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

A: One solution for getting more referrals is relationship marketing. An expert in this area is Annette Bau, founder of AdvisorMarketingPractices.com. She recommends staying in touch by “relationship pinging” which she has been doing for more than 20 years.

A little background: Keith Ferrazi in “Never Eat Alone” defines a “ping” as a quick, casual greeting. The reason this strategy is so effective is that due to advances in technology, people are starved for that 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 relationships 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 you and her. For men, the picture should 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 in that picture with you?

2. Birthday. Bau’s favorite relationship pinging strategy is sending clients heartfelt cards for their birthday. For top clients, send a card and a gift and take them 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 the 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 4th of July
  • September: Labor Day
  • November: Thanksgiving–add some humor or include a heartfelt message
  • December: Holiday card. Include a picture of your family–much more effective than a generic card with generic handwriting.