ICS Magazine

Who Says There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?

November 1, 2010


One of the most powerful and profitable things you can do for your business is get groups of referral sources in one place at one time, with you as the center of attention.

Why? For one, you save an incredible amount of time. Imagine how long it would take you to call on 12 individual people. Now, imagine that you have all of them in one place at one time.

You build social proof and testimonials. If someone is in your audience has used your service or been pleased by referring you, they will testify of your reputation and experience.

It positions you as the expert. Because you are the one presenting, events like this position you as the authority.

The Free Lunch Program is one of the most powerful of all referral strategies. Not only does it get groups together, it builds a tremendous amount of “emotional equity,” the positive account balance in the emotional checking account. When people feel indebted to you and care about you, they will go out of their way to help you. I have done the Free Lunch Program many times, with groups ranging from 10 to 50 people. Some professionals I know have done events with as many as 250 people.

I use several “platforms” in my events. Usually we simply bill it as an “In Appreciation of Your Referrals” lunch. Once, we sent invitations to 158 people who had referred our services. This only included those that worked for a referral source; it did not go to individual clients. We had 34 people respond, and 31 showed up.

Here’s why a function like this is so profitable:

I spent $649 on the lunch. The mailer cost less than $100. Goodie bags cost less than $100. I gave away some door prizes and some carpet cleaning. If the carpet cleaning is ever used, it might cost me an additional $300.

So, for a little more than $1,000, I was able to have a huge impact on 31 referral sources who have already taken action to refer me. The potential returns on this investment can’t even be counted.

Here are seven great reasons why event marketing is so powerful:
  1. The Law of Reciprocity- These people were so appreciative that they will go out of their way to refer us and help us.
  2. The Law of Social Proof - When these referral sources saw that we had a room full of people that support us, it reinforces their support.
  3. The Captive Audience - I was able to share more about our services as well as our more advanced programs. We had a check off form that we used to get them to “raise their hands” and ask for advanced programs.
  4. It’s a Time Saver - How much time would it take to see each one of these people individually? My staff helped with coordinating the event, making it very easy on me, and we were able to visit with each and every person who attended.
  5. Credibility Builder -When you are the one presenting, you position yourself as the authority.
  6. New Referral Sources - Some of the referral sources brought someone with them. This connected us with new potential referrals.
  7. Newsletter Marketing - Material I’m able to get some serious “marketing mileage” out of this by publishing the pictures in my newsletter.


What Did They Get Out of It?

A fantastic free lunch. This was not a middle-of-the-road restaurant. There were Caesar and spinach salads; fresh salmon; pastas; mozzerella marinara; bruschetta; chicken parmigiana and, for dessert, tirimasu and a humongous chocolate cake that was practically a meal in itself.

A CD with several PowerPoint presentations, including “The Referral Relationship Program,” “How to Select a Professional Cleaner” and presentations on our various services. We loaded about 24 helpful articles that can be printed out or e-mailed to their clients. Of course, every article has contact information on it. We also put a link to our website so that when they load the CD, they can click directly to our website. A free bottle of home spotter. Of course it has our name on it.

The opportunity to network with other industry members. We had flooring retailers, Realtors and designers, all in the same room meeting each other.

Door prizes. To make sure that we got full participation, we gave away door prizes. In order to win a door prize, you had to fill out the form!

The key to getting as much mileage out of this program as possible is a presentation of the Advanced Referral Programs. Toward the end of the luncheon, I did a short presentation featuring these programs. The aim here is to give them ideas that would generate even more referrals from them.

I outlined the various programs and their benefits, and asked them to check off those they might be interested in. Astonishingly, every person asked for something, and many of them asked for several programs.

After the luncheon, we quickly hand-addressed a 9-by-12 envelope for each attendee. I created a special follow-up letter for each of the items we offered, telling them exactly what to do. And, of course, we followed up by phone. We took photos during the luncheon and immediately e-mailed the photos out after the even; a perfect opportunity to get people signed up for your e-newsletter.

Author’s Note: For a Free Report on How to Do Your Own Free Lunch Program, e-mail me at howard@howardpartridge.com and put “Free Lunch” in the Subject Line. Be sure to share your name, company name, city and state in the e-mail.