Archive for January 10th, 2009

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• Saturday, January 10th, 2009

I have to admit that I’ve had it all wrong.  I, and I suspect most business owners in attendance at networking events, go to networking events in hopes of making connections which would result in more business for me.  After all, why else would I be there?  I went with the intention of listening to various people and trying to figure out how my business might help them be more successful.  I had read before that you should only give out your business card if they ask for it (otherwise it ends up in the trash), so at least I knew that much. But I confined my thought process to how I could help THEM.  Sounds reasonable, but there’s a huge flaw with that thinking.  A very low percentage of people at the networking event would actually have an immediate need for my services.  Yes, I could follow up, but how much attention would they pay to a stream of messages like “Give me a call if you need me?”

What I didn’t know was that I should have been listening to these fellow networkers on behalf of the rest of my network (people I know).  I should have been thinking about how they could help someone I knew (in my network) or how someone else in my network might be able to help them.  Just in the last couple of weeks, from two totally independent sources, I’ve learned about of true referral marketing and how it’s really a gold mine to your own business.  Here’s how.

The goal of true referral marketing is to add as much value to a relationship as possible.  So, when you meet someone, you gain a little knowledge about them, perhaps follow up with a initial card acknowledging the meeting, and then try to figure out how you can help them.  Do you know anyone you can refer to this person or any one you can refer them to?  Do you know of a new service which might benefit them or have you learned something that might help them work through a sticky situation? Each contact should avoid mentioning what YOU can do for THEM, and instead focus on how you can help them through your network.  (If, of course, this person has an immediate need for your services, things would be a little different.)

The impact that this process has on your relationship with this person is immediate and profound.  The person now welcomes your e-mails and phone calls because you have already shown that each contact from you adds value.  This person now might want to give back to you.  Perhaps they know of someone in their network who could use your services or help you with a business problem.  This process builds a true relationship, instead of a “meet ’em and forget ’em” mentality.

In one situation, a business owner had just moved to a new location and started networking to meet people.  She decided to put her business on hold for a couple of months so that she could concentrate on true referral marketing.  How could she add value to each contact’s business?  Not how could she get this person to use her service.  After that two month investment of time concentrating on other businesses and how she could add value, she started receiving two to five referrals per day for her own business.  Now that’s quite a benefit!  All of those good feelings she sent out to others came back multiplied!

Think about how you might make your next networking event a true referral marketing experience and let me know how it turned out.

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