Andrew: Now today, we have a special show. In fact we decided to pre-empt our planned show which was going to be Succeeding on a Tight Budget just for this. We have a special guest. He is an author and an authority on client acquisition with a special focus on referrals for high value service businesses.
Now Kenny, why are we so excited to talk about referrals?
Kenny: Well, there isn’t any lead I can think of that’s stronger than a referral, because it comes attached with pre-built know, like and trust. We spoke about know, like and trust and desire and all of those important points that help you build your authority. Well, these things come with that prebuilt and so it’s a much warmer lead than most other leads that come through.
Andrew: And I would add that for consultants, if you’re just starting out, that’s likely where most of your new business is going to come from, from referrals and even at this point for me, I currently get about half of my new business from AdWords and blogging and the other half is from referrals. So it’s critical. It’s really critical for all of us.
So with that, let me introduce our special guest. Steve Gordon is the author of the new book Unstoppable Referrals and he’s the publisher of the Unstoppable CEO, which is a leadership journal for growing firms. He’s the editor of three business newsletters and has published hundreds of articles on marketing and selling high ticket products and services in high trust transactions.
When he was just 28, Steven became the CEO of an engineering firm, engineering and consulting firm and 12 years later, after growing that firm’s revenue by 10 times, he started a second business which is consulting one-on-one with businesses across 30 industries including manufacturing, professional services, construction and consulting to design sales, marketing and referral systems for high ticket, high trust products and services.
So we will get to learn a lot more about Steve today, about his methods and strategies. If you would like to learn more about him on your own, you can visit UnstoppableCEO.net. So Steve, welcome to the show.
Steve: Andrew, thanks so much for having me and Kenny, great to be on with you as well. I’m excited to talk about this topic. I think it’s an important one for consultants and professionals.
Andrew: Absolutely. We want to do some deep dives today into really several of the marketing areas that you specialise in, but particularly referrals. Just before we do, could you give us maybe a lay of the land for consultants regarding your business? So from a 20,000-foot view, what is Steve Gordon Marketing all about especially as it may pertain to consultants?
Steve: Sure. Well, you mentioned in the intro that my background is engineering and at a relatively young age and gosh, looking back, and I didn’t know anything back then. But at a relatively young age, I was asked to be the CEO of the firm that I was with. I learned at that point how much we didn’t know about marketing and growing a business. It really kind of launched me on a path because I mean honestly, when it was suddenly my responsibility to make the phone ring and make clients show up and make it rain as they say, I lost a lot of sleep because I didn’t at that point in my career really have a good grip on how to do it.
So I was very fortunate to get that opportunity. It kind of launched me on a long and deep study of marketing for professional services and for high ticket, high trust sales which really – I mean if you’re selling professional services, you’re dealing with high ticket and high trust and then people forking over often a very large amount of money and that in it of itself requires a lot of trust. But on top of that, they are usually trusting you with some pretty critical things either in their personal life or in their business life.
It’s a different kind of sale and so what we really specialise in is working with people who are in that type of a sales environment who are usually selling their own expertise and we help them build systems that sell that, because it’s really difficult to go out and simply sell yourself. It kind of comes off slimy and sleazy and doesn’t work very well. So we help our clients build systems around authority and expertise to attract their ideal client.
Andrew: I want to ask you more about those systems a little bit later. But with that background in mind, how did you become an expert in referral marketing in particular?
Steve: Well, I started out not really knowing anything about referrals. We got 100 percent of our business in that company through referral and that’s about as much as I knew about it because the phone would ring some days. Other days, it wouldn’t ring. We really didn’t know what caused it to ring when it did and what caused it not to ring when it didn’t.
Way back then, we walked around kind of arrogantly and in hindsight now foolishly saying, “We get all of our business from word of mouth through referral and we don’t really have to go do anything.” Thankfully I kind of woke up from that because that’s a really dangerous place to be and so we began to build some systems for referrals. But really the system that I described in the book really came about within the last couple of years and a few years ago, I taught a series of workshops for business owners here in Florida in my local area.
We had a couple of hundred people come to those workshops and we taught what I always believed to be sort of the conventional wisdom around referrals, which boils down to two things. Number one, you got to ask more often.
So be more diligent about asking. We used to have it on our checklist for different client interactions to ask for referrals, so that we could be more consistent. That advice works. There’s nothing wrong with it, at least on its phase.
Then the second piece is that you’ve got to follow up for a really long time and stay in touch with people and so in these workshops, that’s what we taught and everybody loved the workshops and we got great reviews and really good testimonials at the workshop.
So about six months later, I decided I would go and meet with some of the people who had attended and just see what had happened. Honestly, I was hoping to get some glowing testimonials to do another round of them.
Steve: And so I met with them and ended up meeting with about 20 in all and I was thoroughly disappointed because not one of them had taken that advice that they – they admitted was really good advice, that was what they needed to do. But none of them had taken it and actually done anything with it.
It doesn’t necessarily mean the advice was bad because I knew that those methods worked. We’ve used them for a long time, used them very successfully. I know lots of people who have used them very successfully. But it really pointed out to me a deeper disconnect between what everybody says we ought to be doing about referrals and what people are actually going to do.
