The Greatest (And Oldest) Marketing Idea: Building Referrals Through Books With Steve Gordon
A business only thrives when they are serving more people. And a good leader recognizes this. Our guest, Steve Gordon, is all too familiar with this. When he was a newly minted CEO at 28 years old, he took on the problem of finding a way to get new clients. This led him to discover the best practices and a secret weapon businesses can use to build relationships and multiply revenue by 10x. In this episode, he reveals the greatest marketing idea—and it’s not as new as we expect it to be. In fact, it is the oldest! Steve shares their referral process and the need to be able to take your expertise and package it in a way that is easy to share: a book. He lays out the formula for writing a book and marketing it, so you can reach people who need the solutions and transformations you offer and will, in turn, refer others to you. Thousands and thousands of people and corporations around the world have adopted Steve’s system. Join this conversation and see why!
Listen to the podcast here
The Greatest (And Oldest) Marketing Idea: Building Referrals Through Books With Steve Gordon
I have something special for all my coaches in the audience. As a coach for many years, I made a few discoveries that have vastly improved client performance and satisfaction. I realized that by asking very few but specific questions that are carefully crafted to bring a client to a personal realization about their true purpose, I was able to help my clients align their newly discovered purpose with their true mission. That alignment changes everything, and I want to share that with you.
I wrote a short book but very powerful. It’s called Coach Elevation, and for a limited time, you can get it free, and I mean free. Go to CoachElevation.com, and it will be yours. Download it, use it, and let me know the transformations that take place. Now, onto our guest and his incredible story. At the age of 28, my guest was thrown into an impossible situation as a newly-minted CEO. They were doing okay but had no true way to get new clients, and this was the source of great frustration.
As time went on, the problem became crucial, and he had to solve the problem now. As they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” He read every book and studied every program he could find until he decided he would simply do what he knew best. That was to build relationships and ask for referrals, get testimonials, and parlay that into the true fortune that he did.
Several years later, the company multiplied its revenue by 10X, and that’s when he realized he could help others do the same. You are about to get a world-class education on getting new clients for any type of business using best practices and common sense and a new secret weapon that is not so new and not so secret but not enough people know how to use it. We are about to find out. Welcome, Steve Gordon, to the show.
Thank you for having me. It’s great to be back.
This is its second performance of Steve. He was on a previous episode some years ago where he talked a lot about the referral business and all the great stuff he’s done with clients to help them build referrals. I know he still does that but before we get into the new stuff, let’s go back a couple of years and tell us how this all got started for you.
Thank you, first of all, for the fantastic introduction, very dramatic and theatrical. That is where the journey started. I was 28 years old. I got tapped to run a business that I had been working for four years out of college and didn’t have any clue how to run a business, how to get clients or how to do any of that. In that business, we didn’t have a marketing function.
Everything came by referral, and some months, the phone rang off the hook, and other months, it didn’t ring at all. We didn’t know what the correlation was between one or the other. We got good at that and were able to grow that business. I decided after running that business for about 10 or 11 years that I was ready to do something else. The thing that people would always pick my brain on was how we were doing so well at getting clients, and I enjoyed that part. I started my company, and now we help other experts and professionals go out and build systems that get clients for them and help them put together the tools to do that.
The reason I find this story interesting is that you didn’t perceive what you were going through as a gift at the time. You perceived it as a difficulty and as a problem. You said, “We have no other way to get clients. Maybe this will work.” Until finally, you hit upon the thing that worked better than you probably even expected it to. It was because things didn’t work that you were able to develop the skillset, knowledge, and wisdom that you have now. Imagine if everything would have worked right out of the box. Imagine if you stepped into that chair as a young man when you graduated, and the business kept going and going. Would you have learned as much?
That’s what I love about these stories because everybody starts with the perception of, “I have a problem, and I need to solve this problem.” What they have is, “I have a gift that I need to unfold and completely develop to become my future,” and that’s exactly what you did. It’s a great story. I imagine that about another 1 or 2 people reading the show might’ve gone through or gone through something like that as well. Probably a lot more.
