When you attend networking functions at your local Chamber of Commerce or other professional organizations your goal may very likely be to grow and/or promote your business by meeting others and getting their business, or by getting referrals from them. If your intentions do include getting referrals from other business owners, and you don’t have much, or any, experience with referral marketing, it is to your disadvantage to jump into it without preparation. The definition of referral marketing, according to the Referral Institute, is a business strategy to attract new clients or customers through a process of building relationships which result in a flow of personally recommended business.
The purpose of referral marketing is to get people to actually give referrals to you. In order to do that, they need to know exactly what you do. That includes the product or service you make or provide, under what conditions you do so, how well you do it, and what separates you from your competitors. This must be communicated to your would-be referral sources. And, to be effective in that communication, you must know the same things about them.
It seems straightforward. After all, we know what we do for a living. However, can you communicate what it is that you do in your business to your potential referral sources in a clear and concise manner? You might find that when you try, it is not so easy to do. If your potential sources are unclear about what you do or what you sell, how can they be expected to give you any good referrals?
Before you jump into networking in the hopes of getting quality referrals, pause and get a clear picture of where your business stands today.
Four simple questions to answer about you and your business are:
1. Why are you in business?
You got into the business you are in for a reason. The more clear you are about this, the more attracted others will be to your cause.
2. What do you sell?
Be specific. What are your specialties in your business? It is not just a product or service that you sell, but yourself as well. How do you want others to see you?
3. Who are your customers?
Consider the defining characteristics of some of your best or favorite customers including such things as gender, age group, financial position, or, if a business, the size of the business, type of business and what they make or sell. How do they like to work with you?
4. How well do you compete?
Regardless of the amount of competition in your field, differentiating yourself will make it easier for others to refer business to you. A quality referral may not be as sensitive to price. What is seen as your perceived value?
Armed with this information, prepared in a simple and concise format, you will have the start of a referral marketing plan, and it will help you tell others what your business is about.