So I started really giving it some thought and experimenting with different things with our consulting clients and looking for a better way to go about referrals and really through those conversations we really found what the barrier was. We found that it was a little bit deeper than what you might imagine.
But there’s this block that keeps people from wanting to ask for them in the first place.
Kenny: What do you think that block is?
Steve: Well, I mean it’s really simple and when you hear it, you’re going to say, “Well, that’s silly.” But people are uncomfortable and consultants and experts especially because we believe, because we’ve been through all these years of training that we really should just be judged on the level of our expertise and it would be wonderful if the world worked that way. But we all know that it doesn’t.
So you do actually have to do some promotion and get out and explain to people how wonderful you are. That makes people uncomfortable because it’s something our mothers always taught us not to do. You’re not supposed to go out and brag and be boastful.
So asking for referrals puts people in a position that they’re uncomfortable for consultants especially. Oftentimes, you feel like the client has given you a big sum of money. You wanted the money really badly. You won the client and you know that the relationship is kind of a delicate thing. Oftentimes in consulting businesses, you’re only working with a relatively small number of clients at any one time. So losing any one of them is a big deal.
So you’re really protective of that relationship and going back and asking for more in the form of a referral often feels like you’re imposing more on that relationship that you’re already getting a great deal of benefit from.
Now I take a little bit different view of the client-consultant relationship because I always believe there’s a fair trade of value there and if the consultant set it up right, that then the client is getting way more value than what they’re actually paying for. That’s what keeps clients happy.
But you have that dynamic and so – and as I started really digging into it, the thing that creates that uncomfortable-ness is really this whole idea of what should happen with a successful referral.
So Kenny, if I asked you to give me a referral and you refer to me to a very close colleague of yours, the only successful result of that interaction is for your colleague to buy from me and for that to happen, that means you have got to send them into a sales meeting with me.
Now this is somebody that has a great deal of trust in you and you have a very strong and important relationship with. For you then to send them into a situation where you know they’re going to be sold to – and I haven’t yet met anybody that wants to go to a sales meeting willingly, right?
I mean we’re – I have to tell you we’re in the process of building a house and buying all of the different things that go into it and I mean even I dread going and seeing the salesperson and we want the stuff. So imagine if there’s not that much desire for whatever it is that’s being transacted and so you’ve got to get to a point where the first step in the referral isn’t the sales meeting.
If you think about it, that whole process that we’ve created around an introduction that leads to a sales meeting, it’s a little bit contrived anyway.
Kenny: So are you saying the first step should be some form of value-add at some level?
Steve: Yeah. It needs to be something value-add and it needs to be something that is easy to transfer. So a one-on-one meeting is a big commitment. So if it’s an in-person meeting, you’ve got to travel somewhere, meet with the person. There’s no easy out if you suddenly find three minutes into the meeting that wow, this really isn’t a fit.
There’s a lot of commitment to that and so what we’ve come up with and what I described in the book is a tool that I call a referral kit and the referral kit for consultants is really just packaging up the information that you are an expert at and doesn’t – obviously it’s not going to be all the – and there are a lot of folks that will push back a little bit saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, if I give them everything, if I give them all this information upfront, then they’ve got no reason to want to speak to me after that. They don’t need my help,” and I don’t think that’s the case because for most of us that are in this type of role, you know far more than you could share in what we describe as a referral kit. We will get into some specifics if you would like.
Andrew: I would just add to that. I agree very much. I’ve talked to a lot of people who say, “Well, I don’t want to give away the farm. I don’t want to share everything,” and as you said, there’s certainly a lot more that you know. But also the other person that you’re sharing this information with, they’re certainly not going to think you’ve told them everything you know. They’re going to think you’ve shared a tremendous amount of value and you know a ton more.
Steve: And …
Kenny: Sorry, go on. Carry on.
Steve: I was just going to say if – let’s say you do put all of it out there and you write the magnum opus and deliver that to somebody and assume that they read it and it gives great value. If they take that and do it themselves, they’re a DIY prospect, which means they’re really not a prospect for you.
Kenny: That’s what I was just about to say. But you’ve said it even better than I would.
Steve: Great minds I guess.
Steve: So in the book, I described creating this referral kit and really what it is, is it’s – I like to have it as something physical like a short book or in an audio interview. Those work very well and those are really fast and easy to create and really what we recommend is that – if somebody is just starting out trying to create something and go and use it to begin getting a steady flow of referrals, that they start with an audio interview because you can – I mean you can literally listen to what we’re going to share on the rest of this call and go and create one by the end of the day and have it ready. It’s very quick.
But short books work extremely well and I have a client in the financial services industry and he targets medical professionals, doctors in particular. So he said, “Well, I really want to write a book. I think it will really position me well and as the authority.”
So he wrote a book and guys, I’m going to tell you the word “book” is a stretch for this thing. But it works. So it was like 12 typewritten pages in Microsoft Word and we formatted it to book size and so it was about 30 pages of a book.
But it worked phenomenally well and has driven just within the first few months around 100 referrals for him and works consistently. The reason that it works so well is that it’s so much easier for one of his clients to agree to give someone that they know a copy of that book than it is to set up a one-on-one meeting with him.
