your product or service is a great place to start.
  • Making sure you acknowledge and reward the referral senders will naturally grow the amount of referrals you receive.  People will enjoy helping you and when you acknowledge and appreciate them and will in turn help you more.
  • Staying top of mind with your customers, prospects, and referral sources will generate more business and referrals for you.  You can do this by calling, emailing, sending greeting cards, and newsletters.  Staying top of mind is customers and prospects is about creating a relationship.

The best referral and follow up system I have seen and used for years is SendOutCards.  When used correctly you can create an explosion of referrals with very little effort.  The reason for this is SendOutCards is a great system and once set up can go on autopilot.  You can learn more about SendOutCards and how it might work for you by visiting this site.  Fill out the contact information and I will call and talk to you about it personally.

Whether you use index cards, Excel, Outlook, SendOutCards, Act!, Goldmine, Saleceforce.com, or any of the many other CRM tools on the market the important thing is you use one.  Commit to a system, spend the time to get it set up to work for your business, and then use it no matter what!  The benefits of using your referral and follow up system will outweigh any time or pain you might feel getting it started!

So tell me, what system do you have?  What are you doing to increase your referrals and follow up with your clients and prospects?

Are you a Gary Vaynerchuk?

Have you ever met someone who is filled with passion and enthusiasm?  Passionate about their company, passionate about their job, passionate about their relationship,  or possibly passionate about their cause…  I mean real passion!  So much passion and enthusiasm you might think it’s too much!  This reminds me of one of the people I followed up with from LinkedIn this week.  Lisa Marshall a communication specialist, speaker, and at one time accused of being too passionate!  Lisa’s thoughts on this… “It is impossible to be too passionate”!  I have to agree with her!  Have you ever seen or heard Gary Vaynerchuk speak?  Did you have the thought “I wish I was as passionate as Gary Vaynerchuk”?  View a portion of this video with Gary Vaynerchuk speaking at Web 2.0 Expo this year.

Do you see the passion coming from Gary?  Do you feel his enthusiasm for what he is doing?  Are you thinking to yourself “I wish I was this passionate about something”?  The thought in your mind should not be I wish I was… It should be why not?  Why not live with the same passion and enthusiasm that Gary does?  What is stopping you from doing this?  The difference between living and believing with passion versus not is so dramatic!  People who have passion and enthusiasm are like magnets.  People want to be around passionate people!

Many times I have been told to tone down my passion and enthusiasm…  I admit at times I have thought this was some kind of flaw and for years I would always keep myself in check.  Now I realize this is one of my biggest assets.  I love to get behind something I truly believe in with passion.  Lots of passion!  You can be passionate about your job, company, product, spouse, or your favorite cause.  Find something in your life to be passionate about and then share with those around you.

So my last thought to you is if you have ever thought “I wish I could be as passionate as (fill in the blank), why not start now…  Passion is something you can turn on and turn off..  Passion is a love for what you are doing or what you believe in.  Passion is the one thing that will push you forward and keep you going, passion insures you reach your end goal.  Passion is one of the elements of those who achieve greatness and those who do not.  Passion is in you…  It’s in all of us…  We just need to recognize it, feel it, and let it run through us.

Top 10 List of Books To Help Your Clients Kickoff a Fabulous 2009

So here we find ourselves past the holiday season.   We now have a great opportunity to make a positive impression on our top clients and referral sources!  Sending books to top clients and referral sources is one of the most memorable follow up strategies I use. It’s creative, different, and is just not done enough!  The following are my Top 10 books to send to a business owner or top sales professional for 2009.  In choosing this selection I found myself thinking of the many types of clients and referral sources i have.  This selection should include a great title for any possible business owner or sales professional which may be on your list.

#1 The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

“At last!  A book on sales and salesmanship that can be read and enjoyed by veteran and recruit alike!  I have just completed The Greatest Salesman in the World for the second time-it was too good for just one reading-and in all sincerity, I say that it is the most readable, most constructive and most useful instrument for the teaching of sales as a profession that I have ever read.” F.W.Errigo, Manager U.S. Sales Training Parke, Davis & Company

#2 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
“At American billionaire Andrew Carnegie’s bidding, Hill studied the characteristics of these achievers and developed 15 “laws” of success intended to be applied by anybody to achieve success. Think and Grow Rich! condenses these laws further and provides the reader with 13 principles in the form of a philosophy of personal achievement.” Wikipedia

#3 Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
“Rich Dad Poor Dad is a starting point for anyone looking to gain control of their financial future.” USA Today

#4 The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
“Fascinating enough for the general reader, Gladwell’s work is a particular boon for businesspeople looking for inspiration on how to top their own ideas into popular crazes.” Publishers Weekly

#5 The 8th Habit by Stephen Covey
“An absolute must-read for aspiring business executives who want to significantly increase their personal effectiveness in the workplace and at home.  Covey has created a brilliant blueprint for both career and personal success in the new millennium.”  Douglas Conant, President and CEO, Campbell Soup Co.

