It is a very good question. Why should you spend money on a formal business referral network? You could after all just get a group of people together and create let’s say a Whatsapp Group or a Facebook Group where you can chat and pass referrals. If you have done this before then you will know what happens.

In the beginning everyone is eager and enthusiastic. For a month, maybe two at a push, the group is active. Business tips, referrals, jokes, links and all sorts of content is flying left, right and centre through the group. People are happy, because they are part of an active group of people all trying to help each other get more business.

And then things start to get quiet. People get busy with their lives and they forget to check in with the other group members. Eventually the group goes dead and everyone is back to where they were before the group was formed.

So how does a formal referral network like Net-Working-Pro differ? How do we make it different or worthwhile? Let’s have a look at some of the reasons why a formal network is working for so many businesses.

Structure and Results Oriented

When you become a member of a referral network like NWP, then you enter an already structured platform. Every week the groups, or in our case, Bubbles as we call them, get together (online in the case of NWP, major bonus, no need to travel to and from meetings, total time saver) and work with each other to improve business growth for everyone in the Bubble.

A referral network like NWP doesn’t just pass business cards and hope someone will remember you when they get asked if they know someone who does what you do. The structure you get at NWP or any other business network like NWP is one whereby you build relationships with other people who can go out and advertise for you.

All of the members are results oriented because they know that if they don’t help their fellow members, they won’t get anything in return. Why would they? You can’t expect to join a network of people all striving to get business, if you aren’t willing to give business.

Because the Bubble members are viewing this networking platform as a marketing tool, they tend to use it to their advantage. Unlike the Whatsapp Group we spoke of earlier, the members of a Bubble will hold each other accountable every week. You must attend meetings to make sure people don’t forget who you are. If they don’t see you often, they won’t remember to refer someone to you.

Education

The people who have created the network and the people who run the networking groups have spent a lot of time educating themselves on how networking operates and how to leverage it to the best advantage. That knowledge is passed on so that everyone within that network can also take advantage of it and educate themselves to better grow their own business. It becomes a support system. If someone is having a hard time getting new business or handling their marketing for instance, they can ask their Bubble members for help. People in the Bubble will then be able to pass on their own knowledge and if you have marketing experts in the Bubble, you can even hire them to help you.

Apart from that, the network in general will most probably have an education platform, much like we do at NWP, which has this blog where we try to add the most informative articles possible, as well as the eBook downloads. The topics covered are not just about referral marketing or networking either. They also cover online marketing, building your business, small business tips and even self improvement.

Worldwide Exposure

In a referral network like Net-Working-Pro you will be part of a team of people who are in your local area. This allows for the group to pass referrals to each other and especially benefits businesses who work locally such as brick and mortar stores, electricians and plumbers. However, if you have a business which can work remotely and therefore internationally, you can also make contact with and get to know other people and businesses around the world.

Apart from your Local Bubble you can also create or join Team Bubbles, which are groups of businesses that work in the same industry as yourself. These teams don’t have to be constrained to local businesses, but can be scattered around the world. For instance a web developer from the UK, an online marketer from South Africa and an app developer from Australia.

There are many ways that you can take advantage of this. Another example would be if you were moving overseas for instance, you could contact Bubbles from the country you are moving to and see if you can join there.

You may actually know someone who lives overseas, maybe a friend or family member, who is looking for a recommendation for a plumber in their area. Instead of going through a local business directory as most people do, they know that you belong to this worldwide network of businesses that come recommended, and so you can contact Bubbles in your friend’s area to ask for a recommendation and can therefore send them a referral.

The possibilities are endless.

Exclusivity

Within each Bubble you are the only one in that Bubble that does what you do. There is no competition from other businesses, and so when your other Bubble members need to refer someone from your profession or trade, who are they going to refer? Well, you obviously.

If you have joined a Facebook Group which is a general hodge podge of hundreds or thousands of businesses, a lot of them being your competition, you know how difficult it can be to get business from them.

As an example, you belong to a Facebook Group where people ask for recommendations for a business that does what they need done. Let’s say someone asks for recommendations for a printer. What happens? Everyone who knows a printer and all of the printers themselves reply to the message. This usually results in hundreds of recommendations. How does the person choose the one they want to use? They usually go with the one that has the most recommendations. This is how referral marketing works, but in the case of a structured network like NWP, you don’t have to compete in the same way. Your product or service may be a hundred times better than the one picked, but just because that business has more voices, they get the job.

Building Relationships

Networking is about building relationships with other people. The types of networks that require you to go to a formal gathering of possibly hundreds of people once or twice a year, chat to as many as you can in the required time frame, only to pass a business card and then be forgotten about afterwards, simply don’t work.

In order to network effectively, you need to get to know the people, and really get to know them. You can’t effectively pass on a referral to a friend, colleague or family member if you don’t know the person you are referring. Ok, you could, but it wouldn’t make it a qualified referral.

A qualified referral is one which comes from someone who knows the person they are referring and therefore trusts them because they know their work ethic and the quality of their work. If you don’t know Bob from a bar of soap, you can’t do that.

This is where a formal network, and one that is run correctly, becomes important. Again, this comes back to structure, results and education. By interacting with the members of your Bubble at least once a week, you get to build relationships. Through those relationships, you get to know the person, what they do in detail, and you build trust. When you can refer someone that you trust, then the person you refer them to is a whole lot closer to trusting them also, even before they have met that person. And that is what makes a qualified referral.

Establishing Credibility

Which brings me to the last point. A flash in the pan group like the one I spoke of at the beginning of this article, doesn’t have any longevity, but it also lacks the aspect of building credibility amongst it members. Credibility goes hand in hand with trust, and that is built over time. You can’t expect to join a team of businesses active in referral and Word-of-Mouth or WOM marketing and expect them to trust you from the beginning. This takes time, and therefore you need to keep at it.

It’s very much the same as when you start an online marketing campaign. Most people think that they have put their ads in place and they are starting to build a good social media presence, and therefore expect to get loads of sales immediately. It doesn’t work that way, and if you have started an online marketing campaign, you will know exactly what I mean.

It takes time to build trust and credibility. With online marketing, as you start to build your audience, they take in more of what you are giving them, which should be valuable to them. But they still won’t buy from you immediately. Over time, they start to trust you more and more, and then they will buy, even switch over from a product or service that they have been using for years because the value you have given them is more than what they got from their previous supplier. But as I said, that takes time.

Once you have that credibility however, you have loyal customers. The same goes with referral networking. You need to take the time to build credibility and trust with the members of your Bubble. Don’t expect it to happen immediately, although it’s not impossible, a lot of people start getting referrals as soon as they join, because there has been a gap which the members have been trying to fill. Now they have someone to pass the hoards of referrals on to. Generally, however, allow yourself the time to build that trust, gain credibility, and then you will probably be looking for an agency to help you hire more staff.

So, to answer the question we began with. Yes, you can go and create your own group of people to pass referrals onto, no problem, give it a try, I sincerely hope it succeeds. However, if you would like to become part of a network that has all of your best interests at heart, not just referrals, but also education and generally doing everything in their power to help your business grow, then join a formal network like Net-Working-Pro

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