Referral Marketing–You Can’t Do it Alone!

At the BNI International Directors’ Conference in San Diego a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to Dawn Lyons, one of the Master Trainers for the Referral Institute, about the struggles many people face with referral marketing. As we exchanged ideas about various referral marketing issues, such as inconsistency, quality levels, lukewarm referral sources and, ultimately, the uncertainty that people can sometimes feel, Dawn told me about a new catch phrase she has been using. Her new phrase is, “Referral Marketing … You Can’t Do It Alone!” I thought, wow–it’s a pretty simple phrase, yet it’s so true that it really makes a powerful statement.

As entrepreneurs, one thing Dawn and I both know is how control-oriented most entrepreneurs are. We like to get things done ourselves, and we typically would rather go out and make something happen than wait for things to come our way. Unfortunately, those entrepreneurial tendencies don’t mesh very well with referral marketing because of an important theory that Dawn asserted people must understand. She said, “Where do referrals come from? They come from other people!” Certainly, nobody can debate that. This is exactly why Dawn’s catch phrase holds such power–referrals come from other people who trust us enough to refer us, and who have found someone in need of our services. Referrals will never be generated from an individually focused mindset.

As Dawn put it, “Suggesting that we, as individuals, can go out and make referrals happen for our business is just silly … You Can’t Do It Alone!” Other people are the key factor in helping anyone generate referral business. Dawn has written a more detailed article on this topic, which clearly explains the concept of where referrals come from and shows specific places to go in order to increase referral business. If you are out there trying to generate your own referrals, by all means, take a look at her article and stop wasting all that time and effort.

Remember, being a self-starter and possessing an entrepreneurial spirit are some of your biggest strengths; but when it comes to referral marketing … You Can’t Do It Alone!

Setting the Stage for a Successful Word of Mouth Program

During a conversation last week, one of our assistant directors for BNI in Michigan, Leslie Fiorenzo, made an interesting point of comparison between appreciating opera and learning to use word-of-mouth marketing in your business. She said, “The best way to experience opera is to see it on the stage, and the best way to use word of mouth is to put a referral marketing plan in place. The novice, in either case, may not know where to begin.”

We started talking about a system to generate business by referral and, just like opera, if you have little or no experience with referral marketing, it would be a mistake to jump into action without preparing yourself. Central to the referral-marketing process is getting people to send you referrals. To do so, they must know exactly what you do–what product or service you provide or make; how, and under what conditions, you provide it; how well you do it; and in what ways you are better at what you do than your competitors. You absolutely must communicate this information to your sources. And to communicate effectively, you must know the same things. Before business owners map out their referral marketing campaign, they must stop and get a clear picture of where their business currently stands.

Leslie commented that when people begin to learn and study opera, they begin with basic works by composers such as Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini before moving on to more complex works by composers such as Richard Wagner. In the same way, when marketing your business by word of mouth, there is a place to start before you meet with the people in your network. You begin by preparing answers to some basic questions about yourself and your business like:

1. Why are you in business?
2. What do you sell?
3. Who are your customers and
4. How well do you compete?

The ability to communicate this information to your sources and prospects will be invaluable as you begin to build your network and formulate your plan to gain more and more business the most effective way–through referrals.

Once you master some basic tools, you can move on to a deeper understanding of the process. For example, there are three laws of Notable Networking:

1. Have a positive and supportive attitude, and provide a positive and supportive environment for other business people.
2) Learn how to use networking tools efficiently, including business cards and an informative name badge, and have a business-card case to hold others’ cards.
3) Networking is an acquired skill that requires listening to tapes, reading books/articles, talking to great networks and practicing what you’ve learned.

One great place to get more information on this subject is www.bni.com. I highly recommend that you become familiar with the basic tools of word-of-mouth marketing and begin to implement them in your business so that you can begin to watch it grow. Because, just like appreciating opera, if you don’t begin with the basics, you won’t experience the optimum result.

Finding Good Referral Sources Is Like Kissing Frogs!

I was speaking with Sarah Owen, the master franchisee of The Referral Institute in the UK, and she told me that she often comes across people who are good at giving to others but don’t always get an equitable return from their relationships. Many people want to know how to discern whether a potential referral source is a good match, and what they can do to increase the likelihood that their time and efforts are being invested in relationships that will harvest a positive return.

