Referrals are one of the best and also cheapest ways to obtain serious leads for your business.
One of the principles in business is to examine how much it costs you
to obtain a new customer. This can get complex but one of the aspects
which is often ignored is the time you spend with a potential client
who then does not use your services or buy your product. Wouldn’t it be
nice to have someone else do this pre-screening for you so that a much
higher percentage of contacts turn into real clients?
One way to achieve this is by referrals. Word of mouth is one of the
best ways to get new clients because the person doing the referring has
already done some pre-screening for you and if people already have a
good relationship with the referrer, some of that good will extends
over onto you. Now you can get word of mouth from existing customers,
but this may not be enough, especially if you have a new business.
A solution to this lies in business referral networking groups. These
exist virtually everywhere, either as a local initiative or as part of
a national or global networking organization. Local Chambers of
Commerce should know about ones operating in the area. And if there
isn’t one, start one. The concept is of a group of business people who
come together regularly (often over breakfast) to become familiar with
each other’s business activities. The idea is then that in the normal
course of their business they come across someone who is in need of
your services, that they will discuss with them your business and then
offer a referral. Most such groups suggest that not only is the
potential client given your details but also that their details are
passed directly to you by the referrer so that you can be proactive in
Most referral groups try to limit membership to one business in each
business category and some heavily restrict you from talking outside of
that area. This can be a problem these days, especially in
technologically oriented businesses where many of us do multiple
things. But generally it can be worked with and eventually the other
members of the networking group will find out about the full range of
things that you do anyway. The format of meetings vary but most provide
a brief time for everyone to describe their business each meeting and
also on a rotating basis give people a longer time to make a
presentation about their business. They also generally encourage
‘opportunity meetings’ where you schedule time to meet with another
business and mutually discuss your businesses and try to discover any
interesting opportunities that this might open up.
These groups can be amazingly effective. They have a financial cost for
membership but also require a regular time commitment, which varies
from group to group. Some meet weekly, many fortnightly and some
monthly. The thing is to shop around and find a group or groups that
suit you and whose requirements you can meet.
Search locally but here are links to a few to get you started:
Knowmentum (www.itsnotwhatyouknow.com) is an online group.
LeTip (www.letip.com) is a US organization.
Business Network International (www.bni.com) organises chapters in over 20 countries.