As a beginning entrepreneur, I was uncertain how to market my business. With my business being focused on services, I came to understand that ‘advertising’ justwas not enough. During a recession, there were just far too many unemployed technology workers (plus the high school and college kids) for advertising to be useful. This was just one of many painfully expensive lessons learned.
A friend and businesscompetitor suggested that I try a networking meeting as a different approach to advertising. He called it ‘Networking’. After describing what it was and how it worked, I was interested. That first meeting I went to, I was able to give 2 referrals to businesses I had serviced to people I did not know for services they were asking about. I received 7 referrals, in that one meeting. And I was hooked.
Unfortunately, of those 7 referrals, only one was a client in my target market. And 4 decided to have their service needs met by someone else. The other two were residential services that I did because I was hungry and wanted to make a great impression on for the networking group.
The next meeting, though I was able to give just one referral, I received none.
My third meeting with this group, I was able to provide three referrals and receivednone.
My hopes for using referral marketing were dashed upon the rocks like ships drawnto the siren’s songs.
My friend who introduced me to the group told me “that is how it goes, sometimes”. He advised me that networking as a marketing tool is not about fast hard growth. But instead is about relationship building and managing. And therefore, it takes time to become a trusted referral partner. Some people will warm up to you faster than others. Some never may. Earning a referral is all about three elements: Know, Like & Trust.
When I took a few minutes to understand what that meant, I recognized that I there are some people whom I would not refer for any kind of work. And others I would refer without a second thought. The ‘Know, Like & Trust’ element, just clicked for me. It made sense.
It is now 7 years later. I have tried several different referral networking groups and found one that fits me and whom I fit in like puzzle pieces. Other, more experienced business owners who have mentored me, helped me tune my message and massage my ‘elevator pitch’ has been just as crucial to my business growth as the referrals we have shared back and forth. Now, more than 80% of my client base has been derived from just this one networking group.
But it takes time to build these relationships, to become Known, Liked & Trusted.
If you are just starting with referral marketing, then take the time to invest in yourself. Visit several groups, attend many meetings and events. Get to know people and be the most interestED person in the room.
If you invest the time and build quality relationships then the referrals will come.
For more information about being successful in networking, check out my friend, Ron Sukenick’s book, “21 Days to Success Through Networking: The Life and Times of Gnik Rowten“