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Referral Circles

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Lee Wright

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A few years ago another business person told me about what he called a "referral circle". The idea is that you have maybe 10 businesses who's services compliment each other that agree to refer work to each other. He said it worked really well. I didn't get a chance to ask him more about it but I've been thinking about it more lately. My business is in the events industry so an example might include a large tent hire company, mobile coolroom hire, caterer, sound & lighting, party hire etc. Has anyone had any experience with this sort of thing before?
 

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amp0193

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Not a circle yet, but working on a mutually beneficial co-marketing deal right now.

Step 1 - we do a co-branded photoshoot, and giveaway product through big influencer.

Step 2 - my products go in their showroom

Step 3 - I advertise their product to all of my customers for an affiliate kickback.


Would be cool to have a "circle" though!
 

becks22

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BNI is now infiltrated with MLMs but you may find a group in Australia that has people in similar fields for your circle to be complete. If not, I would maybe try to do what @amp0193 is doing and find 1 or 2 quality partners instead.
 

BizyDad

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I've done it. When I was younger, I did an invite only happy hour. That was pretty successful. Usually 6 out of a group of ten showed. I liked mixing it up so people didn't feel pressured to always have to have referrals, like at BNI, and the variety and exclusivity and informalness of it really worked. So I had a core group of ten but each event I'd cap it at six plus me. We were all shared similar client profiles but no one competed with each other.

I've also been a part of a dinner format, where we'd choose an international theme restaurant. That one didn't work nearly as well, but I've recently thought to try a different direction on it.

I also have a friend who hosts a cigar night every month.

Obviously I like to mix business and pleasure.

Just some ideas to get you juices flowing.
 

ZCP

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go through your client base and sketch out the circle of life. see who compliments whom and what path an external customer could take to plinko through everyone.

then hit them all up with a 'we are all in this together' email and they should never tell a caller 'no'. instead ask them to throw it to the group!

works with my engineering company.

@BizyDad i think this is what we need to do with what you are KB are talking through right now...... what is the 'adjacent' group?
 
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Lee Wright

Lee Wright

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Feb 28, 2018
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Thanks people.

I wasn't really thinking of a networking event like BNI or similar. I was more thinking of approaching other suitable businesses direct. The idea would be that when they get a sale they say something like "hey do also need x, y or z product or service? Here's a list of suppliers we highly recommend" There might be a physical or PDF flyer or a landing page they could give out. I printed a flyer a while back with a few other local businesses but it really didn't work well.
 

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Vigilante

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I went to a BNI meeting for a friend as a fill in, and wow are those ever hard core. I would think you could accomplish the same thing with a much looser structure and without the financial and time commitment.

What if you just made a list of 10 complimentary businesses that you wanted to target, and invited them all to a lunch meeting to discuss it? I bet you would go 10 for 10. You just have to make sure they'd all participate.
 

BizyDad

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You gotta show them the money. Start slower. Less ambitious. Ask yourself this question. In your business, who can you send more business to? The classic example is a real estate agent and mortgage broker. So you find one partner. Take them to lunch. Send them 3 referrals before you ever ask for one. Show them you are committed. Make sure they handle their business well. Make sure they can close deals. At this point you can each invite one more into the circle. And so on.

Or...

Depending on how good a networker you are, you might be able to do this exact setup with 2 or 3 businesses. Send them all referrals. Make sure they deliver, and they don't ever make you look bad. Once you know you can trust them, then bring all 4 of you together for a couple of monthly meeting. Let them start referring each other, and you keep referring them. They'll have your back, especially once they see you are feeding all of them. And then each of you talk and invite one more into the circle.

Or...

If you are a complete control freak, you always do all the inviting. It'll take a little longer, but then the network is yours. That's the route I went.

I don't like the "invite ten strangers at once" method. Think about that. Everyone walks in expecting to get referrals, and everyone is hesitant to give them. The busy business folks don't have time to deal with strangers who want to do another networking group. The only ones who show are the ones hungry for business. So no one will refer, because they are already bad at getting business. AND, they are all strangers so are they to really willing to risk their repuations and bring out a flyer after they just closed a deal? Besides, you just closed a mortgage, does it even make sense to discuss all ten referral partners? I mean, that's salesey af. It's better to find a group of consultative sellers, and you all introduce each other at appropriate times in the client life cycle.

Like MJ says, you have to bring the value. Showing that you can refer quality leads will bring the value and build the trust. Then when you bring someone else in, they are more likely to be trusted because you can actually vouch for them.

@ZCP let me make sure I understand your client profile first, then I'll better be able to understand what strategies to use. But in the end, you'll need a sales pro to drive this kind of set up. Maybe that's you. Or maybe that's a member of the team. We can discuss that further another time.
 
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Lee Wright

Lee Wright

Contributor
Feb 28, 2018
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Orange, NSW, Australia
What if you just made a list of 10 complimentary businesses that you wanted to target, and invited them all to a lunch meeting to discuss it? I bet you would go 10 for 10. You just have to make sure they'd all participate.
Yeah that's what I was thinking of. Just find a bunch of suppliers that had good reviews & could benefit from it but also contribute.
 

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OP
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Lee Wright

Lee Wright

Contributor
Feb 28, 2018
68
69
109
52
Orange, NSW, Australia
You gotta show them the money. Start slower. Less ambitious. Ask yourself this question. In your business, who can you send more business to? The classic example is a real estate agent and mortgage broker. So you find one partner. Take them to lunch. Send them 3 referrals before you ever ask for one. Show them you are committed. Make sure they handle their business well. Make sure they can close deals. At this point you can each invite one more into the circle. And so on.

Or...

Depending on how good a networker you are, you might be able to do this exact setup with 2 or 3 businesses. Send them all referrals. Make sure they deliver, and they don't ever make you look bad. Once you know you can trust them, then bring all 4 of you together for a couple of monthly meeting. Let them start referring each other, and you keep referring them. They'll have your back, especially once they see you are feeding all of them. And then each of you talk and invite one more into the circle.

Or...

If you are a complete control freak, you always do all the inviting. It'll take a little longer, but then the network is yours. That's the route I went.

I don't like the "invite ten strangers at once" method. Think about that. Everyone walks in expecting to get referrals, and everyone is hesitant to give them. The busy business folks don't have time to deal with strangers who want to do another networking group. The only ones who show are the ones hungry for business. So no one will refer, because they are already bad at getting business. AND, they are all strangers so are they to really willing to risk their repuations and bring out a flyer after they just closed a deal? Besides, you just closed a mortgage, does it even make sense to discuss all ten referral partners? I mean, that's salesey af. It's better to find a group of consultative sellers, and you all introduce each other at appropriate times in the client life cycle.

Like MJ says, you have to bring the value. Showing that you can refer quality leads will bring the value and build the trust. Then when you bring someone else in, they are more likely to be trusted because you can actually vouch for them.
I do like the slow & steady approach & providing value before you ask for anything in return. I'll give some thought to who I could actually help. I tend to be the last supplier people book when organising their events but I'm sure there's some way I could send some referrals out. I often refer work when I can't do it myself & customers seem to appreciate it but I've had mixed results in terms of people referring work back but then I guess I am sending to competitors.
 

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