Sometimes it takes more than a gentle nudge to get a referral from a client. Next time, consider an “actionable piece” — an eye-catching response mechanism that thanks clients for their business and makes it worth their while to jot down others who might need your remodeling services.

Chatel Contracting, Deer Park, N.Y., induces referrals using a “gold coin” redeemable for $200 off a future project. Embossed with “$200 gift certificate” on one side and the company's name and phone number on the other, the coins “are not just for a referral,” says Scott Chatel, “but a referral that results in a sale.”

Here's how it works: With each billing statement, Chatel Contracting also mails clients a colorful brochure (shown above) that says “Now your recommendations are worth their weight in gold.” A tear-off postage-paid card asks the client to note his or her name and address, along with those of a “recommended friend.” “When they sign up,” the brochure reads, “you'll receive a $200 gold coin FREE.”

Chatel paid about $4.50 apiece for the coins, which were minted by Prime Metal Manufacturing ( He admits that they're not a phenomenal inducement for new clients, but they do help maintain ties to current clients. “You just want to keep enough things in the marketing mix,” he says. The coins are reusable, though most clients want to keep them.

A similar program from LP Vinyl, a vinyl siding manufacturer, induces referrals using $50 Target gift cards. When homeowners return their warranty registration form for Norman Rockwell brand siding, LP Vinyl sends them a brochure reading, in part: “If you know some friends or neighbors who are considering new siding for their home, please share their names with us. You'll get a $50 Target gift card just for passing on their names.”

As each referral card comes in, LP Vinyl forwards the names to the contractor that installed the homeowner's siding, and authorizes the contractor to send the homeowner a $50 Target gift card. Bob Garrett, LP Vinyl brand manager, says the program is too new to assess, “but if we were to generate 300 additional jobs, I'd feel it's a great first step.” It's also a good way for LP Vinyl to generate loyalty from its client contractors, he adds.

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