The Number One Trait Of A Master Networker

Excellent article by BNI founder Ivan Misner and one of the main reasons we created Hello Referrals. The follow up on received referrals is made abundantly clear here and it’s importance is key.

http://networking.entrepreneur.com/2009/11/05/what-is-the-number-one-trait-of-a-master-networker/

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Small Business Marketing

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUeeiCNqGwk

We just completed our new video that explains business networking – an undeniably effective method of small business marketing.

We made the video to articulate an inherent problem for business networks – the management of referrals and business opportunities – but that’s not the only thing that they collaboratively trade. Business networks also exchange ideas and information, and those are in most cases the elements that act as kind of the initial building block of many referral relationships and business partnerships.

Establishing or joining a network of other professionals to exchange referrals with is one of the quickest and most inexpensive ways to get a business off the ground. When compared to other approaches to starting the sales engine – business networking is a low cost and high yield method to gaining customers and typically generates a higher and faster return than other small business marketing efforts. Some people join business networking groups like BNI, or BRX. Others prefer more casual environments and many people just simply either have or develop their own personal business networks of partners where everyone collectively builds their businesses and mutually benefits. Whatever way you choose to do this – it’s a great idea.

Hello Referrals makes business networking simple and fun. Sign up and try it free for 30 days!

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Business Networking & Referral Relationships

Business Networking and building reciprocal referral relationships with others is hands down one of the fastest and most inexpensive ways to build your business. Fewer than 10% of people do it right. I wanted to share some tips on building a business network that is reciprocal and mutually beneficial, but also maintaining that network, and growing it successfully. I’ve broken it down into 6 steps.

  1. Seek complimentary service providers to your industry – but don’t assume.

  2. Ensure a like mindedness.

  3. Set out expectations and discuss goals.

  4. Monitor and track the business you exchange.

  5. Measure the results.

  6. Check yourself!

1. The easiest way to start off building your own personal referral network is to seek complimentary service providers to your industry.. As an example – if you work in web design, it might be prudent to try to meet someone who works in printing, graphic design, public relations, or advertising. If you work in real estate, maybe meeting a mortgage specialist, a home inspector, or a general contractor might be a good idea. A complimentary businesses to business network is more likely to mutually refer – however, assuming that just because you work in the same realm referrals will be flying between you is naive. The act of referring and exchanging leads is an attitude, and it isn’t guaranteed just because the business networking potential between two people is so high. There are just as many successful business networks made up of professionals in unrelated industries as there are in related ones.

2. Make sure you’re on the same page! Ensuring a like mindedness includes meeting someone who genuinely wants to be in a referral relationship as much as you do and is prepared to invest their time and energy into building it in the same way you are. Ask questions about your potential network partner’s business and their experience with previous referral relationships they may have been in. Try to get a gauge of their level of seriousness with business exchange. Determine if you have the same approach to looking for opportunities for your referral partners. Sensing whether someone’s interest is fleeting and short term is easy. You want people looking to establish long term relationships. Talking and doing is two separate things. More often than not, people will talk. Try to deal with business networking doers.

3. Put it all out on the table, speak frankly, and discuss your mutual expectations and goals. Do you have a sales target for your fiscal year that you want your referral relationship to help you hit? Articulate it. Do you expect a certain number of referrals? Let it be known. Are you looking for a certain kind of client? Say so.

4. I had the opportunity to speak with a Michael Hughes from Networking For Results recently, and something he said really resonated with me. Following through on the referrals and leads exchanged in a referral relationship is critically important. This is what builds trust. Many people put so much time into building these relationships that they let the actual business get away from them when they’re finally getting the referrals. You’re failing the big picture if you’ve successfully achieved steps 1-3, but then blow even one referral opportunity. This is the reason we created Hello Referrals – to track and measure the results of business networking. Never put yourself in a situation where you’ve forgotten to call a referral, let it drop off, or managed it poorly.

