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16 The Referral Multiplier Effect

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

David Meerman ScottAfter I read an early copy of John’s terrific new book The Referral Engine, it got me thinking about how really great online information makes the job of referring a friend, colleague or family member to somebody a simple process.

Think about your own referrals. How many of them happen via an electronic mechanism (email, Skype, Instant Message, LinkedIn, Twitter, and so on). If you’re like me, nearly all of your referrals happen this way. Somebody will email or tweet me something like: “Hey, I’m looking for a great Web designer, do you know anyone?” How easy it is to just send a link to a Web designer’s work and some contact information!

Most businesses aren’t like Web designers, though. We don’t have our stuff available for easy access. But this problem is easily solved. All you need to do is create something amazing on the Web—a YouTube video, a blog, an ebook, some photos, graphs or charts—something that people are eager to share with others (something that makes referrals easy).

Make it free with no registration gates of any kind

There is no doubt that free information made available on the Web creates a referral multiplier effect. When you make it easy for people to point to something interesting that tells your story for you, many more people will talk you up with their friends, colleagues and family members.

Sadly, most people put brakes on their referral engine by requiring an email address (and other personal information) prior to permitting people to download content (such as a white paper). The thinking is that with a gate, each person downloading becomes a valuable sales lead.

When you remove the gate and allow the completely free flow of information with no registration required, immense value comes from many more people consuming and spreading your content and referring you to others.

For example, my most popular ebook The New Rules of Viral Marketing: How word-of-mouse spreads your ideas for free has been downloaded over one million times.

Every week someone contacts me to say that they learned about my ideas first when someone referred them to one of my free ebooks. There is no doubt that if I required registration, I would not have a referral engine.

I’m always interested in metrics from other organizations. For example, John Mancini, President of AIIM—a non-profit organization representing the users and suppliers of document, content and records management technologies—released an ebook called 8 Reasons You Need a Strategy for Managing Information — Before It’s Too Late. AIIM also made their ebook totally free, with no registration required.

In just the first month of release, the ebook was downloaded 5,138 times. In addition, AIIM also created a presentation version of the book and posted that, also with no registration, on SlideShare. This version has had 3,353 downloads for a total of 8,491 downloads in the month. Pretty darned good result, for the first month of an ebook, I’d say, and each one a potential for a simple and easy referral.

“Making the e-book available for free and totally without registration was a new approach for us,” Mancini says. “These results for unfettered access are particularly impressive when considered against a couple of more traditional examples (i.e., content requiring a registration on our web site).”

So create some great content, make it totally free with no registration required, and encourage people to share. Your referrals will multiply immediately.

David loves it when people refer to his keynote speech video

David Meerman Scott is a marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and seminar leader and author of the best selling book The New Rules of Marketing and PR. The book is a BusinessWeek bestseller published in 24 languages.

4 Weekend Favs March Six

I have a weekend routine where I share a handful of favorite things I tripped upon online this week. I usually about three and don’t go into much detail but suggest you check them out. The image featured in the post is a favorite creative commons image on Flickr.

snow
Image credit:Nordgren

Good stuff I found this week:

Backup Buddy – a WordPress Plugin that automates the back-up, restoration, and migration of a WordPress blog. This is a paid plug-in but I’ve not found much out there that offers the migration ease that this plugin seems to offer if you need to move to a new host.

Harness the Power of ReferralsInc magazine article showcasing Make A Referral Week 2010 – a week long effort to raise 1000 referrals for 1000 businesses from March 8th to the 12th.

Master List – a wiki format list of social media monitoring solutions

12 Building Your Referral Engine – Free Webinar with the Referral A-Team

As part of the Make a Referral Week 2010 Education Series I am highlighting the power of referrals and word of mouth marketing with a live event featuring the some of the brightest authors, speakers and thought leaders on the subject of referral marketing.

Join us for a live web discussionWednesday, March 10th at Noon CST. Click here to register for the online seminar.

