What is a referral network?
A referral network can be a formal or informal group of business owners who trust each other and refer business to each other. A common referral network is a chamber of commerce where business owners network with each other to build trust and pass business. It is an effective way to meet people who have a need for your product or service, building the network of people and businesses to whom you refer business and from whom business is referred to you.
Building a referral network creates a community that is essentially doing marketing for your business. They know people who need your product or service and refer those people to you. You also help build other businesses by referring customers to them. It’s a win-win especially if you’re thinking strategically.
Businesses important to your customers. If you’re a landscaper, develop a network of other home service businesses. These include pool service, pest control, house cleaning, and HVAC (air conditioning and heating). They are all in front of your target customers and can provide referrals to your business.
Businesses related to your business. If you’re a website developer, develop a network of online marketing service partners. These include graphic designers, website designers and developers, copywriters, bloggers, and social media strategists and managers.
Network where your target clients are networking. Clearly define your target client or customer before you network or you could be fishing in the wrong pond, so to speak, wondering why you are not generating leads from your efforts. Just as you choose the right trade show for your business, you must find the right networking groups.
- Ask others where they are networking.
- Visit other networking groups including chambers of commerce and associations.
- Don’t just network where your friends or business associates are networking.
- Find the right place for your business and build your own network of contacts that you can refer to others outside the group.
Invest in the future of your business. It is typically affordable but not free to join a chamber of commerce, association or BNI networking group. When you find the right group and the right referral partners, it can explode your business. Typically focused on a particular local area, these groups help businesses thrive by sponsoring events and seminars where business owners can get to know each other.
It takes work to build a referral network. Oftentimes business owners want to see an immediate return on their investment of time and/or money for networking. It’s not an immediate return so don’t set yourself up for disappointment. It takes time to build relationships with people so they know, like, and trust you enough to send business to you. Referral networking is more of a marathon than a sprint.
- Find the right networking group(s) and partners for your business. This is a bit of trial and error mixed with asking others where they network, and research.
- Identify businesses that are ideal partners or referral sources for you and network with them.
- Know today’s referral partners will not be your partners forever. Partnerships change making it important to always be planting seeds for new business relationships.
- Refer business to others and they will more than likely return the favor.
Be consistent in your efforts. If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s the importance of having a presence at a local and national level. You want to be the person people call (and not your competitor) which means staying in front of your prospects even when it feels like your efforts aren’t yielding business. Know you’re planting seeds for the future.
Building a referral network that will help you grow your business takes research, time and effort. Being active and consistent will make the payoff sweeter as you will develop partnerships and a network of people who know, like, trust and send leads to you. And you will do the same for them.
At EXHIB-IT!, we understand marketing is an essential part of growing your business and we believe in helping business achieve maximum return on their trade show investment. Contact our team today to learn how we can help you design a trade show booth to attract your target clients and build a referral network to send your business to the next level.