How To Implement A 'While I'm In The Neighborhood' Referral Program

This strategy is based on making contact with prospects before you provide a service for a customer that you have scheduled to do some work for.

Your "neighbor" could be someone you live close to or someone that you spend time with. It could also be another business that is in the same general vicinity as your business. Your neighborhood is limited only by the restrictions you put on it.

If you have ever traveled overseas, someone from your own country may be considered a neighbor. When you travel and meet someone from your own country, you immediately begin to bond with them. There's an implied trust that ensues and you will typically follow that person's suggestions and recommendations over others. This same human principle applies to this strategy as well.

This strategy is ideal for mobile businesses like housecleaning, landscaping, contractors and others. You create a letter, a flyer, a brochure or a door hanger and put that marketing piece into action before you show up for the job. The collateral alerts the neighbors that you will be in the neighborhood and would like to make them a compelling offer for your services since you're in the area and your expenses to perform work while there are reduced.

There are three basic components to this plan:

  1. You need to share specifically when you'll be in the neighborhood,
  2. You must have an offer for them to take advantage of and
  3. You must get them to call you ahead of time to schedule an appointment.

Let's say you're a landscaper and you have a job scheduled in a particular neighborhood two weeks from today. You can put a flyer into the mailboxes throughout this neighborhood, door hangers on door knobs or brochures on welcome mats to tell them you'll be at the Jones' house at 123 Any Street on Friday the 9th. Mention you're offering 30% off your normal pricing as a neighborhood volume discount. If more than three neighbors take advantage of your great deal, they could get a 40% discount. This encourages neighbors to come together and decide to take advantage of the offer so they can receive the higher discount.

Most landscapers get their projects and execute them through a number of phases. Clients may need the entire property redone, but decide to start with the front and then work on other parts in sections. This is a great system because it ensures continued business and your work shows itself off. The whole neighborhood is going to notice when their neighbors front yard is completely redesigned and looks amazing.

To put this strategy to work you need to make sure you have good testimonials. If your business produces a stunning visual result, always take before and after pictures. They work great for testimonials and are easy to use on flyers, websites and other forms of marketing.

Implementation Steps:

Step One: Get one or more current testimonials. When working a neighborhood plan you need a testimonial from someone in that neighborhood that you've worked with before. If you've never worked with anyone from that neighborhood, simply use an appropriate testimonial from a current client.

If you don't have appropriate testimonials, the best way to do this is to get one via a survey as you're wrapping up the job. You could easily interview your client by asking them specific questions that draws out the answers you are looking for that focus on your USP—your Unique Selling Proposition or your distinctive advantage that sets you apart in your niche market. These questions should include:

You can also simplify the process by handing them a check off or survey sheet to be completed and handed back to you. This is a great thing to do after you touch base with them and while the crew is cleaning up.

Step Two: Put together a compelling offer. You will need something to get your prospects to be compelled to pick up the phone and say, "I can't pass up your offer. Can you come and see me today?"

One way to do this is by offering a neighborhood ONLY deal. You need a deal with a high perceived value, but a low cost to your business. If you operate a high margin business, consider an introductory offer for a 30% discount to new clients in the neighborhood and 40% if at least three neighbors schedule an appointment. This a great way to get those neighbors talking and it really works in your favor.

If you do NOT operate a high margin business, then your offer should include additional products or services as bonuses, but they should have a high perceived value but a relatively low or no cost to your business. The landscaper could offer to plant specific flowers or trees worth $250 retail. The actual cost to the landscaper may be only $25. I actually prefer this method to discounting, since discounting directly impacts your total revenue to the full amount.

Step Three: Write your letter. Once you have testimonials to share and a compelling offer it's time to put together a letter or flyer. The likelihood that all the neighbors in the neighborhood know each other is fairly small. People typically know their direct neighbors, but that isn't important in the success of your referral letter or flyer campaign. The importance is the street name. People recognize a street name in their neighborhood and that lends all the credibility you need.

Here is a checklist of 20 Components of an Effective Sales Letter that are important to include in your communication piece as much as possible. The more of these components that you can include, the greater your success will be.

It is unlikely that you'll be able to include every component, but here's a test you can do: take an old letter that you previously sent out that didn't bring you the success you were looking for. Next, go through this checklist to see which elements were included in that under-performing letter and which ones were left out. Now ask yourself how you could change it. What key elements do you think you could include that would change the effectiveness of your letter.