It’s always great to hear about the beginnings of every company but let’s move on a little bit. The referral system that you created is now in use by thousands of people, and corporations all over the world have adopted it. Since I spoke to you the last time, you’ve continued to do that, I assume, but something new came up. Tell us how you discovered this little thing that you do called book publishing.Decision-makers don't want to learn how to do what you do. They want to understand that you have a system and a process to solve their problem. Click To Tweet
In my first book, Unstoppable Referrals, which laid out our referral process, I talked about the need to be able to take your expertise and package it in a way that’s easy to share. In that book, I talked about using your own book as the gold standard for doing that. That got people coming to us asking, “Would you write a book for me?” They had seen the success we had.
I have to be honest. I was pulled into that kicking and screaming. It took about eight years before I finally fully relented. We would help people here and there one-off writing a book. It took writing five books. I had written five now of my own and getting through about a dozen or maybe even closer to twenty client books in that one-off model before I was able to reverse engineer how to do it, how to do it quickly, and how to do it so that it you are reliably getting a product that’s going to generate leads for the business. We are writing a specific type of book. That’s a book that is designed to speak to potential clients and compel them to want to talk to you and get your help to solve the problem that the book describes. That’s how we ended up writing books.
I’m sensing a pattern here. Every time you run into a situation as I have, you resist at first until you relent and say, “Fine. I will do that.” Later you uncover a diamond basically that you get to polish over and over again. In all fairness, so readers know, the book that I talked about at the top of the show, Coach Elevation, is a book written and inspired by your work. I saw what you were doing with books and the power of having a short and concise but very valuable nugget of information, and maybe even a blueprint and technique.
Using that as a way of getting your name out there, I said, “This is exactly what Steve does.” I learned what you did. You were the inspiration for me to write this short book. My other books are much longer, whereas the books are 300-plus pages. This book is only 89 to 90 pages but it’s powerful because this is about one specific thing. The goal is to get people to benefit significantly from reading the short book, and hopefully, at that point, they will have gotten a lot of value from it. Maybe they may want to use our software or talk to us about helping them with other things. It was an inspiration.
In case you are just tuned in, we are talking to incredible Steve Gordon, a guy who has been in the business of helping people get clients for many years. Steve, let’s break down this formula. We are going to teach somebody how they could write a short book. Give us some parameters, talk us through the blueprint, and give us a place to start.
The first place to start is if you want to write a short book, you want to write a specific book. I have seen experts struggle with this. For people who know their stuff, have got a great background, and help a lot of people, the tendency is to want to put everything that they know into the book as if they have to prove to their peers that they are smart.
The problem with that is that the book you are trying to write to get clients is for your peers. It’s written for someone who doesn’t have your expertise. It’s not that we need to dumb it down but we need to speak in English, and less is probably more in that situation. A great example of that is I had a guy come to us, hired us a few years ago, and wrote a magnificent book.
This book won literary awards in his industry. A fantastic book. It is a masterpiece in his industry, and yet he was frustrated. He had already worked with a number of the big names. The big gurus in marketing are trying to get the book to work for him to deliver to clients. He came to us looking for help. I sat down with his book and some of the others that we had done.
I took all of the best sellers in his category, and it finally dawned on me after about a week of looking at all of these books. He had written a textbook. What you want to write is a transformation book. Decision-makers don’t want to learn how to do what you do. They want to understand that you have a system and a process to solve their problem. They want to see that you thought it through but they don’t want all the steps.
I learned this from you on a show. You have a great podcast. Tell me the name of your show again.
I’m trying to remember who you were interviewing. I apologize. I should have been better prepared to name this person but you were breaking this part of it down very carefully. Somewhere I have those notes on a notepad on my computer. The key nugget that I got was the fact that you are trying to create a single transformation, a powerful transformation in this short book that showcases what you’ve learned and how what you are about to teach can change another person’s life or a business. Is that right?
Absolutely, and there’s a storyline to the transformation. We know that people learn best through stories. They remember stories that have the most impact on them, and a great book has a storyline. There are lots of different story frameworks you could use to write your book. You could use the hero’s journey. There are a number of things that you could use.