Ivan MisnerBob BurgBen McConnell

Ivan Misner, founder of BNI and author of The 29% Solution, Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals and the Go-Givers Sell More, and Ben McConnell, co-author Creating Customer Evangelists make up a panel of what may be the worlds greatest single collection of thought leaders on the subject of referrals and word of mouth.

Join us for a live web discussionWednesday, March 10th at Noon CSTClick here to register for the online seminar.

The conference is the headline event of the educational component of Make a Referral Week. More info on the entire week can be found here. Have you made your referral yet? Do it here

11 Making Referrals As a Job Creation Engine

Following on the success of last year’s Make A Referral Week I am calling out to small businesses once again to stimulate the economy and create jobs through the act of referrals. During the week of March 8-12, I am challenging my readers to make 1000 referred leads to 1000 deserving small businesses in an effort to highlight the power of referrals for small business. Help me spread the word? – This is not a money making event, the purpose is simply to change the focus from receiving to giving.

make a referral weekIndividuals around the globe are invited to make at least one referral to a small business at www.makeareferralweek.com and share the referral details, including information on why they referred a particular business, in the comments section of the Referral Counter Page. (Of course, you might also consider using the Twitter function in the comment section to Tweet your referral!)

The weeklong virtual event also features guest contributors and panelists that will discuss how small business owners and other marketers can utilize the power of referral marketing. This blog will be taken over for an entire week to create an warehouse of referral and word of mouth related content so make sure you come back often throughout the week.

Featured guest experts include David Meerman Scott, author of New Rules of Marketing and PR, Chris Brogan, author of Trust Agents, Guy Kawasaki, author of Reality Check, Rohit Bhargava author of Personality Not Included, Dan Schawbel author of Me2.0, Anita Campbell, publisher of Small Business Trends, Ann Handley, chief content officer of Marketing Profs, Lisa Barrone, Outspoken Media, Scott Allen, author of the Virtual Handshake, me, author of The Referral Engine, Scott Ginsberg of Nametag TV, Janine Popick, CEO of Vertical Response, and Pam Slim, author Escape from Cubicle Nation. (More to come)

Ivan MisnerBob BurgBen McConnell

The highlight of the education series is a live online panel discussion on March 10th at Noon CST featuring Ivan Misner, founder of BNI and author Masters of Networking, Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals and the Go-Givers Sell More, Ben McConnell, author of Creating Customer Evangelists, and moderated by John Jantsch. Register for the online panel here

?Through Make a Referral Week, small businesses have the opportunity to not only refer other businesses, but have their business listed as well. Hundreds of small business will receive added attention and daily events hosted on the site will offer tips and support from experts. ??

22 Does Anyone Know What Networking Really Means Anymore?

This is a special guest post as part of Make a Referral Week 2009

Susan Wilson SolovicBy Susan Wilson Solovic, co-founder of SBTV.com

Everyone talks about the importance of networking. Every motivational speaker, small business expert, business coach, and self-help/business author: They all at some point include the boilerplate networking banter. It’s become so common that I’m not sure anyone really understands what it means to network anymore. By the way, a bit of trivia for you, the word networking wasn’t recognized as a noun until 1967. (Miriam Webster)

Of course, online social networks make the definition of the word networking even more nebulous. Sure I use sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and I happen to like them – a lot! But is communicating via technology really networking? Call me old fashioned, but it’s not what I think of when I think of networking in the purest sense.

Networking isn’t a race to see how many business cards you can load into your database or how many friends you add to your profile page. Real networking is about real people and real relationships. So let’s get back to the basics and best practices of networking.

Here are my three rules for effective networking – the old fashioned way.

Rule One: You must be committed. You aren’t networking if you’re out for instant gratification. An effective network is built upon a solid foundation of relationships that are built over time. A number of years ago I taught a women’s entrepreneurial training course at a community college. As part of the course we discussed networking and their homework assignment was to attend one or two events. When we returned to the subject, a student reported she’d thought networking events were a waste of time. When I asked why she felt that way, she explained that she’d paid to go to several events in her community and she passed out tons of business cards, but she hadn’t gotten any business. Rule number one – don’t expect immediate gratification.