#6 Tribes by Seth Godin

“Tribes is a must read for all of us.  It’s up to each one of us to lead in today’s new kind of world.”  Bill Bradley, Former U.S. senator  Tribes is one of my favorite reads of 2008!  It’s is truly inspiring, showing the value and simplicity of becoming a leader.  Keep an eye out for my future post on Tribes.

#7 Beach Money by Jordan Adler

“If you plan on building a large successful network, I recommend reading Beach Money.  Jordan’s stories are inspiring and each one has something that you can put to use immediately.”  Ivan Misner, NY Times Best-selling Author and Founder of BNI

#8 E-Myth by Michael Gerber
“The mythic and often disastrous assumption is that people who are experts regarding technical details of a product or service will also be experts at running that sort of business.  Many small business owners eventually realize that just as they had to learn the technical skills, they have to learn business growth and management skills.”  Wikipedia

#9 Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn

“I can’t believe it.  In the three months since reading this, I’ve almost doubled my sales and settled a couple of long-standing problem in my marriage.  I’m recommending this book to management.” O. T., Regional Sales Manager

#10 The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
“Stunning and amazing, from mini-retirements to outsourcing your life, it’s all here.  Whether you’re a wage slave or Fortune 500 CEO, this book will change your life!”  Phil Town, #1 New Your Times bestselling author

#11 101 Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies by Gwen Steege
Number 11 in my top 10 just to check and see if you are still reading!  Honestly the best gift and easiest way to bribe me is with homemade chocolate chip cookies!  Who can resist that?

I could have easily listed 20 more books in this top 10 so if I am missing one you think should be on the list please leave a comment with your suggestion and why you think the book should be on the list.  The more selection and recommendations the better!

In writing this post I kept thinking back to my corporate career.  During the holidays I would receive well over 20 boxes of candies from clients and vendors.  The candy made no lasting impression due to the amount I received.  A book is completely different!  If I received a book during the first few weeks of the New Year it would stand out amongst all the previous gifts.  I would remember who sent the book to me and it would positively affect our relationship.

Follow Up Strategies: Two Days Before Christmas

This morning I had a completely different post in mind.  I was going to write about sending books to your top clients and referral sources for the New Year.  In thinking about follow up this morning I decided to write about a simple and highly effective follow up strategy for the two days before Christmas.

Take a look at your top 25 clients and referral sources for the year, print out a report or simply write them down.  Once you have them pick up the phone and call each one.  Call them and wish them a Merry Christmas.  If you are not sure if they celebrate Christmas wish them a Happy Holliday weekend.  Thank these clients and referral sources for the business and referrals from the past year.  Ask them what they are doing for the holiday.  In general you want to touch them right before the holiday.  Don’t ask for new business or referrals, just thank them and wish them a great holiday.

You may not be able to reach everyone as I am sure some have already taken the week off, so just leave a message or a voicemail.  It may seem simple because it is!  These simple touches build your relationships with your clients and referral sources.  By doing this simple task you are showing your clients and referral sources that you care about them and appreciate them.

It’s a bit difficult for me to call you and wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday weekend!  Please know that I appreciate you for taking the time to visit my blog and I truly appreciate the many emails and comments I receive from my posts.  I wish for you a wonderful holiday filled with great moments which create lasting memories.

Do You Still Need to Send Your Holiday Cards?

You still have time to get this important follow up strategy completed!  However at this point you are a bit limited on how you can get this done.  One way is to make a mad rush to the store and buy boxes of holiday cards only to spend today and most of the weekend writing them out.  I must say the thought of you actually doing thing is making me tired!  I know as I have done this so many times in the past!  I am sure if you have not yet sent your holiday cards you know you need to and have just been procrastinating to the very last minute!

