Has anyone ever said to you, “If there’s anything I can do to help you with your business, let me know?” and you responded with, “Thank you. Now that you mention it, there are a few things I need” or did you say, “Well, thanks, I’ll let you know”? If you’re like most of us, you aren’t prepared to accept help at the moment it’s offered. Before you can do so, you have to make the connection between specific items or services you need and the people who can supply them. Systematic referral marketing helps you do that by determining, as precisely as possible, the types of help you want and need. Some are simple, cheap and quick; others are complex, costly and time-consuming. Here are some examples of the ways others can promote you and your business from my book Networking Like a Pro.
Display or distribute your literature and products.
Your sources can exhibit your marketing materials and products in their offices or homes. If these items are displayed well, such as on a counter or a bulletin board, visitors will ask questions about them or read the information. Some may take your promotional materials and display them in other places, increasing your visibility. A dry cleaner attaches a coupon from the hair salon next door to each plastic bag he uses to cover his customers’ clothing; a grocery store includes other businesses’ marketing literature in or on its grocery bags or on the back of the printed receipt.
Make an announcement.
When attending meetings or speaking to groups, your sources can increase your visibility by announcing an event you’re involved in or a sale your business is conducting or by setting up exhibits of your products or services. They can also invite you to make an announcement yourself.
Invite you to attend events.
Workshops and seminars are opportunities to increase your skills, knowledge, visibility, and contacts. Members of personal or business groups you don’t belong to can invite you to their events and programs. This gives you an opportunity to meet prospective sources and clients. Even better, they could invite you to speak at their event, effectively positioning you as an expert in your field.
Endorse your products and services.
By telling others what they’ve gained from using your products or services or by endorsing you in presentations or informal conversations, your network sources can encourage others to use your products or services. If they sing your praises on an MP3, a DVD or social media, so much the better.
Nominate you for recognition and awards.
Business professionals and community members are often recognized for outstanding service to their profession or community. If you’ve donated time or materials to a worthy cause, your referral sources can nominate you for service awards. You increase your visibility both by serving and by receiving the award in a public expression of thanks. Your sources can inform others of your recognition by word of mouth or in writing.
Put your networking circle to work for you with these five ways others can promote you to generate new business. When other people offer to help you spread the word about your business, have these ideas ready to go.
Here is a very important concept that is rarely discussed. When you get a referral and you meet with the prospect, it is really important that you edify your referral source. This is a great technique to use because you open up the discussion with the prospect by talking about an area of overlapping interest and knowledge – your mutual acquaintance. Before you start talking about your business or even asking questions of the prospect – it is important that you edify your referral source. Tell the prospect how much you respect the person that referred you and talk a little bit about that relationship and why it is so important to you that you give great service to anyone that this person refers. Spend some time talking about how you both know this individual. It is a fantastic way to warm up the referral and more importantly, it is a great opportunity to make your referral source look good for having made the referral.
Remember, the number one rule for referrals is to make your referral source look GREAT. You need to demonstrate that you know how to sell to the prospect in a way that doesn’t embarrass the source of your referral—that you’re going to consult with the prospect, discover their needs, offer solutions based on those needs, give them some options, and not force a sale if you know you can’t provide a good solution. On the other hand, if your technique is to hold the prospect hostage at his kitchen table until he breaks down and buys, your referral source will not be pleased that you’ve abused your relationship with them and damaged their relationship with your client. You may get the deal, but you’ve shut yourself off from further deals with that client—and with any future referrals from your source.
Always edify your referral source and act in a way that would make that person want to refer more people to you.
What was going through your mind when you first decided to become an entrepreneur? To many of us it exciting, amazing, confusing, overwhelming, and frightening. You did not know what to do. However, that was a long time ago. Now, you believe that was the best decision you made.
It may be over 10 years for you since you first became an entrepreneur, but is the first few weeks for a new entrepreneur. Think about what you know now and think back to the things you wish you had known then.
The same thing occurs with business networking
It may be years for you since you first started business networking, but is the first few weeks for a new entrepreneur who has recently joined a networking group like BNI. Therefore, I want you to take a moment and see “networking” through the eyes of a new member. Think about what you know now and think back to the things you wish you had known then.
