I remember when I first launched my Speed Buzzing events, someone contacted me and asked if they could see the list of attendees before they booked their place. After a few minutes I received an email from that person saying she wasn’t going to book, as the people on the list were not the right people for her. I was quite shocked with her response, who are the right people? How does she know the attendees wouldn’t want her services or know someone in their network who may want her services? Moreover, how does she know her services are what people want if no one knows what she does?
Networking is all around you, all day long, from dropping the children at school and talking to someone at the gate, to attending a business or work event. I was at a wedding a couple of weeks ago and I was talking to a young man who was very interested in Mystery Shopping. I gave him my card (always take business cards with you, everywhere you go) and a couple of days ago he signed up and is now working for me.
The more you talk to people, the more you build a relationship with them and the chance that person will make reference to you in a conversation increases. Word of mouth is the most powerful and cost effective marketing tool at your disposal. Referral relationship marketing is key to the success of business. In the rise of the electronic era, the concept of word of mouth began to be translated into a new medium, and the idea of “word of mouse” began. Thanks to the instantaneous nature of electronic communications, an opinion can spread online rapidly, and numerous forums have enabled the transmission of ideas in an increasing number of ways. Word of mouse can be passed along from person-to-person in the form of email, but it can also manifest in a number of other locations. Just like word of mouth, word of mouse is built on a solid reputation, and it must be carefully maintained.
I refer to networking expert, Dr Ivan Misner: “A referral marketing plan involves relationships of many different kinds. Among the most important are those with your referral sources, with prospects these referral sources bring you and with customers you recruit from the prospects. These relationships don’t just spring up full-grown; they must be nurtured. As they grow, fed by mutual trust and shared benefits, they evolve through three phases: visibility, credibility and profitability. We call this evolution the VCP Process(R).”
The first phase of growing a relationship is visibility: the visibility phase is important because it creates recognition and awareness. The greater your visibility, the more widely known you will be, the more information you will obtain about others, the more opportunities you will be exposed to, and the greater your chances of being accepted by other individuals or groups as someone to whom they can or should refer business. Visibility must be actively maintained and developed; without it, you cannot move on to the next level, credibility.
Credibility is the quality of being reliable, worthy of confidence. Once you and your new acquaintance begin to form expectations of each other – and the expectations are fulfilled – your relationship can enter the credibility stage. Credibility grows when appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, facts are verified and services are rendered. To determine how credible you are, people often turn to third parties. They ask someone they know who has known you longer, perhaps done business with you.
The mature relationship, whether business or personal, can be defined in terms of its profitability. Is it mutually rewarding? Does it maintain itself by providing benefits to both? If it doesn’t profit both partners to keep it going, it probably will not endure. The time it takes to pass through the phases of a developing relationship is highly variable. It’s not always easy to determine when profitability has been achieved – a week? A month? One year? In a time of urgent need, you and a client may proceed from visibility to credibility overnight. The same is true of profitability; it may happen quickly, or it may take years – most likely, somewhere in between. It depends on the frequency and quality of the contacts, and especially on the desire of both parties to move the relationship forward.
Only then, when you have built strong visibility and credibility you will gain people’s trust and they will be your advocate forever, they will recommend you to their friends and family, you will no longer need to advertise your products or services as they will do it for you.