In yesterday's post, I mentioned that I was spending more time listening to the conversations around me. Another theme that seems to be repeating itself is the idea of shifting from attending general networking events to referral groups.
In these conversations, networking events are comprised of chamber of commerce and association events, various luncheon get-togethers, and after hours events. In the Kansas City area, we seem to have an embarassment of wealth when it comes to these type of networking opportunities. It would be very easy to consume a 40 hour work week just attending the various networking opportunities in our city.
Referral meetings tend to be much smaller and are typically comprised of business owners who serve similar target markets but don't compete with one another.
Some other ways referral groups tend to differ from networking meetings include:
- Expectations – there is more of an expectation that people who attend referral groups are looking for introductions. This expectations goes both ways, if you want me to provide you with an introduction, you must be clear about who (or what company) you would like to meet.
- Introductions vs. Referrals – even though I refer to them as referral groups, I find that people in these groups are looking for introductions. They realize they may not be able to connect directly to the ultimate decision maker in one step. Rather, they are looking for a path to lead them to the decision maker.
- Speaking of decision makers, many of these groups seem to form out of a shared frustration over the inability to connect with decision makers at the typical networking event. If you are not having any luck meeting the decision makers of your target customers at these events, you may want to explore forming your own referral group.
- Because expectations are more clearly defined, these groups often feel more productive. They feel more like a business meeting rather than a social. This feeling of being productive often makes the experience more valuable to the participants, so attendance and participation tends to be stronger.
Those are some of the things I have been noticing. How about you? Do you have a preference between networking and referral partner groups?
Interested in starting a referral partner group but not sure how? Drop me a line or leave a comment, I'll be happy to help.
Bill Brelsford Small Business Marketing Consultant