Referrals Archives - Page 21 of 22 - Dr. Ivan Misner®

The Word of Mouth Manual

I just ran across a good e-book on word of mouth that I definitely think is worth a read. The book is called the Word of Mouth Manual by Dave Balter and is available free as a downloadable here. You can also buy a hardcopy version of the book from Amazon.

The process of word-of-mouth marketing and networking are, in many ways, inextricably tied. I teach people how to network to build visibility and credibility in order to generate referrals (word of mouth). Although this book doesn’t really talk about networking, it thoroughly covers the process of word of mouth, primarily from an advertising and marketing perspective. However, it offers several valuable insights for both networking and word of mouth.

Here are a few key points from the book:

  • There is a growing emergence of the “shared collective experience.” People love to share their experiences–good, bad, and otherwise.

  • What is a word-of-mouth conversation actually worth monetarily? One study says it’s “worth 1,000 times more than a standard ad impression” (arguably a high estimate). Dave offers a formula on page 33 that is worth consideration.

  • “From the outside, word of mouth seems like an awfully easy channel to tap into . . . But the reality is that the power of the medium is affected by the most subtle of social norms. It’s about how we talk to each other and what makes us willing to share our opinions, which makes it a more flexible and fluid medium than any other.”

I don’t completely agree with the comments about word of mouth and cultural differences. Often people point to the fact that every culture is different and, therefore, there are concerns about “word of mouth” transcending cultural differences.

In my opinion, what is generally overlooked is that word of mouth in different countries doesn’t happen outside the cultural context; it happens inside the cultural context. Cultural differences become an issue when Americans are trying to work with Brits, Brits are trying to work with Scandinavians, Scandinavians with Malaysians or Malaysians with Australians, etc. But word of mouth tends to work well when it happens primarily within a specific cultural context (There’s a whole blog I can do on this subject!).

Suffice it to say that I’m not in complete agreement with Balter on this issue, but I completely recommend the book as a valuable read to anyone who wants to build his or her business through word of mouth.

Achieving Excellence in a Networking Group

During a recent interview, I was asked what my thoughts are on why my networking organization, BNI, has become so successful. Well, I’ll be the first to admit that success didn’t happen overnight. It took me 23 years, and a lot of bumps along the way, to learn what it takes to operate a successful networking group anywhere in the world. But as I told the interviewer, I attribute BNI’s success to some key steps that are sure to move any networking group toward achieving excellence. I’d like to share some of them with you here:

1. Education, education, education. Take advantage of the staggering amount of resources on networking that are available. Some examples are:
SuccessNet archives, networking articles at Entrepreneur.com, networking books, Audio CDs, etc., etc.

2. Choose quality business professionals to join your networking group. Don’t take the first person with a pulse and a check.

3. Follow the system! When a system is proved to be successful, there is a reason it works. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

4. Pass quality referrals. The only thing more important than passing a lot of referrals is passing quality referrals. Both are important, but quality must lead the way.

5. Attendance is key to a group’s success. Networking groups that have poor attendance always end up having problems down the road. Have you ever gotten a haircut over the phone? Of course not. We’ve learned that you cannot get or give referrals if you don’t show up.

6. Pick great leaders! Don’t settle for who’s willing, but select who’s best! Leaders can make or break a group. It happens all the time.

7. Keep positive people with a solutions-focused attitude in your group. OK, here’s another way to say it–move out the constant whiners! Some people complain as though there were an award for it. Replace them. Find people who focus on building something great rather than complaining as though it were an Olympic event. Seriously, why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option? People, just like water, tend to seek the path of least resistance. The problem is that the path of least resistance may not be the best path. If you expect the best from your fellow networking group members, you will get it. If you expect less than the best from your members . . . you will get it. Expect the best. You’ll get better results, really.

After all, if following these steps could build BNI into an organization with more than 5,000 thriving chapters in more than 36 countries, then I’d say it’s worth giving them a try!!

Six Essentials for Networking

Recently, I was handed a copy of a book called Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality by Christine Comaford-Lynch.