What we found is that the simplest way to do this is to think in terms of a three-act play. In the first act, we are creating the conflict, whereas in the first chapter, maybe 2 or 3 chapters even, we are presenting to that reader the problem that they face. They are probably very familiar with it but we want to meet them where they are, the thing that they are worried about, and then we want to show them the consequences of that problem. If they fail to act, if they don’t do anything, if they let it sit and fester, this is what’s going to happen.
It’s like holding up a mirror to a person who is in pain but doesn’t want to admit it, and now they can see what their situation truly is. From there, we move into the second part of the book, and that’s where we give them some hope. We give them a roadmap to resolution. I like to call this the yellow brick road. I’m going to lose the ability to use this analogy pretty soon because very few people have seen The Wizard of Oz at this stage.
In the first part of that book, you are Dorothy, and you have been dropped by a tornado in a strange black and white world. You want to find the way home. All the way home is to follow the yellow brick road, and that is what we would call your unique mechanism. These are the 4, 5 or 6 steps to solve someone’s problem at a high level.Your existing clients are most likely to know other people that are just like them and be able to refer to you. Click To Tweet
This makes perfect sense because everybody who has been in business, even for a short time, has figured something out. My belief and I could be wrong, is that when we figure something out and start using it, we start thinking that everyone else already knows this. We start thinking that it’s not that special because, after all, if I could figure out how special it could be, that’s what most people don’t get. The fact is that you figured it out. It is transformation and special. I bet if you took the advice that Steve was giving us and wrote that book, you would solve problems for somebody, maybe many people. What happens in the third act of your play?
In the third act, you arrive in Emerald City. It’s colorful, gem covered, glistening, and perfect. In the third part of the book, you want to paint a picture for the reader as to what their bigger and better future is going to be like when they are on the other side of this transformation so that they can see why it’s important to make this shift. Using that structure creates some emotional contrast for them. You need that emotional energy to create action because if we don’t create any action, then there’s never going to be a solution delivered. This person is going to stay in the problem or state that they are in, and everybody loses.
It’s a very simple process. What you’ve laid out is very easy to understand for me anyway, and I get it quickly. I have already heard this before. That’s how I wrote my last book, Coach Elevation. My real question here is, when you write books for your clients or when you instruct your clients on building their own book structure, how long do they usually turn out to be?
We aim for books that are between 100 and 150 pages.
My book is a little shorter because it’s a single chance for transformation but it’s powerful. Let’s say that we get to the point where you have your book, maybe I have gotten some help from you, from listening to your show, reading your book or working with you, now the hard part comes. How do you market this book?
It depends on the business and your goals. We work with people across the spectrum. Some are in a local practice, maybe an attorney or large law firm but in a local area. We work with others who are consultants that are maybe marketing around the country or around the globe. It depends on how spread-out people are but the first place that we start is what we call our inverted viral launch method. That’s using your best, warmest relationships to go out and begin getting immediate results.
Give us some examples.
The best example is the launch of my first book, Unstoppable Referrals. I didn’t even know what I was doing this time. I created a podcast a couple of years before that and interviewed 50 entrepreneurs from around the world. I went back to those 50 people a couple of years later when I had been preparing for launching my book. 15 of the 50 said, “I would love to help you share the book,” and so those fifteen people shared the book. In a little over a week’s time, we had over 5,000 people get a copy of my book.
To give you a sense of the impact of those fifteen relationships, that’s not a lot of relationships. We were a small local marketing consulting firm at the time. It was me and a half of an assistant. To go from that with a handful of clients to all of a sudden, people reaching out to us from the UK, Canada, and all across the US totally changed our business overnight. That’s the impact of the relationships that you already have.
You gave me a great idea, and I want to clarify it. What you are saying is that the people you interviewed in your shows in the past then became your marketing partners. The psychology behind that is pretty cool because what you’ve done is you’ve built an affinity with that individual by interviewing them. Secondarily, you’ve created reciprocity because you promoted their show. You elevated them and advanced their brand somewhat by making them public.
Using both those two components of the relationship, which are natural human components, they were able to say yes and be delighted to do so, which is important and simple to understand. What other ideas or relationships do you think you could leverage if you have your book done and you want to get it out there as fast as possible?