  1. It must have a compelling headline
  2. It should evoke an immediate response, action, visit, call, or purchasing decision.
  3. It should overcome sales objections.
  4. It should focus on benefits, not features.
  5. It should answer all major questions.
  6. It should promise performance or results.
  7. It should back up the promise with a risk-free warranty or money-back guarantee.
  8. It should be keyed in such a way that you can analyze the value, profitability, and performance.
  9. It must have your contact information.
  10. It should acknowledge the person as being valuable,
  11. It should be personally written, and written as if one person only was reading it,
  12. It should begin with the results the person should expect,
  13. It should explain to the person your reason why he or she should get those results,
  14. It should give the person some background,
  15. It should give the person some detail,
  16. It should prove any claims you make in a way the person can embrace,
  17. It should tell the person what he or she should expect in terms of improvement or results,
  18. It should remind the person why he or she should choose to at least learn more,
  19. It should show the person how he or she can try it out without risk,
  20. It should assure the person that if he or she is not comfortable taking action now, as a courtesy you will follow-up on the telephone just to make sure that they understand, to answer any questions, and to give them a chance to take advantage without fear, risk or obligation.

Step Four: Send your letter by first class mail or it will be treated as junk mail.

Step Five: Always follow up with a phone call. There may be a few prospect's who call for quotes as soon as they receive the very first letter you send, but a majority of people will set it aside with the intention to call. Then they typically forget or it gets buried under a paper pile. You need to follow up after your initial letter is sent or delivered.

You should do this in a timely manner by phone. The best thing to do is set up a task reminder system and assign this task to one staff member with a script. This ensures it gets done and with consistency. If someone declines the offer, simply thank them and add them to your database. They will then begin to receive future communications from you when you're offering other deals.

Step Six: Test and measure the effectiveness of your letter. Since you have designed it with a way to measure response, you will be able to track its effectiveness. You can easily state something like, "Call and ask for Susan (even if there is no Susan in your office). If a call comes in for Susan, you know it's from that letter.

You can also state to "mention this letter when you call for your discount." These are simple ways to track a letter. Always keep track of the letters that are working and the ones that aren't. Also keep track of what letter or compelling offer is working… and in which neighborhoods. When you know what doesn't work, never hesitate to change it. Just be sure you only change one component of the letter at a time. You can set up an easy system by tracking the number of referral letters that went out and the number of converts produced from that letter.

Sample Referral Letter

Special Offer for Residents of ABC Street!

Dear Mr. Smith,

Great News! Robert and Rebecca Johnson at #123 ABC St. have given me the privilege of helping them realize the dream of having the beautiful backyard oasis perfect for entertaining or relaxing. They went through the work of researching other landscape companies in town and found we were the only one with experience in domestic and exotic plants. We pride ourselves on offering our clients exactly what they're looking for without limitations.

Here is a sample testimonial that we received from a recent client: <Insert testimonial here>.

We will be starting their project two weeks from Wednesday and plan to have it completed by Friday. Since we'll be in the area that week and can currently take on additional projects, we would like to offer you a 30% discount on any landscaping project your heart desires.

We will also offer you the services of our in-house landscape design expert to make sure you get the same top quality service Robert and Rebecca are experiencing. Because of our relationship with the Johnson's, they convinced us to provide you with a complimentary starter bush of your choice just for giving us the chance to work with you.

You can choose from our more than 200 selections and our landscape design expert will give you advice on the placement, design and look so you can choose the perfect bush for your property. This ensures that as your bush and family grow it will all stay in harmony together.

But we aren't stopping there. We're taking this a step further by offering a neighborhood volume discount. If you and two of your neighbors want to partner up and let us perform a group project for all three of your homes, we will increase your discount to throw in a second complimentary plant of your choice (a $250 value).

Enclose you'll find a certificate for your "Free Professional Landscape Design Consultation" that's good for the next two weeks. We will be happy to send out our Landscape Design Expert to your home to help you customize your perfect piece of heaven that compliments your home, yard and lifestyle.

To take advantage of our free consultation, discount and gifts, simple call us at 555-1212 to schedule an appointment. Please mention this letter when you call to guarantee your discount.

We look forward to meeting with you soon.

With Warm Regards,

Bob Jackson
President, Personal Oasis Landscaping

PS If you're happy with your current landscaping, please feel free to pass this certificate on to a friend, neighbor or family member that you feel would appreciate the gift.