That’s the reason I wrote “The Networking Mentor”
I have a newly revised book, “The Networking Mentor”, that is available on Amazon. “The Networking Mentor” is a parable about the transformation of someone’s life because another person took them under their wing and mentored them relating to the do’s and don’ts of networking. It starts with a struggling business owner, Ken, who is invited to a BNI networking group by a business associate. He proceeds to mentor Ken and helps him learn how to network effectively and build a referral-based business. Ken’s mentor teaches him very specific strategies on how to network better and at the same time, the mentor improves his skill set as well.
I wanted people to remember by writing this book, the concerns, fears, and frustrations when they first became an entrepreneur and started business networking with others. Most importantly, I wanted to show how a mentor can make a HUGE difference in someone’s life. Volunteer to be a business networking mentor and you will also become a better networker. You will improve your game; you will improve your skill set.
We all have someone in our story. However, whose story are you in? At your next meeting connect with a new member. Take them under your wing. Teach them what you’ve learned and be in their story.
Please review this book
If you read my book. “The Networking Mentor”, I’d really appreciate if you would post a review on Amazon using this link. https://tinyurl.com/reviewsofthenetworkingmentor
For everyone who does a review of “The Networking Mentor”, we will send them a link to a one hour webinar that I did on Who’s in Your Network. It is a free gift for anyone who helps me out by posting a review. After posting your review, please send me a private message letting us know you posted a review. We will reply with a link to the recorded webinar.
I’m happy to announce that our book, “Who’s in Your Room: The Secret to Creating Your Best Life”, made it to BookAuthority’s Best New Financial Success Books.
Financial success is part of “creating your best life” and BookAuthority recognized that. BookAuthority collects and ranks the best books in the world, and it is a great honor to get this kind of recognition. Thank you for all your support!
Our book is available for purchase on Amazon.
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Although we love to say yes as often as possible, sometimes the opportunity cost of saying yes is too great. In these cases, try to be at peace with your decision to say no and realize you are protecting entry into your room. Say no and then move on knowing that you made the right decision for you. To network well, you really need to learn how to help people, build relationships, and support your connections in some way. But sometimes, just sometimes, you need to also say “no” to requests that are made of you.
Don’t Seinfeld it.
One of the really funny tropes from the old TV series, Seinfeld, is how the characters go off on some crazy subterfuge or complicated ruse that ends up getting them in more trouble than if they had just been candid in the first place. Be polite but be honest and be direct.
Propose something else.
If you are unable to do something that you’re being asked to do, offer them something else instead. For example, I am always having people ask me to send some communication out to my entire mailing list. The answer is always “no.” However, with people I know and trust, I propose something else. I propose that I post it on my social media instead. That generally works just as well to maintain the relationship.
When you say it, mean it!
Be a broken record. Sometimes, people don’t take “no” for an answer. I try to be polite and smile, and repeat what I said before (on some occasions, I’ve repeated myself three times before they realized I really meant it).
It’s important to recognize when someone’s opportunity is your distraction. These are generally situations where someone’s project is not on mission for your business or your life. In these situations, you need to learn how to say no. The word “no” is a one-word sentence. It’s just not a full sentence that I like to use very often and I think there are a fair number of people like me out there.
Don’t get me wrong, I am totally good with saying “no,” to people when it is necessary. The secret is: how do you say “no” without sounding like you don’t care?
If I said yes, I’d let you down.
A very effective way to tell someone “no” is to tell them that you believe that you’d let them down if you do what they are asking. It might be because you don’t have the bandwidth, the knowledge, or the expertise to do what they are asking. In any case, you’re not the person to help make this idea a success and you don’t want to disappoint them.
Recognize the difference between an opportunity and a distraction.
That begins by knowing your own personal or professional mission. If you know your purpose/expertise/mission then you can say “no” when someone comes to you with something that is a distraction to that mission. I do this all the time by telling people that my mission is to do X. As interesting as their idea is, it’s not something that fits with what I do.