We always start with your clients if your existing clients are most likely to know other people that are like them and be able to refer to you. I was talking with one of our clients who had been averaging about 1 or 2 referrals into their financial practice over the last number of years, 1 or 2 a month. In the last few days, they have brought in 60 referrals using their book and our unstoppable referrals process.
They have done it with, in some cases, they had a great relationship with an attorney who had never referred them before. All of a sudden, he referred eleven people because he was able to do it very easily by sharing the book as the way as a mechanism to make the introduction. That’s the first and best place to start.
Would you get them to read the book first and then share it with their audience or would you simply send it to them with no instructions other than, “I wrote this free book. I thought you would like to read it?” Give us a little bit more detail there.
What we do is we coach our clients to have what I call the value conversation with their clients and their centers of influence. What I like about this as it works on a small scale. In the example of, a local advisor works great for that. It works well also if you’ve got higher-level contacts. You might have lists of 5,000 or 10,000 people that they can share your book with.
You simply have a meeting, a Zoom call, and if I’m talking to you as a client, you say, “It has been great over the years to be able to work with you and help you solve some of your marketing challenges. I have finished my brand-new book, which is going to transform the way that business owners write a book of their own and get clients. I’m on a mission to get that into the hands of as many business owners as quickly as I can, and I would love your help. What do you say?”Just be flexible. If someone wants a referral fee and you're willing to pay it, and it makes sense, then great. Click To Tweet
That is very simple, and it’s not an imposing conversation. It’s not a hard sell. It’s quite natural and a friendly conversation, so I love the way you structured that. They don’t have to say anything. They could say no or yes. I love the fact that there are only three possibilities. If they say no, that’s fine. I get it. No is no. If they don’t say anything, we take that as a no, but we might reach out again and say, “I want to remind you that I am still interested to work with you on promoting the book.”
If they say yes, and you say, “Great. Here’s how you do it, and you provide.” If you use affiliate links, you provide an affiliate link and a mechanism by which they can potentially even make some money by sharing your book. Does making money by sharing your book, in some ways, degrade the book’s purpose itself or do you feel as if it enhances the fact that you are asking people to share it?
Outside of the internet marketing world that you and I tend to live in, most people don’t care about affiliate fees. If you are in the internet marketing world, it’s a thing. What I always tell our clients is to be flexible. If someone wants a referral fee and you are willing to pay it, and it makes sense, great. The vast majority of people won’t, and they want to be able to make a recommendation or give a gift.
When you think about what’s happening here, and most of the time, on a smaller scale, people are giving out physical copies of their books. It’s allowing that client of yours or that center of influence to literally give a gift to someone in their network. The benefit for them is that now they are the source of this gift. They are the source of connection to the author. It elevates their social status, and so that is a benefit to them by itself.
In my case, I work with coaches. My audience would be coaches for this particular book or product. Would I then offer to give them bulk copies of books to give away to other coaches or would I simply offer them the chance to send out an email that their potential clients or connections can then click on and download the book? What are your thoughts about that?
The mechanism that you use is going to vary from one partner to another. I will give you a few examples. I might have a center of influence that has fifteen perfect clients for me. In that case, I might agree to give each of them a signed copy, and I’m going to send it to them with a handwritten note. I’m going to make it nice.
In that case, I will probably sit with that partner and ask for the contact information of each of those people so that I can do all of the work. You may think, “Who will give me the contact information.” When you tell them, “I want to make this easy for you. Our team will do all the work. We will take care of it.” You would be astonished at how quickly you get names and addresses because now, they don’t have to do anything.
Let’s pivot this a little bit. You and I have both seen countless free plus shipping offers showing up on the internet and Facebook. What do you think of those? Do you think those are worthwhile because, in the end, someone is going to pay $995 for a free book? You don’t make any money on that. You still might have to pay money to have that fulfilled. Does that work better than giving the book away as a free PDF? What do you think?
It depends on your capabilities within your business. Everything we have talked about so far is the strategies that we teach our clients. The three main strategies are the referral strategy we have talked about, and then what we call a free book funnel, which is giving the book away on your website for free as a download, and then a paid book funnel, which is what you are talking about here. They all work but if I take someone who doesn’t have a lot of internet marketing and online advertising background and try and get them to implement the paid book funnel, they are going to fail miserably because they don’t have the capability to do it.
