A strong business referral network can bring new life to your business strategy, but they don’t happen by accident.
It takes time and effort to foster a high-quality business referral network that you can count on. But while you probably already know that building those relationships is essential for business success, you might still be avoiding giving it the attention it deserves. Maybe you’re focusing on other priorities…maybe you don’t have time to network…or maybe you’re not quite sure how to get started.
Building a high-quality business referral network doesn’t have to be a chore. It can actually be strategic while still being enjoyable.
Treating referrals as a business development pipeline instead of a casual, ad hoc exercise is the first step. As Harvard Business Review explained, building and sustaining relationships can help business leaders solve problems, uncover new insights, and achieve business outcomes. So we’ve gathered a few strategies you can use to strengthen your relationship building skills and increase referrals:
1. Diversify your business referral network to build new relationships
Staying inside the same network or circle can deepen existing relationships, but it can be hard to develop new ones. Instead, go outside of your immediate circle of acquaintances and begin meeting new people in adjacent circles — and beyond. Looking at your second-degree connections can be a less intimidating starting point, for example, with a partner supplier, vendor or one of their trusted customers.
2. Put as much into your business referral network as you expect to receive
Effective business relationships require a give-and-take from both parties. Offer and deliver your expertise and assistance. Connect colleagues, clients and partners, or share industry information others would find useful. This will encourage those in your network to reciprocate when you also need a helping hand.
3. Recognize and thank those in your business referral network
Whether with a phone call, email, holiday card, or handwritten note, acknowledgment of a referral encourages partners to refer even more. They see you appreciate the fact they’re helping you achieve your business goals, increasing the chances they’ll refer more in the future. Who doesn’t like to hear “Thank you” every once in a while?
4. Invest quality time with key relationships
As your circle grows, it will be hard to spend time with everyone. So you must determine which relationships are the key connections to your growth. These relationships will generate higher returns in the short and long term and are worth spending time on. Don’t spend as much time nurturing the ones that aren’t providing you value, and you may consider ‘retiring’ other referral contacts that have consistently fallen short. Remember, more is not always better. It’s the quality of the relationship, not the quantity.
5. Pay attention to the local social and business landscape
Your community already has bonds, loyalties and networks of its own. It’s time to make them work for you. Research events happening in your community, whether it be on your local Chamber of Commerce website, in your partners’ social news feeds, or in industry publications. Keep track of conferences, tradeshows and meetups where your referral network may be attending. Recognize the ebb and flow of your community — then get involved where possible. Bonus: You might even open up areas to gain a new competitive advantage along the way.
6. Prune, nurture and reshape your network often
A business network is a dynamic, living thing that will grow and contract over time. You should cultivate relationships with partners essential to your business growth and eliminate the ones who are no longer useful — which can sometimes even mean customers. Revisit your network regularly so you can see which relationships you should continue to nurture. Work this tactic into your ongoing business plan and make it a business objective to keep your network trim but powerful.
Focusing on relationship building as a business pipeline can have a dramatic effect on your business. It takes time to develop them to the point where referrals come through to you consistently. Following these strategies will be part of building your own process to grow a successful business network.
About Liquid Capital
At Liquid Capital, we understand what it takes for small, medium, and emerging mid-market businesses to succeed – because we’re business people ourselves. Our company is built on a network of locally owned and operated Principal Offices, so whenever you’re talking to Liquid Capital you’re talking directly to your funding source and a fellow business person.