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 4 years ago. 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 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.

 

Put that in your Pipeline and Track it: Your Sales Close Ratio

Most of our businesses have just embarked on a new set of goals. But do we know if we are on track to achieve them? I went to a BNI conference a year ago where I truly got the message  that businesses need to know their ‘closing’ ratio – the proportion of inbound contacts that actually turn into sales. [1/15/12 Edited to add. It was the Referrals for Life Day, 2011 in Santa Rosa, CA. The speaker who got me thinking about all this was Sarah Owen, of the Referral Institute, UK]

My inner-statistician and outer-control-freak bellied up to the computer with barely concealed glee. ‘We’ opened a spreadsheet and data-dived for what we could find of my sales pipeline, drawing on those trusted resources – the in-box, to-do list, my calendar, saved voicemails and annotated business cards.

Over a year of use the spreadsheet  has shaken down into a daily ‘go to’:

-   Close ratio: The proportion (numbers or value) of deals that actually close
-   # Contacts  needed each month to reach sales goals
-   Where contacts come from
-   How busy the next couple months are likely to be
-   Overly healthy pipeline? Knuckle down and bring in more subs!
-   Light on incoming work? Need to get out to do a bit more networking.
-   There are also classic pipeline management columns.

Prospects in the sales process - not yet "Signed or Declined"

Prospects in the sales process - not yet "Signed or Declined"

Month by Month: After a prospects have 'signed or declined':

Month by Month: After Prospects have 'Signed or Declined':

The image above shows one month of data, with a close ratio of 52% (9,600/18,400) , but I can run analysis across a whole year.

So what were the benefits?

1. Close Ratio:
-   About 30% of my contacts are ‘leads’ who do not qualify as true prospects. Either my services are not right for them, or they do not have the time or budget. Most of these identify themselves on the first call. If I take 3 – 6 calls like this each month, that is fine by me – I can often refer them on to another business.
-   Over a year, my close ratio is about 50%. So I ‘lose’ about 20% of my contacts during the sales process. This is NOT fine by me  – I think more of these sales would close if I present or managed the process better.
-   If my close ratio is 50% and my sales target is $10K of business each month (“Just sayin’…” that is NOT the actual number!) then I would need an average pipeline of $20K each month.

2. Source.

This was my bonus discovery. Having a year of data for this really tells me which of my marketing is worth while. These were the sources that identified themselves:
-   BNI: Referrals from my current BNI membership and activity
-   Clients: Referrals from my current clients
-   Friends: People with no business overlap who refer business to me.
-   Local Networking: Other than BNI (Chamber of Commerce, local Web forums etc)
-   SEO: People who found me through search
-   Social Media: Prospects who contacted me because of my Social Media presence.

3. Pipeline Management
Those other columns that I do not discuss her contain the steps it takes as a contact moves from lead or referral to prospect to proposal to client.

 

SEO and Social Media Goals for 2012

website strategy goalsWeb Strategies may be the name of my business, but for strategies to actually move your business forwards, you need goals for where you want to go. Rana Shabaz reminded me of this in response to my last post about Social Media Strategies. Strategies are all how you drive, while goals are where you are driving to.

Most of us have goals for our businesses. In addition to the overall goals, I need specific goals for my own web presence. Is anyone hearing the patter of stockinged feet? Would that be the cobblers children running out to play without any shoes on? Why yes, it would….

For my website development business, I do track the origins of every inbound prospect – whether they came from referrals, friends, clients, SEO or social media.  30% are usually ‘over’ after the first phone call, 30% fade away during the sales process and maybe 40% turn into clients. And – yes – I do know the total!

Linking these goals to my Web Presence,  I need goals for the number of prospects I expect to get from classic SEO (Wowza! SEO has become ‘classic’ in a Social Media world!?!) and goals for prospects from my Social Media Marketing activities. What’s that I hear you say? One impacts the other? Well yes it does! I take a highly subjective approach and ask the prospects when I first talk to them. If they found me ‘online’ I call it SEO and if they found me on Facebook… you figure it out!

If I don’t have goals for these activities, why would I do them? Well yes – I do enjoy the social side of social media and I do enjoy the intellectual challenge of building my SEO ranking, Up until now I have been busy enough from’100% by referral’ that working my own SEO and Social Media has not been a priority (patter, patter…). So, these are my goals for this year: sharing in public is always a good incentive for goal achievement

Q1 & Q2: At least 10% of my goal prospects / month from SEO or from Social Media Marketing
Q3 & Q4: At least 10% of my goal prospects / month from SEO AND at least 10% of my goal prospects / month from Social Media Marketing

Do you have goals for your SEO and Social Media activities?