Word of Mouth Archives - Page 3 of 3 - Dr. Ivan Misner®

The Nature of a Referral Relationship

Over the years, I’ve run into countless people who believe that joining groups and organizations and becoming active by volunteering, taking on responsibilities and working side-by-side with other people on a common goal will cause people to get to know them and refer business to them.  However, this is not how things work.

Granted, it’s easy to think that if you rub elbows with someone long enough he or she will spontaneously start sending you business opportunities. But that’s really nothing more than an entitlement mentality.

Getting referrals usually takes three things: visibility, credibility and profitability.  Ordinary participation in an organization, even a strong-contact referral group, will get you visibility and perhaps some credibility; it won’t automatically get you profitability.  That takes a much more focused approach, along with some explicit talk about the kinds of referrals you want.

By nature, referral relationships are rewarding and valuable when they are created purposefully and by design. If you are assuming that the idea of giving you referrals is going to pop into someone’s head spontaneously if you hang around long enough, you are definitely misunderstanding what a referral relationship is supposed to be.

Woody Allen once said that “90 percent of success is just showing up,” but he wasn’t talking about referral marketing.  “Just showing up” will get you a seat at the table, but you have to pass the food to others and snag your own steak whenever it comes around.  It’s not “netsit” or “neteat“–it’s network!”  If you want to build your business through referrals, you have to learn how to deliberately work the networks to which you belong.

You see, participating in a group is one thing; performing is another.  To get referrals, you have to perform.  If you don’t perform–talk specifics about your business, your specialties and your ideal referral, and refer business to others in your group–how are they going to know what you do and what you need?  You have to take specific actions to let people know how they can refer business to you.  Being a good citizen is the right thing to do, but it’s not enough to get you the referrals you need to run your business by word-of-mouth marketing–you need to actively feed and water your referral relationships, so to speak, in order to significantly grow your business through referrals.

Have a Good Story… Share It!

Before television there was radio. Before radio there were books. And before books there were storytellers. No matter what the medium–stone tablets, movies, grocery store tabloids, the internet–the story is central.

A good story stays with people and compels them to share it with others. It’s as true today as it was 2000 years ago–and it’s especially true of success stories. Everyone likes to hear them; everyone likes to have one. Do you see how this aligns perfectly with word-of-mouth marketing, where referrals are based on thousands of individual success stories? You see, every time one networker passes a referral to another, she is telling a story about a need fulfilled successfully or a problem solved effectively.

You can empower your network by writing down success stories about your business so that they won’t be forgotten and they can be told to other people. You also want to encourage your networking partners to swap stories with you so you can each keep the stories on file and use them to help find and refer great business opportunities to each other.

The key is to capture a truly compelling story–one that practically begs to be shared, one that the people in your network would actually have trouble keeping to themselves. The anatomy of a successful word-of-mouth story about your business is quite simple. It has a captivating beginning, an action-packed middle and a happy ending (and, conveniently, it will in most cases naturally outline for your referral partners what your perfect customer looks like). If you’re expecting other people to act on your story and share it, it must be a compelling story–and must have a positive outcome.

Chances are you have several great success stories about your business but, if not several, I’m sure you have at least one. So to start with, I’d like to challenge you to write down your business’s most compelling success story, ask at least one person on your word-of-mouth marketing team to do the same, and then share your stories with each other.

The more stories you share with other people, the more high-quality referrals you’ll get and the more success stories you’ll generate as you continue to network your business.

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