I hate to be the one to break it to you however I’d estimate that more than 90% of business networking is a waste of time. It’s non-strategic, poorly executed, and bears little fruit… there I said it!
Now, now, wait a minute! It doesn’t have to be a waste of time. It’s just my opinion that most business professionals are either, whether they know it or not, not very good at it or are simply lazy. That’s unfortunate considering the large volumes of time and money that small businesses throw at this marketing strategy.
For the networking rock stars of the world, networking tends to be very fruitful. They get qualified referrals from their network on a regular basis. They constantly are connecting with a steady stream of targeted prospects. Why? – Because their networking is typically very strategic and very well executed.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point”, he introduces the concept of “connectors” as people with a special gift to bring the world together. Now combine that concept and attribute with author Seth Godin’s concept of “sneezers” from his book “Unleashing the Ideavirus” and now you’re talking! You’re networking with people your target market both already knows, likes and trusts and that will actively and willingly help you get your word out. Network well with these people and let the referrals roll – that is of course assuming that you, your product, and your service are worth referring.
Let’s be clear here though, you’ve got to earn referrals. Just because you believe you deserve referrals doesn’t mean you’re going to get them. You need encourage them. You need to ask for them. You need to make it easy, lucrative and fun to refer business to you. Networking rock stars understand this… they don’t leave this to chance… they create their ideal reality. How do they do this? Well here are a few tips to get you started:
Make it EASY for your network to refer business to you! How?
- Make sure you regularly nurture relationships with those who either are in your target market or have access to it… especially networking rock stars!
- Make sure they clearly understand who you serve and what you serve them with… remember this is your responsibility not theirs.
- Be clear and specific in asking for what you want.
Make it LUCRATIVE for your network to refer business to you! How?
- Paint a clear picture of what’s in it for them.
- Always reward the behavior you want to see repeated.
- Recognize them for their generosity and referral savvy publicly in front of their peers… people never seem to tire of this type of positive PR.
Make it FUN for your network to refer business to you! How?
- Hold a referral contest where the person who refers the most business to you wins something they deem valuable.
- When you’re “THE MAN”, you become magnetic and people will always want to be around you and please you. So become “THE MAN” or if applicable, “THE WOMAN”.
- Everyone loves free stuff! Free is fun so if at all possible, let them sample your goods and services. This will give them first-hand experience and most likely will encourage them to speak more favorably of you, more often.