How to Give Stuff Away to Generate Referrals

I write about the power of building a network of strategic marketing partners a lot. I truly believe it’s an underutilized small business strategies.

Gift boxGetting a group of like-minded business to market each others products and services adds exposure, creates new demand and builds on some already established trust.

I think people get the idea, but the challenge is often in finding ways to logically work together and promote each other. I shared a number of ideas on sharing content for referrals last week, but in this post I would like to offer another great way to work with your partners – give their stuff away.

I bought a pair of running shoes a while back from an online seller and when I opened the box I found a note from the owner along with a pair of socks and some energy bars and snacks. First off, I loved the surprise element, but being a nosy marketer I contacted the owner and found that these were gifts from a couple of his closest strategic partners. Of course there was also information about how I could order more of these items as well.

Think about how you might use this idea with existing or future strategic partners.

Do you have a trial or small product that your partners would love to give as a gift? Are there partners you work with currently that would have something you could give away?

By building gifts into your products you create extra buzz with your customers and gain extra exposure both for and from your strategic referral partners – all of these elements can create even more referrals.

And you don’t have to limit your thinking to free products. One way to get a potential or current strategic partner’s attention is to buy some of their products or gift cards for their products to use as thank you gifts.

As a matter of fact, you don’t have to limit your thinking to products at all. I received a subscription pitch from a business publication that included a free offer from a partner to evaluate my pay-per-click advertising efforts.

Any consultant could offer a valuable 30 minute audit of sort. (My consultant network uses something we call a Signature Brand Audit to offer a very useful marketing analysis by way of a questionnaire and one on one meeting – this kind of tool could be a great gift to a customer base.)

There are a number of service cropping up that can help organization make gifts to clients by finding local businesses. For example, a service called Yiftee allows a business to find something unique right in the community where a client or prospect may live. Yelp allows local businesses to feature gift certificates as well making it easy to find good products and services locally. I think this approach adds a nice personal touch.

Along this same line of thinking, check out this free eBook from HelpScout – 25 Ways to Thank Your Customers for some additional ideas on gifting for referrals.

This is such a simple, powerful and elegant idea that any business with a little creativity can employ.

So, what will you give away today?

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  • David Chism

    Love it, John. One of the best post I’ve read in awhile! I’ve been preaching something similar to my clients recently, but you took it one step further. I was thinking of giving away really cool gifts that no one else does, but talking to your referral network is even a better idea! Thanks for the tip…and I’ll spread the word where I got it from! I’ve enjoyed your post and wisdom.

  • Marilyn Arriaga

    That is exactly what my business does. Goody Lady is the answer, and I love doing this business.

  • Carlie Hamilton

    Great post! I have actually just finished writing an ebook on generating traffic and this was one of the methods that I mentioned.
    Thanks for the great post :)

  • Jimi Fisher

    You, your articles and your free stuff you give away are awesome. I have to point something out that you and others take for granted and that is, some people do not know how to link back to an article or writer.

  • Taylor Kane

    Thank you for this great advice! It really speaks to some of the concepts that I’ve recently been learning in my introduction to marketing course while at university. First, i think that this a great way to utilize “customer promotion” and really boosting the short-term customer buying and involvement and/or enhancing long-term customer relationships. If companies can utilize the information in their customer database to specialize these giveaways based on geographic, demographic, psychographic, behavioral data, etc., they could really augment their customer relationships. Customers would greatly appreciate that kind of special attention and, I think, almost guarantees a long term relationship and customer lifetime value as well as amazing recommendations. To have that kind of positive light brought to your corporation, I think would be amazing. Furthermore, it would boost the awareness, liking and, highly probable, great recommendations of a company’s partners. Therefore, simultaneously improving working partnerships! Absolutely brilliant! Thank you for the great advice!

  • Business Rescue .

    Thanks for sharing this article. Over the years, the best ROI is to do JV with strategic partners. Imagine every single JV means you gain access to their pool of clients which they would have spent millions of dollars to promote and keep. By doing JV, you again access to them without having to pay a single cent of advertising with the exception of giving goodies away… cheap ROI

  • Steve Willoughby

    Great article.

    What is your thought about giving away a product to the first X amount of customers, then charging from that point on?

    Have a great day.

  • Leif Baradoy

    We could not agree more! Gifting is reciprocal. When you give someone a gift, even something small, they feel the urge to give something back. This is the reciprocity rule and it’s very real.