Today, we all make efforts to do networking so that we can generate business. Though it seems easy, it is not. For expanding your business or your network, you require referrals. Of course, you already have advocates and other random referrals, but these can be challenging to predict and evolve. So to leverage the power of referrals, you have to make sure that you get regular referrals for your business, and for that, you have to build a strong referral network.
Now you must be wondering what a referral network is and how it can help you and how you can leverage it.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is a Referral Network?
A referral network is basically a network of individuals and organizations that give referrals. Referral networks can be a combination of informal and formal agreements. When it comes to more formal referral networks, it usually includes groups of companies within related industries that can work together to give cross-referrals. Formal referral networks usually have carefully put together combinations of companies with a commitment from member companies to give a certain number of referrals.
However, you will usually find that you create an informal referral network by building your network. Discover what your contacts do, get to understand people, cross-refer your contacts, and make introductions, and the best way to do that is referral networking. Today, the power of a personal recommendation is extreme. Therefore personal references are a source of referrals that really should be leveraged. Referral networks work fine for businesses that share a target audience or act within the same industry (but are not competitors). This is because they don’t compete for business; rather, they present extra value to their clients by providing relevant referrals.
How can you expand your referral network?
There are a few tactics that will help you out. Let’s look at them one by one.
1. The more you give, the more you get.
Productive business relationships demand a give-and-take from both parties. Offer and present your expertise and assistance. Combine colleagues, clients, and partners, or share industry information others would find helpful. This will assist those in your network to reciprocate when you also require a helping hand.
2. Acknowledge and thank those in your business referral network
Whether with a phone call, email, holiday card, or handwritten note, acknowledging a referral prompts partners to refer even more. They notice that you appreciate that they’re supporting you to achieve your business goals, improving the chances they’ll refer more in the future. Who doesn’t want to hear “Thank you” every once in a while?
3. Expand your business referral network to develop new relationships
Staying inside the same network or group can strengthen existing relationships, but it can be difficult to develop new ones. So instead, go outside of your direct circle of associates and begin meeting new people in adjacent circles — and ahead. Glancing at your second-degree connections can be a less intimidating starting point, for instance, with a partner supplier, vendor, or one of their trusted customers.
4. Pay close attention to the local social and business landscape.
Your community already has connections, loyalties, and networks of its own. It’s an opportunity to make them work for you. Research events occurring in your community, whether on your local Chamber of Commerce website, in your partners’ social news feeds, or in industry publications. Keep track of conferences, tradeshows, and meetups where your referral network may be accompanying. Understand the ebb and flow of your community — then get connected whenever possible. You might even open up spaces to get a new competitive edge along the way.
5. Prune, nurture and reshape your network often
A business network is a vibrant, living thing that will expand and contract over time. You should develop relationships with partners required for your business growth and eliminate those who are no longer helpful, sometimes even involving customers. Revisit your network constantly so you can see which relationships you should proceed to nurture. Work this tactic into your ongoing business plan and make it a business objective to keep your network trim but strong.
6. Spend some quality time with key relationships
As your circle evolves, it will be challenging to spend time with everyone. So it would help if you determined which relationships are the critical connections to your growth. These relationships will produce higher returns in the short and long term and are worth spending time on. Don’t spend as much time nourishing the ones that aren’t giving you value, and you may think ‘retiring’ other referral contacts that have consistently fallen short. But, learn, more is not always better. It’s the essence of the relationship, not the quantity.
Focusing on connection-building asset’s a business pipeline can have a dramatic impact on your business. However, it takes time to develop relationships to the point where referrals come through to you regularly. Following these tactics will be part of building your process to grow a successful referral network.