When you make a new business acquaintance, take time to learn as much about them as possible. Engage them in conversation and ask open-ended questions. Are there common interests you share? Do your children go to the same school? The magic words in my opinion: “Tell me about yourself.”

Rule Two: Develop a relationship. Stacking business cards on your desk or scanning them into your Outlook doesn’t create a network. Sending your new acquaintance a brochure or sales letter doesn’t develop a relationship. And calling to set an appointment or make a sale is really not going to do the trick either. However, taking time to develop a relationship is what’s going to help you build a solid network. For example, let’s say I meet you at an event and during our conversation you mention you are a dog lover. Guess what, so am I. We have a nice conversation and you tell me you’d like to know more about creating a dog-friendly office environment. So what do I do? I go back to my office and send a “nice to meet you” email, but in addition I include a link to an article with advice for pet-friendly workplaces.

Rule Three: Give, give, give. The second magic phrase to remember: “How can I help you?” You know the adage, it’s better to give than receive, that applies here. Be willing to put the other person first. Find out how you can help them and follow through. Perhaps, you can make an introduction or suggest a good resource for their business. Become the “go-to” person. Then, when you need assistance or business referrals, you’ll be rewarded abundantly. There is no better asset – personally or professionally – than a strong network.

Susan Wilson Solovic is the co-founder of SBTV.com, the first television network on the web devoted 100 percent to the small business market and the author of several books, including The Girls’ Guide to Building a Million-Dollar Business.

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22 5 Ways to Amp Up the Personal in Your Brand

This is a special guest post as part of Make a Referral Week 2009.

Pamela SlimBy Pamela Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation

As small business owners, the line between our business and personal lives can be a little bit challenging to define. Some people worry that the term “personal brand” means sharing about their twelve cats, troubles with their mother-in-law or penchant for collecting pez dispensers.

The reality is, people don’t refer companies or brands; they refer the people in those companies. The more your customers know your personality, your interests, your values and your real voice, the more likely they will refer business to you.

So here are some ways to amp up the personal in your brand:

1. Hang out with your customers.
When I asked my Twitter buddies which companies they considered great in personal branding, Freshbooks jumped to the top of the list. When I asked what it was about their brand that felt very personal, I learned that the CEO and staff blogged, Twittered and participated in user forums. There is nothing that builds good will faster than answering a customer question immediately and personally. If you have a face-to-face business, take time to stop by and visit your customers just to see how they are doing.

2. Show your face.
As the daughter of a photographer, I might be a bit biased when it comes to the importance of good pictures. But pictures really do convey personality and style in a way pure text cannot. So make sure the “About” page on your website has good photographs of you and your staff. Look at one of my favorite examples, the team of mechanics at Pat’s Garage in San Francisco. You thought car mechanics had no personality? Think again.

3. Write clearly and with personality.
Check your website, blog posts, marketing materials and emails and make sure you are communicating in a clean, clear, engaging way. The basic rule of thumb is to write like you talk. If you are a corporate refugee-turned small business owner, you may be used to using words like “value-add,” “paradigm shift” and “out-of-the-box-thinking.” You wouldn’t use these words in regular conversation, right? Strike them from your written communications and people will find you are not the tremendous bore they thought you were, you are actually down-to-earth, funny, and engaging. Colleen Wainwright aka Communicatrix demonstrates this well in her Hire Me page.

4. Create your posse.
Are there any small businesses that serve your market in a non-competitive way? When you build relationships with other like-minded entrepreneurs, you can expand your brand to include a network, not just your company. Then you can refer business to each other with confidence, knowing you share similar style, values and results. Your informal posse could develop into a collaborative network like Men With Pens.

