During a conversation some years ago with Leslie Fiorenzo, a colleague of mine in the networking organization I founded, she 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–preparation is key to success. 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 CDs, reading books/articles, picking the brains of great networkers and practicing what you’ve learned.
One fantastic place to get information about all things related to networking is NetworkingNow.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.
If there is an educational resource which you’ve found to be specifically valuable and effective in learning to network, I urge you to share it in the comment forum below so others might utilize it and benefit from it as well. After you leave a comment, be sure to send a quick e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Blog Comment” so he can reply to you with a coupon code for a free six-month subscription to NetworkingNow.com.