In the book, she names six networking essentials that are not necessarily the ones people might traditionally think of as the keys to networking success, but I think they can be of significant value–especially her advice on equalizing yourself with others. So I’d like to reprint them for you here, and I invite you to leave comments. Here’s Comaford-Lynch’s list:

1. Practice “Palm Up” Networking. When you network, are you giving or grasping? Palm up networking embodies the spirit of service, of giving and wanting nothing in return. When you network “palm down,” you’re grasping for personal gain. Palm up = heart-oriented interaction. Palm down = greedy grasping. Give to others; it’ll all come back to you in time.

2. Exercise Daily Appreciation. Appreciate at least one person daily. Sometimes I do this via e-mail so I can be thorough. And often, to my delight, the recipient will tell me that they are saving the message for when they need a pick-me-up. You can also express appreciation over the phone or in person. Simply tell someone how much you appreciate who they are or what they do–whatever about them moves you. They’ll be flattered, and you’ll feel great.

3. Equalize Yourself with Others. I believe we all have one unit of worth: no more, no less. No one can add to it; no one can take it away. We’re all equal. Just because someone is powerful, rich and famous doesn’t mean they are better than you. Practice equalizing yourself with others. This will enable you to more comfortably interact with others and to reach out to people of all walks of life.

4. Rolodex Dip. This is a fun practice when you want to connect with someone but aren’t sure whom. Flip through your contact database and pick a name. Then think of all the things you like about them. Now call them up to see how they are doing. They’ll be surprised and delighted.

5. Pick a “Sensei of the Day.” Each day I pick a sensei, a teacher. This is someone or something that has taught me a lesson or reminded me of what’s important in life. Your sensei can be a person, a pet, a plant; it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to acknowledge that there is much to learn and you are being offered valuable lessons constantly.

6. Do the Drive-By Schmooze. Parties and conventions–groups of all sorts–are great opportunities to network. But sometimes you’ll be tired, not in the mood or have too many events in one evening (like during the holiday season). This is when you’ll want to use the Drive-By Schmooze. Here’s how:

a. Timebox your networking. Decide that in 30 minutes you’ll do a check-in to determine if you need to stay any longer.

b. Set your goal. Determine the number of new connections you want to establish. Remember, your goal is meaningful connections, not simply contacts.
c. Let your intuition guide you. This may sound flaky, but it works! Stand near the door, in a corner, out of the way. Stop your thoughts. Internally ask to be guided to the people you need to connect with. Then start walking. You’ll be amazed at whom you meet.
d. Connect. You’ll always resonate with someone at an event. When you do, ask questions about them, such as: How did you get started in your field? What’s your ideal customer? We all love to talk about ourselves, and these questions will not only help you form a connection with this person, but will also tell you how to help them.
e. Offer help and follow through. If you can provide help, jot down ideas on the back of their business card, commit to follow up, and then do it. If you’ve had a fruitful conversation and want to take it further, offer to meet for lunch or coffee. People say life is 90 percent about showing up. Nonsense! Life is 90 percent about following through!

For more information on Christine and her bestselling book, Rules for Renegades, please visit: www.RulesForRenegades.com.

Entrepreneurial Excellence

A good friend of mine, Frank De Raffele Jr., recently launched a radio program called “Entrepreneurial Excellence.”  I wanted to take a minute to let everybody know about it because not only is it an excellent educational resource for entrepreneurs and businesspeople alike, it is also accessible from anywhere in the world because it is broadcast online.  Even if you miss a broadcast, the shows are all archived and available to download at any time.

I listened to the show’s premier last Monday and I am very impressed with the quality of the insights presented on how to start and run a successful business. A lot of the information that Raffele is giving for free on his show wouldn’t even be given to you if you paid a bunch of money to attend classes on this stuff. 

Besides the educational forum, the show features a series of entrepreneurial tips on legal matters, tax savings, marketing, web/internet, employee benefits and human resource issues, plus interviews with some of the world’s top entrepreneurs and authors such as Zig Ziglar, Jay Conrad Levinson, Harvey Mackay and Stephen Covey. 

But forget those guys . . . the best thing is that Raffele managed to land an interview with the most exciting guy on the planet—yep, you got it, I’m talking about yours truly! All joking aside, though, Raffele has managed to assemble quite the panel of experts, and I think that gaining access to the expertise of top entrepreneurs for free and from anywhere in the world is an opportunity nobody should miss.

