Every industry relies on referrals, but in the events industry, it’s downright impossible to conduct business without them. But do you know how to successfully develop and cultivate relationships needed with a productive referral network? Are you laying the foundation for strategic partnerships for tomorrow? Are you asking for the business? If you’re not sure or believe your event planning business could use a referral strategy refresh, keep reading. Today, we’ll provide the guidance you need to ensure you’re doing all the right things to develop an effective referral network that works for you.
Understanding the Various Types of Referral Networks
Before you can develop an effective strategy for bringing in referrals, you’ll need to identify which types of referral networks you’re growing.
Customer Referral Communities
How often are you reconnecting with past clients? If anyone’s had a glowing event experience with you, reach out again. Check-in and see how they’re doing. Then ask if they’d be interested in participating in your referral community program. Customer referral communities are groups you set up with incentives to encourage referrals. Even if those past customers don’t have a direct need for your services today, they certainly can connect you with others in their circles who do. Dangle a few carrots in the form of rewards, discounts, or event planning perks, and they’ll go way out of their way to send you some business.
Employee Referral Networks
Look to your own teams to help bring in new business and find referrals. Incentivize your employees to tap into their social circles and professional networks. Employee networks are great resources that often go unused. And for a pair of concert tickets or experiential rewards, they’ll gladly help you drum up referral business.
Referral Partner Networks
These referral networks involve members who represent businesses and services in your circles. Collectively, you all agree to refer new business to each other as a benefit of the membership or partnership. Join networking groups or affiliates that make sense for your event planning core offerings. Get in the room with those who can introduce you to your biggest prospects. Just don’t forget to reciprocate and do a little referring back.
Cross Referral Communities
These referral communities can be game changers for event planners. Any business not in your direct space can be a cross-referral resource. So, your caterers, top entertainers, and favorite venues could be incredible referral networks. Talk with your best industry partners and discuss how you might complement each other with referrals. And you all grow together.
Setting Referral Network Goals
Recognize that referrals are still effective marketing tools. Here are some stats to reinforce the ever-growing referral trends:
- Nielsen says 84% of consumers trust referrals and endorsements from friends and family ABOVE all other advertising.
- Nielsen also discovered that the average consumer is four times more likely to make a purchasing decision when referred by a friend.
- Social Media Today reported that 78% of B2B companies found referral marketing to be the most effective in generating leads.
Knowing just how valuable referrals are to your bottom line, you can begin to develop a strategy for tapping into your biggest advocates and best networking groups ongoing. Set goals for yourself, weekly or monthly, for outreach. And make sure you’re measuring the results of the various initiatives, so you can streamline to focus on those referral outlets that work best for you.
Make Sure Your Services Are Referral-Worthy
This may not apply to everyone, but give your business model a pulse check first and make sure you’re firing on all cylinders. You want to build a referral network from a position of strength, not when you’re trying to restructure your business or are putting out fires. Clean up and button up your core offerings. Make sure you’re offering referral-worthy services before reaching out to anyone for new business.
You don’t have to be in all networking associations all the time to be effective. In fact, starting with one or two groups and committing to them is far more lucrative than spreading yourself too thin and stretched over too many communities. Be selective about where you spend your time. Identify who is going to be your best resource for new business and dominate your efforts there.
Start with Your Most Loyal Advocates
Lead with your best referral-building foot forward. Start with your loyal employees and develop a referral incentive program there. Start with your fiercest loyal vendors. Start with those clients for whom you planned out-of-this-world events. You can build and branch off from there as you grow. But leading with your best will provide the forward momentum you need to gain traction.
Whenever you get a referral, and you should always be asking new clients how they hear of you, be grateful and thank the referring party. Send a goodie basket or a handwritten thank you note. And keep track of who’s name-dropping your business the most.
With these referral network insights, you can build and grow your best lead-generating resource! And for more leads and referrals, secure your booth at this year’s Event Planner Expo!