Business grows best in fertile soil. And nothing makes your marketplace more fertile than having advocates working the soil for you and with you.
Recently, I had a very successful consulting session with a small company directly because of a warm referral. I knew nothing about this company before meeting one of the key people for coffee here in Franklin, TN. And they knew nothing about me.
But someone who knew and appreciated us both – an advocate – thought we should do business. He was right.
And how did I meet this very active local connector, this advocate? Through someone else I’d given advice to some months back. He’d become an advocate.
That guy, in turn, was introduced to me by a fellow church member I’d had coffee with who valued my approach to career consulting. Another advocate.
And so it goes in the world of business referral networks. Of course, we need to reach out to clients directly. But we also need to cultivate advocates, who will direct even more business our way.
Your advocates may be current or former clients, they may be friends, they may be partners or professional colleagues…sometimes they may even be acquaintances you met only briefly. They see something they really like in you, and they see value in what you do, and they gladly go out into the field of their contacts spreading the word about you.
We need to create and cultivate our advocate army – our personal sales force. If we don’t, we’re neglecting our most powerful business development source.
Pro tip: the most influential of those advocates are those who are already active networkers. Connect with generous, open-hearted connectors. Why? Because they may already know your next customer. And they love to make referrals.
So – in gaining clarity about your business direction and efforts, one question you should ask yourself is: who and where are my advocates? Because the spheres in which they operate may well be some of your best target markets.
I have significantly changed my approach over the last 2 years. Since moving to the Nashville area, I have seen the power of building a more local/regional network, as opposed to a national network assembled via social media. I am seeing much more effective referral advocacy – for me, and by me – through cultivating a local field. It’s been an interesting and encouraging shift.
I am a huge fan of defining and stratifying our target market(s) so that we have well-aimed offerings being aimed at appropriate buyers (those experiencing the pain we can relieve – see #8 in the series below). But we mustn’t forget that much of our low-hanging fruit is in the orchards of those who are our advocates. Equip them to refer you, and you may well find your niche reaching out to you as much as you are reaching out to it!
Here’s where we’ve been thus far in this series:
- What are your Company Strengths?
- What is Your Company’s Domain Expertise?
- Who Loves You?
- What’s Your Company Culture?
- What is Your Company’s Big-Picture Goal?
- Defining (and Doing) Your Best Work
- How to Catch Your Marketplace Wave
- What is Your Customer’s Pain?
- Aim at Nothing and You’ll Hit it Every Time