• Chani Pollins

Could bubble wrap be the secret to more referrals?

Supercharge your word-of-mouth marketing by giving extra sauce. Literally.

Word-Of-Mouth marketing is the very highest quality marketing out there, and doesn’t cost you a penny.

People who contact you because their friend, neighbor or colleague recommended you are usually sold on buying your product or working with you before you exchange a single email.

All you have to do with WOM referrals is make sure you don’t get in the way of their credit card.

How can you get this kind of golden recommendation? And frequently?

To answer this, let’s talk about what makes you recommend one product or service provider over another:

  • There are two iced-coffee places in your local shopping center. One charges extra for caramel sauce. The other gives a generous squirt and doesn't charge anything more. Which one do you recommend to friends?

  • One of your local grocery stores has a little table set up with bottles of water, plastic cups, and straws. The other hardly notices you had to pretty much start a fist-fight to get a shopping cart. Which do you recommend to friends?

  • One of your dry-cleaning options picks up and drops off your clothing for no extra charge. The others entail an uphill, laundry-laden mountain hike. Which do you recommend to friends?

When we feel like we got more than we paid for, we feel positively toward that brand, and are much more likely to recommend them.

How do we make sure our clients feel like they got more than they paid for?

‘Underpromise and Overdeliver’ is a concept made popular by business writer and motivational speaker Tom Peters back in 1987.

He explains that to make clients happy, you have to promise them less than you know you’re capable of. Then, make sure to surpass those promises so they end up feeling like they got more than they expected.

According to various studies, unmet promises make people view a brand negatively, even if the actual product is better than the competition.

🤫Between you and me, when I buy a package of plastic cups that promises 50 but only has 46, I feel indignant!

What does strategic underpromising look like?

Choose carefully where you will underpromise. Don’t sell yourself short on your value proposition for the sake of overdelivering.

Instead, find areas where even the lower expectation you’ll set is still reasonable.

❎ Don’t tell your prospects that you respond to emails within a week, just so you can overdeliver by answering in 2 days.

✅ Do tell your prospects that you respond within 3 business days and make sure you respond within 2.

Business and marketing strategist Estie Rand says this should be an integral part of your marketing strategy for lead-gen.

‘You bring a prospect down the marketing funnel from considering your service to actually hiring you. Then you exceed their expectations — which turns them into a great new referral source who is filling the top of your funnel with yet more prospects who are considering you!’

Estie calls this ‘flipping the funnel’ because suddenly, the bottom of your funnel is filling the top.

So underpromising is one way to ensure you overdeliver.

The other way is, well, to simply overdeliver.

Overdelivering: some examples

In every industry, that ‘extra touch’ is going to look different. Here are a variety of ideas to make your client feel valued (note: most are very low-cost, but they pack a punch):

🛒Selling physical products in a brick-and-mortar store?

  • Have a bowl of little wrapped chocolates next to the cashier’s desk and hand out a chocolate along with the change.

  • Install a water cooler and cups for customers to help themselves.

  • Set up a kiddie table and chairs with paper and markers for little ones to get busy while their parents shop. (Stores of the World: Pleeease take note. Signed, Mom of Little Persons who like touching things.)

  • Always be cheerful and helpful.

📦 Selling physical products from an online store?

  • Make sure it gets delivered early.

  • Send a fun delivery note in the package or via email like this one.

  • Send some swag along with it — like monogrammed balloons, or even monogrammed marshmallows!

  • Put some extra bubble-wrap in the package and label it ‘Extra bubble-wrap for your kids to pop.’

  • Ensure your customer service team is caring, cheerful, and respectful.

👨‍🔧Selling an in-person service?

  • Be prompt, or notify clients if you’re running late.

  • For people who offer a service in the customer’s house (plumbers, painters, electricians), always make sure the area you worked in is squeaky clean.

  • Think of out-the-box ways to tell your client they’re a person, not a number. Plumbers — how about leaving a scent-diffuser in the bathrooms you service? Hairdressers — could you surprise loyal clients by giving them a haircut on the house every once in a while?

  • Be kind and helpful, and always take the time to explain what you’re doing.

💻 Selling a remote or digital service?

This is the most difficult industry to overdeliver in, as you have few (if any) physical touch points. However, you can still:

  • Be prompt to virtual meetings and quick to reply to communication.

  • Send referrals to their business.

  • Send them a special birthday offer (like my colleague Rachel Grunbaum,The Copy Buff does).

  • Add an extra deliverable for free if it will be easy to do. BUT, make sure they know it’s extra.

  • Check in a while after your service is delivered and offer a little more assistance if necessary.

  • Send articles or resources related to your customer’s industry — even after the conclusion of your project.

A word of warning: Keep your ‘extra touches’ aligned with your brand. Have a funky brand? By all means send your clients a potato in the mail. But if your brand is sophisticated and classy, your clients will find a potato a little...um...weird.

Key Takeaways

  1. Want clients who act as your brand ambassadors and send you referrals? Make sure you exceed their expectations by underpromising and overdelivering.

  2. Set lower expectations for areas in which you know you’ll easily be able to overdeliver.

  3. Look out for simple ways to add an extra touch that will make your clients feel valued.


Chani Pollins is a copywriter, marketer, and peanut butter lover who specialises in website structuring and messaging for complex businesses. More than a little obsessed with simplifying your clients’ journey to ‘YES!’

Connect with her on Linkedin or send an email to chani@chanipollins.com