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Referrals Are Like Diapers

contractor website tipsA few weeks ago I posted about tampons and marketing, and it stirred a bit of a conversation. In fact, I received and email from one of my long-time readers with an observation he made while cruising the aisles at CVS. I won’t name him, but he is a pretty high-end builder who does great work and caters to the female buyer.

The topic: Pregnancy Tests

In the email, my reader mentioned that he noticed an end-cap in his CVS offering pregnancy tests on sale.

His point…why discount pregnancy tests? You either need one or you don’t right?

Brilliant observation and simple logic that no one could argue with, not even me. But I got to thinking, Should you always hold your price regardless of market conditions or product or service?

Think about these short-life items we buy but only need for a short time…

  1. Baby formula
  2. Diapers
  3. Baby food

All have a very high-profit, short lifespan place in the everyday consumer’s world.

  1. About a year for formula
  2. Two years for diapers…if you are lucky
  3. A year and a half for baby food

That’s it. Unless you keep producing babies, you never have to buy a box of diapers again.

Homeowners feel the same way…during the time they are in their homes, most homeowners will only:

  1. Put one new roof on their home
  2. Paint the interior twice
  3. Paint the exterior once
  4. Replace the water heater once
  5. Replace SOME windows

You get the point. And if you don’t, let me make it clear for you…you are but a fleeting memory to your client or customer once the work is done.

This means you have to be cultivating the referral process and lead gen program from the beginning of the estimate to the final inspection, and why diapers are like referrals.

I know you probably hate selling, and you just wished your work spoke for itself or better yet, sold for you. But that isn’t reality.

Reality is you have to scratch and claw and kick and scream for each new client or customer…or enjoy watching Lucy re-runs and ambulance chasing lawyer commercials during mid-day TV.

So starts asking for referrals by telling Mrs. Jones you are going to ask for them. A plumber I know has this as his tag;

“_______ ________ Plumbing, a Business Built on Referrals.”

It’s right there in his slogan. And he works prospects for referrals like no one I know.

So how do you do it? Simple…

During the estimate, tell Mrs. Jones, I hope you like our work, and once we are done and you are satisfied, I am going to ask you if you know anyone else who might benefit/want/need what we have done for you. If you know someone, I would be happy to do _____ blank for you and ______ for them. Now, I don’t want to know now, but just think about it.

And as you interact with them during the process keep reminding them about the referral program. And once you are done, make it a point to revisit it by saying something like:

I would like to schedule some time to do a final inspection and talk about the referral program I discussed with you.

That way, you set the agenda, tie it back to something they want (final inspection & money for names) and make it a benefit to them.

Then sit down with a blank piece of paper, and say something like:

Mrs. Jones, I hope you are satisfied with our work, and I know you are going to love your new blank. When we first spoke, I talked about our referral program, which gets you ______ or _________.

Now, can you tell me who you think might benefit from the same type of service we have done for you?


And watch what happens. The law of reciprocity will more times than not kick in and you WILL get at least one lead.

Now, what you do with that is up to you, but if you don’t ask your clients or customers for leads, the answer is always no.

Too worried about pissing someone off? Well, is it easier to worry about pissing someone off or making payroll? Or your truck payment? Or whatever else you may find yourself having trouble paying if you don’t have enough leads coming through the pipeline!

2 responses to “Referrals Are Like Diapers”

  1. Sam Avatar

    Great post Darren
    For those of us who live or die by referrals, think about the words “guilt” and “anger” and how they relate to successful referrals. At their most basic level, “guilt” means that I owe you and “anger” means that you owe me. You will never get a positive referral from an “angry” customer who still feels you owe them (you did not meet their expectations). However, a customer who feels that you delivered beyong their expectations (who feel they still owe you) will send you referrals to get rid of their “guilt”. Make sure you acknowledge their referral (payment of debt) in an appropriate way.
    Be mindful that past customers who haven’t referred other work to you, are either “guilty” or “angry” and it is your responsibility to know which category they are in.

    1. Darren Avatar

      Sam…your comments and insight are always appreciated and welcome! Thank you!