Don’t worry!  You have another option available to you which will allow you to send all of your holiday cards within a few hours.  Whether you need to send 100 or 2,000 holiday cards you still have time to get it done!  It all starts with having access to a powerful system called SendOutCards!

SendOutCards is a very simple online tool which allows you to upload all of your addresses, choose a holiday card from over 1,000 choices, type out a nice holiday message, and with a few clicks send to your entire database!  Your cards are then printed, stuffed in envelopes with a real stamp, and placed in the mail the next day! The best part is you can actually send the same holiday card to 500 customers and prospects and then go back and write additional messages to your top 25 customers and prospects to make them more personal.  This means no customer or prospect is forgotten!  SendOutCards also allows you to add gifts to your cards!  So if you should be sending a little something extra to those top clients you are covered!  To learn more about this tool visit SendOutCards and click on the top banner to send a free card and get the tour.

There is just no other service on the market that can do this with such ease!  I have used this service for the past few years for holiday cards as well as all the different business greeting card occasions with great success.  This is not just a holiday card tool!

If you happen to be one of those thinking “it’s too late to send holiday cards at this point” or “does sending holiday cards really make a difference in my business?”, I would encourage you to consider recent research by Hallmark:  Hallmark found that businesses say they use greeting cards as a “kind of investment in their business…  They’re investing in customer relationship with the hopes that it will pay back”.  The company has conducted research that found at least half of customers who received holiday cards from businesses say they are more likely to continue doing business with that company versus another one.  You can read more on this by reading the article in the Washington Post.

So the question to ask yourself is not whether you should send holiday cards or not…  The question is whether you want your current customers to continue doing business with you!

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts When Mailing Holiday Cards

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts When Mailing Holiday Cards

Do’s:

1)  Do send a quality card with a nice seasonal image
This is not the time to send a naked Santa because you think it’s funny.

2)  Do hand write your cards and envelopes
There is nothing like getting hand written cards in the mail, it shows you have taken the time to really reach out to your customer

3)  Do sign your cards
Your signature on the holiday card makes it personal

4)  Do write few lines of thoughts in each card
You might say something like “I have truly enjoyed working with you this past year.  I hope you have a fantastic holiday season and a great start in 2009!”

5)  Send your cards out with an actual stamp
This is not the time to save time by running them through the meter.  Take the time to place a stamp on each card as this small step makes a big difference.

Don’ts

6)  Don’t send holiday cards with just your signature
Saying Seasons Greetings, Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukah above your signature will not make this better.  Add a few lines to make them personal!

7)  Don’t enclose a business card with your holiday card
I find there is nothing tackier than opening a card and having a business card fall out.  It takes away all positive impact from the card.

8)  Don’t add your logo to the card
Sending holiday cards should be an opportunity to appreciate your clients.  This is not the time to promote your brand!

9)  Don’t use mailing labels on the envelope
Mailing labels take away from the personal experience of the holiday card.  Take the time to hand write the envelopes or have someone in your office do this for you.

10)  Don’t send e-cards
No matter what you believe or what someone has told you, e-cards are not the same and actually create a negative impact with most receivers.

Hopefully you will avoid some of the don’ts and remember all the do’s!  Do you have some top do’s and don’ts to add to this top 10?  Leave a comment so I can add to the list!

Where did the idea of sending holiday cards come from anyway?  If you are interested check out the history of holiday card sending.

Look for tomorrows post about e-cards vs. real printed cards, and handmade cards.

Increase Referrals and Attract More Clients by Sending Holiday Cards

For years I have been sending holiday cards.  I remember back in my corporate days signing hundreds of cards to clients and vendors.  The process then was to have a stack of 300 to 500 cards passed from one office to the next as we attempted to have all the employees sign the cards.  I admit some years I signed the cards and at times my assistant signed them for me.  I did not fully understand why I was sending them to begin with.  What difference is one holiday card going to make?

After completing my corporate ladder climb and realizing I no longer wanted to work for someone but instead wanted to build my own company, I began the journey of owning and building a promotional marketing company.  Through this process I had many great experiences.  One that comes to mind is sending holiday cards each year to my clients and prospects.  One of these prospects never actually purchased my services but I sent them a holiday card anyway.  The result of this simple holiday card came six months later.  The prospect called me for a new project and became a new customer.  I remember asking her why she decided to call almost one year later.  Her response was surprising!  She said she received my holiday card and actually kept it for months after the holiday as she was so impressed I would spend the time to send her a card even though our project never materialized.  She called me because I sent her a holiday card!

