Industry Magazine Get JACK'D Magazine Spring 2017 - Page 9
SIX HACKS TO
John Ruhlin is the founder of Ruhlin
Group. John’s company is trusted by the
leaders of fast-growing companies to
develop relationship-building strategies
and VIP gifting programs to increase
referrals and strengthen retention
with their most important clients,
employees, and prospects. His book,
GIFTOLOGY: The Art and Science of
Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise,
Increase Referrals, and Strengthen
REFERRALS and gifts are huge in business, but they’re often
handled in all the wrong ways. Attempts to elicit referrals sometimes
seem forced or in poor taste and can do more harm than good.
So, instead of following those broken formulas—pleading
requests, in-your-face ads, cheap gift cards—build brand equity
using these six best practices:
1. Actually “Surprise and Delight”
“Surprise and delight” is one of the most overused phrases in
marketing, but it works. To truly surprise and delight a client, you
can’t just meet expectations. You have to exceed them.
My friend Brian Scudamore owns a slew of unsexy companies,
but he’s dominated these industries by finding little ways to “wow”
clients. For his painting business, for example, he makes sure fresh
flowers are waiting for his customers when the job is done and they
arrive home. With his moving company, his employees call families in
advance to take their Starbucks orders. Such low-cost investments
often drive more referrals than the companies’ primary services.
2. Realize That “It’s Not About You”
When working with affluent clients, understand the psychology
behind the referrals they give. They’re not doing it for some kind of
kickback. They simply believe that your services would be useful to
their friends or families.
Make your clients feel like they’re being taken care of, not bribed. If
you decide to send a gift, send it “just because” at a later date, not as
appreciation for the referral. If someone refers a million-dollar client
to you and you return the favor with a bottle of wine, your gesture is
going to seem transactional.
3. Focus On The Inner Circle
Clients aren’t islands. They have significant others and families
and friends. These inner circles have more influence on your clients
than you could ever hope to have. The same applies to assistants.
They may not be gatekeepers for referrals, but they’re definitely
When I was working with my first NBA team, I made sure that the
team’s office assistant received just as many gifts as the CEO. Six
months later, she helped me land meetings with five other team
department heads, eventually scoring my company a six-figure deal.
Treating the assistant like an equal inclined her to open more doors
4. Stop Asking For Referrals
It makes my skin crawl when I read the following on a business
card or email signature: “The finest compliment you could give me is
Retention, was released in June, 2016.
a referral to your friends and family.” If you need to beg for a referral,
do you really deserve one? People naturally refer businesses
they’ve had good experiences with. Focus on the experience, not the
A top Cutco distributor recently decided to put a magnetic sign
with his logo and contact info on the side of his car. I asked him, “Are
the one or two leads a year you might receive from that really worth
appearing tacky to the thousands of other people who’ll see it?” He
quickly reconsidered and pulled the magnet off.
5. Don’t Devalue The Deed
One of my CEO-consultant clients told me about a time he waived
his speaking fee for a prestigious event. The event organizer sent
him a nice handwritten note but made the mistake of including a
$25 Amazon gift card with it. What kind of message did that send?
“Thanks for donating your $20,000 speaking fee. Here’s $25.”
Transactional gestures cause recipients to subconsciously add
things up, making gifts feel unbalanced. Even a $200 gift card to a
nice restaurant feels like a bribe if you’re a financial advisor earning
a one percent management fee. Instead, send a genuine, handwritten
thank-you note and acknowledge the referral.
6. Become An Expert
When you reach expert status, the barriers start to drop. Speaking
at any event obviously brings in referrals and leads, but it also boosts
credibility. Recently, I spoke at a professional sports conference
and landed a speaking gig at Google. When my clients heard that, I
became a commodity they wanted to show off to their friends.
Your customers are real people, and sabotaging your own brand
equity will only make them think less of you. Instead, focus on the
little things. This will actually help you build
more meaningful, long-term relationships. No
$20 gift cards required.