When it comes to business networking, are you receiving as many referrals as you would like to be getting? If not, I recommend that you look at the support materials and techniques you are currently using and then continue reading for some effective ways to influence people to refer you. Some of these suggestions may not work for everyone, however the idea is to select those that you think you can apply in your own business or profession.
Whenever you have an opportunity to distribute your materials, do it. Bring products, samples, brochures, or a presentation book. Many networking groups provide a display table where members can place these items. If people can see, touch, hear, or smell samples of the product or service you provide, they are more likely to use and recommend your company. Occasionally, you may want to offer special, members-only prices or services. When the members of your network use your services or products, they are much more likely to refer you.
Everyone who is active in networking groups can benefit by developing a presentation book. Invest in a high-quality binder that attractively displays samples of your products or services, brochures, photographs, etc. Take this to your meetings, set it on the display table or place it where you are sitting during the meeting.
Free Presentations or Demonstrations
Many business professionals offer to speak free of charge to service clubs or business organizations as a way of getting exposure and promoting their business. If your product or service is conducive to this approach, tell the members of your personal network that you offer this service, and accept speaking engagements as bona fide referrals. Ask them to mention you to the program chairs of organizations to which they belong.
If you are well prepared and do a good job at these presentations, you may find yourself getting many more speaking offers and a lot of new business. This technique is effective for almost any profession and it’s particularly helpful for consultants, financial planners, therapists, accountants/CPAs, and attorneys.
Smart business professionals know that people who have tried their products or services will probably use them again. I highly recommend that you offer door prizes regularly at your networking groups at the appropriate opportunity and be sure to attach your business card so the winner knows where to get more and who to get it from.
Keep in Touch Regularly
Meet people outside of your normal networking meetings whenever you can. Write emails, cards or letters, send articles that might be of interest, call to check in, let them know about a local business mixer, have lunch, play racquetball, tennis, or golf.
Reinforce the relationship with a thank-you note. When someone gives you a referral or some important information, send them a thank-you note or gift basket. This reinforcement will strengthen the bond and encourage that person to think of you again.
Knowing how to get referrals is really a matter of knowing how to be helpful to the people you associate with and how to ask for help in return. A successful referral marketing program involves creating an effective support system for yourself that is mutually beneficial and works to the advantage of others.
However, all the networking in the world serves no purpose if you don’t follow up effectively with the people you meet or who are referred to you. I’ve seen people who work hard at making contacts, but their follow-up was so bad that the contacts were lost. It is as if they networked halfway and then completely lost sight of the potential to generate business by referral. Follow-up letters, messages, and phone calls set the stage for further contact. All things being equal, the more you’re in contact with others, the more business you will generate. Today, more than ever, there is no excuse for not following up. Why? Because we all have many modes of communication and there are many companies that produce numerous follow-up cards, thank-you cards, and contact methods especially designed for networking.
Schedule “reconnection calls” regularly. These calls enable you to remind the new contacts who you are, where you met them, and what you do, as well as help you stay in touch with your long-term contacts. If you don’t follow up with a phone call or letter, you will surely lose many business opportunities.
Which of these support materials and techniques have you successfully used for your business? I’d like to hear about it in the comments section.