It’s about matching the right strategy with your capabilities and building on what you are already good at from a marketing perspective, and also matching it to your business model. For some types of businesses where you are selling something that’s at a high end, you don’t need to have people jump through all of these hoops to pay $995 for the shipping, get the book free, and do all of the things that happen in those funnels. It’s more effective to give the book away.
You and I are talking from the perspective of internet-based students or students of the internet and practitioners. If there are doctors, lawyers, or plumber reading, do you think a good strategy might be for them to write the book, maybe print up a bunch of them, and then give them to the people who go out and visit homes so they could leave a book with clients? Is that a possible strategy or is that more of an imposition in a sense? What do you think?
If I had people going into homes, if I was selling to a consumer market, I have books and all of my salespeople. I have worked with roofers in the past. They will send people out that are effectively salespeople that go and quote the jobs. I would have them come back around at the end of a project and make sure that the customer is happy.
I would make sure they had two books with them and say, “I have two books here. I have looked around the neighborhood. Most everyone else in the neighborhood has a roof about as old as yours was before we fixed it. I have two copies of these. Who would be two friends of yours here within a couple of houses either way that might appreciate a copy of this book? It might help them make a decision about getting their own roof repaired as you have.”
The other thing is that it’s a way to differentiate yourself from other roofers. Your book is about roof quality, materials, installation, the care of installation, and all this other stuff. If you are quoting a job, you say, “Before you make a decision, this is a very short book. You may want to take a look through it because the founder of our company wrote this book, and it talks a lot about why a certain type of shingle might be more important than others in your particular situation.” What it does is it elevates that person’s brand above all the other roofers that are out there selling price.
There are lots of applications for a simple book giveaway. Let’s get into a little bit more of the mechanics of this. When you finish your book after you’ve written it, and assuming that you’ve gone through the trouble of you getting a cover designed, write the bio for yourself, and the table of contents, all the components that go with the content, and now you want to get it printed. Do you think that the best idea for people is to upload it on Amazon and get it printed there? How do you typically think about physical distribution?
For most people, Amazon is a great solution because they print books very inexpensively. They will ship them to you at a wholesale cost as an author. They will handle fulfillment. If you don’t want to be in the business of taking people’s money for your book if you decide to sell it and shipping out a hard copy, they will take care of all of that for you, and they do a great job of it. That’s where people go to find books. For those who are in an extremely narrow niche market, you may prefer to sell it directly on your website, and the reason for that is that when Amazon sells a book for you, the customer is Amazon’s customer, not yours. You don’t end up with any of their contact information.When Amazon sells a book for you, the customer is Amazon's customer, not yours. Click To Tweet
You’ve got to do some things in the book and hope that those people come in and contact you. We have got a client who’s the number one results coach for independent insurance agencies around the US. We made the decision strategically with them to only offer the book through their website because the leads were so valuable that we didn’t want to lose any going to Amazon.
We are going to transition to the second part of the show, which is always my favorite, where we ask some fun questions about you and how you think. I want to point out that when you answer these questions, whatever you say is going to be unique. I’m going to ask you for a person, and you are going to tell me a person, other people might have said that person before but the reason you said it is the most unique part and that’s what I’m interested in. Who in all of space and time would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?
I was reading that question and reflecting on it. The first thing that came into my mind is this passage in Genesis in the Bible when it talks about God walking through the garden in the cool of the day. Where I live here, there are about 7 or 8 miles of nature trails out in the woods, and I thought, “How cool would it be to take an hour’s walk like that in the cool of the day with God walking by your side?” I don’t know how that would work but that’s what came to mind. That would be an incredible experience.
Interestingly enough, in over 300 interviews, many people have said Jesus but no one has ever said God, so congratulations. You broke the mold there. That’s wonderful. This is my personal opinion, and I hope it doesn’t offend you in any way. You already are walking with God every single day of every single moment. My belief is that we have that presence in our lives no matter where we are all the time.
That’s how I like to think and live my life, and I’m sure that you feel the same way when it comes to the spiritual side of life as well. Here’s the second question. It’s the grand finale that changed the world question. What is it that you were doing or like to do that truly has the potential to literally change the world?