For more information, to listen, and/or to download past shows, go to: www.EERadioShow.com.

Customer Service Alone Won’t Ensure Referrals

This past weekend I found myself explaining BNI to the father of one of my son Trey’s friends. After I gave him the basic rundown, he said, “That sounds like a great concept. But I’m known for giving excellent customer service, so I don’t really think I need to go out of my way to get referrals.”

I wasn’t at all shocked to hear him say that because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard others assert that giving good customer service will guarantee that people will refer business to them. This is a common misconception, but it is not based on reality.

Many, many business owners believe that good customer service is the number-one way to cultivate word-of-mouth marketing and referrals. It’s not. It’s a good policy–one that’s vital to the health of your business–but it’s not at the core of building a referral-based business.

People have come to expect good customer service. In fact, they demand it in today’s marketplace. When considering customer service and its role in the referral process, it unfortunately works much more effectively in reverse: People are more likely to talk about your business when they’re unhappy with you than when they’re happy with your service.

So if you want to build your referrals, as I told the man I was speaking with on Saturday, you have to actively cultivate your referral sources and not rely on good customer service alone.

 

Referral Marketing A Risky Business

During a recent radio interview I did, the host of the program asked me whether I consider referral marketing the safest form of advertising. Without the slightest hesitation, I confidently answered, “By all means, no.” Based on his response, I’m sure he was shocked by that answer.

I went on to explain that I believe very strongly in the tremendous benefits that word-of –mouth marketing can bring. However, there are unique risks associated with referral advertising that are not an issue in commercial or other forms of advertising.

When you give a referral, you give a little of your reputation away. If the business you’ve referred someone to does a good job, it helps your reputation. But if it does a poor job, your reputation may be hurt.

As I said, the payoffs of referral marketing are immense—when it’s done correctly. But referral marketing involves a really big risk: giving away a piece of your reputation every time you give a referral to someone. When you tell a valued customer that a friend of yours is going to take good care of them, you must have confidence in that friend.

But what happens if your friend lets your customer down? It comes back to haunt you. Your customer begins to lose faith in you and, because of that loss of faith, you just might lose that customer down the road. This is why it’s so important to develop strong relationships with those to whom you’re referring business and vice versa. Once those strong connections are forged you can rest easy, knowing when you tell someone a business associate or a networking partner is going to take good care of him or her, that’s what will happen.

Taking a Poll of Your Audience

Many times, as I am speaking to entrepreneurs all over the world, I will “poll” the audience for answers to some questions. It is a simple tactic that gives me a ton of great information. Asking questions of my audience gives me stats that can be very useful. For example, I’ve found that almost 90 percent of the entrepreneurs I’ve talked to love their work, but only about 15 percent enjoy doing the marketing it takes to get that work.

This type of information can be very powerful when I use it in my presentations. In fact, I was speaking with Dawn Lyons (a director with BNI and a Referral Institute franchisee), recently, and she described a poll she did at a  Behavior Styles training event in Wisconsin. A participant was telling her how his boss always receives referrals “on the spot” from brand new clients, and how that strategy has never worked for him. He was actually wondering whether something was wrong with him.

Lyons decided to poll the audience. She asked, “How many of you have been taught that you should meet with a client, close the deal and then on the spot ask them for additional referrals?” The answer was a resounding yes from the crowd. Then she broke it down to this: “How many of you have been incredibly successful with this approach?” Not one hand was raised in the audience. Her next question was, “How many of you have been moderately successful with this approach?” Again no hands were raised. “How many of you have had a decent amount of success?” No hands again! “OK, how many of you have had at least one person give you referrals on the spot?” Finally one gentleman, a sales consultant, raised his hand out of the entire group.

Dawn turned to the original gentleman who asked her the question and simply stated, “It’s not you. See, many times we are taught techniques that simply don’t work for the majority. Maybe your boss is fantastic at it because he has 25 years of experience. Maybe it is because he works from 100 percent referrals.”

So you see, polling your audience is a great way to collect information instantly and even be able to give a great lesson from it. Try using it in your next presentation.

The Levels of Referrals

A BNI member asked me the other day if it’s possible to learn to distinguish the difference between weak referrals and quality referrals. The answer is YES. Below are the things to consider in distinguishing between weak and strong referrals.