Refer them to someone more qualified.
When I say “no” to someone, I almost always try to refer them to someone who is more qualified or more suited to help that person. I also try to refer them to someone who’s mission is more in alignment with their project.
To network well, you really need to learn how to help people, build relationships, and support your connections in some way. But sometimes, just sometimes, you need to also say “no” to requests that are made of you.
To meet the challenge of finding the right incentive program, tap into the assistance and insights of other people. An effective way to do this is to invite about ten people you know to meet with you. Include a representative sample of your customers/clients/patients, business associates, partners, and friends. Their purpose is to think up incentives you could offer to produce a larger word-of-mouth-based business. Host a lunch or dinner for the group and either take copious notes or tape-record the meeting. Invite those who are willing to donate about two hours for your benefit (and receive a free meal, of course).
Prepare yourself, well in advance of the group meeting. Think the subject over beforehand so you have an idea of the limits that you may need to set for an incentive program, such as cost, duration, appropriateness, etc. Have water, note pads, a preliminary questionnaire, sample materials, a flip chart, and even a few ideas to get the ball rolling. If you’re going to discuss a product, bring actual samples to give the group a point of reference.
Begin the actual session by clearly stating a specific problem. Make sure your group understands that the incentive has to be geared to the group you’ve targeted. Explain that you are looking for a variety of ideas and that you won’t make any immediate decisions.
An accountant in St. Louis thanks those who successfully refer a client to him by paying for a dinner or two at least one hour’s drive from their homes. This approach firmly plants the accountant in the minds of his referral sources: they won’t be able to use it right away because the distance requires that they plan for it. As the date approaches, because it has been planned, they’ll be talking about it, and probably about the accountant. Later, when the referring party runs into someone else who might need an accountant, who will he recommend?
I’ve heard many novel ways businesspeople reward those who send them referrals. A female consultant sends bouquets of flowers to men. A music store owner sends concert tickets. A financial planner sends change purses and money clips. Please share below in the comments about how you reward others who send you referrals.
Are you planning to do what makes you happy someday when you have more time, money, or freedom?
What if someday never happens? As the Buddha said, “The thing is, we think we have time.” Sam Horn is a woman on a mission about not waiting for SOMEDAY … and this is her manifesto. Her dad’s dream was to visit all the National Parks when he retired. He worked six to seven days a week for decades. A week into his long-delayed dream, he had a stroke. Sam doesn’t want that to happen to you. She took her business on the road for a Year by the Water. During her travels, she asked people, “Do you like your life? Your job? If so, why? If not, why not?”
The surprising insights about what makes people happy or unhappy, what they’re doing about it (or not), and why…will inspire you to carve out time for what truly matters now, not later.
When you offer any type of discount or novelty item as an incentive program for referrals, keep in mind what your cost would be to generate a new client from scratch. These costs include the cost of printed literature, advertisements, sales calls, telephone time, meetings, appointments, and so forth. You can readily see that the cost of gaining a new client through a referral incentive program is almost always lower.
Incentive programs also help you sell more products or services more frequently to your existing customer base; again, these are sales that are generated at a far lower marketing cost and effort. No matter what form of incentive program you use, the fact that you offer incentives means that your potential for generating word-of-mouth business will increase. The question is, what type of incentive will work for you?
Some health care professionals offer a free visit when a referral becomes a new patient. Other business professionals send small gift baskets, bottles of wine, flowers, or certificates for their services or the services of other businesses in the community. Depending on the type of product or service you offer and the relationship with your referring parties, you may also employ the following:
Incentive Program Examples
- Free estimates, samples, or analyses
- Additional products or services for no extra cost
- Product or service discounts
- Product or service time extensions
- Extended telephone consultation privileges
- Extended or life memberships
- Exclusive or charter memberships
- Group discounts
- Extended warranties
- Reduced costs on peripheral items or services.
Creativity is the key to any good incentive program. People just naturally like to help each other, but especially when they know their efforts are successful. Let your contact know when a referral he or she has made comes through, and be as creative as you can.