A group of people that send me business for free? Sign me up!
Well it’s not really free. A great referral network is built upon the collective effort of it’s members. It takes time and effort make and refer connections and to build the trust required to get referrals from others.
For many owners a referral network provides an invaluable stream of customers to their business. For every business owner it should be one of your first tasks. Networking is something you can start doing on day one, you don’t even need business cards to network, though they can be helpful.
Build a Complementary Team
One of the easiest ways to get started with referral networking is finding other individuals in complementary professions to yours. You could each have the same customer/client yet not be taking business from each other.
Some examples include;
A building contractor, concrete layer, plumber and electrician.
A realtor, mortgage broker, building inspector, title agency, and a real estate attorney.
A wedding planner, photographer, limo driver, and florist.
Why is this useful? Every time one of you gets a client it’s an opportunity for all of you to get a client. You can quickly find yourself booked solid if you build the right complementary relationships.
Don’t forget to build this relationship online as well. Take the time to check out each other’s websites and comment where you can, get links where you can. It may even make sense for the group of you to coordinate building similar related resources pages for your websites.
Take Advantage of Resources
Any smart worker will take advantage of the resources or tools available to them. Tools and resources can make us far more efficient with our time and entrepreneurs have plenty available.
SCORE – Free advice, mentoring and counselling for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Best thing about it? You can get help online or find some local mentors, simply put an amazing resource.
Bplans – 500-plus free business plan templates. There’s heaps to be learned from the examples laid out here and in addition you’ll find how to articles and support forums.
Small Biz Trends – News, tips and marketing advice. Small Biz Trends is helpful in a variety of ways and a great regular read for entrepreneurs.
Do Your Research
When it comes to referral networking as in all aspects of your business you’ll find time to be your most valuable resource. You’ll simply never have enough of it for everything, therefore before you waste time building a relationship with a referral do your research. Answer the questions; “Is this person a potential client for my business,” or “Can this person get me in touch with potential clients for my business?” If the answer to both of those is “No,” you might consider passing on making the connection at all. Or it can at the very least allow you to prioritize your time between contacts deemed highly valuable and those deemed not-so-valuable.
Make a Real Connection
Sorry to crash your party but clicking friend doesn’t qualify as a real connection. It’s certainly worth doing don’t get me wrong but in business networking and referrals building trust and confidence is paramount. It’s easy to forget that every time someone refers a contact to you, they’re going out on a branch for you and your services, in at least some small way putting their name on the line next to yours.
Make Your Own Luck
The difference between the lucky networker and the unlucky networker is hard work. Make no mistake that networking is work, though it can at times be a genuine pleasure. Of course there will always be some people lucky enough to simply have the ideal connections from the start but there are plenty of professionals out there that go out of their way to be lucky enough. Hard work, effort, determination and persistence can get you far in networking as in all things.