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Proactive Referral Programs for Pool Builders

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

What happens when “Aunt Helen” shares her secret recipe for those killer Christmas cookies, but she inadvertently leaves out one of the key ingredients? Are we still appreciative? Or are we secretly bitter because they just don’t taste the same without that orange zest or pinch of cardamom, or whatever else she “accidentally” left out?

I think I would fall on the “annoyed” side, no matter how sweet and well-intentioned Aunt Helen might be. And I certainly don’t want you to think of me as “sweet-but-annoying Aunt Helen.”

Last week I “opened my kimono” and shared with you the heart and soul of my secret strategy for selling more pools. I called it “The 3-Legged Milk-Stool Strategy.” When you strip everything else away, you should be left with these three key foundational pieces of your marketing system:

  • A Kick-ass Website
  • A Low-Risk Offer
  • An Automated Follow-up system (a.k.a. “Hopper System”)

But truth be told, there are a few other key ingredients that will add some zest and spice to your system.  Perhaps this chart will help to ensure I’m not holding back on the cardamom.

MYM Strategy Flow Chart.jpg

I presume that “lead generation” is understood to be a required ingredient. Yes, the website by its very existence will likely generate some leads. But there are lots of other things you can do to crank up your lead generation. I’ve talked about them many times in my previous newsletters.

One source of leads, however, that I really haven’t talked about much is “referrals.” And this is certainly at least as important as “orange zest,” because if you’re a well-established company, and you’re doing good work, then roughly half of your business should be coming from referrals.

Where business should come from (HORIZONTAL).jpg

The problem with me recommending that you get more referrals, is that it’s kind of like me suggesting that we should all have more world peace. No one’s opposed to it. But it takes a little more than just “wanting it” to make it happen.

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to get referrals is not “to ask for them.” And it’s not by bribing them with a $200 referral check either. Not that these methods don’t work; they do. But what’s far more effective is to create a spectacular experience for your client, such that they fall in love with you and become a raving fan. When you go beyond their expectations, and build a sincere and trusting relationship where none existed before, your clients are likely to become downright evangelical about you. And that’s what we want.

Once again, just like world peace and Aunt Helen’s cookies, everyone’s in support of it. But it’s easier said than done, right?  In fact, in all my travels, I have found but a scarce few pool sales reps that fully understand and embrace this concept. These rare gems will reach into their own pockets and buy thoughtful gifts for their clients at various intervals throughout the building process, and beyond. And they get a ton of referrals.

Alas, these are the rare gems in pool sales. What about the other 99.9% of sales people who aren’t so proactively inclined? Here’s what we’ve done to make this somewhat more methodical and reliable for our clients.

First, we set up a policy that says “The sales person must perform a final walk-through with the homeowner when the job is complete.” (Sounds simple, right? I can tell you with a high degree of certainty that if your sales people are doing this, they are in the minority.)

Next, we script exactly what the sales rep is supposed to do in this meeting:

1)   Tour the finished pool with the homeowner.  Make sure everything is to their liking.

2)   If they’re disappointed with anything, you’d better address it now. (That doesn’t mean you have to “fix” it; that just means you have to figure out a way to make them happy with the end results.) Remember that these people are like a branch on a young tree. If they like you, they’ll tell dozens of people all about you.  And if you don’t address their concerns, they’ll dozens of people about that too. For years….

3)   If appropriate, give them the manuals for the pool equipment (unless you normally do this at “pool school”).

4)   Hand them a short & simple half-page survey that captures how they feel about the end results.  The bottom half is blank so they can write any additional comments or testimonials – good or bad. Hand them the paper and a pen and say, “Could you take just a minute to let us know how you felt about this project? If we ever have someone unhappy with the work we did, the owner wants to know about it.”

5)   Then excuse yourself for a moment, go out to your truck and bring in the thoughtful gift you picked out just for them. (Personally, to keep things simple, I recommend a pair of “Fat Towels” from www.FatTowel.com – tastefully and subtly embroidered with your logo.  Keep a few cases of these on hand, and your sales reps will never have an excuse for not visiting the homeowner when the pool is finished.) If the homeowner was disappointed about anything, your thoughtful gift should help soften the blow a little.

There’s certainly more you can do to proactively generate referrals, including ask for them, and/or offer bribes. But with or without those tactics, the “Thank you” program is still as good a place as any to start a proactive program.

OK – At this point, I think I’ve covered all the key ingredients for my secret chocolate-chip-with-cardamom-pool-builder-marketing system. Till next time, enjoy the cookies.

Brett

©2009 Brett Lloyd Abbott / MYM Austin Inc.  May not be used without permission.

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