Andrew: That makes perfect sense and I would like to share a success story on those lines, Steve. So one thing I didn’t mention before is that I worked with Steve last year and he was helping me with some of these very things and Steve, you actually encouraged me to put together what ended up being a white paper, about 20 pages long, specifically focused on the needs of my target clients and some of the biggest problems that they were facing.
As a result of that, I had one meeting about a month ago where I was invited in to speak with the principal of a venture capital firm. He needed a new website, new lead generation and so I was very excited about this.
I had no idea until after I was in the meeting. We’ve been talking for about 15 minutes and he pulled out a printed copy of my white paper, my referral kits that he had printed out and read, he said, four, five times. I could see he had marked notes in the pages. He had earmarked things. He started quoting back to me during the meeting from my white paper and that was just the best meeting I ever had just because of that documentation that you helped me put together that made this referral so easy.
Steve: Yeah, I’m so glad to hear that and I’m so glad that you had that experience. That’s what we hear again and again and again is that when you use this approach, what it really does is it acts like a filter and it allows to really multiply your referral efforts.
So the old way of going about referrals is kind of a one-by-one thing. So like we were talking before, Kenny refers a friend or a colleague of his to me one by one. It changes it now because when you’ve got something like a white paper or a small book or an audio CD that can simply be handed out or mailed and is very low cost, I mean you can spread these things far and wide and you aren’t as concerned because there’s such a small cost in terms of time and energy and effort to distribute it. You aren’t really that concerned with each individual one what the return is going to be.
So it allows you to put them out there and what you see happen is that you get – you will get response pretty quickly from the prospects that are really ready like right now. But what we find is that people will show up six months later, a year later, two years later and they will walk in with a dog-eared copy of one of these referral kits all highlighted up, notes taken, Post-it notes sticking out of it.
By the time they walk in, they are so ready to buy, it’s just a matter of putting an agreement in front of them and telling them how much to make the check out for.
Kenny: So this is – in a form, it’s a lead magnet to pull leads in through the door and what I’m kind of interested in is how do we go beyond that. How do we make it more potent that they actually read it? So for example, I’ve got lead magnets on my website and people will stumble across those. But how do we get – as you said before, Kenny, you get somebody to read this book. How do the audience really – how can they make it more potent, that transaction, to get their colleague or friend to actually read the book? Just so that it has got that attachment of their already prebuilt know, like and trust.
Then obviously that’s going to hopefully compel them to read the book and then once they read the book, the know, like and trust is absolutely bubbling through every cell in their body because not only have they had the know, like and trust passed on from the referrer. But they’ve also had an experience of you and had an experience of your knowledge and they may even like your writing style. So that “like” gets built as well.
Steve: Sure. Well, getting it read is the biggest challenge. It is with any type of message that you put out there, getting it consumed. The answer for that is one that – for the most part, nobody likes to hear and you’ve got to get really specific about who that referral kit is for.
So in the example with the financial professional, he works with just about anybody. You don’t have to be a doctor for him to want to work with you. However, we went through a process where we really identified who his ideal client was. Andrew, you and I went through that same exercise when we worked together. We narrowed.
The reason that you have to narrow like that is you’ve got to make it so blatantly obvious for the type of client that you’re trying to attract, that this is not only for them but it is going to solve the most pressing problem that they have today and that’s how you get it read.
The mistake that is made and where these things become less effective is that people – they walk up to that edge and then they look at it and then they go, “Wow, that’s a little scary. I’m getting really specific.” They take several steps back and they make something more general and it weakens it.
So our recommendation usually is let’s get really dialled in and let’s create one for a particular target market, what we call the ideal client.
It doesn’t mean that’s the only one you will ever create. But let’s create one and let’s go through that process because once you go through the process the first time, you get two benefits.
Number one, you’ve got experience. It will be infinitely easier to create a referral kit for the second target market that you’re going after and two, you’ve probably got 70 or 80 percent of the content done for all of the next ones that you will create, because for the most part, for most consultants, they’re dealing within an area of practice where the problems are very similar.
But you might have one type of client that has certain little details different. Another type of client over here, there’s industry-specific language you need to use, things like that, and by customising them, you get way better results.
Kenny: Would you say use a white paper or use a book or what’s the most potent form that you’ve seen working for your clients?
Steve: So the most effective form without a doubt is a book and because books carry with them all of this social built-in authority. I don’t know that we need to dive in all the reasons why. We all know that authors just – they carry that authority. So that’s the best version and I like physical versus electronics.
So if folks are listening to this and they have some experience in online marketing and they have a lead magnet, those are great. I’m not saying get rid of those but if you can find a way to take that information and deliver it in a physical form, that gives you an advantage because we’ve all got that folder on our computer where we’ve downloaded 10,032 white papers that we intended to read and we’ve forgotten, right?
Andrew: Yes, we do.
Steve: Yeah. I mean we all have it. So – but if you got something physical that you send to them, it now owns a piece of real estate in their environment. They can’t ignore it and with books especially, it’s kind of taboo to throw a book away. We don’t do that in our culture.
