How To Turn A $100 Knife Into A $35,000 Electrical Project

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In this article I’m going share a story about how we turned a $100 knife into a $35,000 electrical project and how you can use this same exact strategy to grow your own trade business.

About three years ago we started working with an electrical company that had only been in business for around two years.

They’d been in the industry a long time but just starting out with their own company they were a smaller operator at the time with around 8 staff turning roughly $1.2M…

I drove up to their office for our first meeting before they had signed with us (We’d had some back-and-forth conversations, but this was our first-time meeting in person) and I was getting the tour of their office, depot and really just getting an understanding of what they were looking to achieve by working with us.

And one of the directors said to me...

"Bayley, we’re really good at what we do, we just need a chance to prove it". 

So, the big focus early on was growth.

We needed to create some waves and help them get their name out into the market much faster than what they were currently doing… they were good at their work, but they weren’t sure on how to grow the company at the pace they wanted to.

So, this is where we focused, and over the next two years they we’re able to grow from roughly $1.2M to over $10M in annual turnover, more than triple their work force, and even open a second depot.

And don’t get me wrong a lot went into getting that result but today I want to talk about one of the more creative marketing strategies that we used early on to start getting some momentum because we had some really cool wins and I think there’s some great takeaways from it.

Which brings me to the knife.

A really powerful tool that you can use in business is strategic gifting.

We built a hit list of all of the existing referral sources at the time… all the key clients like civil companies, design consultants, and engineers (Including the ones that barely gave them any work but had potential to give them a lot more) and we started researching the specific decision makers our client was dealing with…

Sometimes it was a project manager, sometimes it was the director, sometimes it was other key staff… but we built a list of these people and started documenting what we knew about them and researching them on Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

What we then did was come up with thoughtful and personalised gifts to send each of these people with a small handwritten note for context.

One of which, was a Japanese blue steel kitchen knife made by one of Japan’s top knife manufacturers that have been making these stainless-steel blades for over 100 years (Who also happen to compare their blades to that of samurai quality mind you!).

And on this knife, we had engraved on one side of the blade...

 “Handcrafted exclusively for James” 

Attached to the wooden box was a short-handwritten note that read…



With so much going on in the world right now, we just wanted to reach out and say thanks for the opportunity to work with you, it’s always a pleasure.

Take care and stay safe.”


And we express shipped straight to the target’s office.

The week this package arrived our clients received a phone call from James saying that in all his years in business he’s never received anything like this, and that he visited Japan years ago and absolutely fell in love with Japanese steel… saying… "it’s like you knew"… and we did… from our research… and so he was blown away by the random and unexpected gift.

And what’s cool is that he also then sent them a $35,000 project and said for now on we don’t go to tender… every job goes to you…

So, a really, really awesome result.

The ROI on the knife alone was 34,900% - not to mention all the work since!

So, I’ll break down why this worked, how you pull it off without crossing any lines and I’ll also go through some other examples that you can use.

Starting with why this worked.

In business, more often than not, people don’t get celebrated.

So, one of the greatest things that you can do with your clients is to make them feel special, make them feel celebrated, and make them understand that you highly value your relationship with them.

Even if it’s just a short-handwritten note saying thank you for being awarded a job… it’s these actions that help you commemorate and place a symbol on the relationship (And really stand out from the crowd).

So, think about your business right now and the relationships that are the most important to your bottom line, what is their value to the business? To your livelihood?

What’s it worth to you to have these relationships?

They have a massive amount of value… but how often do you demonstrate to these clients that you appreciate them?

All of the little touches that go into maintaining these relationships matter, right down to a simple, handwritten note.

These aren’t little things…. They’re everything!

These are the small things that people notice and remember as big things.

Which means if you can make someone feel celebrated, special, important and remind them that you care about them and value your relationship… they’re likely going to love you forever.

So, gifts are perfect for this.

Now, in our personal lives, we’re great at giving amazing gifts that our friends and family will love but for some reason, everything we know about gifting gets thrown out the window when it comes to business…

Most corporate gifting is bland, unthoughtful, not personalised, generic, and forgotten about very quickly… things like gift cards, booze, or your own company merch… that sort of stuff…

Instead, you want to gift with impact.

Because it’s not the thought that counts, it’s the thoughtful gift that counts.

You want to make a lasting impression.

If you nail this the relationships that you’ll be able to build and cement will allow you to build a moat around your business.

So, how do you do this?

Step one is to list out your key clients.

Look at your current client base, and identify who are the clients that feed your business ongoing work? Who are the clients that have the potential to provide a lot of more work for you and your business moving forward? Who are most valuable to you?

These are the people you want to target first.

Step two is to do your homework.

You want to do some background searches on your target and try to learn a bit more about them… so stalk their personal social media accounts… look for things they like, don’t like, interests, and so on because this will allow you to give a better and more appropriate gift.

If you struggle here, don’t worry I’ll give you some great examples in a moment that work for everyone.

Step three is choosing the gift.