Here are few of the most important reasons why you should be sending holiday cards:

  • Holiday cards are another touch in the connection process with your customers.
  • Holiday cards give you an opportunity to express your appreciation to your customers.
  • Your customers will receive holiday cards from your largest competitors!
  • Customers will not always remember who sent cards but most will remember who did not!
  • Holiday cards put you at the top of your customers mind, this allows for more business and referrals.
  • Sending holiday cards is an example of great customer service.
  • Sending holiday cards gives you an opportunity to touch people within a company that you may not have access to.   An example of this could be the CEO of your best customer whom you have only met once.

Holiday card sending used to be a huge time commitment; this is not the case anymore!   Holiday cards can be very expensive however now you have very cost effective options which you cannot afford not to take advantage of!  (Future posts will have some great time saving and cost effective services for holiday cards.  If you need help now let me know by leaving a comment and I will send you my favorite resources.)

If you are one of those companies who have already mailed your cards I congratulate you!  Sending holiday cards should be a part of every companies marketing plan, it’s one of those personal touches you must do.  If you are in the procrastination stage of holiday card sending, I encourage you to get it done.  Get it done today!  Commit to yourself to mail all of your cards out this week, it will be worth it I promise!

A special note to those who have already decided not to mail holiday cards this year.  I challenge you to rethink your reasoning.  Many people have decided to cut this out because of time, cost, or just clear laziness.  You cannot afford not to connect with your clients and vendors.  Take the time to mail out holiday cards!  Consider sending cards to your top 100 clients and referral sources.  Sending holiday cards is one of my favorite follow up methods because it is an opportunity to create a personal touch in your business s relationship.

Look for my post tomorrow on the do’s and don’ts of holiday card sending!

Remember if you need help with your holiday card or gift sending options this year make a comment and I will respond to you with a few great resources that I will be covering this week.

Today is a GREAT day for Follow Up

Yesterday I was thinking about all the different long holiday weekends from the past.  Often times I would dread going back to the office after a long holiday or I would have a hard time getting back into the habits of production.  Holidays are very different for me now!  Many people think I am always working but the reality is I really enjoy what I do.  So coming back to work for me is just doing what I love.  For those of you that are not in love with what you are doing here is a simple way to get back into work mode:

Take today and focus on follow up.  Reach out to your customers and prospects and ask the question “How was your Thanksgiving?” and then follow up with “What can I do to help you this week?”.

The reason why I bring this up is today is a great day to follow up with new and old customers as well as all those people in your pipeline.  After completing this post the majority of my day will be spent on follow up.  The reason I enjoy doing this after holidays is it allows me to ask the question “how was your Thanksgiving?”.  This simple question starts the conversation on a personal tone and allows me to create a bridge from a business conversation to a more personal conversation.

The rewards from creating personal relationships with your clients and prospects are enormous and this week is another opportunity for you to further these relationships!

If you choose to use today for follow up please let me know how did!  Simply leave a comment and share your experience with me and your fellow readers!

Attracting Positive Experiences Starts With Gratitude

Tomorrow will be a wonderful day spent with family and friends as those in the United States spend the day talking, eating, and celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday.

For me this is a time of reflection.  Thinking about the things I am grateful for in my life, reflecting on the moments in time which have created the memories that will last a lifetime.

Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to create a positive discussion with the ones you are spending time with.  My favorite part of the many previous Thanksgivings is the thought of gratitude.  What am I grateful for in my life right now?  What do I have in my life to be thankful for?  I encourage you to take a moment right now and reflect for yourself on this last year.  Search for something to be grateful for.  Think about how that makes you feel.   It can be something big like a new baby, getting married, a new home, a new job, or a promotion at work!  It can also as simple as getting together with family tomorrow, spending time with your children, or having a working car.  Whatever you choose to be grateful for focus on the feeling you have when you think about it, carry this feeling for the entire day.  No matter what happens keep this positive feeling all day.  The result of you doing this will by default put the people around you in a mood of gratitude as well.  By doing this you will inspire a positive attitude in those around you and it should make for a fantastic day!

