Too often, small business owners overlook the best source of leads for growing your enterprise: your own network of business contacts. That’s the conclusion of Jim Blasingame, a contributing writer to Forbes and author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.
According to Blasingame in a recent blog for Forbes, when it comes to growing our businesses, “we make things harder than they have to be. There are many examples, but arguably one of the most dramatic is also one of the simplest to fix: failure to ask for referrals.”
Entrepreneurs typically rely on more traditional marketing tactics to grow their prospect base. These include search engine optimization, paid search (i.e., Google Adwords), event marketing, advertising, etc. Focusing on your personal network of clients, vendors, friends and family seems either too time consuming or possibly too invasive.
Blasingame recommends developing a specific referral strategy that’s separate from your external marketing program. By focusing on your “centers of influence” – those within your network who are most enthusiastic about you and what you do – you begin to exponentially increase your prospect pipeline.
There is one warning, however: Make sure to thank your referring source and take time to develop trust with your new prospect. Your commitment to the highest standards of professionalism is the only way to develop your center of influence network in a sustainable way.
“If you’re still not sold on referrals,” writes Blasingame, “look around and you’ll see many successful businesses that grow ONLY by referrals – essentially no marketing. There’s one primal reason why referrals can be more productive than marketing: People are hard-wired to want to help other people when they’re asked.”