We all know word of mouth is very powerful, but have you ever considered you could leverage your network to boost sales as part of your marketing strategy?
Here’s question for you:
DID YOU REALISE REFERRAL MARKETING IS AN ACTUAL THING?
I mean, I’m sure you know word of mouth is awesome and something to strive towards. My own business is built on return business and referrals, but who knew you could actually leverage your network and boost sales with a clued-up referral marketing strategy for your business?!
Smart!? HECK YEAH!
Because few things are as powerful as somebody else recommending your business!
To be fair, it takes a bit of time. But once that network is built, it becomes the gift that keeps giving.
If you’re like me, you’re probably keen as a bean to know more about it.
SO... It’s time I introduce you to the referral service business expert (amongst other things): Erica Castner.
Meet Erica Castner
Erica looks back on a career that involves multiple Chambers of Commerce.
Interestingly, she found business networking events to be a challenge. Truth be told, they are for many people, because the entire business networking sales spiel lacks insight, strategy and genuine connection.
Nobody wants to waste an evening that is devoted to empty chit-chat!
Erica puts it like this:
‘It takes a conversation to make a conversion. ‘
Me? I wholeheartedly agree.
Levering Your Network- Erica’s Way
In 2015, Erica decided she could do better. She started a business to help service based professionals and business owners develop their online presence (the year is 2022 after all!) and create real connections.
It’s something to think about.
How do we leverage genuine connections to expand our referral network and ultimately grow our business? It sounds logical, but how do you actually do it?
Erica’s own business grew organically thanks to her workshops. Her goal was to teach people something they wanted to know, but it was also a successful approach to build her own business network. Call it a win-win.
Often the good vibes workshops (people love energy and good vibes) involved panel discussions with accomplished and well-respected authorities. This strategy sent a strong message of credibility.
But Erica also had a requirement for each attendant to bring 5 (!) guests.
So… her following grew and grew and grew.
Gutsy AND effective!
Obviously, that’s her story.
The real question is: What does Erica have to say about how YOU can start building connections and in the longer run leverage your network?
How Do I Get A Referral Network?
Not everybody is made for workshops. It’s just what suited Erica.
For us mere mortals who want a more down-to-earth approach that is simple and practical, Erica has a process she often recommends.
- Step 1: Identify 3-5 logical industries that are tied to yours. For example, if you’re an insurance agent, 3 affiliated industries would be realtors, mortgage brokers, and attorneys.
- Step 2: Think about somebody you already have connections with in these industries. Could you come up with a shortlist of 3 realtors, 3 mortgage brokers and 3 attorneys? They don’t need to be your best friends. Just some people who know who you are.
- Step 3: Reach out to those 9 people, and send a simple email or a message on LinkedIn. Don’t spam them. Just tell them it’s been a while since you last were in touch. Ask them how they are, what they are doing at the moment, and how you can support them.
- Step 4: Some people won’t respond. Or you may receive a ‘Thank you, but no thank you’. But some people will tell you ‘It’s so good you reached out, because.....’
- Step 5: Suggest a meeting. This can be a quick phone call, but it could also be a Zoom call, or an in-person catch-up. Ask the same questions you used previously to reach out to them, AND tell them what you are working on in return.
- Step 6: Before you know it, things start happening because you’re exchanging information that will guide you to the next step to leverage your network .
- Step 7: Repeat the above steps.
Some Final Referral Networking Tips
I know Erica makes it sound easy, so she has some additional tips that will set you up for success in leveraging your network.
Referral Network Talks And Sales Pitches Don’t Mix
Once you’ve scored a catch-up with one of the affiliate industry acquaintances, you have to be very clear (both to yourself and the person you are meeting) that you’re meeting for a conversation with the aim to connect WITHOUT the expectation to generate a lead.
When you have a referral conversation, there really is no room for the sale pitch. They are two different things that can only get in each other’s way. Erica recommends that if you feel a conversation is veering down the sales route, you should suggest setting up another time to address any challenges they want your services for in a sales capacity.
Clear Boundaries And Clear Expectations
Podcasts sometimes have very interesting twists and turns!
Here’s an example:
What do sweaters and your business expertise have in common?
They’re both precious and stealing either of them is a crime.
Erica says it’s something to prepare yourself for. If you notice the person you are meeting is out to pick your brain or trying to get a free consultation, it’s time to get firm on boundaries.
There are a couple of ways you can deal with it. Neither of them are right or wrong. But it’s important to be prepared and to practice your approach.
From the moment you schedule the coffee date, you need to be crystal clear about what the meet-up is about: connecting. If lines are crossed, it’s your right to say that’s something you discuss during your client consult calls and you’re very happy to set one up with them, but you thought this was just a coffee catch up. You can even make a joke about it. (For instance, say you don’t have your consult brain on today)
Or, it can also be a case where you hope the situation may not generate any income right now, but it may well in the future. So in that situation, you can choose to share a bit of surface level information; steer your coffee partner in the right direction without giving too much away.
Suffering from a spinning brain from all these gems by now?
Or, is all this info making you itch to get started because …the potential is mind-boggling?! Plug in the earphones because Erica has more wisdom on the podcast!
And of course, don’t forget to talk to me (or maybe send me an email)! Are you deliberately working on a process to leverage your network as part of your marketing strategy? I want to know how you approach it