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Harnessing the Power of Personal Endorsements

Gone are the days of box-ticking…Enter the age of friendly referrals

Donna Rachelson

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In an increasingly digitally-fueled communications environment, in which social media reigns supreme, personal endorsements and ‘word of mouth’ are beginning to overpower traditional advertising in relevance.

There are a number of cases which demonstrate this growing trend. A leading hotel group, for example, decided years ago that they weren’t going to spend huge sums of money on traditional advertising. They believed, and have subsequently proven, that a superior customer experience will lead to word of mouth advertising – based on referral. The group’s thinking was that ‘people trust friends way more than they do advertising’.

So, if I ask for a hotel recommendation and you – my friend or relative – give me one, it has far greater impact than a generic ad, brochure or travel agent recommendation for that same hotel.

All About Trust

Indeed, this trend is closely aligned with the way product and service endorsement is evolving in the explosive and fast-moving Internet age. People pay close attention to what other people are saying. Think about your own tendencies when searching for a good takeout meal, or a new car.

We increasingly rely on social media contacts and our friends. They know that it’s a trust and reputational issue for them if they recommend something which turns out to be below par. They also want to make sure we’re happy and have as good an experience as they did!

Donna Rachelson, a marketing and branding expert whose latest book, Branding and Marketing You Through Teams, highlights this growing personal referral trend, explains the importance for brands.

“Marketers who don’t recognise and grasp the power of personal endorsement are wasting a valuable opportunity to retain clients,” she says.

So, how can businesses harness the power of personal referrals?

Firstly, says Rachelson, you need to make sure you are totally referable.

“It’s not just about providing good service – it’s about providing outstanding service,” she explains. “In addition, you need to make sure that your customers are 100% comfortable with your service before asking them to refer you.”

From the outset, it is also important to create awareness among your customers and partners that one of the key ways you build your business is through referral. With this in mind, ask if there is anyone within their networks who would benefit from your service as well – people are often more willing to pass on contacts than you realise, they just need a little nudge.

Furthermore, if done right, you can also build an expectation of referral. For example, when you commence offering a service, you can state upfront that if the customers or clients are 100% comfortable with your offering following the service, it would be appreciated if they could refer your business to two or more suitable contacts.

Once the service has been completed, ask the golden question: ‘Would you recommend us?’

Finally, says Rachelson, you could also put a referral letter together for your key referral sources. This letter would explain what kind of customer you look for, and what you can do for them.

Remember, Change is Constant

Essentially, business leaders have to keep evolving their business-to-business, or business-to-customer communications. What worked even five years ago, may now be completely obsolete and ineffective.

“Younger generations don’t want to be treated like their parents were,” says Rachelson. “You have to keep your finger on the pulse of the marketplace and ensure that you grow as it grows.”

  • Are you 100% ‘referrable’?
  • Have you asked your clients and customers to pass your details on to their network?
  • Have you asked your customers/clients if they are willing to refer you?
  • Have you created a tailored referral letter?
  • Are you tapping into your own network for referrals?

Donna Rachelson, branding and marketing specialist, is the author of three books.She has held marketing director positions in blue chip organisations and has a solid business education, including an MBA and is a guest lecturer at GIBS .As a successful businesswoman and investor in businesses, Donna is passionate about empowering entrepreneurs and women, uplifting them with her unique brand of inspiringly practical, strategically results-driven guidance. She is currently Chief Catalyst at Seed Academy- a training and incubation ecosystem for entrepreneurs.

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Networking

Why I Never Meet Someone For Coffee

The conventional offer of “getting coffee” is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating offers that can be made.

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First off, I need to make clear that I am not against meeting people for coffee or even drinking coffee. My issue is that I’ve learned that the offer to go get coffee usually means that somebody wants something from me. Whether it is time, money or to help them make a connection, an offer to grab a drink almost always has some ulterior motive behind it.

You might think that I flat out don’t want to help others, but the real issue is the other opportunities that I have in front of me. I have a lot on my plate, so dedicating the time to a “quick” coffee meeting does not make much sense.

Related: Starbucks Coffee Is All About Culture… For A Reason

Say no to getting coffee

Hours spent in the office doing business are not the time to sit back, relax or socialise. I try to be as efficient, effective and statistically successful as possible during work hours (and beyond). The conventional offer of “getting coffee” is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating offers that can be made.

I rarely take anyone up on the offer to “do lunch” during work hours. Just consider the amount of time that it takes to get to and from a coffee or lunch meeting, and how much business could be done in that same time.

Then, think about the inefficiencies of utilising that time for things such as small talk, even before you get to the critical business issue.

Have an objective in mind

I have the objective to try and keep every phone call to a maximum of five minutes. When it comes to in-person meetings, I prefer them to take place at my office or overlapping other meetings I have outside the office, which I call “holding court.”

