Do you want to get into the “fast lane” for increasing your sales? Creating a successful referral network may just be the strategy that can get you there. I’ve seen this one marketing strategy revolutionize many companies.
A referral network is a group of businesses that offer complimentary products and services to a group of people who share the same buying interests.
I’m not talking about just going to a local networking meeting or chamber mixer looking for contacts, I mean creating your own group of liked-minded complimentary businesses devoted strictly to working together within that group to increase sales.
The key to a great referral network is finding local businesses that want what you want (new customers) and are willing to help you as much as you are willing to help them. But creating a successful referral network takes commitment, patience and a change in thinking.
The way to find these businesses is to ask yourself, “Who already has a relationship with my best prospects?” The answer to this question will result in a list of businesses that you can potentially partner with to supply you with a consistent stream of high quality referrals.
For example, a good prospect for a power sports dealer would also be a good prospect for a boat or RV dealer. These companies have customers with common interests and buying habits would probably benefit from having access to each other’s customers to get new business.
Unfortunately, many companies see complimentary businesses as competitors and might prematurely shun the thought of partnering with them. But the reality is that they are a hidden goldmine of new business just waiting to be tapped into by any resourceful company willing to do some legwork and networking.
Instead of competing against each other, the companies in a referral network band together to develop specific marketing activities and promotions that generate referrals and entice customers to buy their products and services.
To establish your own network, you’ll want to start slow and easy. Approach a business owner that you already know who sells complimentary products and services and suggest a “pilot project” with them. Let them know that you’ll do all the work to set up the project and make sure it runs smoothly. By reducing the risk of participating for your partner, you’ll increase your chances of getting a “yes.”
Once you experience a success with one business then you can leverage that success with other businesses that you invite into your referral network.
Deciding what type of referral activities you should do depends upon the business you’re partnering with and how much work you’re willing to do. However, there are several joint ventures that companies can do to generate business, which demand little effort and can pay great dividends.
Here are some referral activities to consider:
1. If you are a retailer, try displaying each other’s products on your showroom floors.
2. If you are a service company, send endorsement letters to each other’s customers. Few things are more powerful than a personal testimonial letter from a trusted business friend endorsing your product or service. Consider inserting a special offer in the letters to entice prospects to act quickly.
3. Place advertising banners on each other’s websites. This will drive qualified traffic to each other’s websites. You’ll have access to prospects that you didn’t previously have and so will your referral network partner.
These are just a few joint marketing activities that you and your partners can enjoy together. Using your own imagination and business experience, the possibilities are endless.
This powerful marketing strategy requires an outside-the-box mindset. Instead of thinking “win/lose competition, think “win/win cooperation. Once you establish your own referral network, you’ll start getting more referrals than you ever thought possible.