Work your Network or Give Work to your Network?

At a Referral Institute conference – all about referral marketing – that I attended last week, an attendee took the microphone from the floor. He said that his generation (OK – so he was younger than me!) must be good at networking because they have such large networks; being the generation of Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and all that. It may be that he understood the situation better than I heard, but what I  heard was confusion between:

•   Having networks:  Holiday-card lists, Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections etc.
•   Networking: spending time building relationships.
•   Network marketing: You marketing products to that network. Think Amway,  Tupperware et al. If you do it wrong,  watch out for that Facebook friend count – it may just drop.
•   Referral Marketing: Rather than marketing to your networks, you and your business network make referrals for each other.

I first ‘met’ referral marketing when I joined BNI in 2008. I gave and received referrals and found out that it just worked.  As a web developer, my clients ask me about services that overlap, or are just outside my expertise. So I consistently have opportunities to refer SEO people, graphic designers,  photographers, videographers, PG guys, Mac guys…

worlds-best-known-marketing-secretThat simple? It is and it is not. Just like sales closing is a skill that people train in, so is referral marketing a skill that can be learned. I went on to receive training from The Referral Institute, which I would recommend to any business owner or sales professional. Mike Macedonio, one of the people who trained was a co author of  a great book that you can purchase here.

Which is where the beginning of this post and the end of my post from last week about Pipelines and the sales process come together. I figured out the  information in ‘my’ spreadsheet on my own, but it was all highly  influenced by the training. Which is why I really encourage you to read the book or attend the training and figure it out so that it will work for you.


28 replies
  1. Frederic Gonzalo
    Frederic Gonzalo says:

    Networking indeed is much more than having friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter and folks writing comments every now and then on a blog. It’s a savvy mix of online and offline activities, sharing know-how, forwarding leads and being a resource to people when they need it. Now, I am not so familiar with referral marketing, but I do know of folks that have been involved for years in BNI chapters and have always found it  a great way to foster relationships, ideas and potential life-changing opportunities.
    So, to answer the question in your title? Work your network or give work to your network? I’d say both go hand in hand, where one leads to the other, and vice versa.

  2. Gazalla Gaya
    Gazalla Gaya says:

    Thank you for opening my eyes to BNI, the Referral Institute and the power of a good referral network. You know, I keep learning new things when I come to your blog and that is why I like to keep visiting. I think that the concept of giving first is firmly ingrained in us bloggers so referral marketing would come to us naturally. I will definitely check out the training at the Referral Institute.

  3. Yvonne Hall
    Yvonne Hall says:

    I agree with this concept and giving 1st and tend to do this naturally. But hadn’t heard the institute. Very interesting. I’ll be looking into this further. Thanks!
    Yvonne Elm Hall

  4. Julieanne Case
    Julieanne Case says:

    I feel like a fifth wheel when it comes to this stuff.  I’ll figure it out until then I’ll wing it.

    Julieanne CaseAlways from the heart!Reconnecting you to your Original Blueprint, Your Essence, Your Joy| Healing you from the Inside Out |Reconnective Healing | The Reconnection| Reconnective Art |

  5. Jennifer Peek
    Jennifer Peek says:

    Networking and referral marketing can be such a hit or miss situation.  I’ve struggled with it as others have noted in their comments.  My biggest challenge is not just being a locally based service provider.  Many of the groups work best with smaller companies that provide more tangible services such as what you do.  It could also be that I haven’t found a group that is a good fit.  I absolutely think that there is value in referrals – the question is whether structure referral groups are the best idea for me.

    • Rana Shahbaz
      Rana Shahbaz says:

      I totally agreed with you Jennifer, I went through a similar situation and I can fully understand your feelings. Giver’s gain is absolutely a great thing but putting a structure into it…. It did not work with me I really struggled with it. 

  6. Brenda Jones
    Brenda Jones says:

    Similar experience to Wendee.  I did a lot of shopping within the group, referred them to friends and other acquaintances, but after a year with one group, I had some great lunch conversations, but no referrals or purchases.  I’m continuing with a related group, but trying out a new location this year that’s closer to home and easier to get to, while still seeing many of the same faces 🙂

    • Abigail Gorton
      Abigail Gorton says:

      Brenda, I remember you saying last week that you realized one group you were in was not right for your business. I find I get the best fit when I am networking with people whose businesses are in the same field as my own.

  7. Wendee Neilson
    Wendee Neilson says:

    I guess I’m so out of the loop on networking.  I spent all last year referring others to each other, but no one ever referred people to me, so I stopped going.  I like the group I belong to, it’s small and friendly.  Not all they are cracked up to be, especially clicky type meetings.

  8. Julie Labes
    Julie Labes says:

    I have been involved with referral marketing since the early 90s which led to becoming an online  referring travel agent which I love. Most of my networking I do online via FB Twitter LinkedIn and my blog, but I do attend events sometimes. I am not familiar with the book you mention but I will check it out.

  9. Rowena
    Rowena says:

    Ah, the science of it all.  Some much to learn, so little time.  It’s great to have strong sources of ‘referral’ to where we can get help.  Thank You Abigail!

  10. Cory Zacker
    Cory Zacker says:

    I love being part of several networking groups involved in education and parenting. We help each other not just with referrals, but also with information and support. For example, if someone posts a question on one of the listservs I belong to, helpful answers appear instantly. I really feel a sense of support and camaraderie from that group and it has definitely turned into more clients for my tutoring business. Thanks for this, Abigail!

  11. Karen Taylor
    Karen Taylor says:

    I launched my business and joined my local chamber of commerce about six months ago. I have received and given a few leads and I gained a new client. I work on honing my network skills at every event and when I feel myself getting very nervous, I silently repeat things to myself like “It’s about them, not about me”, “It’s about relationships, not selling”, etc. and that seems to work.

