April 23, 2013

5 Steps to Grow Your Business Through Referrals in 2013


Now that the first quarter of 2013 is over and many of us are looking at the remainder of the year wondering, 'What else can I do to grow my business?', we wanted to offer five things you can do to grow your business this year. Let's jump right into it.

1. Know what you want from your network.

If you are in a referral-based business, meaning that you seek business opportunities from your existing network, the most important thing you need to understand is what your network can do for you. To know this, you must first define what is most important to you and what your network relationship objective is. What kinds of opportunities do you want to generate from the people in your network? If you want to learn more about how to achieve this, read this in depth blog post I wrote that can help you figure everything out.

2. Identify the most important people in your network.

Like most things in life, not everyone in your network is created equal. The majority of people in a referral-based business generate a large amount of referrals from a small group of people. The classic 80/20 rule applies here, and in some cases can be even more pronounced, like 90/10.

Try to identify which of the people in your network are your "Legends." Legend is a term we've developed over the years defined as people that have the ability, willingness and history of delivering the kind of opportunities you're seeking, often in the form of referrals. In general, it's a good idea to take the time to rate your network. While focusing just on your Legends is a great first step, feel free to read this blog post on how to efficiently rate your network overall

Give this exercise a try. Write down the top 30 contacts you think would fall into your Legends category. Then, create a bucket called Legends in your Contactually account and add those contacts to it. Then, take a look at your communications with those Legends and identify who you haven't spoken with in 30 days. You might be surprised just how high that number is. If it is above 20-30% of your Legends bucket, you know you're letting opportunities fall through the cracks and leaving money on the table.

PRO TIP: Once you have created your Legends bucket, make sure you set to the follow-up reminder interval to 30 or 45 days, as shown here:

3. Meet with each of your Legends and learn about the things that are relevant to them.

Now you have your Legends in a central location with a follow-up reminder system in place, it's time to touch base with these contacts at least once every 30 days. Next, you might wonder what kind of content you should send your contacts in your follow-ups. One thing you probably fear, as many of us do, is coming across as spammy or unauthentic in any way. Let's see if we can overcome that challenge - it's easier than you think!

As long as you send a message that is perceived as relevant or valuable, you'll never fall into the "spam trap." Here, you need to ask yourself what is relevant to that person. As a first step, you can try to make notes in each contact record so you don't forget what you know about them. Surprisingly, most people will realize that initially, they didn't know much about their Legends!

A simple solution to that obstacle is to first use email to request for a more in-depth meeting, whether it be coffee, lunch or just a phone call. This will allow you to check in with him and figure out his current professional challenges, as well as some of his interests and passions. In other words, what projects is he working on that requires completion? What is he doing in his free time (perhaps on the weekends) when he is not trying to solve those professional challenges? The more you can dig out, the better.

As soon as you are done with that meeting, take the time to record your notes in Contactually. This way, you'll be able to look the information up when you receive a follow-up reminder for that person. It will make your life much easier.

4. Use Contactually to reach out to your Legends on a regular basis.

The brilliant thing about Contactually is that it will remind you to reach out to these people at intervals that you specified for each bucket. In theory, you should now have everything in place to deliver excellent experiences with every interaction you have with your Legends. We're reminded to follow up with them automatically and we know enough about them that we can come up with something creative that will certainly be appreciated.

This is where you can develop most of your skills. We can support you a lot with technology but at the end of the day, it really depends on your ability come up with ideas. Don't worry though - it's easier than you think! For example, say you know a Legend that is really into flying planes. If you are also somewhat a fan of aviation, this should be a no brainer. If you're not, a quick Google search will come up with some interesting pieces of content to share.

The following email will give you a better idea of how to properly execute this:

Here is the response I got response I received was the following email:

In case you're wondering, VPL stands for a "Value Payload" and is a term I coined to describe exactly these kind of interactions. Interactions that carry a payload of value. Pretty powerful stuff.

In a nutshell, all you have to do come up with great ideas that would be interesting, meaningful and valuable to your Legends. This may be challenging in the beginning, but will soon become second nature with a bit of practice. While Contactually will remind you of when to follow up with your Legends, it is absolutely critical that you actually act on it.

If you don't interact with someone you barely know, it's almost guaranteed that they'll never refer you to the people in your network.

5. Make every interaction valuable

We've asked you to create a bucket of 30 Legends and set the follow-up interval to about 30 days. If you do the math, you'll realize that all you'll need to do is send one email per day. By the end of the month, you'll have sent 30 emails and will have reached out to every one of your Legends. It's that simple! If you continue for the entire year, you are looking at 260 to 365 interactions, depending on your motivation and ambition levels.

In any case, the key point is you will interact, at a minimum, 260 times more with people in your network that have the ability and willingness to support you with referrals. A simple tactic like this can be the game changer you have been looking for. Click here to start your Contactually trial and try it out.