Now that the first quarter of 2013 is over and many of us are really looking at the remainder of the year wondering, ‘What else can we do to grow this business?’, we wanted to offer five things you can do to grow your business this year. Let’s jump right into it:
Know what you want from your network
If you are in a referral-based business like many of us are (or seek any opportunities out of your existing network), the most important thing you need to understand is what your network can do for you. To know this, you first need to define what is most important to you and what your network relationship objective is. In simple words, what opportunities do you actually want to generate out of your network? If you want to learn more about how to achieve this, check out this in depth blog post we wrote to assist.
Identify the most important people in your network
Not everyone in your network is created equal. The majority of people who are in a referral-based business generate a vast amount of referrals from a small group of people. The classic 80/20 rule applies here. Oftentimes, those numbers can be much more dramatic, as in 90/10.
Try to identify who your Legends are. Legend is a term we developed over the years, defined as people that have the ability, willingness and history of delivering the kind of opportunities you’re seeking (in the form of referrals). In general it is a good idea to invest time into rating your network. While focusing just on your Legends is a great first step, feel free to read this blog post on how to efficiently rate your network overall.
Give this exercise a try: write down the top 30 contacts you think would fall under the category of Legends. You can make it easier by using a tool called Contactually and the Bucket system they have designed. Simply create a bucket called Legends and add those contacts to it. Then click into the bucket, look at who is in there and how many of them have not heard from you in the last 30 days. You might be surprised just how high the ratio is. If it is above 20-30%, you know you’re leaving money on the table.
Once you have created the bucket, also make sure you set the reminder feature to 30-45 days as seen in the screen shot here:
Meet with each of your Legends and learn what is relevant to them
Now you have your Legends in one place with a way to be reminded to follow up or touch base with these contacts every 30 days. The next problem that you may have is what you should reach out about. One thing you probably fear, as many of us do, is coming across as spammy or unauthentic in any shape or form. Let’s see if we can overcome that challenge – it’s easier than you think!
As long as you send a message that is perceived as relevant or valuable, you’ll never fall into the Spam trap. The question here is what is relevant to that person? As a first step, you can try to make notes in each contact record to see what you know about them. Most users will realize they don’t know much about their Legends.
The simple solution to that obstacle is to use the first email as a way to request getting together for coffee or lunch, or even just a phone call. This will allow you to check in with them and figure out what their current professional challenges are as well as some of their personal interests/passions. In other words, what projects are they working on that they want to get completed and what are they doing on their free time (perhaps on the weekends) when they are not trying to solve those professional challenges? The more you can dig out, the better.
As soon as you are done with that meeting, take the time to record your notes in Contactually. This way, you have the ability to look the information up when Contactually reminds you that you are due to follow up with them. It will make your life much easier.
Use Contactually to reach out to your Legends on a regular basis
The brilliant thing about Contactually is that it will remind you to reach out to these people at the time that you specified in the bucket. In theory, you should now have everything in place to enable you to deliver excellent experiences with every interaction you have with your Legends. We get reminded to follow up with them automatically and we know enough about these Legends that we should be able to come up with something creative for that recipient to appreciate.
This is where you can develop most of your skills. We can support you a lot with technology but at the end of the day, it really depends on how well you can come up with ideas. One thing we want to make sure is that you realize just how easy it is. For example, say you know a Legend that is really into flying planes. If you are also somewhat a fan of aviation, this should be a no brainer. However, even if you’re not, a quick Google search would come up with some interesting things.
When I searched Google for WWII Planes, I found this article about Fighter airplanes that were discovered in the Egypt desert: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-05-12/middle-east/31679114_1_egypt-desert-fighter-plane-egyptian-army
That article is something I would definitely feel comfortable sending to a Legend that likes airplanes and aviation. In fact, I did exactly that as you can see in this email:
The response I received was the following email:
You might be asking what is VPL? VPL stands for a “Value Payload” and is a term I coined to describe exactly these kind of interactions. Interactions that carry a payload of value. Interested?
In a nutshell, all you have to do is become very good at coming up with great ideas that would be interesting, meaningful and valuable to your Legends. This may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but the more you do it, the more you’ll realize it becomes second nature. While Contactually will remind you of when to follow up with your Legends, it is absolutely critical that you actually act on it.
If you don’t interact with someone you barely know, it’s almost guaranteed that you will never get a referral from them.
Make every interaction valuable
We’ve asked you to create a bucket of 30 Legends and set the reminder to roughly 30 days. If you do the math, you’ll realize that all you will be responsible for is sending one email per day. Over the course of a month, you will send up to 30 or so emails and you will reach out to every one of your Legends – it is that simple! If you continue for the entire year, you are looking at 260 to 365 interactions, depending on how motivated and ambitious you are.
In any case, the key point is you will interact, at a minimum, 260 times more with people in your network that have the ability and willingness to support you with referrals. A simple tactic like this can be the game changer you have been looking for – Try it out.