Sarah shared a great metaphor that she uses in relation to referral sources that don’t pan out by saying, “When we are looking for a good relationship in life, we sometimes need to kiss some frogs to find our prince. People are searching for a way to avoid those slimy, slippery, drawn-out kisses, which can be prolonged over months–sometimes years–only to discover that the frog never turns into a handsome prince.” So how do people avoid those empty, disappointing referral relationships that turn out to be slimy frogs instead of princes? I think some of the questions below that Sarah and I discussed can definitely help qualify a potential referral source/alliance relationship sooner rather than later.

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your achievements?
  • What are your interests?
  • What do your networks look like?
  • What are your key skills?
  • Do you have time to invest in another relationship?
  • From what you know so far, do you like what I do?

By asking at the outset whether the individual has the resources, motivation and time to invest, and by then providing him or her permission to opt out, the only question left is whether the match is sufficient enough to ensure the relationship can be reciprocal in time. As our conversation came to a close, Sarah said that her clients are finding better results using these simple steps. Then, she smiled and happily reported that they are also kissing fewer frogs!

I love this metaphor. Thanks for sharing it with me, Sarah.

Out of Line – Online!

I belong to several online networks. Recently, I got an email from one of the members whom I don’t know, have never talked to, and was never directly connected to in any way.

He sent out an email to many people in the online community about a new person who just joined. In it, he said: “Letting her join was the biggest mistake you will ever make. . . she is a disaster, is totally unreliable, is a total liar. You. . . have been. . . conned,” he concluded.

Wow, I was amazed that this “stranger” would send me this email. But the impersonal nature of online communications sometimes leads people to behave in ways they could never get away with in person! There are social mores that are easily bypassed when you are not looking someone in the eyes.

Whether you are dealing with face-to-face networking or online networking, the basics of etiquette and emotional intelligence should still apply. You have to be aware that when you are communicating on the internet you are still dealing with real people. Even though you may feel very powerful because you can say things and send it out to many people it doesn’t mean that you should or that it’s appropriate to do so!

The ignoramus who sent me this email would never have the stones to talk about this person “personally” to all the people (including strangers) that he emailed, but he could do it behind the relative safety of the internet. Unfortunately, this is one of the weaknesses of the powerful medium of the internet. If this individual behaved like this at an “in-person” meeting, he’d likely be thrown out! But online, he thinks he can get away with it. People like this become so disconnected with reality that they get this false sense of power (not to mention self-importance).

So, what do you say to someone who sends you such a totally inappropriate email? I told him that “I didn’t know the woman he was talking about but that his email told me a lot about him and that I did NOT want to get this type of slanderous communication again.” He surprised me with his response. He said that he didn’t know who I was and “he didn’t want to talk to nobodies” like me! At first I thought, “nobody, I don’t think I’m a nobody.” Then I thought, hmmm, maybe it’s a good thing to be a “nobody” to a nutcase!

Have you had experiences like this? If so, tell me about it. What did you say when you got an email like this? I want to hear your feedback.

How to Make the Butterfly Effect of Networking Work

I was thinking about the blog I wrote last month about the Butterfly Effect of Networking? and it occurred to me that an important part of the reason I was able to make such effective and rewarding networking connections was the way that I thought about, and therefore went about networking. Here’s what I mean by that . . .

While it’s important to know the right things to do while networking, it’s equally important to start thinking the right way to make your networking efforts as successful and dynamic as they can be. This involves altering your mind-set. Here is an up-close look at some elements you’ll want to include in your mind-set to ensure networking success:

 1. The law of reciprocity or givers gain? approach.

Don’t approach networking thinking I did this for you, now what are you going to do for me? Instead, remember the old adage Give and you shall receive? The law of reciprocity takes the focus off of what you stand to gain from the networking relationship, and in doing so, creates bonds based on trust and friendship. Put it to the test. You’ll be amazed by the outcome.

 2. Diversity in networking.

Look for groups that don’t target people just like you. In this way, you’ll broaden the net you seek to cast for referrals.

 3. Farming mentality.

It’s a long, drawn-out process to go from seeding a field to harvesting the crops and there’s no quick return. But, when you spend time and take care in building relationships, your networking will yield extraordinary results.

Approaching networking with a mentality that focuses on the process of cultivating referrals will create the results you desire. Make an effort to spend more time strengthening your friendships with those whom you wish to have as part of your networking circle and you will certainly make more and better connections.

What To Say When You Don’t Remember Them?

