Whether you are aware of it or not, you have a reputation. Your reputation has a direct impact on your network and how you are viewed by others – positive, neutral or negative.
A poor reputation can weaken or at worst ruin your business and damage your network and brand. Worst case, you are forced to accept customers that you don’t want and shouldn’t have, but desperately need in order to stay in business.
A great reputation can open doors and create an audience with influencers and decision makers. It enables you to expand your network and position and brand yourself as being unique and offering high-value products or services. This can also have a positive impact on your prices or fees and client relationships.
Many people consult friends and colleagues within their network in an effort to find the right person or company when making large scale, important decisions. The bigger the problem, the higher the cost or the greater the potential, the more important it is to be a “front of mind” resource to those in your network that can provide introductions and referrals.
If you don’t have people in your network that can refer you to a quality, reputable provider of services required, you may end up selecting a firm solely based on their advertising or marketing efforts. This can have its limitations too. My own experience confirms that business does not always go to those best qualified for the job based on advertising alone. (This reminds me of our kitchen renovation. The company we selected had better advertising than actual service) Individuals or firms with the greatest front-of-mind awareness generally get the business because of endorsements and referrals.
But being the best is not enough. You also have to be “perceived” to be the best in the market place and connected to influencers that can create opportunities for you. Relying on luck will not create or build your reputation. A strategy that positions you as someone competent, credible and desirable is essential.
While most referrals are good, not all referrals are equal. The relative strength of the referral depends upon the position of the person in your network and the level of trust that already exists between the person giving the referral, and the prospective client you are being introduced to.
Obtaining a referral from someone in your network enables you to leverage pre-established or “transferred” trust. Since referrals are a top tier marketing method it is clearly worth your time to:
- Deliver products, services or experiences worthy of glowing referrals
- Cultivate word‐of‐mouth ambassadors that are rewarded for leading you to new business
- Follow-up and maintain relationships even when you don’t have a current contract or project with a client
- Proactively engage and stay connected with people in your network. Use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and other preferred social media tools to do this in a manner that suits your style and enhances your brand and reputation.
- Find opportunities to reciprocate and assist clients and those in your network to locate companies or people you can endorse and recommend
In the next issue, I will deal with some of the practical aspects of positioning yourself and leveraging your network to obtain referrals and become top tier in your clients’ mind.