5. Serve the right customers.
Do you ever feel a bit nervous about communicating with your customers? Are you afraid that they will find out that you are really an imposter? When my clients share these fears, we almost always discover that they feel that way because they are not working with the right market. When you find your ideal customers, talking with them will feel calm and comfortable, because you will know with conviction that you are the perfect person to solve their problems.

You do not have to share your entire personal life to have great personal brand. You just need to show up fully, clearly and passionately in your business.

Pamela Slim is a business coach and author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, coming out in May, 2009 with Penguin/Portfolio.

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19 7 Ways to Have Character (and Show It) on LinkedIn

This is a special Make a Referral Week 2009 guest post

Scott AllenBy Scott Allen, author of The Virtual Handshake

The best way to increase the number of referrals you receive is to increase your worthiness of receiving them. Part of that has to do with your competence, i.e., how well do you know your stuff? All other things being equal, people prefer to work with experts, not amateurs. But that’s obviously beyond the scope of a single blog post to cover!

The other part of it is your character. Are you someone that people in your network not only know, but also like and trust? Do your friends and associates trust you to treat the people they refer to you well? Show and grow your character, and you’ll receive more referrals.

Character isn’t just what you are, it’s what you do. There is little that rings more hollow than for someone to say, in one form or another, that they are a person of “high character” — honest, a hard worker, helpful, easy-going, etc. — and then have their actions be inconsistent with that. Furthermore, one of the best ways to build stronger relationships is by helping people actually accomplish their goals.

In The Virtual Handshake, we introduced the idea of “Seven Keys to a Powerful Network”, one of which is your character:

Character: Your integrity, clarity of motives, consistency of behavior, openness, discretion, and trustworthiness. This is driven by the reality and the appearance: the real content of your Character, and what each Acquaintance thinks of your Character.

We also point out that:

As an absolute rule, credibility – your Character and your Competence – must underlie your network. A massive network will not aid you if you are selling an inferior product or trying to get a job for which you are unqualified. In fact, a big network will rapidly become a liability, as too many people will be aware of the inferior goods you are peddling. No matter how much your friends like you, they will not recommend you for a job if they see that you are consistently unethical, tardy, sloppy, or otherwise unprofessional.

There’s a line from an old church song that I remember from my childhood: “If your light’s under a bushel, it’s lost something kind of crucial.” If you are a person of character, you need to show that, and LinkedIn is a great opportunity to do that. Here are seven ways that you can actually demonstrate your character on LinkedIn, rather than just talk about it.

1. Answer questions well. Don’t just rattle off a quick opinion – put some thought into it. Provide some additional resources. Refer people to an appropriate expert from within your network. Most of the questions on LinkedIn Answers are from people actually trying to solve a problem or accomplish something, not just looking for something to talk about. What better way to be of service than to actually help someone accomplish something?

2. Add value to introduction requests. If you buy into the idea that LinkedIn is designed for “trusted referrals”, then you need to participate in that. A trusted referral isn’t just, “Joe meet Sally, Sally meet Joe.” A trusted referral adds context to the introduction which will help the two people get off to a good start. How do you know this person? How can you recommend them in the context of their request?

3. Make good recommendations. Don’t just wait for people to recommend you and then reciprocate – be proactive. Go through your network. Who among them do you feel strongly about that you could give a good recommendation to for their profile? When you add someone new, do you know them well enough to go ahead and recommend them? Also, recommendations on your own profile are a great way to show your own reputation, and the best way to ask for an endorsement is to give one. And don’t write empty, generic recommendations; write good ones.

4. Respond in a timely manner. Forward introduction requests right away. The rest, get to as quickly as you can. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty slow in responding to invitations and to introduction requests for me if they are just general “I’d like to meet you” requests. It’s not that I think they aren’t important — I’m just plain busy, and I place my existing clients, business associates and family in front of new networking contacts. But forwarding requests I almost always handle within 24 hours, 2 days at the most.