    The younger generations have no idea what networking is about, how to do it or how to do it well. Their social experiences are rooted in social media, with a severe lack of genuine personal relationships. Until they round that learning curve, it’s going to be a bumpy ride for them.

    I researched BNI and based on what I read, I’m not going to join. It sounds so rigid, you have to attend every meeting, and if you don’t have referrals to share each week you still have to get up and talk in front of the group. It sounds like a nightmare! My neighbor belongs to BNI, though and swears by it. Maybe some day I will reconsider, but for now I’m staying away.

    • Abigail Gorton
      Abigail Gorton says:

      Hi Karen, LOL! You see it so differently to me! I push myself to go to chamber meetings but for my personality the ‘free format’ of them is pretty scary… I know it is not exactly like that but 2 hours of walking up and introducing myself to people is pretty intimidating to me. I actually like the structure of BNI. Yes, I have to stand up every week, but 30 seconds to pitch my business and another 10 seconds to either thank someone for a referral or report in on a 1 to 1 meeting or give a quick testimonial does not bother me. Not sure if you just researched or actually went along – I would (obviously, LOL!) encourage you to go along – even if you are not going to join it will give you a view of some of the resources in your area. One trick that gets me through the wide expanse of chamber meetings is to always be asking about the other person – I make it a game, can I find out all about them without them asking about me? They remember us better for that.

  12. Harry Tinoco-Giraldo
    Harry Tinoco-Giraldo says:

    When I first visited a networking group I got a bit uncomfortable when it came right down to walking up to
    someone and starting a conversation. I was  concerned about
    getting effective results from the time they spend networking. The
    process makes a difference in the amount of businessthat any  company can generate, and also it is agood platform to learn

  13. Harry Tinoco-Giraldo
    Harry Tinoco-Giraldo says:

    When I first visited a networking group I got a bit uncomfortable when it came right down to walking up to
    someone and starting a conversation. I was  concerned about
    getting effective results from the time they spend networking. The
    process makes a difference in the amount of businessthat any  company can generate, and also it is agood platform to learn

  14. Harry Tinoco-Giraldo
    Harry Tinoco-Giraldo says:

    When I first visited a networking group I got a bit uncomfortable when it came right down to walking up to
    someone and starting a conversation. I was  concerned about
    getting effective results from the time they spend networking. The
    process makes a difference in the amount of businessthat any  company can generate, and also it is agood platform to learn

  15. Candace C. Davenport
    Candace C. Davenport says:

    It will interesting to watch this ‘younger’ generation who has been raised to have such large networks, especially through social media. As a generalization, they will never have had the experience of knowing how to network without those tools because it is just a part of their life. I am with you Abigail in that I like more direct referral type of networking to get results. However, lots of that type of networking gets started by social media which, even though I wasn’t born into it, it certainly is a huge part of my life now. Definitely think you need both to be really successful and hope the ‘younger’ generations take the time to learn both skills.

    Candace Davenport ~ Little Books with a Big Message

    • Abigail Gorton
      Abigail Gorton says:

      Hmm, Candace, IDK ( that’s me pretending to be a younger generation and say “I don’t know”) I am thinking that although they have these huge networks, and who is really saying that theirs are larger than ours? Especially on LinkedIn, where we have (cough, cough) 20, 30, or 40 years worth of biz contacts… What I was trying to say is that just having a network does not mean people understand how to respect and help it when they start marketing, as opposed to use it and sell to it. Another place I could have started this post was from discussion board about conferences… People saying it was worth it to them to go because they got to network with some star presenters. Umm, no… You got to shake the presenter’s hand and pick up a signed book. Nice for an emotional lift, but so not networking. You networked with the guys you had dinner with, and nothing wrong with that!

  16. Donnam
    Donnam says:

    Building our business by referral is something my husband and I just dove into late last year and are still in training; we are working with a coach, too, who has helped us overcome some of our resistance to the whole process. It is true that it does work! My husband belongs to a BNI group and I belong to a chamber of commerce leads group, and once we started putting into practice some of what we were learning from our coach, we began to see results…an increase in referrals from our leads group members and just a general uplifting of attitude and positive energy! The online networking is still something I am trying to figure out, but I like the personal networking and hope to continue to learn how to make that work better for our business and others’ businesses as well. There is a lot of satisfaction in helping each other grow!

    • Abigail Gorton
      Abigail Gorton says:

      You and me, both, are still trying to figure out the online part of the networking! Let me know if you get it worked out, I’ll be round immediately asking for coaching!

  17. Cheryl McDonald
    Cheryl McDonald says:

    Networking and referrals are  my favorite way to do business. I do a lot of networking in person, Chamber of Commerce, art events and such. Doing networking online I am still trying to figure out. There is a line that is a bit unclear to me as to how to do this without selling my stuff on FB or whatever. I will look into this book Thanks Abigail!

    • Abigail Gorton
      Abigail Gorton says:

      Cheryl, with you creating individual pieces of art, I think you have an optimum, highly visual product to ‘just’ display on Facebook. Post a picture of each piece as you finish it. Who wouldn’t be happy to see that in their news feed? You don’t have to attach prices or a shopping cart – at least not at first, LOL! Just think of it as an online gallery for people who are interested to see what you do.

      • Cheryl McDonald
        Cheryl McDonald says:

        That has not been effective as of yet Abigail. People enjoy the photos, but have no need to purchase. I am looking to meet corporate, restaurant and hotel interior designers that can use my images for their projects. That is my focus this year. Learning how to “mine” Facebook to find the right connections is something I need to do. Thanks for your input!

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