Referrals, Referrals All Around
At a recent networking meeting one of the chapter’s members, during their 30 second “info-mercial” said that if she could close two more sales, bringing her total to five for the week, that she would earn a $1000 bonus. That member went on to say that she was contacting everyone she knew and could really use the help from the group. Understanding the value of a $1000 bonus (for anyone) for one week’s sales success, the group quickly went into action thinking and identifying leads. It was clear they genuinely wanted to help out, more than usual.
In a dissimilar story, I recently referred my current landscaper to a new neighbor. I was surprised to see a $20 credit on my next invoice for the referral. It was totally unexpected yet greatly appreciated. You can bet that if have another opportunity to refer a landscaper that I will not hesitate to refer my landscaper again. Does an incentive make a difference? Yes.
I belong to an informal network of marketing agencies, technology and creative services companies. When any of us refer a client to each other, we usually honor as much as a 10% referral fee to the referral organization as a business courtesy. Some months, the same amount of money gets exchanged. Although it seems silly to send the same check back and forth, the principle of it adds great value to our ongoing relationship.
Encouraging referrals and supporting word of mouth marketing with the same audience over the long term is not easy and can be downright frustrating. Unique selling propositions can easily get forgotten. Offers get stale. Maintaining mindshare among your networking network can be just as difficult as doing that among customers. “Why would anyone want to refer me/my business above the fact that they trust and know me by now?” “Are other members actively considering me/my business now and thinking of those within their network that would be a great fit?” and “How can I generate more leads out of my network?” are a few questions that may come to mind from time to time.
Like any other good marketing planning, it’s important to analyze the message, the medium, and the audience. Fortunately, at chapter meetings, you have a captive audience of other members who know and trust you. They most likely understand your capabilities as an expert in your category and recognize the unique benefits you and your business provide. The opportunity to deliver a sales message (in 30+ seconds each week) to this audience does not get any better than at a chapter meeting and during a time of their undivided attention, with no distractions. It’s the message however, that can make the difference each week and determine how many leads you get week in and week out. Here are a few suggestions to Getting More Leads from Business Networking:
1. Create a Sense of Urgency: The example above about a member who had a specific sales goal for the week had a tremendous impact on the group due to the sense of urgency—if she received 2 more sales within the week, she earned $1000. Put parameters around your networking goal such as a specific customer lead for a specific product, or X number of sales within a defined timeframe. Use a limited time offer. Make achieving your goal urgent to yourself and the group!
2. Use Exclusive, Extraordinary Incentives:
- Consider a special referral fee or incentive for members who provide a lead and/or a lead that turns into a sale. Where a fee/incentive might erode the margin, keep in mind a lead from a trusted source most likely means lower cost of sale and a shorter sales cycle. What’s a lead worth to you? What does it cost to generate a new sale?
- Consider an exclusive incentive to customers who come in as a result of a member’s referral. Having something like this in place not only adds value to the potential of referrals but also to the group as a whole. Distribute cards that have a special code or offer on them and the member’s name. I had a friend who used to work for Ralph Lauren who used to send me their special “friends & family” promotional email and code to use for a limited time. The offer was extraordinary and I looked forward to receiving his emails. It made me feel special to be a part of his network. Test different incentives to see which ones work the best.
3. Use Compelling and “Sticky” Leave Behinds: It’s easy to forget or not consider amazing offers and information from a meeting immediately following it. By using compelling and “sticky” leave behinds such as business cards, promotional postcards and/or product samples, the chances of other members referring you over the next week are increased. We recently completed a tee-pee business card for a client that includes contact information about her business (a disability legal firm) as well as her ideal referral, words/phrases to look for, etc. It also includes “Top 5 Business Networking Tips” (to keep on your desk at all times) in an effort to stay top of mind among members with her chapter.
4. Consolidate Group (Chapter) Offers: If members within your group start implementing these tips, you may consider consolidating all offers and messages each week. The sum of the parts could be pretty amazing. Challenge each other to come up with a hard-to-ignore comprehensive group sell sheet each week or month. Have fun with it. Celebrate your leads and your network.
Doing the same thing will likely yield you the same results. So, keep your networking fresh. Change things up. Test different messages and offers. Follow up. Be relentless. Be extraordinary. And, be memorable.
Remember, getting the most out of business networking is up to you!
About the Author
Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Naples, FL since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and has taught Marketing at New York University for over five years. For more information or to learn more, email him atabiasismartmarketingllccom (abiasismartmarketingllccom) , visit www.smartmarketingllc.com or call 239.963.9396