One of the things that my wife and I feel strongly about is feeding people. Particularly feeding people who aren’t being fed on a regular basis. That’s become an increasing emphasis in our lives. That’s some of the big why behind what I do in business. I will be honest. We haven’t worked out all the how yet for that but we feel called to do that and are walking that path now. That’s what we believe will change the world.
That’s a beautiful path, and I support you in that. I’m sure that there are many people reading the show who have a similar goal. I remember one time I was on the phone with Tony Robbins for a business meeting, and it was late fall. Tony says to me, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” I said, “My family, we always get together and go down to this little church in Saugerties, New York, and we like to serve meals on Thanksgiving Day. We probably feed about 150 people.” Tony says, “That’s fantastic,” in the way he speaks. I said, “We enjoy it. What are you doing?” He goes, “I like to feed people too.” I said, “That’s fantastic.” He says, “I feed about half a billion people a year.”
All of a sudden, I’m feeling small. “Tony, that’s a little bit more than I’m feeding.” That was a very bleeding thought. I was thrilled to hear about the work that he’s doing. He’s an amazing guy. He knows, for all the years that we worked together, how much I admire him and the work that he’s doing. What it comes down to is that we do what we can do. I don’t have to be Tony Robbins, and I don’t have to feed half a billion people but I can do what I can do, and everything that I choose to do makes me feel good about the work that I’m doing too.
It’s important that we have a mission that helps others no matter who we are because that’s part of where we get our life’s fulfillment, and I’m glad to see that you are doing it too. That’s wonderful. We talked a little bit about a free gift, and I’m pretty excited about this one. Readers, if you haven’t guessed by now, what Steve is going to give away. He is going to provide you with a book. Tell us the name of the book and what the book is about, and then we will talk about how they can get it.
What I would love to give away is a copy of my latest book. This is book number five. It’s called The Million Dollar Book: The Ultimate Blueprint for Writing a 7-Figure Business Book. It’s got everything that we talked about now and a whole lot more. All of the details about what should go into your book, how to structure it, how to write it quickly, and then how to market and use it to get clients. I would love to give that to everybody who is reading.
For those of us who are a little time conscious, give us an estimate. How long do you think it would take us to get through your book?
One of the reasons we write short books is because I don’t like to give anybody a project. I don’t want you to get my book and then look at it and go, “This is going to take me a weekend.” You should be able to read it in about a 60 to 90 minutes. Maybe two hours if you are a slow reader and taking your time but the goal is that by the second cup of coffee, you are finished.
That’s a great goal. Like you, I don’t want to dig into a book unless it’s Atlas Shrugged or something, where it’s going to be 700 or 900 pages. In this case, what I want from a book is I want to learn something. I want to have the instructions on how to do it and have some benchmarks as to whether or not I did it right. Does your book contain all of that?
You got all of that in there.
Readers, I want you to go to Steve’s show page. It’s at YourFirstThousandClients.com go to Steve Gordon’s show page. At the bottom of that page is going to be a link for you to grab and download that free book. I highly recommend that if you even think about writing a book, you at least check this out for free and see if, in fact, it inspires you to take that first step.
Maybe that first step is having the belief, “I can do this.” I bet reading Steve’s book, you will start to have that belief because it’s easier than you think. I know that Steve has laid out a process so that it is approachable that you will want to start right away. Go grab that right away. Steve, thank you again for all of your great wisdom and teachings. It was always fun spending time with you, and I want to thank you for being on the show. I also want to thank you for sharing what you know so openly and readily with all of our readers.
Thank you. It has been a lot of fun and great to see you again.
- Previous episode– Reading Your Way To Success: The Power Of Books With Steve Gordon
- Steve Gordon
- Unstoppable Referrals
- The Unstoppable CEO Podcast
- The Million Dollar Book: The Ultimate Blueprint for Writing a 7-Figure Business Book
- Atlas Shrugged
About Steve Gordon
We help abundance-minded entrepreneurs, business owners, and professionals (who sell high-priced services) package their best ideas and use them to attract their “dream come true” clients.
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join Your First Thousand Clients Community today: