When I first started networking for my new business I was clueless. Needless to say, this grated on my nerves as it clashes with my mask of being an expert. So, I set out to rectify the situation in short order. I started talking to experts about establishing networks which would help promote my business. One said that I needed to have a variety of gimmicks to push my offering. He suggested that I go to many different BNI chapters as a guest and recruit them into a mastermind group. Anyone in or associated with BNI, the world’s largest referral marketing organization, would cringe at this type of suggestion. Others talked about going to meet-up groups and chamber meetings and collecting business cards as I practiced my elevator pitch about coaching to each of them.
These ideas and several others that I won’t waste space on here are utterly worthless in my mind. I ended up hiring a coach who is expert in building referral marketing networks. I did this because I wanted time compression and I trusted her approach. Interestingly enough, she was speaking at a PCA (Pittsburgh Coaches Association) lunch meeting on networking. This, in effect, means she was doing exactly what my first example suggested in terms of allowing someone to kick the tires through my mastermind group. At least however she was not subverting the BNI meeting process to get clients.
Building a referral marketing network takes time and I believe it should be integrated into your social media and Internet marketing campaigns and work collaboratively with your overall strategy. In my last two blog entries, I have talked about how those two activities can work. They work really well with building a referral network.
In his book about building referral networks, Ivan Misner the founder of BNI, describes a copy written process for building a referral network. As a member and leader in my BNI chapter, I encourage you to read the book and follow his advice. The key thing to consider is getting your core referral network to understand what your new business is all about. You must be able to describe it to others and to get those folks to “sell” you to others simply because they know, like and trust you.
I am sure that you, like me, have hundreds of people you are connected with on Facebook, Linked in, and other social media networks. Plus you have the ability to build pages to your company on Linked in and on Facebook, as I have done. But the point here is twofold; these connections can be a good picture of your different type of networks (i.e. your information network, support network and referral network). Knowing which of your hundreds of partners fit into your key stakeholder groups in each type of network is key.
For example, you can use Linked in to put together mailing lists of your different types of partners. So, if you have twenty to thirty key referral partners and perhaps five or so core network partners who you work closely with (because their clients are also your target market), you can easily keep them informed of your new offerings, enabling them to better “sell you” to those clients.
Why would they help you by doing this? Very simply, because it gives them an excuse to talk more with their clients. This is an opportunity to discuss what is going on in that client’s life, what their concerns or frustrations are, and what they’ve been up to lately. This conversation oftentimes turns into a new business opportunity for your referral partners making it a win-win situation they will be happy to repeat.
The best referral relationships are the partners that are needed all of the time by your clients. For example, I help people create new business ventures. They all need to build referral networks, they all need Internet marketing, and they can benefit from social media, printing services, direct mail, and accounting or banking services. So, my referral network includes offerings that all of my clients will need as they grow their business. And each of them provide something that either I can’t or don’t wish to provide myself. As such, they become natural extensions to my offering.
Some referral partners can be very aligned with what we do. For example, let’s say that a potential client of mine is operating a business that she wants to get back onCORE to what she envisioned when starting the company. We look at her financials over the last three years and build a model of where her business is going. We look at seven key numbers for how her business is functioning and determine that she needs more leads coming into to remain viable. As she works on strategies to improve her business, she will most likely benefit from the expertise of a marketing company. I work as her coach and advisor, but the marketing firm can help increase her leads. Taking this example one step further, I have several referral partners within my network that provide marketing services. My client has the option to choose one of those services that I can recommend or do the research on her own to make the most informed decision that is best for her business.
In another example, the same client might be working first with the marketing company who does not have the toolkit to do what I can do with her financials and her desire to get back onCORE with her beliefs. They are stuck in the sales process and not sure where to go next. The marketing company, as a referral partner of mine, might suggest that the client work with me to figure out how to pay for and track programs such as what they are offering to her business?
Business gets done by referral more often than not. If you are new to creating a business yourself and new to marketing it through referral networking, Dr. Misner’s 2012 book The worlds best known marketing secret (co-authored with Mike Macedonio, Julien Sharp and Jeff Morris) is a good first resource, particularly the section on building your referral network. If you’re ready to take the next step and need more information, contact us to learn more about how you can start building your social-business-referral network. If you are interested in an awesome coach who can help you build your referral network let me know and I will introduce you to her.