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Volume 7, Issue 3: May - June 2012

Grow Your Business with Referrals

If you want to promote your product or service more effectively, let your customers do it for you. That’s what more businesses are doing as they discover the power of referral marketing.

Referral marketing is the least expensive and most powerful form of marketing you can use to increase sales and build your customer base. It works by using satisfied customers and vendors to bring in new customers. It’s effective because consumers feel more comfortable making a buying decision when someone they trust recommends a product or service. For example, you are more likely to use the plumber your friend recommends rather than one you saw advertised in the local paper.

To successfully use referrals to grow your business, you have to ask for them—from your customers and business associates. Start with your best customers and those vendors with whom you do the most business. Referrals from happy customers carry immediate credibility. In fact, a recent study conducted by NRS Consumer Research, a Madison, Wisconsin research firm, found that builders who rated 91 percent or better in customer satisfaction gained six or more referrals from previous buyers, while those with ratings of 67 percent or less did not receive a single referral.

When a customer raves about your product or service or a vendor thanks you for your business, ask them for names of people whom they know are in the market for your product or service.

You are more likely to gain referrals if you offer your customers and vendors a reward or incentive, such as a gift or a discount when they purchase from you again. Make it easy for them to recommend you when you are not around. Give them your business cards to pass out, and make sure those cards list the web addresses and social media websites for your business.

Once your customers start referring you, acknowledge their referrals in ways such as posting their testimonials on your website. If you promise a reward or incentive for each referral, be sure you deliver on a timely basis. An old-fashioned thank you note with your signature goes a long way, or send an online greeting card to automate the task for you while still delivering a thoughtful touch.

Another way to increase the number of referrals you receive is to ask satisfied customers and vendors to recommend your service or product through online services such as Angie’s List and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

In addition, join your local Chamber of Commerce, trade associations, and community organizations. Involvement in these groups is a great way to be immersed in your profession, give back to your community, and make important connections that can lead to valuable referrals over time. Participate fully in the referral process these groups follow because the process is a two-way street. If you refer your associates to potential customers, they will do the same for you.

Hills Bank and Trust Company and Safeguard Iowa Partnership Co-sponsor Business Continuity Workshops

With all of the priorities faced by businesses, emergency and continuity planning is not always at the top of the “to do” list. That’s why Hills Bank and Trust Company has partnered with the Safeguard Iowa Partnership: to provide useful tools in helping businesses prepare for the worst. “We typically hear that customers know it’s important, but can’t find the time,” explained Jay Allpress, Information Security Officer for Hills Bank. “We want to provide tools to make the process easier.”

“We had a plan in place and this gave us a chance to review and update it,” explained Pam Jaben, Executive Officer with the Iowa City Area Association of Realtors. Jaben said she would “absolutely recommend” the workshops to other businesses. She stressed that plans should be regularly reviewed rather than filed away.

David Kacena started his planning at the beginning of the year and viewed the workshop as a chance to learn more about the process. Kacena, who owns a property management firm, wanted to be sure his business was not part of the 40% that typically do not survive a disaster. He was motivated in part because of his sister’s experiences during the recent Joplin, Missouri tornadoes. “I was headed in the right direction, and this provided me with more encouragement,” he said. In addition to the useful templates and tools, Kacena said he is considering a disaster’s impact on key employees who might be affected. He is developing procedures to hire temporary workers to fill that void. Kacena would “strongly recommend” the workshop to other business owners.

The workshops have been so successful that Hills Bank is planning to offer them again later this year. If your business or association is interested in attending a future business continuity lunch-and-learn, workshop, or seminar, contact Carrie Ebel at or call 319-358-2272.

FBI Warns of International Cyber Ring that Infected Millions of Computers World-wide

The FBI is warning internet users about an online scam that could cause your computer to lose connectivity to the internet this summer. Last November, an international cyber ring that infected millions of computers world-wide was dismantled by the FBI. The FBI is now encouraging internet users to visit, a site that will guide users through the process of identifying and fixing infected computers. Please visit the FBI website,, for more details on the computer virus.

The Greater Iowa City Area Home Builders Association is hosting its annual Parade of Homes June 2 - 10. Homes are open on Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday from noon to 5 pm, and on Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 9 pm.

The Greater Iowa City Area Home Builders Association is hosting its Remodelers Parade on Saturday, June 2 from 10 am to 5 pm and on Sunday, June 3 from noon to 5 pm. Visit the Iowa City Home Builders website for more information.

Ask the Expert

Q. How long is the life span of U.S. paper money?

A. When currency is deposited with a Federal Reserve Bank, the quality of each note is evaluated by sophisticated processing equipment. Notes that meet strict quality criteria--that is, they are still in good condition--continue to circulate, while those that do not are taken out of circulation and destroyed.

Life span varies by denomination. One factor that influences the life span of each denomination is how the denomination is used by the public. For example, $100 notes pass between users less frequently than lower denominations that are more often used for transactions, such as $5 notes. Thus, $100 notes typically last longer than $5 notes.

Denomination Estimated Life Span*
$1 4.8 years
$5 3.8 years
$10 3.6 years
$20 6.7 years
$50 9.6 years
$100 17.9 years

*Estimated life spans as of December 2011. Because the $2 note does not widely circulate, the Federal Reserve does not publish its estimated life span.


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10 Second Tip

Counterfeit Cash
Discretely inspect cash before taking it from a customer. Try these quick tips: feel the paper, look for differences, color shifting ink, check the watermark and compare to a “good” bill. There are many anti-counterfeit features on U.S. currency, but these are quick references that can be easily taught to cashiers.

Hills Happenings

Holiday Schedule

The bank will be closed on the following holidays:

  • Memorial Day
    Monday, May 28th
  • Independence Day
    Wednesday, July 4th

Even though we will be closed, you can still do your banking at over 80 Hills Bank ATMs in the Corridor, Hills Bank Online, mobile banking, or through Push Button Banker.

See all the Hills Bank holidays.

Chamber Business PM Exchange

Be our guest at the Joint Chamber Business PM Exchange. Join us for beverages and progressive appetizers from Catering by Charlotte, Johncy's, Okoboji Grill, Red's Ale House, The Brown Bottle, and Yummy's Gourmet Cakes. Door prizes valued at $250 will be drawn at 6:00 pm.

Thursday, May 24th
5-7 pm
Hills Bank
590 W Forevergreen Rd
Located on the corner of Hwy 965 and Forevergreen Road
Equal Housing Lender

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Hills Bank and Trust Company.
Member FDIC.