08. August 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

The SourceHow often do people ask if you ”know someone who….”?

It happens to me very often because I position myself in their minds as “The Source”.

As I build and deepen relationships through my networking efforts, I always keep in mind to envision and position myself to be a gatekeeper to a world of solution providers and resources.  Once an acceptable confidence level is developed between me and my various networking partners, I let the people within the other, various networks I belong to to know that I can be “The Source” for them should they need the services/products offered by one of my trusted partners.

Here are three easy ways to become “The Source”:

1. Inform your family, friends, clients, prospects, etc., that if they ever need something, they should contact you because you can help them or you know someone who can. The easiest way to position yourself as “The Source” in their minds is to listen to their complaints, challenges, issues, wants, needs and desires. If you have someone in one of your established networks who can help, tell them that you know someone who can “do that” or “get that” for them. Ask them if they want an introduction to that person. They may or may not accept, and that’s ok. They may call or email you at a later time saying “remember you told me you knew a good travel agent? Can you tell me who was that person, because I need a vacation!”

2.  Position yourself to your potential clients as “The Source” as part of your marketing materials, correspondence and advertising. Justify why they should do business with you and tell them that unlike others in your field, you bring value to the relationship by not only providing a service or product the prospect looks for, but also a network of outstanding people in fields that are similarly related and completely unrelated to yours.

3. Spotlight different referral partners in your client communications/solicitations. For example, you may ask one of your trusted partners to write a brief article for your newsletter or blog. You could also get them to write a testimonial about you so that you can to put it on your website, or as part of a marketing piece. (You also do the same thing in return for them).  Be genuine and honest in your testimonial by focusing on how they add value and go “above and beyond” for their clients/customers/patients.

By becoming “The Source” people will naturally want to reciprocate and help you.  It may not result in an immediate referral or contact for you but it will pay dividends in the long-run.

26. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

Every business person has found themselves “thirsty” for more new customers at one point or another. Despite all of their networking, marketing and advertising efforts, there may come a time when the new business and referrals just are not coming in fast enough.

While the reasons for the drought can vary from events that are totally beyond our control (such as a local construction project which closes the street our business is situated to extreme weather conditions) to those that we have control over, it is important that we have a plan in place to help reduce the impact of the drought, especially when it comes to generating the referrals we need.

Here are three ways to avoid the referral drought and keep the stream of referrals flowing from your existing customers and your referral partners.

 

1.  Identify a niche area within your current client base and ask for referrals from them: Regardless of what your product/service is,  there are different segments within your current client/customer/patient base.  Your job is to a) identify the different niches within your client base, b) then select one to three (maximum) that you would like more referrals from and c) then ask your current customers and referral partners for more referrals or introductions to people who work in this particular niche.

For example, EZ Office Supply has hundreds of clients which range from solo entrepreneurs to non-profit organizations to Fortune 500 companiesTheir first step is to first divide their current client base into market segments and then into smaller niche areas.  EZ Office Supplies identifies that some of their non-profit clients focus on raising funds for research for diseases like cancer and AIDS.  Others provide services to people with other serious health issues, such as autism or multiple sclerosis and still other of their non-profit clients focus on more social issues, such as homelessness, drug addiction, adoption of older kids, job training for youth, etc.

The next step is for EZ Office Supply to identify the one to three types of non-profits within the specific niche that they want more referrals from.   EZ Office Supply decides that they want more clients that are non-profit organizations that focus on social issues,  specifically those that help people with drug addiction and those that provide job training for youths or formerly incarcerated people.  They identify three specific non-profits that are not their clients who they would like to be introduced to.

The third step is to ask for specific referrals to these types of non-profits from their current client base and from their referral partners.   When communicating with their current clients (in person, via email, and in phone calls), EZ Office Supply’s sales people mention that they are looking for introductions to directors or people who work for these three specific non-profits or others like them.  At networking events, business expos and seminars, they mention that although they work with a diverse client base, they excel at working work with non-profits and that they are looking to meet people from the three non-profits they are specifically targeting.

2.  Introduce your clients to your current referral partners.  The more opportunities you have to introduce your client base to your referral partners, the easier it will be to generate referrals for your business.  You can do this in a variety of different ways, ranging from spotlighting a referral partner in your client communication and marketing materials such as your newsletter or on your blog to writing a testimonial on their Facebook page

You can also do this in-person at different events.  For example, a dentist I know gives bi-monthly seminars, usually relating to something that is new or improved about his practice and health issues that go beyond oral health. He invites his patients to attend as well as his referral partners from a variety of different businesses. Before the start of the seminar, he personally introduces his patients to his referral partners and speaks highly of them to each other.  He differentiates himself from other dentist through adding value to his patients’ lives by introducing them them to potential product/service providers they may need at one point or another.  This also results in referrals for his practice from his patients and from his referral partners.