So I get books from people all the time and they go on the shelf. I’ve heard from folks all over the world who – since my book has been launched that the book is sitting there, staring at them on the corner of the desk. In fact, I had a – got a new customer to one of our newsletters a few weeks ago and he wrote me and said, “I’ve been meaning to read your book. It’s sitting here on my desk staring at me. But I really just – I will get to that at some point. But I needed to go by this other thing.”
So I mean he didn’t even crack the book and it gave enough authority for him to go make a smaller initial purchase.
Kenny: Have you found – sorry Andrew. I know you’ve got a ton of questions to ask here. Just one more quick kind of question related to this if that’s OK. Is there an optimum length to the book that people should write? I’m currently looking at writing a book. I know Andrew is as well. We both debated this. Is there an optimum length that you should write to just ensure that they at least get to a point in the book where they’re ready to make a decision and give you a call?
Steve: I think the answer to that is like the old question about how long should your sales letter be. It should be long enough. It really depends on the topic and what you’re trying to convey. So I mentioned this really short 30-page book that worked. I mean it was pretty scant on detail but the information that it did have was good and was useful and it opened up enough in the prospect’s mind to cause some curiosity and create some desire for more information.
So anywhere from there up to a standard trade paperback of 250 pages, I think all of those sizes work if – if you’re just trying to get one together quickly, I think anywhere from like the 50 to 100-page range works really well for this type of book, because it allows you to put some meat on the bones. But it’s also one that you can get done fairly quickly.
So a 50-page book is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25 or so typed pages. It’s not an insurmountable thing. You could sit down and write that over a couple of weekends.
Andrew: Steve, I would like to go back to the mental block you mentioned before, because I think that – I would like to get some advice from you for consultants about how they can get past this because it is something that really prevents a lot of people from doing this the right way or even taking that first step. That’s the mental block of not getting specific enough with your target audience.
I get this with every new prospect I talk with. We start talking about their lead generation content and how we’re going to focus it down and it’s always the same concern. Well, if I focus just on that area, then I lose the potential to get people over here or over there or over there. I try to say and convey that yes, that’s true. Those people over there may not be interested but you’re suddenly going to be 100 times more interesting to the people that you’re targeting and that’s where the value comes from.
But it’s so hard to convey to get that mind shift to take place. Have you found a way that can really help people internalise that yes, I need to do this and here’s how I can go about doing it?
Steve: Well, it’s a real struggle for a lot of people and when I’m working with my one-on-one clients, I think everyone I’ve worked with has had that mental challenge, because you feel like you’re giving up opportunity. If you’re in a place where you need clients, you don’t really want to even in your mind cut off any avenue for a client coming to you.
So what I tell my clients when I’m working with them is that it’s on two things. First, that if – once we define who this is, this ideal client, this narrowly-defined target, if somebody comes to you outside of that, you have a choice. You can take them or not. I’m not telling you not to take them.
So if they come to you and they don’t fit this mould and you want to help them and it’s going to be a good relationship for both of you, by all means go forth and do business.
Steve: But for our marketing purposes, for this period of time, if we don’t get focused, then you’re just going to waste a lot of money. It’s a really counterintuitive thing and I’ve witnessed this with everybody that I’ve worked with. The minute that they make that shift in their thinking and get laser-beam-focused, all of a sudden, they start seeing prospects everywhere that fit their ideal client. They didn’t know how many there were. It’s like they’re walking down the street and all of a sudden all of their ideal prospects suddenly are wearing signs on their head.
So actually what happens is a lot more opportunity opens up because they get focused. It’s like when you want to buy a car and the minute that you decide, “That’s the car I’m going to buy,” you start seeing them everywhere. The day before, you wouldn’t have noticed one.
Steve: Right? So it tunes your brain to it and it actually speeds the whole process of attracting clients up and you hit on it. You’re going to be so much more attractive and interesting to this small group of people, if you focus on them because you’re going to be talking all about them, than if you’re talking broadly.
That will make you stand out. So everybody is looking for a way to differentiate their message and the truth is that most people are so bad at marketing. Most businesses in industry after industry, if you really look around, they’re so terrible at marketing. It doesn’t take very much. All you have to do is tune your message and suddenly you’re vastly different.
Andrew: That’s another way that I try to put it. I talk to people about online marketing, about wanting to be found through Google search. What happens if a prospect goes out there and Googles a problem they’re having or a solution they’re looking for, they’re going to find dozens and dozens of hits of companies that say they offer things similar to you. They’re going to open maybe 10 or 12 of those windows, quickly look through to see if anything catches their attention.
So you’ve got to catch their attention. Everyone is trying to be general, trying to appeal and cast a wide net. What’s going to catch that searcher’s attention is if you were talking more directly to them. That’s how I really try to convey this importance of focus.
Steve: Well, and really “laziness” may be too strong of a word. I mean it takes effort to create multiple messages. OK? And so it’s a shortcut that the vast majority of businesses take and it’s a huge opportunity for those that will do just a little bit of extra work to be more focused.
So what I tell my clients in addition to the fact that things are going to speed up for you and you’re going to start seeing opportunity everywhere when you focus is that let’s just focus here for now. It doesn’t mean we’re going to focus here forever. But let’s create a system that is delivering a consistent flow of these clients and doing it really, really well.
As soon as we have it, let’s clone it and it’s like I’ve got this cool new ray gun and I’m kind of aiming over here and then I’m going to duplicate it and then I’m going to aim on the next one over at another target market. That’s a way to grow.
