Activate a flood of referrals with the PB&J Strategy

Let’s think of some word associations for summer.

Grass: cartwheel.

Barbecued chicken: corn on the cob.

Front porch: ice cold lemonade.

Some things just go together, like my husband’s favorite sandwich, peanut butter and jelly, otherwise known as PB&J.

These natural pairs are so complementary that when you think of one, you can’t help but think of the other.

Business PB&Js

We all know that referrals are one of the best ways you can grow your business. When clients or partners who love working with you recommend you to others, their words can carry more weight than just you talking about yourself.

The essence of the PB&J Strategy is that you actively look to cultivate and build relationships with professionals who provide a highly complementary, non-competitive service.

This exploration happens in 4 parts.

Part 1: Clear audience definition

My colleague Susan Baier of Audience Audit has taught me well that your audience should be defined by a core problem or challenge they have, or a clear aspiration for the future.

For the purpose of this PB&J Strategy, let’s use a business attorney as an example.

A business attorney solves the following problems/creates opportunities for their clients:

1. Ensures their clients have a solid legal structure in place to prevent being sued.
2. Builds a legal foundation for the businesses to allow scalable growth and sales to happen.
3. Researches and protects core brand identity and naming to ensure the brand can grow without risk of violating trademark protections of other business owners, requiring rebranding and rework.

Part 2: Ideastorm natural pairs

Working with your problem or opportunity statements above, think of as many complementary professions or services as you can that would help your clients reach their overall goals.

For the audience problems defined by our hypothetical lawyer above, we could ask the following question:

Who else helps businesses and brands grow and scale?

Business coaches
Bookkeepers
CPAs
Marketing Experts
Sales Experts
Copywriters
Financial planners
Video producers
Graphic designers

All of these professionals may be working with your ideal clients already, just in their area of expertise.

Imagine if you could be a trusted resource and referral partner for these professionals, who have built up their own audience of clients that would also be ideal for you. I call them PB&J Partners.

Part 3: Connect with your PB&J Partners for short conversations

A very easy way to find some potential PB&J partners is to ask your existing ideal clients who they work with in other areas of their business, and ask for an introduction.

The conversation could go something like this:

“Javier, I love working with you on your legal foundation. Out of curiosity, do you you like your current CPA, and branding firm? I am always looking to expand my circle of trustworthy service providers to refer to my clients. Would you mind making an intro?”

If you are not comfortable asking for this referral, you can look for PB&J partners:

1) On LinkedIn
2) In your mixed expert professional groups
3) At events
4) On a social media post (ask “Do any of you know a great ________”)

When you get the referrals, sort through them, research their backgrounds on their websites, then send a short message asking for a brief get to know you call.

Your outreach could be something like this:

“Hi Lorraine! I am a lawyer working with Javier on his legal foundation. He told me he loves working with you as a CPA. I wondered if you had time for a 15 minute Zoom call to learn a bit more about each others’ practices so I can get to know the ideal client to refer to you.”

Be prepared on your 15 minute call with some good questions to get to know the potential PB&J partners’ business, and to share a bit about yours.

Follow up with a thank you note, and a link to helpful resources on your site and social media.

Part 4: Notice and nurture the strong connections, and let the rest fade

Long-term and solid PB&J partners share values, work ethics, and client care approaches with you.

When you do refer a PB&J partner to your client the first time, follow up and ask your client how the experience was, both in process and outcome.

If your clients are delighted with your referrals, keep making them, and notice if they go both ways.

Be sure that you treat your PB&J client referrals with great care, since they are staking their own reputations by referring someone to you.

Be wary of jumping into a referral commitment too soon. You want to see how your PB&J partner treats a variety of different clients, over an extended period of time.

Not everyone will have a great experience, and that is ok. Own your results, and provide feedback to your PB&J partner right away if you get negative feedback from your client.

A great PB&J partner will ensure that you have a consistent source of new referrals in your business, and they will count on your referrals to have a consistent source of new referrals in their own.


A PB&J outreach is one of over a hundred Tiny Marketing Actions. Learn about the next Tiny Marketing Actions class here.

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