5. Help your contacts learn how to use LinkedIn effectively. Most people don’t have a clue how to get beyond the basics of a simple profile with their last couple of jobs and connecting with a few colleagues they keep up with. Help them! Go through your contacts list and see which people have less than 10 connections. Drop them an e-mail asking them if there’s anything you can do to help them make better use of the system. Refer them to this blog and the LinkedIn-related Yahoo Groups. Doing so not only helps them, it also helps you and all of your network if more people become actively engaged.

6. Be proactive. One of LinkedIn’s shortcomings is that it doesn’t have a mechanism for proactively introducing two people that you know. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it for that. For example, let’s say you meet somebody new and they’re looking to meet people with an interest in, say, process management. Now, even though you know your contacts fairly well, you may not be able to remember (or even know) which of them have a background in process management, and I’m betting that’s not in your contact management system either. But it is in LinkedIn. Search your network. Find the matches. Copy their profile URLs and send them to the new person you met and tell them you’d be happy to make an introduction. Or say someone you know posts on a mailing list or forum that they’re looking for someone to fill a certain position. Search your LinkedIn network and send them the list of people in your first and second degree and tell them you’d be glad to introduce the ones they’re interested in talking to. Great networking is proactive, not just reactive.

7. Use LinkedIn to enhance face-to-face networking. You can use LinkedIn to fill out a business trip, meet fellow travelers in your network, help you break the ice at a meeting or research a prospective client so you can communicate with them more effectively. Every one of these things helps show that you have a genuine interest in other people and are willing to make the time to develop those relationships.

Think of your character as being like a muscle… if it doesn’t get enough exercise, it will atrophy. So go give your character a workout at the LinkedIn gym!

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8 Ivan Misner, Bob Burg and Bill Cates on Making Referrals

This is a special Make a Referral Week 2009 Session

Ivan MisnerBob BurgBill Cates

The Referral A-Team consisting of Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, Bob Burg, author of the Go-Giver and Bill Cates, author of Get More Referrals Now! joined me for a live web conference yesterday to talk about, what else, referrals.

You may listen to the session here (1h:15m)

You may download the session here

We covered a lot of ground and the tweets were flying as well – follow twitter thread here

Some of my favorite nuggets

  • small business is the economic engine that can pull our country out of the recession
  • In referring, you’re not trying to close a sale, you’re trying to train a sales force
  • Stimulate referrals by educating people on how referrals work and how you handle referrals
  • Time confidence curve= the level trust needed to receive referrals depends on business. High (financial adv) low (florist)
  • strategic alliances are not formed by speed dating – proactively support each other
  • you should be getting at least 20% of your referrals passively, without you asking -they know, like, trust you and refer
  • Must rely actively on network, strategic partners and clients together to build referrals. Not on clients alone
  • Women give referrals twice as often as men
  • Most people lack a *process* for harvesting their network. Process replaces the fear of asking for referrals
  • Trust is the ultimate root and source of our influence. Influence is everything

Hope you join us by making your referral now at Make a Referral Week – just tell us who you referred and why and have fun reading the growing list as we march towards 1000 referrals made.

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2 Michael Port on Make a Referral Week

This is a special podcast as part of Make a Referral Week 2009

Marketing podcast with Michael Port (Click to listen, right click and Save As to download – subscribe now via iTunes

Michael PortToday’s special guest interview for the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is Michael Port. Michael Port has provided coaching and consulting services to over 20,000 business owners. He is the author of Book Yourself Solid, Beyond Booked Solid and The Contrarian Effect: Why It Pays (BIG) To Take Typical Sales Advice and Do The Opposite and the soon to be released The Think Big Manifesto.

In this episode Michael and I talked about the new ways in which smart marketers are building their expertise and tapping into networks, both on and offline to build marketing momentum.

iLinc Web and Video ConferencingThis episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by iLinc – Web and Video Conferencing that’s easy to use, affordable and powerful enough to make your online meetings really come alive.

