Word of mouth referrals
From a business perspective, the best advertising is free. And the best free advertising is word-of-mouth referrals.
Even 15 years ago, when there was still some semblance of proper training in the construction industry, we realised that the hardest thing for the public was to find a trustworthy and good tradesman.
The Yellow Pages is a complete lottery, as the ads are cookie cutter, and the more companies spend, the more grandiose they can make themselves sound – on paper. The classifieds are even more dodgy, as they are cheaper than yellow Pages and open to even more creativity / abuse.
The Personal Recommendation Card
So, to cut out the gambling for our existing customers, we started a simple word-of-mouth referral card which we called Personal Recommendations.
Basically it was a simple A5 size card folded in half with a space on the front for each participant to stick their own business card. Inside the card we listed 20 trades, from painting and decorating to floor tiling to curtains, upholstery and roofing. We put our name down as reliable decorators, which we were, and then recommended the best tradesman we knew at the time. That happened to be a carpenter / joiner (now master kitchen fitter) called David Collier.
We asked David to recommend the best tradesman he knew, and he proposed his electrician, someone he could totally rely on to deliver the goods. The process was repeated, one tradesman recommending one other first rate tradesman. It didn’t take long before we had 20 names of top businesses in the area, all personally recommended by their peers.
Each business on the list was given 100 Personal Recommendation Cards to hand out to their customers. In one stroke, potentially 2000 customers had the names of 20 reliable businesses in their area, and 20 reliable businesses had their name on the fridges and pinboards of 1900 new potential customers. Each business on the list paid us £20 for organising it.
Lessons learnt from Personal Recommendations
All those businesses that handed out their referral cards got pride of place in hundreds of homes and planted their names in the minds of those homeowners.
Customers were thrilled with the list.
It was a win-win for us, being paid to market ourselves and fellow trades.
It is fair to say that not everybody was organised enough to sit down for an hour to stick their business card to the Personal Recommendation list and remember to take a bunch around with them in their van. You can take a horse to water, but…
I will probably be working on a similar project again, but online, because now the recession is coming fast, I need to find the best people too, here in North Cheshire.
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