There are varying levels of referrals, starting at a level that’s just one step above a cold lead. These types of referrals are ranked in quality from lowest to highest. Number one is the lowest-ranked type of referral (the least desirable) to give and receive, and number eight is the highest (most desirable). You can use the referral level rankings below to help distinguish quality referrals from weaker ones.


1. Names and contact information only: Getting the name and contact information from a referral source is better than nothing—but not much.
2. Authorization to use name: This indicates you’ve established good credibility; however, the work of developing the prospect still rests with you.
3. General testimonial statement and/or letter of recommendation and introduction: This is a noteworthy accomplishment, and it demonstrates that the referral source trusts you.
4. Introduction call: This takes the effort on the part of the referral source up another notch and paves the way for communication from you.
5. Note or letter of introduction, call and promotion: This implies an even higher level of commitment on the part of the referral source. It is an outright recommendation of your business accompanied by a description of its features and benefits.
6. Arrange a Meeting: Here your referral source is acting as a facilitator for you. This conveys to your prospect that your referral source has a deep trust in and approval of your business.
7. Face-to-face introduction and promotion: Your referral source is now actively engaged in selling your product or business, rather than just being a meeting facilitator.
8. Closed deal: After your referral source has described the features and benefits of your product or business, he then closes the sale. This is the highest level of referral you can achieve.

So, You Know How to Network…But Do You Know How to Sell?

Sell is not a four-letter word. OK, it is a four letter word, but you know what I mean. …It’s not a “bad” word.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run across businesspeople over the years who are fantastic networkers, but they think that just because they know how to network, they don’t need to know how to sell. They think that people will like them, and then their products or services will sell themselves. This kind of mentality is unfortunate because people who think this way may be leaving business on the table.

Anybody who’s experienced and successful in referral marketing will tell you that sales skills are needed in every part of the referral marketing process–not just in closing the sale with the prospect.

From the very beginning, you must sell yourself to your potential referral source. A referral is not a guaranteed sale; it’s the opportunity to do business with someone to whom you’ve been recommended. You still have to close the deal. You have to make it clear that you know how to sell, and that you can and will provide the products or services you’re expected to provide. If you can’t make that first “sale,” your potential referral source won’t become your referral provider.

Beyond selling yourself to the referral source, you have to sell yourself to the prospect to get that first appointment. Then, once you’ve made the appointment, you have to persuade the prospect to buy your product or service. This is the part that usually comes to mind when you hear the word “sell.” However, in referral marketing, closing the deal with your prospect is neither the beginning nor the end of the selling process. The sales process is all about keeping an ongoing relationship with the client or customer. This is something that the best referral marketers know and understand.

The Three Core Competencies of Referral Success

Last week, I met with my business partner in the Referral Institute, Mike Macedonio (seen below with me), and as we were discussing what it really takes to drive your business by referral, one of the first things Mike mentioned was that the first core competency of referral success is the need for correct knowledge.  It didn’t surprise me that Mike would start with this; after all, we co-authored Truth or Delusion–Busting Networking’s Biggest Myths which directly adresses what works and what doesn’t work in referral marketing.  In the book, Mike paraphrases Mark Twain’s statement about having correct knowledge, which appropriately says something to the effect of, It’s not what you know that will stand in the way of your success as much as what you know which isn’t so.

The second core competency in successful referral marketing is to stay engaged with your referral marketing plan.  This is harder than it sounds.  Many referral marketing concepts are counter intuitive.  It’s like telling a driver to turn into a skid.  This is not the natural reaction.  Even when the driver understands it’s in his best interest to turn into the skid, it’s only when he does it that he learns how it actually works.

Referral marketing is the same way.  When we’re going out looking for more business, it’s natural to look for qualified prospects and approach them.  However, referral marketing shows us that we will be even more effective if someone who has a credible relationship with the prospect sent them to us.  We understand this is in our best interest, however it may not be our natural reaction.

So, how do you get the business owner to network in a way that may not come naturally? Some of the solutions Mike and I discussed are to:

*  Stay connected to blogs and podcasts on networking
*  Participate in networking groups
*  Get involved in ongoing referral trainings

The first two core competencies, obtaining correct knowledge and staying engaged with your referral marketing plan, apply to any personal or professional development programs and it is important to keep in mind that though they may be “simple,” they’re not “easy.”