Starting with what NOT to do…

  • Never Use ‘Corporate’ Gifts: Don’t be the person who just sends coffee mugs, key chains, or bottles of wine covered in your branding! Because if it has your branding on it, then it’s company merchandise… NOT a thoughtful gift! So, steer clear of corporate gifts!
  • Personalise the Gift to Them: One of the greatest sins in gifting is NOT personalising the gift to the customer. And when you don’t personalise the gift, you end up making the person feel like they’re one OF a million… NOT one IN a million. So, personalise the gift, put the spotlight on them and show them how much you value your relationship with them! Really, really important.
  • Include Their Inner Circle: You need to think about how you can include their family, their management team, or their assistants when choosing the gift… because these people tend to be the most forgotten… BUT it’s where there’s the greatest opportunity to make the greatest impact! You do need to be careful with this one though…
  • Be Best in Class: You absolutely don’t have to give the most expensive gift… Just put some thought into it! Because it’s not the gift that counts, it’s the thoughtful gift that counts. This will set you apart MASSIVELY from everyone else, and again, really showcase how much you value your relationship with them!
  • It Needs to Be Unique: A bottle of wine or a box of chocolates doesn’t set you apart… It’s generic… and everyone else sends the exact same thing… What you want to do is make your gift personal, make it memorable, and make it unique, so it’s NEVER forgotten!
  • It Needs to Be Practical: Most people own a lot of ‘stuff’ these days…. So, they really appreciate gifts that don’t just add to the clutter… So, this means that you really need to think about choosing a gift that is practical and something that they can use and enjoy frequently, instead of it just being another hassle in their life.
  • It Needs to Be Visible: Your gifts shouldn’t be something that are just used once or twice a year. They need be visible all the time, so the customer is constantly being reminded of you! This is critical for staying top of mind!!
  • It Needs to Have Longevity: You can take people out for expensive dinners that end with a $1,500 bill, but outside of being thanked that night, you hear nothing about it ever again. OR… you can send someone a thoughtful, uniquely personalised gift that costs $200, and ten years later still have them thanking you for it… choose a gift that will serve as an artifact of your relationship.

These are the 6 rules you want to follow when choosing a gift.

Now some examples of good go to gifts that I’ve used in the past are…

The Japanese knives with the engraving that I mentioned.

Yeti mugs with the targets name engraved also… these are just fantastic products that people use every single day, we get great feedback from these and it might only set you back $40.

I’ve sent custom fishing jerseys for people and their kids…

Custom sports jerseys…

Personalised leather bags…

Engraved pocket knives...

Basically anything that’s considered valuable to the targets, that will be used, that you can personalise to them is a winner.

I know a bloke that runs a pretty large building company doing about $30M a year and he is obsessed with golf.

And he had a concreter that really wanted to be on his projects that tried calling, dropping in, getting past gate keepers, you name it, but never really got through to my mate.

But one day he rocks up to his office to find a small and mysterious package with his name on it sitting on his desk.

He opens it up, and it’s a pack of 12 high-quality golf balls with not only his name, but also his company’s logo etched into each ball.

Now, if you want to get someone’s attention, that’s how you do it… because the first thing my mate did was speak with one of his project managers and asked "Who is this guy? Are we using him?"

The project manager says no… so he says, "Okay… start using him".

And it just goes to show that if you want to do well in business, you need to go against the grain. 

You need to do things differently to what everyone around you is doing.

Because that’s how you stand out, and that’s how you win. So, the right gift can be a game changer.

Then once you’ve got the gift you write a short-handwritten note.

And this is where you’ll either make or break the strategy.

The context around the gift needs to be clear and in a way that doesn’t make it feel like a bribe or something disingenuous or unethical.

So, what you want is a very simple, personalised, handwritten note to accompany the gift. Don’t overthink it, and don’t overdo it.

A really great way to do this is to send something after you receive a testimonial from your key client thanking them for the review.

Some other key rules to this strategy are that you want to have ‘planned randomness’ so while it’s completely planned on our end, it appears to be so random and out of the blue on theirs.

So, this means avoiding holidays at all costs!

Don’t send these types of gifts at Christmas, easter, and all that jazz because people will be expected it and it will lose its impact. You can send something generic at those times.

Send the gift at a completely unexpected time!

That’s when you get the best response and have a lasting impression.

The second thing is to avoid giving the gift to them in person – it’s awkward for you, it’s really awkward for them, and it ruins the context… just mail it to their workplace.

And on that note too… don’t follow up!

Don’t ring, don’t text, don’t email - just send it and forget about it.

Which ties into the last rule here…

Gift without expectation.

Genuinely send it as a way of showing your appreciation and that you value the relationship.

Don’t gift someone then plan to hold it over them and pressure them into favouring you with upcoming work, that’s not how the strategy works.

The right gift has amazing potential to spark your company’s growth.

If you have a great product or service, treat your clients like gold, and give them cool things that they’re going to use around their friends, family, and circles of influence because you’ll have a recipe for inspiring opportunities where your name and services are brought up naturally.

Instead of people thinking, “Wow, thank you so much for the five-dollar stubbie holder that I will never use,” you can give a gift that makes them think, “I love this thing. It has been beautifully engraved with my name on it, and I use it every day.”

It’s a thought pattern that inspires people to share your thoughtful intentions with everyone they come in contact with.

If you're an electrician, plumber, painter, carpenter, or any other tradie business owner turning more than $1M a year looking for assistance with your tax, accounting, bookkeeping, and business advisory - click here to learn more!


Bayley Peachey | Client Advisor

About the author

As an accountant with a background in construction Bayley has advised trade businesses anywhere from start-up to $20M, helping to simplify financial management, increase business KPIs and generate millions of dollars’ worth of additional profit.

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