Firestone Tires uses a simple means of generating referrals. It costs pennies, allows employees to look good with their friends, and can keep the company top-of-mind for tires for years. It’s a special friends discount card. The card is for special friends of Firestone, meaning Firestone employees. The employee writes his or her name on the card and the customer’s name. The customer can then present the card to Firestone for an additional 10% off on any service or product.
The special friends cards are really nothing more than business cards. They cost little. Yet, customers can easily keep them in their wallets and may keep them for years, long after the employee has departed. Whenever the need for tires comes up, the customer remembers the card and Firestone gets first crack.
Encourage Employees to Spread the Word
Do your employees let the world know where they work? Probably not. And yet, they encounter people everyday who might be candidates for your products and services.
Not only are they candidates, they're highly attractive prospects if they know that your employee works for a company with services they might need. Business is built on relationships and we all prefer to do business with someone we know.
Here's an easy way to get employees to let the world know about their employer and to stimulate the construction of your mailing list. Like most good ideas, it's really quite simple: Create a contest for the collection of business cards.
Announce a prize (e.g., cash, ballgame tickets, gift certificate to a nice restaurant, tools) to the employee that collects the most business cards over the course of the next month. Tell employees that it’s up to them to tell their friends, neighbors, and acquaintances that they are in a business card contest.
Furthermore, you’ll accept someone's hand written home address on the back of a business card *if* the friend writes it and it's accompanied by a signature (just to keep someone from whipping out the white pages and starting from A).
Here's what happens: With the contest as an excuse, your employees are free to ask for business cards in situations where they might have been reluctant or inhibited before. For example, employees might ask that everyone attending their adult Sunday School class bring a business card next week.
When they go out to eat, they might ask for the restaurant manager's card. If they belong in any clubs or teams, they might ask for cards . If they pick up or drop off their kids at day care, they can ask for cards. They might even get their spouses to collect cards at work. They might enlist their kids to go door-to-door in their neighborhood collecting cards.
Of course, you’ll help by suggesting they ask in some of these places. When someone hands you a business card, it's a natural reaction to hand them one back. Since you've made sure that everyone in your company has this most basic of business tools, they can comply. That by itself will build awareness and stimulate business.
Remember, business is built on relationships. The contest will ensure more of your employee's friends and acquaintances are aware of the business they're in. If any have a need for your company's services, it raises the odds you’ll get the call. It becomes more likely they’ll ask your employee about the services.
Some of your employees will jump all over the contest. Others won’t. By adding a weekly incentive, announcing, and posting the results, you increase the likelihood that everyone will participate. Most people are naturally competitive. No one likes to be in last place. This will spur even the most reluctant to make a minimal effort.
When the contest ends, you’ll have three types of cards. First will be business address cards from people not in a position to buy from you. Mail them a thank you note for helping your employee. Include a magnet and a business reply bounce back card. On the card, ask for their home address and provide check off boxes for information on your company services, a $5 or $10 gift certificate, and the option to be added to your company mail list, or not.
Next will be cards from people who might be in a position to buy your company's services. Send them the same mailing with a couple of key differences. Mail two magnets (one for home or business).
Change the options on the bounce back card to include information on your commercial services (mailed to their place of business) and the option of being added to your commercial and/or residential mailing list.
The final group will be people who offered their home contact information. Again, thank them. Include a magnet. Include a bounce back card.
The business card contest accomplishes three things. First, it builds your mailing list with people predisposed toward your company since they know one of your employees. Second, it builds word of mouth about your company to the same group of predisposed people. Third, it helps put your employees in a mindset that they should tell people where they work and that they should collect contact information on people whenever they can.
Not bad for a fun, inexpensive promotion.
In the next issue, Michel talks about how sending pertinent articles to potential customers helps to continue building a relationship. So stay tuned for more tips on business card marketing.
Matt Michel spoke at HVAC Comfortech 2004 on marketing This rant was solely the opinion of Matt Michel, CEO of the Service Roundtable (www.ServiceRoundtable.com), an organization dedicated to helping contractors prosper. Matt is also the publisher of Comanche Marketing, a free marketing e-zine. Subscriptions are available at www.ComancheMarketing.com. You can contact him directly at [email protected]. Or send your comments to Contracting Business at [email protected].