Andrew: That’s a great way to think about. There’s just a little bit more work and that will put you ahead of so many of your competitors.
Steve: Yeah, absolutely. It’s not that much more work. It’s not like you’re duplicating the entire effort in terms of the amount of work. Like I said earlier, once you get this process built, you get your referral kit and some of the other things that I talk about in the book for one target market. Usually 70 to 80 percent there for all of the rest of them and so you’re just doing the 20 percent tweaks to customise it for that group.
Andrew: That’s right.
Kenny: Yeah, correct. We keep speaking over each other. Just before we move into kind of the area of what you do once you’ve got the referrals, I know that a lot of the audience will be thinking, “Right. OK, I’ve written a book.” But what happens there? Where’s the bridge from book to referral?
Steve: Right. Well, that’s where you’ve got to have a strategy in place for the long term. So it starts with the referral kit. So in my book, I go through four parts that need to go into the referral kit. We start by addressing problems, results, the questions that your ideal client has and then we usually move into from there the first step of the solution.
So like we talked about in the beginning, you don’t want to necessarily share everything but oftentimes, just showing somebody the first step that they need to take is a huge benefit for them. They get some direction where they had none before. Then the third piece which is really how you make that bridge is you tell them how to go deeper with you.
So if they’ve read the book and they realised that they now have a problem and you’ve explained to them what some of the consequences of not acting on that problem are, then given them a way to take the next step, which for most professionals, most consultants, it’s going to be at that point some form of a sales meeting. So we haven’t eliminated the sales meeting. We just moved it a little bit. We’ve created a lower barrier to get people into relationship with us and then built up to where we can have that meeting.
Now we don’t want to call it sales meeting. We will probably call it a needs analysis or a discovery session or – we’re all good at coming up with really great names to describe what really essentially is a sales meeting.
But you want to give them that bridge to the next step. Now, they may get the book. They may read it. They may go, “Yeah, I really need this.” But for whatever reason, now is not the right time. That’s where the second piece of this comes in. You’ve got to have a way to follow up and when we started, I said that was kind of the second part of the old advice. But it all kind of fell apart because the old advice was you just keep following up.
There was never in anything I read really anything great about how to do it. I mean I heard – we will send people articles. There’s the whole Joe Girard story where he would send greeting cards to folks and he sold more automobiles than anybody in history.
So there are all these different ways to do it. But what ultimately happens is that business owners will usually just default to making the dreaded checking-in call. Just checking in to see how you’re doing.
They will make one or two of those because they don’t like doing them. They feel awkward. They are awkward because the whole thing is kind of contrived and so follow-up falls apart.
That’s where the gold is. So I’ve actually been writing about this this week in my – I write a daily email out to all of my subscribers and I’ve been writing about sort of the two-part marketing system and it has opened doors, which is the referral kit’s job is to open doors with people and then you’ve got to have a way to follow up forever and do it in a way that continually adds value.
Well, adding value through content and continuing to sort of give the demonstration of, “Hey, I’m an expert. Here’s what I know,” that can be really hard. I mean it can be a lot of work. It’s often a job in it of itself. So what we found to be most successful is to use interviews. Really frankly a lot like the ones that we’re doing now and you take the interview and share that with all of the people who have your referral kit.
There are a lot of ways you can share it. You could send them out. If you’ve got a relatively small number of people or a very profitable offer and it’s worth spending the money on, you could send them out a CD once a month and with the new interview or you can certainly distribute them digitally. There are a lot of different ways to distribute them. But that’s often the easiest to create in terms of content and it also has very high value for two reasons.
One, it positions you as sort of the – in the toll booth position. So somebody has to come through you to get access to other smart people. OK? So the people that you’re interviewing every month and that you’re sending out are going to be really smart people that will be valuable for your prospects.
So now you’re in this kind of authority position where you’re bringing great, new ideas, great, new insights, great content to them and at the same time, they get to hear your voice. So they feel like over time that they know you. They build relationship with you that way. So that’s the way that we recommend that you bridge that gap.
Now in every one of those messages, you can include a really simple – not hitting them over the head, but just a really simple offer to take that next step into whatever you call your sales meeting.
The combination of those two things, opening doors and then following up with that type of content, is a system that – frankly, I’ve never seen it not work. It works every time I’ve ever seen it applied.
Andrew: Steve, could you maybe share some of the – or perhaps all the ways that you reach out to stay in touch after you get a new lead? You mentioned your daily email. I know you’ve done other things too and just kind of give a lay of the land and how effective you found those various approaches to be for you.
Steve: Sure. For me, I write a daily email and that has – of all of the things that I’ve done, that has worked better than anything. Again, a lot of that has to do with the frequency and we can talk about, if you would like, the specifics of how I create those because there’s a method to the madness there. But most people aren’t going to write a daily email. Even though I can tell them how wonderful it is and how well it works, it’s just not going to happen.
So the next best thing that we found is something like a podcast, whether you broadcast that as a podcast or not. But an audio interview that you deliver electronically works actually really well right now, because people can listen to them in their commute on smartphones and things like that.
