In 2016, one of the best ways you can grow your referral base and grow your business is by creating and nurturing solid strategic partnerships. When you partner with other businesses where there is a common customer demographic but no actual direct competition, you can expand your customer base quickly and easily. Those customers who trust other businesses and have proven their loyalty to them will be inclined to follow their recommendations or perceived endorsements of an alliance partner
So for the New Year, reflect back on all the contacts you’ve made, business cards you’ve collected and people you’ve met over the past year. First, identify the best opportunities to create a strategic partnership. Review whether you have the same clientele, ensure you are within a non-compete situation, and evaluate whether you believe you could spend time with the other person/business to build a trusting relationship.
Next, contact your opportunities and tell them, “We’re looking for some new referral partners this year to help grow each other’s businesses. Is this something that interests you?” When they say “yes,” ask, “When can we catch up to explore different referral opportunities and to make sure we’re all on the same page?” Then, you want to make sure that you are a good fit as referral partners and are looking for the same things. It’s important to clarify, what the referral partnership means for each party. (For example, will you catch up weekly? quarterly? Etc.)
Then, you need to train and educate each other. This is a critical step because, if your referral partners can’t listen for opportunities, or you don’t fully understand how to help your referral partner, then you’re both losing out on opportunities. Take the time to learn how each of you can help people, know the solutions each other offers, and train each other on what to listen for, so that when people mention xyz, your strategic partner will refer them to you.
Finally, after you’ve established this foundation and you know how to really help each other, it’s time to evaluate. Evaluate the referrals you’ve each made and received. Are you both evaluating for the RIGHT referrals? Continue to evaluate, review and refine so that the right clients are being referred. Once you’ve done this – REPEAT!
Most importantly – remember to keep regular contact with your referral partners throughout the year in order to maintain trust and keep the relationship strong.