This post is a special Make a Referral Week guest post featuring education on the subject of referrals and word of mouth marketing and making 1000 referrals to 1000 small businesses – check it out at Make a Referral Week 2010
As part of John Jantsch’s Referral Week, I’d like to focus on personal branding, as a way to become someone that people want to refer to others. I agree with John that the best way to grow a business is to get referrals because of how powerful word-of-mouth is. These days, it’s become more and more obvious that referrals can help you substantially build your brand presence, your web properties and your cash flow. The reason is because of the viral nature of the web, and how one video review of your service can morph into seven blog posts, six hundred tweets and a front page story on BusinessWeek.com within twenty-four hours. Five years ago, this line of events was impossible, but today it happens all of the time.
Here are some ways to become a brand that people want to refer:
Be interesting: People, who are interested in you, as a person, are more inclined to connect with you, do business with you and refer you to their own personal network. Your personal brand is not only defined by your job or company, but also by the activities you participate outside of the office and your hobbies. It might be hard to connect with someone on a professional level, but you might be able to bridge the relationship by talking about your golf game or the last season of Lost.
Be valuable: There’s no question that experts are judged based on hard and soft results. It’s not just being valuable though, because all of your competitors can do that. You need to be unique and offer something your competitors don’t and compete on prestige and quality, rather than price. Online, if you’re seen as a valuable resource, the press will call on you, customers will be to work with you, and when all is said and done, and people will refer you to even their third degree network.
Be generous: It’s rare that people share others products and services before they receive a sample for free. “Free” builds trust, authority and generates attention. If you want to be referred by others, then you’re going to have to give before you receive. The more generous you are with your network, by providing them with resources, helpful links, reports and advice, the more you will get back in return.
Be enabled: How are people going to refer you to their network, unless you enable them to do so. By providing your email address on your web page and by allowing people to share your content through Facebook, Digg, Twitter, Google Buzz and others, people can find you. If you don’t enable your network and empower them to refer you, without much effort, then you won’t get as many referrals.
Be networking: The more people you meet, the larger network you have and thus, the more people that can refer you to others. Meeting people is quite easy now due to the connectivity of the internet. Try and locate people that you’re actually interested in and can benefit from your services, instead of someone random you see on Twitter.
Dan Schawbel is the bestselling author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, an award-winning blogger at Personal Branding Blog, the publisher of Personal Branding Magazine, a national speaker and consultant on branding and a BusinessWeek columnist. He’s been called a “Personal Branding Guru” by The New York Times and has been featured in over 150 media outlets.