Are You Food or Foe?

I want to make a very important marketing distinction today, one that could change how you approach leads, using a metaphor common in the animal world.

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To a hungry animal everything around them is viewed as either food or foe – something that will sustain them and help them survive and grow or something that is a threat to their health and survival.

Our prospects and clients are a lot like that hungry animal out in the wild. They need the products and services that we offer in order to grow and meet their goals, but they’ve been trained through experience to view anything and anyone trying to sell them something as the foe.

If you’ve ever wondered why your pure sales messages meet with resistance and deflection it’s because to most prospects you look like someone that is out to steal their money, time and attention – something akin to a predator.

In order to take advantage of these instincts you must find a way to make what you have to offer look like food. Mind you, I don’t mean this in a deceptive or untruthful way. If you know your products and services provide value, then they are food, but you’ve got to position your message in a way to reveal that or you’ll simply remain a threat.

Here’s an example of how I’ve shown people to use this in the real world. (You’ll find it in my book The Referral Engine as well.)

Lots of people understand the value in building relationships with other businesses that might be in a position to refer their clients. For example, a financial planner might seek out an accountant that could refer her clients to him. The problem is most approach the accountant to discuss how that accountant might refer her clients in a way that makes her weary of the advances. (Accountants are great potential referral sources but are particularly weary creatures.)

Calling up an accountant and suggesting that you would like to come over and talk about how you could help her clients makes you look like a foe!

What if instead you identified an accountant that you knew might be able to help your best clients and that by developing a relationship with that accountant you could make yourself a more valuable resource or “go to” person for all of your client’s needs?

Now, what if you reached out to that accountant with the following message – “We believe that we have several clients that could benefit from your services and we would like to learn the best way to introduce you to our clients.” Hmm, do you think they might view that message a little more like food?

If said accountant were a mouse, then all the other people trying to grab a piece of their time to get some referrals look a lot like cats and you, on the other hand, look a lot like some tasty cheese.

A word of caution is in order here: You can’t use this approach unless a) you really believe that partner is best of class and you would refer them to your best clients and b) you have something to offer that partner that is truly referral worthy. If you short either one of these conditions you’ll soon turn into the worst kind of foe.

Using this approach authentically allows you to both end up with the same result by working together, your clients will get more of what they want, you’ll eventually get referrals from your new partner and your new partner will realize the full value of your offerings both to their business and to the benefit of their clients – all because you changed the dynamic in the initial trust building phase.

The key is to let a prospect see and experience how they could get what they want first and foremost by engaging in a conversation with you and your products. If you can do that, getting them to buy what you want will simply make perfect sense.

This is a powerful mindset change that is highly effective in any targeted lead generating situation you can imagine.

So how can you present your offerings as food vs. foe?

Referral Generation Requires Both Strategy and Tactics

Referral Engine BookIn my book The Referral Engine I point out that referral generation must be a foundational mindset that runs throughout your marketing plan and your marketing implementation. To become a widely referred organization everyone in your business must think about referrals at the strategic level and and at the everyday tactical level.

It’s this point of view that drives organizations to get better, so they deserve more referrals, while also getting clearer about how they receive more referrals. The combined strategy and tactics approach is the catalyst that truly revs the referral engine.

Recently, one of my readers sent me a note that I think illustrates this strategy and tactics frame of mind in a simple, yet powerful manner. I run his note here to help bring this point to light in the real world.

Hello John,

A lot of business advice we hear makes a lot of sense in theory and is then left to us to adapt and implement. It doesn’t mean it’s not valuable, just that it takes more work and creativity on our part to get it to work in a practical sense. In reading “The Referral Engine,” I became really excited by the concept of using referrals as both a strategy and a tactic at the same time – which is pretty unusual. It’s a strategy because it sets up a goal with each customer to exceed expectations in a way that will cause them to tell others. As a solopreneur, if you adopt that strategy it forces a level of intellectual honesty that helps you make lots of decisions along the way by asking yourself, “Is this good enough that my client would want to tell a friend?” But it’s using this concept as a tactic that made the biggest difference for me.

Want to Get More Referrals?

I've written about the topic of referrals a bunch this year, but you get that, right - I mean, I wrote an entire book on the subject called The Referral Engine. (Hint: It fits in most small business owners stockings!)…

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