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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The balancing act

Yesterday, driving to work, and listening to a CD I purchased from another marketing guru (who said he got his ideas from elsewhere, but didn't identify their source, so I'm not going to identify the guru here), I heard an interesting idea that our own business uses effectively. Yet, as I listened to it, I also appreciated the paradox -- the contractor who uses this business model will likely be so busy he won't use it very often because it is TOO effective.

In the example, the anonymous plumbing contractor does a great job in solving an immediate and urgent crisis for a respected public speaker -- saving the client acute embarrassment. After completing the project, the plumber visits the client and asks if he wouldn't mind helping spread the word about the plumber's good work. The enthusiastic client responds "sure".

The plumber then invites the speaker to provide a list of the people he knows in the community, and a copy of a letter explaining the client's great experience with the plumber. The plumber asks the speaker for permission to send this letter -- under the speakers' own signature -- to the contact list provided by the speaker. ("We'll do all the work, in preparing the letters, stuffing and folding the envelopes," the plumber says).

And so the plumber sends out the letters as the first part of a direct marketing campaign -- a campaign with real clout because of the endorsement from the speaker/community leader.

I'm quite confident that a campaign like this would work very well. But you won't see it happen often in practice. The reason is apparent to most of us -- most great plumbers are busy enough as it is and the response they would generate from this kind of marketing would overwhelm their resources and service capacities. In some cases marketing can be too effective -- In this case, you would need a team of journeymen plumbers trained and ready to work to your high standards, and some care in planning how to handle the response from a strong endorsement.

Nevertheless, if you are in any contracting or professional service business, please consider the power and effectiveness of the satisfied client endorsement letter. And note its potential applications for virtually any construction business and the allied professions.

For example, if you are a consulting engineer with expertise in hospital work, if you have a letter from a really satisfied hospital client, who belongs to a trade association and is respected by other clients within that association (say your client is the president of the association!), and if you could get a direct letter of reference/referral and target it to association members in communities where your practice has offices or could serve effectively), I think you can see how this kind of letter would accelerate interest and build powerful referral business for you. And if you are a general contractor, imagine the clout of the organized referral letter distributed to your satisfied client's contacts within your regional business community.

Just remember, do this right, and you won't need to market very often. And note this stuff only works if you do your job really well -- always, I emphasize, the most important cornerstone for successful marketing.

BTW, I'll be happy to send you a sample copy of a referral endorsement letter we use in our own business. Just email me at

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