It also works very well if you’re going to kind of a high end executive audience. Audio CDs work well especially if those are people that are in their cars going to and from meetings a lot. A lot of times, they will pop a CD and it’s just easy for them to do that. So you can ride with them in that time when nobody else could have access to them and do that on a regular basis.
So that is the easiest to implement, the most effective format, and I’ve done both – I mean frankly the daily emails I find work better. But they do require a real commitment and it does take time to do that with – I was just going to say with the interview, about 90 minutes a month and you’re done.
Kenny: Are you doing these daily emails every day or are you setting up an autoresponder? So if I join your email list, do I start at the beginning of your autoresponder or do I just join your everyday emails? Does that make sense?
Steve: Yeah. I will share with you some inside baseball. So, if you sign up to the list today – and this is relatively new within the last five or six months. You will get about three weeks worth of sort of our best stuff.
Now, we don’t tell people that that’s what they’re getting but we’ve been publishing this. We’re into our third year now and after about a year and a half or so, I realised that somebody knew coming on the list just they needed something to sort of get up to speed with everybody else.
So for the first three weeks, they will get that. Then they go into the flow of the daily email that’s going out. So it’s sort of a hybrid approach.
Kenny: Yeah, great.
Andrew: Steve, I’m really sensing a trend here. So you talked about getting a book on the shelf so that people are constantly reminded of you and your authority. You’ve talked about doing podcasts, so that as they’re driving in their car, you’re right there with them, keeping them company. You’ve talked about a daily email, so that they’re basically getting a morning greeting from you every day. It’s really all about staying top of mind, but in a way where it’s not uncomfortable for you or them, right?
Steve: Absolutely, and that you can do it at scale. So I started writing daily emails and I had a pretty small email list and it’s much, much bigger now and thankfully it is – because it’s great for business. But I had a buddy tell me a couple of weeks ago, “Yeah, people with big lists sleep better at night.” I said, “Yeah, you’re right.”
So it’s great but it doesn’t take me any more effort to send it today than it did a couple of years ago when I started. So I can now build relationship at scale with people and I get replies back and the people who subscribe to that and who read it every day feel as though we’re in a real relationship even if we’ve never met. That’s the point. I mean that’s what I want them to feel.
I just can’t physically write the thousands and thousands of emails individually to them every day. So the next best thing I can do is do it in this way.
Kenny: Do you have a method to your emails? So for example if you go down the Andre Chaperon route, he creates this thing he calls a “soap opera sequence”.
Kenny: Which I’m sure you’re aware of. Is this something you do or do you just wake up and think, “I’m going to write about this today”?
Steve: Well, I have studied the Andre stuff and I’ve studied a number of the other experts. I use a little bit of all of their ideas in it. But most of the time, I will sit down at the beginning of a week and think about my ideal client. I really try and think about, OK, they’re waking up. It’s a Monday morning. What does this week look like for them? What can I say to them that’s going to help them this week?
The way that I write mine, they’re very short and Andrew, I know you get them. So they’re short emails. I try and keep them somewhere between 100 and 200 words, which is pretty tight and the comment that I get back from people – and we have a pretty good following that read them on a regular basis. The comment that I get back is that people like them because they know that in 30 seconds, they can read it and they’re done. That’s all that I need. So they’ve heard from me today. In fact my email for today went out before we – in the morning before we had this call.
So I know that everybody has heard from me today and they will hear from me again tomorrow and Ben Settle who is another really brilliant email marketer describes it as the talk show effect. So you’ve got radio talk shows. I don’t know if you have them in the UK as much. Here in the States, we have people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and all these other mostly frankly political talk shows. I guess we have some sports ones as well. But they show up every day and they have this just raving fan audience who actually gets upset and disappointed if the host is on vacation or they get a rerun or they get a stand-in. You begin to – by showing up every day, you begin to build that.
Kenny: You’ve got to feel for those stand-ins, haven’t you when they have to …
Steve: Oh, yeah, I know.
Kenny: Tough shift.
Andrew: It’s a tough act to follow. Steve, I’ve told you the same thing before about your daily emails. I sign up to a lot of things, subscribe to a lot of daily or weekly posts and a lot of them are quite long and I see it and I think, “Oh, I just don’t have time for that right now.” I skip it and most likely I will never return.
But almost every single day with yours, I do read it just because I know it will take me about 20 or 30 seconds and it’s easy and I’m curious what Steve is saying today. It’s always something interesting and valuable. Your writing is very easy to digest, very simple, straightforward, sentences that have a lot of impact. It keeps you on my radar daily. It’s very effective.
Kenny: So what do – sorry, go on Steve.
Steve: Well, I just want to make sure – we’ve been talking a lot about daily email and as I’ve said, it’s a commitment. I have not yet convinced the client to go that route. So I don’t want anybody to – as great as it is, I mean if somebody hears this and goes that route, drop me a line and I will be happy to share with you whatever insights I can in terms of the process of getting it done. But I don’t want anybody to hear this and think, “Oh, I’ve got to do a daily email or this won’t work.”
Steve: Because really, when I wrote the book Unstoppable Referrals, it was designed for an already ridiculously busy professional who is working in a small firm, juggling 15 different hats. It was built for my clients who aren’t marketing professionals, so that they could actually go and implement something. So it’s really practical in that sense. So I don’t want anybody to walk away thinking, oh, they’re not going to be able to do it because of that.
