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The personal touch

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Q. I want to create an ongoing flow of referrals. How can I accomplish that?

A. One solution is relationship marketing. An expert in this area is Annette Bau, founder of She recommends staying in touch by “relationship” pinging,” which she has been doing for more than 20 years. (A ping is a quick, casual greeting.) The reason this strategy is so effective is that due to advances in technology people are starved for the human connection. The results Bau has gotten from customized cards and gifts have been more effective at building and maintaining relationships than other methods such as email.

Here are four strategies she uses:

  1. Shelf life. This builds relationship and keeps you top of mind. One of the best methods is to send a picture of you and your client. For women, the picture can be of just you and her. For men, the picture might include his favorite possessions, such as a boat or car. Another benefit to the shelf-life strategy is that others see it and ask, Who is that person that picture with you?
  2. Birthday. Bau’s favorite relationship-pinging strategy is sending clients heartfelt cards for their birthdays. For top clients, send a card and a gift and take them out to lunch. One of the best ways to acquire referrals is to have a “birthday breakfast” or “birthday lunch” for your client. Take a picture of everyone (you, too) and then send it to all who attended the party as well as those who couldn’t make it. Make sure that the message focuses on building and maintaining your relationship with the recipient and not your business.
  3. Anniversary. This is especially successful with women and married couples. Instead of sending a card on their anniversary, send an anniversary card on the day they began working with you. Include a picture of you and them on the front.
  4. Holidays. The holiday-pinging strategy consists of sending mailers, cards and postcards to prospects throughout the year. Here are some important dates:
  • January: Happy New Year
  • February: Valentine’s Day–especially for women (include truffles or goodies)
  • March: St. Patrick’s Day. Send an invitation to a St. Patrick’s gathering. Ask everyone to bring their favorite food in green.
  • April: Happy spring or Happy Easter
  • May: Memorial Day–very effective for retired veterans and their spouses
  • July: Happy Fourth of July
  • September: Labor Day
  • November: Thanksgiving–add some humor or include a heartfelt message.
  • December: Holiday card. Include a picture of your family; this is much more effective than sending a generic card with a generic message.

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Margie Barrie is a principal at Hagelman Barrie Training Solutions and also serves as national marketing coordinator for the LTCP designation. For more information, go to


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