If you are in a networking or referral group that allows you to provide a small overview about your business or one that provides a  featured speaker at each meeting (usually someone from the group’s members), invite your clients/customers to hear the featured presenter or to hear you when you are speaking about a specific topic. This will provide a forum to easily introduce your clients to your referral partners without any pressure of them to “buy” anything. 

3. Create Add-On Opportunities (also known as Joint Ventures).  An Add-On Opportunity is a chance for your prospects, current clients and past clients to purchase your product/services bundled with those of one of your referral partners. You do this by focusing on working with professions that share similar client bases.

For example, if you are a carpet cleaning company, you may want to partner with a person who sells air purification systems to offer a discount on the units.  If you are a photographer, you may want to partner with a local restaurant to offer free photographs taken of guests, one or two nights a week, offering the photos for sale in a nice frame afterwards. (The frame will have your contact information on the reverse side).

By offering an add-on opportunity to your original product, your referral partner can pay you a percentage of the their fee.  If you are not comfortable splitting fees, your referral partner can give you their product or service for free in exchange for access to your new customer’s information.  That way, they may separately market their products/services to them at a later time.

What are some other ways you have found to be effective in avoiding the “referral drought?”  Share your comments/ideas below.

12. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

While on Facebook today, I received one of those “targeted” ads on the side of my wall which I just had to click. The ad was for a pair of sweatpants that were designed to look like dress pants.  The manufacturer said these would be great both in and out of the boardroom.  While I’m a full supporter of free enterprise, I found this concept rather amusing and put a link to it on my wall with the following question: “What would you think if someone showed up to a business meeting or appointment wearing these?”  Almost immediately the comments came in which were all negative.  The majority of people said it was unprofessional and that they wouldn’t take the person seriously.

It reminded me of an article I wrote a few years back based on a true story which happened while at a networking event, which I’d like to share with you today.

Does Your Image Match Your Message?

“The perception of images is the reality of our contemporary culture.”  — Madonna

We were taught by our parents that we should not prejudge, that looks alone are not important.  While this advice has good intentions, truth be told, marketing and advertising, in any of its forms, is all about image. How you project yourself to a potential customer — let alone you networking partners — is vital.

When you are networking, you are doing more than just marketing your business, you are marketing yourself.  Most people  will develop an impression  about you within the first seven seconds of meeting you.  These impressions will extend beyond you and go on to include to your business, the people you associate with, the people you hire or work with, how you handle yourself, etc

But it is not only what you say and how you say it, but how you look to them.

Seem a bit shallow?

Yes.

Is it a reality, especially in networking?

You better believe it!

I met a business attorney named Sam who had worked for almost 10 years in a prestigious law firm.  While at the firm, he represented several well-known, world-wide companies, and also many local companies.  His knowledge of the law was what one would expect of a seasoned attorney.   The firm was first-rate and everyone who worked there, looked, and acted, first-rate: from the most senior partner to the people working in the mail-room.

Six months prior to our meeting, Sam had left the firm and opened his own private practice.

He joined a local networking group to build his practice and was accepted.  However, after a few months, he began to complain that he did not get any referrals.

When I visited his group I noticed that he showed up to the meetings in a t-shirt and sweat-pants, unshaven and looking like he just rolled out of bed.  I later found out from his fellow members that this was not an isolated incident – he showed up every week, unkempt. Members who visited his office found it very sloppy and messy.  When some people tried to approach him about appearing more organized and professional, he was taken aback by their comments.  He would reply by telling them how he spent 80+ hours a week in a suit and tie for almost a decade while at the firm and since he was his own boss now, he could do whatever he wanted.

Several members secretly confided in me that they could not refer clients to him because of his public image.  These potential referral givers, felt that even though Sam may have known his stuff, he reflected poorly on them due to his public image, which did not match his professional message.

On the other hand, you don’t want to wear something outrageous either. Whenever attending a networking meeting, a business dinner, or meeting a new or current client, it is important to remember that their spotlight is focused on you.  Make sure that you are “dressed for work”.  If you are a landscaper, a polo shirt with your business’ name on it is appropriate, on the other hand if you are a CPA or an attorney, men, a suit and tie is expected and women, a business suit or conservative dress is expected.

Your business’s image helps people to remember your identity is what builds trust and motivation to do business with you. You want them to remember YOU, not your clothes (except, of course, if you are a fashion designer or model).

To be a productive networker, you need to make sure make sure that you look the part. Simply put, the more professional you are, look and behave, the better the first impression will be with the people that you meet for the first time, as well as with those you meet again.

Remember: “It does matter how they remember you, but it is even more important that they do remember you.”  – Harvey MacKay, Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.