Kenny: Yeah, yeah. That makes sense. So you’re on one end of the scale where you just – that’s the thing you do. That’s the thing you enjoy doing. So you do it every day.
Kenny: Yeah. So let’s just – if we can just go towards getting the referrals, the referrals are coming in. They’re more than a lead now. They’re saying, “Hey Steve, I want to do some work with you.” So how do you stay on top of those? Do you have a CRM system? If so, which one do you use?
Steve: Yeah, we use Infusionsoft and there are a lot of good ones out there. We actually used it in my first business. So I’ve been using it since, I don’t know, 2007 or so.
They all have their great features and they all have things that drive you crazy. In Infusionsoft’s case, we made peace with the parts that drive us crazy and there are parts of it that we absolutely love and couldn’t do business without.
Kenny: Yeah, OK. Sorry. Editor, just take any of these gaps out please. We’ve never done an interview where both of us are interviewing someone at once. So there’s kind of that delay there. I will just add one more question there that’s related to that. What other powerful tools and platforms do you use to manage these referrals or indeed generate leads?
Steve: Well, the referrals will come in. In our own business, we will capture them in our CRM in Infusionsoft. When they come in, oftentimes they will come from a client. We will have a conversation and the conversation usually goes something like this.
Most of the time, I’m trying to identify who it is that they may know, that would be similar to them and also an ideal client. So for example, a client I mentioned earlier in financial services. He works with a number of other financial services professionals. So there’s a pool of people right there that are going to be really good referrals for him to send me, because I know they’re in a similar business. I can deliver for them a similar solution, probably for a different niche market, and it will be both easy – profitable for me to deliver that because it will be very similar. They will also get a lot of value out of it and they’ve got a great example in my client standing right there next to them witnessing that live case study.
So I might go and look up the names of the other professionals that work at his firm and give him a list and say, “OK, here’s the list of people at your firm. Who on this list should we send a copy of my book to? I would love to send it to them. I will send it with a nice note with your compliments, saying you recommended that I send them the book.” So we will send it off like that.
So that’s usually how we will kind of mine our clients for referrals and often when I’m having those conversations, it’s not uncommon to get 5, 10, 15, 20 names. If you want to take it kind of up a level from there – in the book, I talk about cultivating what I call promoters, which are kind of like referral partners on steroids.
You can really take that and go from getting 5 or 10 or 20 to getting 50, 100, 200, 250 and frankly when I did the book launch, we used all of the same principles and it drove about 4000 referrals in a week by giving away the book. The book is my referral kit.
It was really just a matter of finding and cultivating relationships with people that were also marketing to my target audience and then saying, “Hey, I’ve got this book. I think it will help all the people in your audience and I would like to make you look really, really good. I would like to let you give it to them.”
Kenny: Yeah, very good.
Steve: And so we share it that way. Then once they’re in and the referrals have kind of identified themselves, the ones who come and request the book or if we’ve sent it to them, we’ve got their contact information. Then we put them into several different follow-up mechanisms.
Kenny: OK. Then once they’re there, so let’s just stay on that theme there. They’re there at the moment. They’ve put their hand up and said, “Hey, I want to talk with you.” So they go through to some level of discovery session or whatever you want to call it. Is there anything before that that you do to either score them as a lead or to qualify them or disqualify them before you speak with them? Because obviously your time is precious to you, right?
Steve: Oh, absolutely. So we look for a number of things. We look to see that they are receiving and reading and interacting with the daily emails that we send because if they are, then we know that they’re sort of getting indoctrinated into our approach to marketing.
We certainly want to make sure that they have the book and that they’ve read the book. In fact we’re at a point now where we take application to qualify them. So we look at a lot of different things. We look at income level and how long they’ve been in business and what type of business they’re in to qualify them, because we want to make sure that anybody that we work with is a good fit. But the very most important thing is that they’re consuming our content because if they’re consuming our content, that means they are buying into the things that we’re going to suggest that they do.
For all of us who are in consulting, it’s kind of like being a doctor. Patient comes in. You diagnose. You prescribe a cure. You want good patients that are going to take your prescription and actually go and get it filled.
We’ve all had those clients who – it’s like the guy that’s on the operating table with a blocked artery and he’s debating with the cardiologist how to make the incision. Those are terrible clients. We don’t want clients that debate with us, our solution, and so we want to make sure we’re really getting them to buy in to the message that we have.
Andrew: Now Steve, before we bring this interview to a close, I wanted to circle back on one thing that I think could really be helpful to anyone listening to this today who is more just starting out. We talked about Infusionsoft and some of the advanced follow-up you have which are more advanced techniques to put into place later. But getting back to an easy way to use the referral kit, right?
So you talked about how one of the biggest blocks people have is being afraid to ask their current clients to refer them or really not knowing how to do it. So now you’ve talked about how they can create a book or a white paper or a newsletter, some sort of referral kit that can make it easy. Just to bring that full circle, how do they then go back to their favourite clients and to best encourage them to – and most effectively encourage them to share this referral kit on their behalf?
