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ASK A PRO

Q:

How do you connect with and reward referral partners—and why?

JIM COLOMBO JR. is the owner of STL Home Paint Specialist, based in St. Louis, MO. A third-generation master paint craftsman with over 30 years of experience, he runs a five-man crew specializing in quick turnarounds for real estate agents, stagers and flippers. jcolombo@sbcglobal.net

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inPAINT | May 2018

A:

Referrals are a very powerful component of my business strategy. In fact, I estimate that at least 70% of my business comes from referrals. While I’m not very high-tech, I do track every single referral I get. My best sources tend to be real estate agents, followed by other trades. No matter what happens with a lead they’ve given me, I let them know that I followed up on it. This makes them feel both appreciated and keeps me in front of them. I don’t have one standard format for followup. Sometimes it’s by phone, text, a thank you note or email. It’s never more than 5–10 seconds worth of effort but the impact is huge. It really makes you stand out from all the others. While I belong to a number of networking groups that meet weekly, biweekly, monthly and quarterly, sometimes my work schedule is such that I might miss a meeting or two. I know that if I don’t see someone for, say, six months, there’s a good chance I won’t be top-of-mind when someone else asks them, “do you know a painter?” So the follow-up on the referral is one way to stay on their radar. The other option is to reward them for referrals. Without fail, I do an end-of-year tabulation of the value of each referral source. Last year, my top referral

source was a stager who brought me $46,000 worth of work single-handedly. I send Amazon gift cards to all my referral sources regardless of how much work I earned from them. However, the value of the gift card definitely goes up as the value of the source goes up. I also do another round of gift card rewards sometime during the year. Again, I’m trying to make sure they recognize that I value their confidence in me and their referrals. And, honestly, it’s not the value of the gift card; it’s the fact that they’re being appreciated. Who doesn’t like to get an unexpected gift in the mail? But I’m thinking that I’m going to need to change things up a bit this year. I don’t ever want my thank you to become expected. I have seen some folks in my networking group host referral-appreciation events that seem to go over well. Sometimes these are morning coffee or breakfast events, lunch, or even a weekend picnic. I haven’t figured out what approach I’ll take, but I want it to be different and fun. The truth is, pros can’t just live out of their toolbox any more. You’ve got to try new things to keep the jobs coming in and work them until they don’t. At this point in time, cultivating referral sources and building those relationships is definitely working, and is key to my success.

inPAINT Magazine May 2018  
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