Networking: Good? Bad? Ugly?
Our business has almost always come through referrals. I’ve done some direct selling, but usually designer/client relationships are built on something else: a seed of trust. When trust exists, people are willing to recommend you. We’ve been lucky to get recommended often.
Knowing that, it’s interesting that I discovered the concept of networking groups only recently. My brother’s wonderful girlfriend who’s an attorney suggested Provisors. Shortly afterward, a truly talented Santa Monica florist, Mark Herrier of Fleurs du Jour, called me up and invited me to Westside Referrals Network. They’re very different groups, but both are intriguing.
So I’d like to know what you think about networking groups — in general or specifically. If you can post a comment, I’d really love to hear about your experiences, get your advice about whether they work and find out which ones you might have tried. I’m sure others would be curious as well.
As John McWade says, “Let’s talk.”
Is the potential referral based on the fact the referrer (is that even a word?) knows you, or is it because they know your work (and are knowledgeable enough to know what constitutes good work in your field)? The former is a shallow relationship with mixed results. The latter is what you need. Too many people get involved with referral networks just for the reciprocal benefit (i.e., thinking of themselves rather than the client). Ideally, finding ways to convert satisfied existing clients into your ambassadors (aka “raving fans”) brings better results and is a more authentic process than groups existing just for the benefit of cross-referrals. IMHO
That’s my question about this. How genuine will the recommendation be? Clearly, referrals from happy clients are the way to go. But I also have to continue to get the word out in other ways. From everything I’ve heard, all these groups only work if you form real relationships with at least some of the members. Expecting to spray business cards around (and get sprayed back) doesn’t work — especially for deeper, more thoughtful professional involvement.
I agree with Jennifer. It makes a big difference when a referral comes from someone you feel knows what they are talking about and understands what you are looking for, instead of just recommending an acquaintance or relative as a way to cement their own relationship. Personally, I know I hate recommending someone solely based on the fact that I know that this person works in a specific field. I need to feel that the results will be mutually beneficial to the potential client and the referred individual.
When someone makes a referral, he or she is putting his/her own reputation on the line, too. It really has to be a knowledgeable, comfortable and heartfelt recommendation to work well. Otherwise, it’s just a fairly cold lead.