5. Measuring the results of the business you exchange with your referral partners is important. How many of the leads are you closing? What’s your batting average? What’s the typical transaction value if it’s successful from certain partners? Are your partners qualifying the referrals properly? Analyze and tweak how you can mutually be enhancing your relationships.

6. Make sure you’re doing everything you said you’d do, and that your attitude towards your network is consistent and in line with a genuinely reciprocal approach. If you’re not doing what you expect, change the behavior fast.

Hello Referrals makes business networking simple and fun. Sign up and try it free for 30 days!

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Generating More Referrals For Your Business

What Are The Benefits Of Tracking The Referrals I Send and Receive?

We’re sticklers for organization and measuring results. When we created Hello Referrals, we were focused on a few simple core things that we wanted to achieve. Create an easy to use tool to track, send, receive, and measure the results of word of mouth marketing and networking. We didn’t want to overwhelm users with data that they didn’t need. We didn’t want to make the system bloated with information that was unimportant or irrelevant to a single customer’s ability to win more business, know where it came from, and encourage more of it. We wanted people to use it and consider it a helpful and valuable utility. In it’s infancy as an idea (over a beer two years ago on a summer patio), we felt that the cornerstone of it’s usefulness would lie on it’s ability to track leads and referrals simply and quickly. That night, we discussed why someone would want to track leads and referrals in the first place.

Mike Macedonio at The Referral Institute says it well….

“The referral process is about committing to a series of actions designed to create a result, both for you and for the other people involved, and then measuring it and improving the system. As long as you track your activities, it’s not that hard to measure the results.

When you do not track the referral process, the lag time between participating in networking activities, getting referrals, and ultimately closing the resulting business inevitably creates a significant challenge. Without tracking the system, you cannot pinpoint which of your networking activities have led to the referrals which end up resulting in new business for you.”

Jeff Korhan also illustrates the point well. We’ve cited a few excerpts and you can read the post on his blog here.

He explains the importance of tracking your sources of revenue and what arises as a result of the effort.

  • Quantification removes all doubts. Either there is a result or there isn’t. It’s that simple.
  • Numbers are a universal language that can be easily shared among team members.
  • You become aware of patterns that can (and should be) studied further.
  • Key influencers and supporters are identified and more readily appreciated, and therefore stay on your radar.
  • This historical data will help you plan for next year; and that is a process you should be commencing right now

We felt that there was a need there. Tracking your referrals, leads, and networking activity equates to increased business, more closed opportunities, and more time for you to do what counts – networking. It’s helpful to know that the printer in your network sent you $15,000 of business this past quarter. It’s helpful to know that 50% of the referrals you receive you close. It’s valuable to know that you sent your friend – the commercial insurance broker – 6 new pieces of business last month based on your recommendation. It’s helpful to have a tool that reminds you to stay on top of opportunities and leads you send and receive. It’s helpful to have those leads and referrals housed in a simple to access and reference database that ensures they’re accounted for and managed properly. It’s important to track your referrals until they either pan out or don’t. Referrals and leads generated from your networking efforts are precious opportunities. Giving them the attention they deserve is essential, and tracking your word of mouth marketing activity is a key way to generating more referrals for your business.

Hello Referrals makes business networking simple and fun. Sign up and try it free for 30 days!

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We’re Back: Hello Referrals v1.0

We spent the summer with beta testers – refining our baby – better known as the Hello Referrals application. We’re happy to report that the new version of the app is now live. Hello Referrals v.1.0.