Steve: Sure. That’s a big, big question that we get. The first thing you have to do is you have to get your mind in the right place, that by sharing your referral kit, it is a gift and in the truest sense of the word “gift,” your are expecting no return.
If you – I’m a big believer in the purity of intent. So if your intent is pure, people will pick up on that. Your clients will pick up on that. They will realise that you’re doing this. Yes, there’s an opportunity for somebody to find their way back. But mostly that you’re really doing this as a way to help other people and so I think you have to start there. If you start there, it does a couple of things. First of all, it makes it really easy for you then because you’re not all bound up in this result that you’re trying to get.
It makes it really easy for you then to have this conversation because you’re really just trying to give this knowledge away. Where I find that people struggle is when they’re doing it and it’s – and they think it’s an angle.
I’m going to get access to this guy’s rolodex by giving him the book. OK? Yeah, you are. But it’s just the wrong intent and your client will pick up on that for sure. So start with that and then I’m not a big believer in scripts, because I don’t think they work for most people. But when I’m coaching one of my clients, what I suggest that they do is figure out where that client hangs out around other types of your ideal client.
You might have to do a little digging. Maybe it’s the Rotary Club. Maybe it’s their industry association. Maybe it’s church. Who knows? But figure out where they hang out and do the best that you can to get a list of 5 or 10 or 20 people that are in a group with them, names that they would likely recognise.
If you’re doing it in person, print out two copies. Sit across the table from them. Put one copy in front of your client. Keep one for yourself. Hand them a highlighter and say, “I just wrote this book,” or “I just recorded this interview,” or “I just wrote this white paper and I think it’s really good. I really think it will help people solve the types or problems that you and I have been working on, that you’ve told me you’re so thankful that we have solved together. I really just want to get this out to other people to help them and this is a list of people that I think you probably know. I’ve gone and done my homework to make this easy for you. I would just like you to highlight the ones that you think we should give this book to,” or whatever it is.
What you have done now is you have just narrowed everything right down to them, to the small group of names and they will sit there. I’ve seen it again and again and again. They will sit there and just highlight off and they will hand it back to you. They will say, “No, you don’t want to send it to Bob. Bob is a jerk. But these other three, you want to send it to and this group of five over here, let’s get it to them as well.”
If you come with that purity of intent, really what you’re now allowing them to do is you’re allowing this whole process to shine the light on them. They’re able to do something good for somebody else. You’ve aligned your interest with their interest, with the prospect’s interest.
Andrew: You’re getting so much buy-in in the process from them. They’re really happy to do this for you.
Steve: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.
Andrew: Well, that is brilliant. Thanks for sharing that and all these tips and techniques today, Steve. Kenny, would you have any final questions for Steve before we wrap this up?
Kenny: Yeah, just one. I would like to ask you who you would refer to come on to this Magnetic Consultant Podcast with Andrew and I next as one of our guests? Who do you think would be a good fit?
Andrew: Get your highlighter out, Steve. This is our turning the tables …
Steve: Oh my goodness, yeah. Well, I will tell you. Two people have just kind of popped into my mind and I will introduce both of them to you by email when we’re done.
Steve: The first is a name – is a guy by the name of John Corcoran and he’s a former White House speech writer for President Clinton.
Steve: He’s a brilliant attorney and he’s actually even more brilliant at networking with – I don’t know if you want to call them celebrities but really building a strong, vibrant network, and I think he would be perfect for everybody that’s listening. The other one is a gentleman by the name of Daryl Urbanski and he has got a really interesting background in building out consulting and coaching sales processes. I think it would be fascinating for you guys to pick his brain a little bit about that. Very, very smart.
Kenny: Perfect. Sounds like two very exciting podcast guests for us.
Steve: We could go on. There are probably four or five others. But those would be two good ones.
Kenny: Great. We will get those off you later.
Steve: All right.
Andrew: Steve, if anyone is interested in talking with you, how can they best go about it?
Steve: Sure. Well, the best place to go is – or to start at least is with our website. If you go to UnstoppableCEO.net and you can find a whole range of articles on how to market and sell high ticket products and services. You can also request to get on our daily email bulletin there and so that would be a great place to start.
If you would like to get a copy of the book, we put together something special just for our listeners. We’re going to make it available, the paperback book available to you for free. We just ask that you pick up the cost of shipping and handling and you can get that by going to UnstoppableCEO.net/MagneticConsultant. SO that’s UnstoppableCEO.net/MagneticConsultant and you can get it there and we will go ahead and you just put in your information and we will ship it out to you.
Andrew: Well Steve, that’s very generous of you. Thank you so much for that and for this whole interview. It’s a real pleasure having you on the show today. That was Steve Gordon from SteveGordonMarketing.com and UnstoppableCEO.net.
Now Kenny, what do we have coming up for our next show?
Kenny: Well, it’s a question we get asked all the time Andrew and that is, “How can I succeed on a tight budget?” So if I don’t have a huge advertising spend, how can I attract traffic or how can I attract prospects into my net? We’re going to be giving some examples and a little bit of a case study in that as well.
Andrew: Perfect. And everything that Steve talked about today for getting referrals, creating a referral kit, this is also something you can do without much of a budget. So we should keep this in mind and come back to this topic as well.