By Tom Demers
Building a referral network should be the number one priority on your list if you are a business owner or freelancer. Many businesses thrive from their referral network. While cold calling and marketing can help bring in new people, old customers are your best assets. They cost less to keep as customers, and they can work as your personal marketing army. Use these tips to help build up your referral network.
Setting goals for networking events or any other events can help you stay on track. For example, set a goal of talking to 20 people at your next networking event. This keeps you on track, and it makes it easier to feel good about your progress. Goals also act as benchmarks so you can strive for a better performance at your next event.
Most of the people in your referral network will be people you directly talked to. Practicing your conversations can help make this easier, and it can help improve confidence in your business. Don’t sound too commercial, but think of ways to bring up your business that will make people intrigued. This can have a very positive effect on your referral network.
Speaking with the same two people at an event can help helpful, but you can do better. At every event, be it for networking or anything else, be sure to move around and talk to other people. Unless you have found someone who is willing to spend a huge amount on your business, you need to move around to increase the size of your referral network.
Follow Up System
Aside from meeting a large number of people, you also need to keep track of them. If you promised to send a guide or ebook to 20 members, but you cannot remember who those people are, then all the networking went to waste.
Use a smartphone or even a notepad to keep track of people. Or, ask for a business card. Write a message on the back of the card as a reminder. You need to make a system to remember each person and what you promised to give or do for them.
Online networking is often not quite as effective as going to network meetings. But, the main advantage is that you can constantly work on social networking, rather than waiting for the next event to come up.
Get a social networking account. For business networking, the best website is often LinkedIn, but others have had success with Twitter, Facebook and other networks. Then, start making posts about your business.
Some people suggest that you go out and connect with as many people as you can in the hopes of them following you back. This gives you more connections, but the connections are rarely targeted. It is usually best to post article and content about your business and wait for people to find and follow you. These people are often more interested in what you are doing, and they are more likely to refer friends to your business.
Become an Expert
One of the fastest ways to build a referral network is to become an expert. Think about this for a second. When someone is asked about what type of OS they are going to buy for their computer, most people respond with Mac or Windows. This is because they are recognized as experts in their field. At the same time, there are many other operating systems out there like Linux, UNIX and Ubuntu that are not used as often.
You need to stand above everyone else to get the most referrals. If you can manage to become an expert, then people will be referring you even if you never met them. This can be achieved by writing books, speaking at events or doing anything that gets you recognized.
Building your referral network is exceedingly important if you want to succeed in business. There are many ways of going about it, but most of them involve meeting people and getting them to understand the quality of your service. Just practice your people skills and put yourself out there to really improve your referral network’s size.
Tom Demers writes for Zintro, a marketplace of experts in various fields that helps connect investors, lawyers, analysts, entrepreneurs, and more. Zintro can help you to find an expert by "hot" focus areas and various niches.