Again, we’re offering the application for free for a 60 day free trial. It’s a no obligation way to get in on the ground floor and use the tool – ideal for those in a pre-existing network of business professionals or those that want to build a network from scratch and have an effective way to build, manage, and close business leads and referrals with others. The above screen shot is an example of the new weekly update emails that go out to the users within a network using the application. This was a key feature that we wanted to introduce as we think this is important in any web based environment – especially one where there is activity among a group of people trading and managing business leads. Linked In and Facebook employ the weekly summary as a means to encourage a visit back to the environment and to know what’s going on inside of it. The weekly summary emails are reminders to update business leads and opportunities you may have received or to follow up on those that you’ve sent. It’s also meant as a reminder that you might have a meeting booked with one of the other members of your group, or that there’s an important event or date approaching. Most importantly, it acts as a reminder to connect again with the environment – the most critical element of encouraging a user to engage with a web based application or tool. We’re confident that this new features will further enhance and increase leads and referrals turning into closed business – as users are reminded to stay on top of them more effectively and regularly.

Other new features in Hello Referrals v.1.0 include:

  • Weekly summary emails with a snapshot overview of referrals
    received, sent and upcoming events
  • Ability for administrators to delete partners within the
    application
  • Revamped system for adding partners that uses secure invitations
    (i.e. no more publicly-accessible “registration” link)
  • Improved design on email notifications
  • Billing and payment infrastructure, along with the ability to
    upgrade/downgrade your account
  • Ability to cancel your account
  • Better form validation (so any errors are pointed out before the
    form is submitted)
  • Email notifications are enabled by default for new users
  • Improved help content
  • Improved security

I had a recent conversation with a new customer who also happens to be a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in a while. He had heard that I was involved in a startup that was developing what he incorrectly referred to as a “referral generator”. I was glad to take the opportunity to correct him, and we sat down over a coffee to discuss it. He asked me what Hello Referrals did, and what the game plan was, so I explained it to him. Before we even sat down to have our lattes – I sent him the following link to a post on the Freshbooks blog about Generating More Referrals For Your Business – a point form excerpt of a teleseminar between Freshbooks founder Mike McDerment and Duct Tape Marketing’s John Jantsch.

I’ve been associated with a BNI group for years ( a great investment in your business as far as I’m concerned, and a good way to meet other local professionals and business owners). I regularly refer friends and partners to my many people on a regular basis. It’s paid off for my business, and I like doing it. I also like getting referrals from people. It’s validating and empowering – and referrals from friends and partners are qualified and excellent leads. The closing ratio on a referral is higher than with a typical lead, they also don’t cost me anything, and in most cases net me new customers that I’ve been fortunate enough to retain for a long period of time because of the endorsement from someone I know or have done business with. I attributed a 20% growth in my business last fiscal year to 7 referrals that I received from a good friend and referral partner of mine – one of which ended up becoming a $65,000 client. For me – that’s huge.

I also explained to him that anyone who knows anything about referrals, business leads, or referral marketing, knows that strategically being on top of those opportunities is important. They’re just as important – if not arguably more important as a regular business lead – as they’ve typically come with someone else’s endorsement. As indicated as an important component to any referral marketing strategy in the summary of the teleseminar – tracking your referrals and expecting them are important parts of the process. Having a game plan with respect to receiving them – sending them – tracking them – and being able to measure the results is key. Most people are relying on excel spreadsheets, emails, and slips of paper in some cases to manage leads from others they’re getting. I summarized my explanation by saying that we wanted to create a tool that facilitated doing these things and that we also wanted to create communities or cater to groups that are referral marketing and sending leads and opportunities to each other. My friend works in IT, and I finished my explanation by asking him about a lead that I had sent his way back in the summer of last year – a customer of mine. He mentioned that he had attempted a phone call, but hadn’t heard back from them. I know for a fact that the referral ended up going somewhere else – not because of anything other than my friend not maintaining a presence on the radar enough (this was explained to me by the lead as an instance where they had received the call, but there wasn’t enough pursuit of the business). After that initial phone call – there was no follow up. As a result – the referral didn’t pan out. That’s the long and short of it. My friend was sold, and agreed to try it out. After this – one of the first things he mentioned was having the weekly reminder we just introduced as a new feature would have helped him to have remembered to make that second phone call.

Interested? Contact us for more information or to try a trial for free for 60 days.

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