How to Build a Powerful Referral Network

Building a Powerful Referral Network

Many fitness businesses leverage the power of referrals from their current clients, but they miss out on a huge opportunity to develop a referral network to help them add more clients, and more money to their business.

The trouble with referrals has always been that you can’t directly control when or how a client refers you business. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take action and create more opportunities for people to refer.

One of the easiest, but under utilized referral source is other businesses.  Commonly these are referred to as joint ventures or strategic relationships.

And I’m not talking about joining a BNI or other networking group in your area!

Although, that is one way to build your network a majority of people in those groups are simply there to promote their business, hand you a card and possibly meet some type of quota their boss sent them there to hit.

I always liked have more control and also narrowing my focus for marketing.  It made the activities that I was doing more powerful and got a much better return on my investment.

 Building Your Network

The first place to start when you are trying to build up a referral network is to create a list, simply brainstorming works, of all the businesses that serve your Ideal Client.

Think about all of the complementary, but non competitive businesses that they go to.  However, it doesn’t have to be limited to businesses, it could be organizations, groups, etc.

If they are spending time or money at a place it’s worth taking a look at!

Next, cross reference this list with your own network to see if you have any common relationships. Those will be the easiest to leverage.

Organize your list with the top business prospects all the way down to the bottom.  Prioritize by the likelihood of them meeting with you based on an existing relationship or their reputation of working with other businesses.

If you have no idea go with alphabetical 🙂

 Schedule Your Meeting

Do a bit of work learning about the business.  Take notes from their website, follow them on social media and ask your clients about them.

Your goal here is to find some type of ‘in’ to get a meeting with the decision maker of the business.

A big part of that is knowing who the decision maker is!

Once you’ve got your background work done it’s time to ask for the meeting.

 You can do this in one of three ways:

  1. Ask a client that is a customer of the business to introduce you
  2. Visit the business as as customer and ask for the manager/owner after you purchase something
  3. Cold email or call

hand-819279_640 (1)Option #1 is the most effective, #2 is next and #3 will work some of the time but you should be prepared to have to call or email multiple times and you’ll likely get turned down a lot for meetings.

Remember, people are busy running their business and don’t have time for a ton of meetings.  Don’t take it personally!

If you take the cold call/email approach make sure you have a strong positioning statement you can use to let them know what you do, but more importantly make sure you let them know you’ve done a bit of research and taken an interest by knowing what they do and offering to help them first.

During Your Meeting

Don’t come into the first meeting guns-a-blazin’ trying to get access to their entire customer list!  That’s a huge mistake most trainers make when partnering with businesses.

Take your time and think of this as an investment.

Learn about their business and customers.  Ask how you can help them and come prepared with ideas to show that you’ve taken time to think about it.

One simple way to make this easy for them is to create a worksheet or form they can fill out.

It includes the following questions:

  • How can I identify your Ideal Customer?
  • How would you like me to refer them to your business?
  • What’s the best way for them to get started working with your business?

That gives you all the ammo you need to start referring people their way.

Give First, Receive Second

Like any good investment you’ll need to put something in to get something back.

Start by sending the business new customers and referrals using the info you collected from your worksheet. Ask for supporting information or materials if you can and leverage your current marketing skills to boost your chances of helping the business out.

That means sharing their blog content, emailing out offers on their behalf and promoting their business to your clients.
You can even post a review of your experience and share it with your clients via a blog post or video if you have used their services.

Once you refer them business there will be a sense of obligation for them to reciprocate and refer you business or help you out as well.

It’s Your Turn!  Now what…

Don’t expect much from the other business owner.  They are likely trying their best, but they may not have a great sense of marketing or how to help you.
That’s okay!  You can do most of the work them if needed without making it burdensome on you.

First, offer to have their staff come in for a free training session or take part in your FEO.  You can even host a workshop just for them and take that time to educate them on what you do and get them used to hearing about your positioning statement.

This is where creating your positioning statement and differentiators for your business makes things much easier.

When you have those you it’s easy to share with others what you do, who you’re for and why your best.

The next thing you need to do is provide this new strategic relationship an arsenal of information and resources to send out that make referring easy for them (and you).

Here are some ideas:

  • Write guest blog posts or record videos
  • Offer up guest workshops onsite at their business
  • Create special offers
  • Be a customer yourself and make your presence known in the business
  • Co-host events or seminars
  • Provide free offers for their email list

Taking It Up A Notch

After you’ve built up a proven referral network it’s time to expand it and leverage the power of a peer group!

Set a weekly or monthly time that your network can meet, either rotating between businesses or at an off site location, to share new happenings, brainstorm ideas to help promote and grow the network.

If you can get your referral network built up to this level you’ll have a powerful marketing asset that will produce great leads and more clients for your business.

To summarize, here are your action steps:

  1. Create your list of potential referral network connections
  2. Prioritize and research the top 5-10
  3. Schedule meetings with the top 5-10
  4. Ask how you can help them and send them referrals
  5. Provide training and content for them to promote you
  6. Create your referral network group

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