If you’re not getting the amount of referrals you’d like to be getting, take a look at the support materials and techniques you’re currently using. Below are some effective ways to influence people to refer you. Some of these may not work for everyone. The idea is to select those you think you can apply in your own business or profession.
Samples. If you have an opportunity to distribute your materials, do it. Bring products, samples, brochures, or a presentation book. Many networking groups provide a brochure table where you can place these items. If people can see, feel, touch, hear, or smell samples of the product or service you provide, they are more likely to use you. Offer special, members-only prices or services. If you can get network members to use you, then they are much more likely to refer you.
Presentation Books. Everyone active in networking groups can benefit by developing a presentation book. Buy a high-quality, three-ring binder that can attractively dislplay samples of your products or services, brochures, photographs, etc. Take this to your meetings and make sure it gets circulated.
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 pitch you to the program chairs of organizations to which they belong.
If you’re 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, but it’s particularly helpful for consultants, therapists, financial planners, CPAs, and attorneys.
Door Prizes. 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 and ensure that you are given credit for the door prize when it’s given. Always attach a business card so the winner knows where to get more.
Keep in Touch Regularly. Meet people outside of the normal meetings that you go to whenever you can. Write 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. If someone gives you a referral or important information, send a thank-you note or gift basket. This reinforcement will strengthen the bond and encourage that person to think of you again.
Follow-Up. 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 also works to the advantage of others.
All the networking in the world, however, 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 whose follow-up was so bad that the contacts were lost. It’s as if they networked halfway and then completely lost sight of the potential to generate business by referral. Follow-up letters 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’ll generate. Today, more than ever, there’s no excuse for not following up. Why? Because there are many companies on the market that produce numerous follow-up cards, thank-you cards, and contact cards especially designed for networking.
Schedule “reconnection calls” regularly. Such 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.