If you’re in need of a plumber, do you call someone from the local phone book or hire the person your neighbor has used for years? If you need surgery, do you select someone from Surgeons.com or go with the top-of-his-field specialist your internist recommends?
One of the easiest and most effective ways to build your practice, in this or any economy, is through existing clients, former clients and others who already know you. There are two ways to do this: be referable and be on their minds.
“Being referable” means about developing relationships with your clients that go beyond the particular services you provide. Competence and great service are important, but what clients want is a sense that you really know them and care about them. So find out their birthdays and anniversaries. Make a note of their children’s favorite ice cream flavor.
My friend Stu is a master at this. In the first few months of our business relationship, he called me to ask for the important dates in my life. “I already know your birthday,” he said, “but when’s your anniversary? When is your wife’s birthday? What are your kids’ birthdays?”
Of course, I knew exactly what Stu was likely doing (putting these dates onto a database of some kind). But then he called me on my wife’s birthday and told me to wish her a happy one. He made a similar call for each of my children’s birthdays. He called to sing “Happy Birthday” to me on my own birthday. He called to wish us a happy anniversary—and he kept on calling, year after year.