The third core competency, implementing a system to train your network on how to refer you business, is the missing piece that most business people do not have in place to create referral success.  No matter how brilliant you are in referral marketing, or how skillful you are in “leaning into the punch,” if your referral partners are inadequate your results will be insufficient.

Mike gave a great football analogy for this.  He said, “What if Tom Brady, the most successful quarterback at this time, were to get on the field with a team that was lacking skills and knowledge of the game?  Tom Brady would be throwing perfect spirals to players who can’t catch and don’t know their assignments.  It wouldn’t take long for Tom to recognize that he’s better off just keeping the ball and running.  This could be equated in business to direct prospecting.  It is hard work for short yardage.

So, what can we learn from this?  That if you make the three core competencies a priority, you will not only be on the right track for referral success, you will also be gaining much more “yardage” from your efforts!

What has your experience been and/or how do you think you can apply these ideas to your business?

Business Networking Trends (Part 3): Small Companies vs. Large

Here is the final installment of my thoughts about trends in 2008 for business networking.

Small companies will continue to have the edge over big companies relating to business networking.

For the most part, big companies are clueless about building sales through the networking process. They continue to teach salespeople traditional methodologies while relying heavily on advertising to create buzz. Mind you, there’s nothing inherently wrong with these strategies. The problem is–big companies don’t effectively incorporate referral marketing into the process.

When it comes to developing social capital and the networking process, small business is king. Big business is slow to move out of the mindset of splashy ad campaigns, big dollars spent on traditional marketing and the “same old, same old.”

If big business does ever get it, however, it is likely to run over the little guys. Big business will learn how to develop social capital and will teach its people how to do true relationship marketing. Most big business is just a notch or two above the universities in the “you can’t tell me anything new” department. For now, there are only a few forward-thinking big companies that consistently apply these concepts (and I mean very few–I’m working with one large insurance company that may be an exception). For the rest, it is a trend to watch for in the distant, distant future.

The trends I’ve talked about in my last three blogs are not just an American phenomenon but an international one. The introduction of “International Networking Week” is a prime example of how this approach to doing business is growing worldwide.

 

Small business development through the process of building social capital will continue to grow in the global market we are currently experiencing. No one has a crystal ball, but based on what I’m seeing and what I’ve seen in the past, I believe these are some of the key things to look for relating to networking and referral marketing over the next few years.

Finding the Right Referral Partner

Victoria Trafton, a Referral Institute partner and franchise owner in Arizona, shared with with me some ideas I’d like to discuss here. She said to me recently that, in her experience, the key to having a stream of referrals coming to you is finding the right referral partners. We all know people we like, people we want to help, but it can be difficult to give them referrals.

So then, what does the right referral partner look like? Victoria suggested that a successful referral partnership is mutually beneficial and self-sustaining. Both parties can easily generate referrals for each other as they develop their own business. If it takes extra effort or they have to go outside their normal business activities, business owners generally can’t afford to take the time.

How do you find the right partner without wasting a lot of time? First of all, start with someone who meets the criteria for a strong referral source:

  • Must have trust between you;
  • Must work with your exact target market;
  • Must have influence with your market;
  • Must be willing to be trained as your referral partner;
  • Must be willing to train you to be his or her referral partner;
  • Must have the time and means to work a referral system;
  • Must have a well-developed and organized client/contact database.

Quite a list. But if you both meet the requirements, you are well on your way to having a great referral partnership. There is clearly a lot of training involved. Both parties need knowledge about each other and about referral systems. When the partnership works well, each side knows when it will get referrals, how many it can expect and how the referral was given.

When you find someone you think can become a referral partner, you must get some education to generate referrals intentionally, not find them occassionally. Victoria recommends my book, Business by Referral, co-authored with Robert Davis. She also recommends both parties get trained by taking classes together.

Victoria said that part of the reason she loves being a part of the Referral Institute is because the programs provide the training and systems that enable people to develop productive referral partnerships. As she says, “When you mix education with good people and good intentions, great things happen.”

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