For the business owners that happen to read this today.  Many companies will allow their employees to leave early today.  Some companies will work half the day; others will send people home a few hours early.  Before you let your employees go today why not create an exercise of gratitude.  Send an email or create a memo for the employees in the office to meet 30 to 45 minutes before the workday ends.  At the meeting let everyone know you will be doing a simple exercise of gratitude, just one sentence on what you are grateful for right now.  Let them know you do not want anything that has to do with work or their job, just something in their life they are grateful for.  As the business owner or manager make sure you go first and keep it really simple.  Quickly go around the room having everyone express something they are grateful for and skip anyone who can’t think of anything (you will have at least one).  At the end thank everyone for sharing in the experience and send them home for the day to spend time with family and friends.   This will have your employees leaving with a positive attitude as well as a positive reflection on you the business owner or manager.  Remember your employees are an extension of your company both in and outside of the office.  The benefits from doing this exercise will be different for everyone but will surly lead to more positive experiences.

While writing this my mind keeps wondering off to my positive experiences from the last year.  I have so many things to be grateful for!  The positive experience for me and the one moment in time that keeps coming up is an event that happened just last month.  As it rains in San Diego this morning I keep thinking about the family I helped build a house for in Mexico.  Right now this family is in a home where they do not have to worry about a makeshift roof leaking as they sleep.  This family is experiencing the comfort of shelter, something so many in this world do not have.  I am grateful for the experience of building this home and I am grateful for the home I am sitting in while writing right now.  Need help feeling inspired?  Start your day by visiting Inspire Me Today.  Gail Goodwin, founder of Inspire Me Today offers amazing high-quality daily inspiration which is a great way to start each day.  Make sure to visit the Inspire Me Today Blog which also has great inspiration and positive writings by Gail.

Please share with me what you are grateful for by adding a comment to this post!  If you are a business owner and take advantage of the gratitude exercise please comment on your experience with your employees.

For those outside of the United States I hope you have a wonderful week full of positive experiences.  For those in the United States I wish for you the happiest of Thanksgivings!

Follow Up Success: Top 10 Marketing Blogs

Last week I was asked to create a Top 10 blog list for blogs.com.  I thought for a brief moment on what segment of blogs I would include and decided to focus on Marketing Blogs (and a few distractions).  These are blog s that I read on a consistent weekly basis for many reasons…  Some of them for the great content, a few are friends, and of course Gary Vaynerchuck for great ideas, content, and the constant reminder to be passionate for what I am doing!  So here is my Top 10 Blogs showcased on blogs.com:

Find the best blogs at Blogs.com.

Top 10 Marketing Blogs (and a few distractions)

  1. DoshDosh – written by, Maki
  2. Duct Tape Marketing – written by, John Jantsch – founder of Duct Tape Marketing
  3. Gary Vaynerchuck – written by, Gary Vaynerchuck – founder of Wine Library TV
  4. Life of a Founder – written by, Jimmy Hendricks – founder of Collar Free
  5. Never Eat Alone Blog – written by, Keith Ferrazzi – author of Never Eat Alone
  6. Profit Minute – written by, Rod Moore, founder of Profit Minute
  7. Seth’s Blog – written by, Seth Godin – author of many best selling marketing books including his newest must read: Tribes
  8. Six Figure Moms Club – written by, Angie Swartz – founder of Six Figure Moms Club, author, and Executive Coach
  9. The Big Idea Blog – mirrors The Big Idea show on CNBC by Donny Deutsch
  10. copyblogger – written by, Brian Clark – copyblogger is one of the world’s 50 most powerful blogs

Take a look at my Top 10 blogs and let me know what you think.  Do you have a favorite Marketing Blog you read?  Do you have a must read blog not on this list?  Make sure to leave a comment so I can see one of your favorite blogs, it might just become one of my favorites as well.

A few last thoughts on my Top 10 Marketing Blogs.  Last week when I was given the opportunity to submit my Top 10 list I could of easly decided not to.  I was in the middle of many projects and really did not have the time to take on anything more.  At the last minute I made it a priority and sent in my list for review.  As a result my Top 10 list was selected and featured on blogs.com.  By taking action and giving priority to this simple project I have received more exposure to my business and blog not to mention each of the blogs in my Top 10.  The benifits to the added exposure will lead to stronger relationships, referrals, and clients.  My questions to you are, “What simple tasks or projects are right in front of you?  What projects could you complete that might give you more exposure and potential clients?”.  You have opportunities in front of you right now!  Look for the easy to ignore and simple tasks in front of you and make a point to complete them today!