Even then, I try to keep those meetings to 20 minutes long. This allows me to fit in as many meetings or calls as possible. So many people make the excuse that they are “doing business” and then leave the office to do unimportant things, or overlap their meetings around errands.

Make no mistake, I’m not advising against meeting people in person. I’m saying take control of the business opportunity and have them come to you, or meet them somewhere convenient when you are outside of the office.

Related: 5 Ways That Coffee Affects Productivity

No coffee, just grind

The majority of lunch and coffee meetings that take place are nothing but an inefficient use of time. I would suggest not only rejecting such meetings during work hours, but to also stop asking for coffee meetings unless they’re absolutely necessary.

How do you determine whether or not a meeting is necessary? Take a look at the reasons and impacts the meeting can have. If these outweigh the potential drawbacks of an in-person meeting, then it is acceptable to ask. Make sure that you focus on making efficiency a key principle when chasing your objectives.

Stay focused in on critical business issues and you will find that focus will provide you with everything you desire in business and life.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Great Places To Take Your Clients When Networking

Are you hoping to make a lasting impression on your client? Maybe you are trying to woo a new client? If that’s the case, you’re going to want to read on and check out these great places that are ideal for taking your clients to.

Jeff Broth

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Do you live in South Africa and work at a job that entails taking clients out while networking? Are you tired of doing the same activities over and over? Are you hoping to make a lasting impression on your client? Maybe you are trying to woo a new client? If that’s the case, you’re going to want to read on and check out these great places that are ideal for taking your clients to.

Introduce Them to Casino Action and Fun

There’s no better way to make a splash with your clients than by taking them to one of the many casinos found in South Africa. Between the cities of Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Queenstown, Pretoria, and Sun City there are more than 15 casinos to check out. Casinos offer a light and fun atmosphere that is perfect for letting loose. At the same time, they aren’t too loud, which means you can go ahead and sneak in a little shop talk.

Related: The Top 10 Behaviours To Avoid When Networking

Besides the casinos, you can also take your clients to horse races and even bingo. If the casino action is a big hit with them, be sure to let them know there are a large amount of South African online casinos that offer all the same types of games, plus a whole lot more.

Enjoy a Sports Game

sports-ground

Professional sports events are another fabulous spot to take your clients. You get that laid back casual atmosphere that allows you to stray from the traditional business attire, it’s a chance to get out of the office, and you can introduce your client to your own home team.

South Africa is well-known around the world for its love of sports. Among the most popular are rugby, cricket, and soccer. If you want to take them to the most popular sport in the country, however, soccer is the clear winner. Loftus Versveld and Ellis Park are two stadiums that are known to draw in some very rowdy crowds. Just be sure to get your tickets well in advance so you don’t end up disappointing your client.

Share the Local Cuisine

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking your client out for a meal, this particular option tends to be over-done. In order to make yours a memorable experience, skip the chain restaurants and typical locations and instead introduce your client to local and authentic cuisine. These are the places the tourists don’t tend to visit, but the locals know all about.

Plan an Adventure Tour

paragliding

Before you go ahead and choose this option, it’s a good idea to learn as much as possible about your client in advance. Not everyone is up to adventure activities, so you want to be sure you don’t put them in an uncomfortable position.

Related: 3 Practical Tips To Nail Networking

If you’ve got the green light, however, there are all kinds of activities you can take part in. Adventures can include a private helicopter tour, paragliding, zip-lining, a shark watching tour, a private surfing lesson, whale watching, kayaking, a sightseeing tour (by bus, car, or foot), bicycling, hiking, snorkelling, horseback riding on the beach, or even High Tea in Cape Town.

All of these ideas are unique and memorable so you know the visit will leave a lasting impression in your client’s mind.

Don’t Be Afraid to Think Outside the Box

When it comes to entertaining your clients while you spend time networking, there is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking outside the box. Coming up with unique ideas is sure to leave that lasting impression in their mind, which is exactly what you are striving for.

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Networking

The Top 10 Behaviours To Avoid When Networking

There are some things that you should and should not do while networking – it’s important to know the difference.

Ivan Misner

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In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Ivan Misner goes over the 10 behaviours that you should not exhibit in a networking group.

Sharing your problems and grievances with fellow networkers and guests is not a good idea while meeting and socialising with others in the group. Winging presentations, being late and using your phone are other things to avoid, too.

Networking is key to the success of a company. In fact, a single referral source can bring a chain reaction of new business to your company. That’s why it’s vital to make your time and efforts worthwhile in networking groups.

Related: Proactive Networking – Your Network Is Your Net Worth

Success in these groups will happen when the rest of the group members trust enough to open up their best referrals. That’s why it’s vital to avoid these behaviours and demonstrate professionalism.

To learn more, click play.

Related: 3 Practical Tips To Nail Networking

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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