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8 Strategic Partnering: Turning Suppliers Into Partners

This is a special guest post as part of Make A Referral Week 2009

Anita CampbellBy Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends

Like most sole proprietors and small business owners, I often felt I was going it alone. It was me against the whole world – until, that is, I learned the power of partnerships.

A properly chosen partnership can be THE defining moment in your company’s history. It can bring in customers at a rate you could barely dream of!

Think I overstate the case? Just consider one of the most famous partnerships, between a young upstart called Microsoft and then-giant IBM. IBM chose the Microsoft DOS operating system for its new line of personal computers. That fateful partnership put Microsoft on the map — and its geeky founder, Bill Gates, atop the Forbes 400 list.

I’ve learned that some of the best partnerships are those with your suppliers. Suppliers value partnerships because it means selling more of their stuff. There’s something in it for them – as well as for you.

But what, exactly, are the benefits for your business? Try these:

  • Access to new markets and customers, enabling you to grow faster.
  • Resources and Tools, such as sophisticated fulfillment systems that otherwise would be completely out of reach.
  • Training that helps you become a smarter, more effective business owner.
  • Advantageous payment terms, allowing you to place larger orders and fuel growth, without incurring a bankrupting cash crunch.

Most business owners say “that’s great, but how exactly do I partner?”

Sometimes examples are the best way to learn. So I’ve assembled five examples I’ve used myself or seen other small businesses use with great success, to grow a small business with a strategic partnership with a supplier:

1) Get suppliers to carry credit/paper – Fast growth often brings a cash flow crunch to a small business. Here’s the problem:

big order + more up-front expenses = less cash to run the business

Try to find suppliers that are willing to advance inventory or supplies without requiring upfront payments. Perhaps they will give you 30-day payment terms. Or find ones willing to accept payment in stages or “just in time.” Look for seller financing, too, at low interest rates. Trade credit is the single largest source of credit that small businesses tap into – why shouldn’t you?

What it means is you and your supplier can grow at the same time. As you sell more, they benefit and so do you. And you may not need to resort to expensive bank financing or credit cards for operating cash or expansion funding.

2) Co-marketing / co-advertising – Another way to partner is to share marketing responsibilities and costs. The supplier may have bigger bucks to spend on marketing and advertising. But as a merchant you may have a better grasp on how to reach customers online or in your community. Here it pays to “know oneself.” Know exactly what you bring to the table.

3) Training and systems for productivity – Big companies that supply you often have valuable sales and merchandising training that you can benefit from. Just look at the technology companies that have partner programs: Microsoft, HP, Intuit, even Amazon with its Web Services.

They may have technology systems you can use to make your business more profitable and efficient. You may have to trade paying higher prices to get access to these valuable productivity enhancers – but then, it may be worth it because of the efficiency and infrastructure support they bring.

4) Trade off Web presence for inventory and fulfillment – Find a supplier without a good Web presence, and become their Web arm. Many suppliers – especially small suppliers or those in staid markets – are baffled by the Web.

One fishing tackle etailer I know had extensive Web technology and marketing expertise – not to mention 500,000 monthly visitors. They were able to leverage those assets to get an exclusive to their brick-and-mortar supplier’s line of goods (fishing gear) and a sweet drop-ship contract. For both it was a marriage made in heaven, because both sides could focus on what they did best.

And I can share confidently that without that supplier, the etailer would not have been able to monetize their website to anywhere near the extent they did. That partnership with their supplier put them on the map.

5) Open up new markets – A well-structured partnership can open up new markets for a business. One company I know maintained high-traffic informational websites and wanted to break into the Hispanic market in the U.S., but had no Spanish-speaking personnel. It partnered with a Mexican media company that wanted to break into the U.S. market. Together both companies were able to tackle a new market that individually they were ill-equipped to do.

Choose one of these paths and you may discover the partnership will become THE defining moment that puts your business on the map.

About the Author: Anita Campbell is Editor in Chief of Small Business Trends, an online community of small business people.