It’s a common dilemma for professionals:
- You love your craft, but you need more business and don’t have time to nurture it.
- Your clients like you, but they don't refer you often enough.
Most professionals don’t consider themselves salespeople, but they ultimately must sell either their businesses or themselves in order to get ahead.
Just how do you grow your professional network?
Acquisition vs. Retention
Most service professionals are locked in a constant state of dilemma – “Do I spend more time pleasing the customer in front of me or do I spend more time getting the next customer?”
- According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, it is 6-7 times more costly to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.
- Bain & Co reports that a 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company.
Therefore to grow your revenue, it is worthwhile to focus your energy on existing customers, while also putting strategies in place to get more out of those relationships.
The power of referrals
According to a New York Times article, 65% of new business comes from referrals and Nielsen reports that people are four times more likely to buy when referred by a connection. In addition, Wharton School of Business deduced that the lifetime value of a new referral customer is 16% higher than that of a new customer acquired by other means.
Moreover, referral programs are among the least expensive marketing strategies to implement. Savvy service professionals stand to see a substantial increase in the value of their business by executing a network referral strategy.
The lost opportunities in your network
Your network undoubtedly runs across opportunities suited for you, so why aren't you hearing about them? The answer is simple; you are not top-of-mind among those within your network. It’s not because you’re not likeable or that people don’t trust you, they simply have a lot of other people and things on their minds.
According to a Texas Tech marketing survey, 83% of satisfied clients are willing to refer, while only 29% actually do. The issue, as Patrick Ewers points out, is that mind-share and opportunity do not automatically intersect.
In other words, you must have a solid plan in place to ensure your network remembers you when the people within it intersect with your opportunities.
How To Execute A Network Strategy
You can develop a consistent networking strategy by consistently including these three simple activities.
- Learn To Identify Opportunities: Leverage social news to stay up to date with your network’s activities. Participate in group discussions, provide expert answers to questions and share any articles of interest to your connections.
- Regularly Connect With Your Network: Reach out to your contacts by regularly engaging with your network. Not only will you strengthen and l stay top of mind among your network you presently have but expand it to include a broad range of individuals who can ultimately refer business to you.
- Be Persistent: The key to successfully managing and utilizing your network is consistent, persistent action over a long period of time; it ensures you never miss out on valuable opportunities. Here are three principles to help you get started.
Amplify your time
If you’re a service professional, you’re likely strapped for time. While managing your network helps you grow your business, it doesn't mean you have to do all the heavy lifting alone.
An assistant can drive the majority of the process for you, by keeping an eye out for new opportunities, reaching out to contacts on your behalf and prioritizing time so you can fit networking in your schedule.