Professional networks are an increasingly important tool for any small business’s growth. I’ll go so far as to say small businesses, especially in the B2B space, won’t survive long term without them. While I acknowledge the survival assessment may be largely anecdotal, networking provides warmer leads and the best return on investment. That’s not in question. Why? The coveted referral, of course.
Look around in any area and you’ll find various networking groups meeting weekly (at least). Frankly I was pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of professional networks available in my area. What’s interesting is oftentimes business owners are so preoccupied with looking for and joining the larger groups with brand name recognition that they often overlook those closest to them that could add a ton of value.
Chambers of Commerce can be excellent networking groups and sources for referrals, but don’t forget the small network that meets at the local church on Friday mornings. Small groups of committed referral partners will outperform a larger group of window shoppers every day and twice on Sunday. The jury is out – small businesses that network and leverage the power of referrals are closing more business.
Referral partners are friends, neighbors, real estate agents, franchise owners, insurance brokers, the lady who owns the nail salon, and your……wait for it…. clients. Clients will know firsthand the value you bring to their business, and they’re excited to introduce you to their network. Touching base with your clients to start the conversation for a referral request can be done by a friendly email or a brief phone call to check in on your service. 91% of clients would refer, but only 11% of salespeople ask. Is it really that simple? Yes.
Professionals want other professionals to succeed, and most people genuinely want to help when possible. Networking groups provide the systems, structure, and the committed audience to facilitate that success. If you haven’t done so already, take the time to reach out and connect with a network. Start small and work into a few groups. Become a referral partner. Actively look for referrals for others and see if the return on investment is there for you. It’s highly likely you’ll personally benefit from the experience with the bonus of increased revenue for your business. Not a bad combination.