Building Your Business Referral Network
November 3, 2017 by Jackie McDonald
The success of any business depends upon a strong referral network. Networking goes far beyond handing out business cards to everyone you meet. An organic referral network depends upon authentic relationships, trust and loyalty. Here are ten strategies to building a strong referral network that will grow with your business.
1. Make the first move
Other professionals are out there networking and they may have the same apprehension as you do. Think how much they will appreciate it if you are the one who takes the initiative, breaks the ice and starts the conversation.
2. Know what you want
If you don’t know what you want or don’t communicate it correctly then you may receive a lot of inappropriate referrals. Be able to describe the type of businesses you are looking for, specifying the size of clients you prefer, the niches you are looking to build and the type of industries you serve.
3. Don’t ask for referrals, earn them
Rather than requesting referrals from clients, provide them with authentic attention even after they’ve paid their bill. Go above and beyond to earn loyalty so that your clients will go out of their way to sing your praises to their friends, colleagues and partners.
4. Go low pressure
Instead of the traditional wine and cheese mixer, consider a bowling night or a baseball game. Utilize what you have learned about your referral source and common interests to have fun together. No pressure, just building a relationship.
5. Don’t forget the follow up
Determine who you connected with and contact those people soon after the networking event. Send them a LinkedIn request with a personal note, or make it personal with a phone call, a handwritten note, a lunch invitation, or a direct message.
6. Expand the network
Once you’ve identified an inner circle of contact, ask those people to introduce you to the people in their inner circles, and do the same for them. Think of it as a referral mixer where you each bring your inner circles together to network.
7. Establish expertise
Host seminars for the niche industries you serve. Conduct technical presentations to your clients. Position your firm as the expert by getting high-level staff to sit on specialty boards and committees. Sponsor an awards program for an industry you serve.
Traditional community service efforts, such as serving on the board of a not-for-profit group, bring consistent access and exposure to other professionals while giving back to your community.
9. Stay visible
Send emails and call referral sources regularly to stay top-of-mind.
10. Make it a two-way relationship
Like any relationship there is a give and take. Provide referrals and assistance for the professionals in your network, just as you hope they’ll do for you.