I got a great question today from a chef that I thought I would share with you:

I was in a store last week when a person shouted out, “Hi Chef” I faced the person and drew a complete blank.  Not only did I not know this person’s name, I didn’t recognize them at all.  So I smiled and said “Hi I’m fine” and kept on going. 

I was disappointed with my reaction.  Other choices were to stop and engage a conversation and fake it, hoping to pick up a clue to help me remember.  Or to come right out and say, “I’m sorry I can’t remember your name” or say, “I know you but I don’t remember from where.”

What do I do in a situation like this???

 

A good response in a situation like this is to say something like, “Hi, good to see you.”  Then, start a simple conversation.  For example, if they are in a grocery store, (since this was a chef) ask them what they were planning for their big meal or whatever works in that situation.  The key here is to say “good to see you.”  Clearly, they know you, so you don’t want to say “nice to meet you” because they most likely have met you and will feel put off that you didn’t remember them.  This allows you to start a dialog without being obvious that you don’t remember them. 

 

OK, I’ll admit it. . . I’ve learned this the hard way – from experience! 


What do you think about this approach or, what have you done in this situation?

 

Brand "You" by Writing

I just found out this week that my most recent book, Masters of Sales, hit the New York Times Bestsellers list.  Of course I am ecstatic about this, but it also got me thinking about what an amazingly powerful advertising and branding tool it is to be a an author.  With each article and each book that I write, I am building brand recognition for me and for my business.  This is a technique that has worked well for many people I know.   For years I’ve recommended that people write as a way of developing personal and professional credibility in their business.  I’m always amazed at how many people say it’s a great idea but then don’t actually do anything about it.

Recently, I’ve formed a small mentoring program for people within my business to brainstorm and talk about writing and how to get published.  Since then, many of these people have published dozens and dozens of articles.  As a result, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on how “you” might like to begin this process.

Let’s be real here—most business people certainly do not have time to sit down and write an entire book, but writing articles are something that most people could find time to do at least once a month.  Writing articles consistently and for an extended period of time is a plausible, virtually costless way to brand yourself and your business by increasing visibility and enhancing credibility in the community—it’s just an idea that most people are simply too lazy to implement.

But for those who are willing to step up to the task, here is my best advice:

• Think about the things you know and understand best, pick out the elements of that knowledge that might be of interest to the general public, and then review the types of media outlets that write for that audience.

• Either by phone or letter, tell an editor why readers will be interested in the feature idea you have or why it’s newsworthy (or better yet, use your network to connect with the editor).

• Stick with it and remain consistent in submitting articles and before you know it, you will be well on your way to branding yourself as a local expert through being a recognized, published author.

The “Butterfly Effect of Networking"

I am writing to you today from Necker Island in the Caribbean where I am meeting with about 20 business leaders including Sir Richard Branson the founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways and owner of the Island.

My journey to this island is a dramatic example of the “Butterfly Effect of Networking.”  The “Butterfly Effect” is the theory that a small action in one place may have a ripple effect that creates a dramatic action in another place. It is like a pebble in a pond creating ripples on the surface.

For networking, it is about how a seemingly minor connection or conversation with one person may, after many ripples across the network, end in a dramatic connection later in the process.  This week, I am living that concept to its fullest.

It started several years ago when I received a phone call from a woman I did not know but who has since become a good friend.  Her name is Kim George.  Kim asked me if I would be willing to help with the creation of an online networking and social capital community.  It took some work to put this together, but at the time I had no idea what type of ripple effect this request would have on my life.  I did it because it fit the values and direction that I wanted to take my company in.  With that, the ripple began.

This relationship turned into a strategic alliance, which turned into a speaking engagement, which allowed me to meet Jack Canfield (co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul), which led to an invitation from Jack to participate in an international organization called the Transformational Leadership Council, which led to meeting a woman by the name of Nancy Salzman, owner of NXIVM Training. Getting to know Nancy led to an invitation for my wife and I to spend five days on the breathtakingly beautiful Necker Island where we have been meeting with financial wizards of business, movie producers,and successful business leaders such as Sir Richard Branson (OK, I won’t hold back this week is a networker’s dream).

The ripples that take place in the networking process may not be clear when the pebble drops into the water and the ripple begins. What is certain is that there is a ripple. If you follow that ripple and make the most of the contacts that you meet during each stage of that journey, it can lead you to making connections and creating relationships that may very well surprise you when you look back to where the journey first started.

Look for more later about the journey of this particular ripple.

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