Whether you call it networking, word-of-mouth, or referral marketing, making new contacts through people you already know is a big part of building a professional services firm.
Most sales and marketing databases, whether a complex CRM system or a simple spread spreadsheet, provide some way for tracking referrals. They tend focus on the receiving side of referrals, providing standard fields like “referral source”. Since the golden rule of networking is “Givers Get”, I believe our tools should also help us manage the giving side of networking as well. I find that adding a few extra fields to my database can really help me be a better connector of people in my network.
Industry/Area of Expertise – I’m sure you are every bit as busy (if not more so) as I am. I don’t know about you, but the more time it takes me to find and contact the appropriate person in my network, the less likely it is to happen. Being able to quickly identify and introduce the right people in your network will go a long way to helping you become the person people turn to when they have a need. Since people tend to express their needs in terms of industry and\or need (I need a vet who specializes in horses), that is typically how I will search, so I’ve added a few custom fields to my database to capture and search on this information.
The ideal customer profile of the person I’m referring – The other side of the coin to making good referrals is making sure the person I’m referring actually helps the type of person I am referring to them. In the example above, if I am referring someone with a horse problem to a dog vet, I’m not doing either one of them any good. Therefore, I like capture some notes about the type of customers my contacts help along with the particular problems they solve for these customers.
The referral relationship – I like to follow up and make sure I am doing a good job of making referrals, so I like to store information about the connections I have facilitated. I also like to capture similar information when someone sends a referral to me. In addition to helping me manage my follow up activities, this information helps me know who my best referral sources are as well as what other services my customers typically need.
Different CRM systems have different ways of customizing the data you capture and reports you create but I think you will find that most will allow you to capture the data mentioned above and help you become a better connector of people in your network.
What other information to you keep track of to help you be a better connector?
Bill Brelsford Small Business Marketing Consultant