This morning I had a most delightful conversation with a veteran Home Stager and consummate business woman. Unfortunately, the call was cut too short for my taste due to her needing to tend to a property and I, after all, really did need to get back to that proposal that has been my nemesis for the last week.
It happened that this fellow business woman, from an area outside of Massachusetts, had emailed me a few days ago with a referral for a potential local client – a home owner requesting to have their property staged. I responded, thanking her for considering me and my business and suggested another, more suitable stager for the lead, because they were closer geographically than I am and might better meet the needs of HER contact.
I have a few thoughts on this before I go further. First, that she, this highly recognized Professional Home Stager is receiving leads for the Greater Boston Area; from out of the State of Massachusetts is a testament to her Professional Staging and outstanding marketing skills. Additionally, knowing as I do how busy she is, that she has taken the time to consider other Professional Home Stagers, their skills, their businesses and the way they present themselves publicly; that she hand selects those she chooses to refer HER business to, candidly, is somewhat flattering. Finally, quite surprisingly, in that contact email there was not a mention of a referral fee.
And so, we chatted. We bantered back and forth a bit about our respective geographic area’s and the market; what we notice about the staging industry and how we are being impacted by the economy, how we are being perceived and what our experiences are with home owners, where our business is coming from, how our business has shifted, the impact our business has on our families… and then we talked about this business of referrals.
I will tell you as I told her, that in my case I have referred out to other local stagers on several occasions and not asked for a referral fee one time. However, I have always done that believing what goes around comes around. I had my reasons for those referrals - it was fortuitous (though surely, also due to hard work and other marketing endeavors) that the business came my way at that particular time and it cost me nothing to forward them on when either I was already busy or chose to honor other obligations and so I’ll call it “Karma” for lack of a better word.
However, had I accepted the referral she contacted me about I would have offered to negotiate a referral fee with her, because I recognized immediately that this was not the same, nor could I in any way rationalize it away as the same. This referral clearly came on the back of a well executed and well spent marketing dollar. She in turn responded that she was not expecting a referral fee, but that it has been in issue with some, when after sending multiple (out of area) referrals she did ask for a referral fee and as I understand it (and perhaps misunderstand it) was not paid one. Of course being the consummate business woman she is, she never did mention names or areas and I don’t care to know.
Enough already with platitudes and casual ataboys. We cannot expect a few individuals to carry the marketing expenses of an entire industry allowing a free for all (including business referrals) without reciprocity and compensation. Where is there industry respect to be found in this?