What Percentage of Your Business Do You Get From Referrals?string(59) "What Percentage of Your Business Do You Get From Referrals?"

We recently surveyed more than 3,000 people at BNI.com. We asked the participants what percentage of their business comes from word-of-mouth or referrals.

We found that fewer than 5 percent got no business from referrals, and more than half of the respondents said they got more than 70 percent of their business from word-of-mouth or referrals!

Look at this and another nine surveys on networking at this LINK.

Does this measure up to your experience? I would really like to hear from you as to whether you agree with the majority of the respondents to our survey.

Friends, Family and Referralsstring(29) "Friends, Family and Referrals"

Last Saturday night, my family and I decided to go out to dinner and ended up eating at a brand-new restaurant in the town where we live. We hadn’t actually heard anything about the restaurant and didn’t even know it existed, but it caught our attention as we drove down the street and we decided to try it out.

The food was exceptional and I was quite impressed with the service and the ambience, yet there were hardly any other patrons besides us in the entire place. As we finished our dinner, the owner of the restaurant walked over to our table, thanked us for coming in, and asked us how we liked everything. I told him that we would definitely come back and asked him how long he’d been in business. When he answered that he’d been in business for three months and that things were coming along slowly but surely, I asked him what he was doing to promote his business. He replied that startup costs hadn’t left him with much money for advertising but that he had a huge extended family and he was banking on the fact that with them on his side, word about the restaurant was sure to spread pretty quickly.

I looked around the restaurant (virtually empty during the dinner hour after three months in business), smiled, and said, “So, how’s that working out for you so far?”

I went on to explain to him that I was somewhat familiar with the whole “networking thing” (I revealed that networking has been my career for more than 20 years) and that people who like, care about and respect you will not necessarily always refer business to you. We chatted for quite some time and I referred him to one of my articles, “Getting Referred By Friends and Family.”

For anyone out there who is currently relying on friends and family for referrals, here are a few things to think about:

  • Oddly enough, the people most familiar with you are often the most casual about giving you referrals.
  • With friends and family, relationships grow out of more personal associations; therefore, it may not even occur to a family member to refer business to you–unless you make a point of asking for it.
  • You need to train friends and family to refer business to you.
  • One of the first things you can do is get them to listen for key words and to recognize circumstances where they can, through you, provide a solution to someone’s need or problem.

What are your experiences with referrals from family or friends?

Networking for the ‘Difficult to Refer’ Businessstring(60) "Networking for the ‘Difficult to Refer’ Business"

After a recent speaking engagement I did, a woman appoached me and asked my advice on the dilemma of getting qualified referrals for a “difficult to refer” business. She was passing as many referrals as she could to others, but because her business seemed to revolve around such a niche market, the business referrals she was receiving were slim to none, and she was starting to get discouraged.

I referred her to an article I wrote a few years back that addresses this exact predicament; and since I’m sure some of my blog readers are in businesses that are more difficult to refer than others, I thought I’d shed some light on the subject here. For networkers in businesses that don’t easily generate word of mouth, there is hope for your company because there are still ways you can successfully network and build your company’s reputation.

Years ago, I learned that speaking engagements are a great short-term approach to getting new business while you’re working on the long-term process of word of mouth. You see, when you schedule an appointment with someone you think might be interested in what you’re selling, that time you spend with them–usually an hour–is very important. Well, imagine having that same one-hour appointment with 20 to 50 businesspeople in your community, all at the same time! In effect, that’s what you’re doing when you’re asked to make a presentation at various clubs and organizations.

So, how do you go about getting on the calendars of these business and service groups? It isn’t as hard as you might think. With a little creativity, you can put together a presentation that will be informational, educational and even entertaining. Most important, you can get referrals from people to help you get in front of them. Usually program chairs are scrambling to find someone different, engaging and interesting to come in and present to the group. Your job is to help them find you!

To see a sample of the letter I used to send to program chairs when I owned a consulting firm, click here to go to the article. Getting speaking engagements can make your company easy for anyone to refer and it can also get you a lot of clients while you’re busy building your business.

If you have any comments or thoughts on other techniques that are useful for businesses that are “difficult to refer,” I’d love to hear your feedback.

Where Does Your Business Come From?string(35) "Where Does Your Business Come From?"

Where does your business come from? In a survey of roughly 4,000 people at the BNI.com website, roughly 73 percent of the respondents said that they get most of their business from networking and referral activities. Only 12 percent get most of their business from advertising and less than 10 percent get most of their business from cold calling!

What I find amazing about this is that most colleges still focus on courses on advertising, and most big companies still train their new salespeople how to cold call! Despite that, most entrepreneurs and salespeople (according to this survey) don’t get the majority of their business from these two methods.

Where do you get most of your business from? Comment here on this blog and take the survey (and others) at this LINK.

Get Your Networking Program Off the Groundstring(42) "Get Your Networking Program Off the Ground"

It’s often been said that “starting is the hardest part” of a project. Well, building your business through networking and word-of-mouth marketing for your business is no exception.

Here are four things you can do to get your program off to a strong start:

1. Don’t be a cave dweller: Get out and meet people!
2. Know how to ask for the referral. Learn and develop specific techniques that will help you hone your ability to ask for the referrals you want.
3. Consciously select at least three business or networking groups to join in the next three months (chambers of commerce, community service groups, trade associations, strong contact networks such as BNI, etc.).
4. Develop a creative incentive to encourage people to send referrals your way (If you’re a music store owner, for example, you might send music tickets to people who refer business to you).

The bottom line is: Get out there and make diverse contacts, be specific in your approach, and help others in creative and enthusiastic ways–so they’ll want to refer you business!

The Word of Mouth Manualstring(24) "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 Groupstring(42) "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 Networkingstring(29) "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 Excellencestring(26) "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 Referralsstring(51) "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 Businessstring(35) "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 Audiencestring(30) "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.

1 22 23 24 25