Build a strong referral network to boost your business

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Leslie Collymore

A new Manta study shows more than half of small business owners get their biggest boost in business from customer referrals, not from Facebook, LinkedIn, or even personal relationships.

In a survey of more than 1,000 small-business owners, 78 per cent of them say they’ve asked for a recommendation. In addition, one-third of the small-business owners admit they’ve reviewed recommendations before selecting a new vendor or business partner.

With more than 7,000 small businesses in St Lucia, it’s not what you know but who you know that helps small businesses stand out from the pack.

A strong referral network is imperative for small businesses. Fortunately, thanks to social networking, businesses can now connect directly with customers, enabling them to market in new more cost-effective ways. To parlay those social networks into business opportunities and build a strong network, small businesses should keep the following tips in mind.

1. Be aware of business connections everywhere. Manta’s study shows that small-business owners have made helpful connections from all sorts of places, such as a bar, a wedding, and even a bathroom. Remember to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to build your network and drive growth.

2. Don’t naysay the naysayers. If customers or partners within your network have less than favourable things to say about your business, face the comments head on and address the concerns. Dealing with disgruntled people directly can help you establish greater brand loyalty and can even garner more advocates.

3. Leverage tools that cater to the specific needs of a small business. While LinkedIn is for career networking and Facebook is for friend networking, small businesses need to take advantage of myriad sites that deliver a tighter business community and features designed to help them.

With new business activity expected to rise this year, small businesses need to think of innovative and effective methods to capture their part of the growth around them. Leveraging who you know in your network can help build a solid referral program and ultimately influence prospects looking to work with credible and experienced businesses.

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