By implementing a simple change to my weekly routine, we get a whole lot more referrals. Instead of hours spent at local networking events each week, I spend about an hour of my time every Wednesday morning. This post will show you my exact process and explain why it works.
Non-strategic networking is a time waster!
Firstly I have to get something out of the way. I’m still a huge advocate of using local networking to grow your web design business in the early days. It’s an easy way to get your first few (or hundreds) of clients. Local networking took us from 0 to 6-figures. But unless you live in a big city, eventually you’ll find that the amount of time you sink into networking doesn’t pay back. It can require a lot of time per project that comes in. This is why I changed tactics to a virtual style of networking that makes better use of my time.
Enter Matt Kimberley
Matt Kimberley is an international speaker, sales genius and a bloody good bloke. I first saw him on stage at James Schramko’s Super Fast Business near Sydney, and then again a week later at Chris Ducker’s Tropical Think Tank. Both talks were among the best I’ve been to. Matt has a charm that completely captivates the audience and follows it up by delivering epic value. But I digress… One of the many strategies Matt preaches is routinely keeping in touch with people that help you get more clients. It sounds so simple, but most people don’t do it. If you already take time out of your day to purposefully and deliberately keep in contact with the right people, you can stop reading and go back to Instagram puppy pictures. And so, given you’re still here, I’ll assume you don’t.
Note: Matt’s free ebook on this topic is what inspired me to make this change in the first place.
Who Are Your Best Clients?
Have a think about the best projects you’ve ever had. Where did the client come from? I’d be willing to bet they came from referrals. Not a random person who stumbled on a post or ad, or found you on the Googles. They were likely someone who was vouched for by someone already in your network. It’s just the way it goes. So it makes sense to go after more of these dream clients.
Everyone Will Forget About You.
The big thing with referrals is that people have to remember you. Most of the time, they won’t. People will simply forget about you over time. Not because they are a-holes, but because they are human. You need to be top of mind. When someone is in conversation with your potential referrer and mention their website, you want your referrer to immediately think of you. The key to making that happen is recency. If the last time you spoke to someone was 6 months ago, what are the chances they’ll remember to mention you? That’s a bet I won’t take.
Being Front Of Mind
So then, you need to be front of mind when that critical time comes. The easiest way to do that is simply to keep in regular contact with those key people that refer your work. Given that you’re also human, you’ll probably forget about some of those partners. Like most things, both of these can be fixed by putting in a system or process.
To keep on top of everyone you need to be in contact with, you’ll need two things: 1. Somewhere to store their details 2. Regular time allocated to making contact
1. Storing People’s Info
The most common way to store people’s info is in a CRM. In my experience, most CRM’s are built to facilitate a sales process. By that I mean moving someone through stages, from cold prospect through to making a purchase with you. It’s too linear. It’s funny. I usually go absolutely nuts for new tools and software that I can use to run the business. In this case I tried about 10 different CRM platforms that would help me keep on top of key relationships. In the end I came back to a simple Google Sheet with some formulas and conditional formatting. You’ll get to see this shortly.
Side Note: A couple of tools came close. The best was Contactually, but I had a couple of issues with it. First, it’s crazy expensive for something where I’d only use a single “keep in touch” feature. Second, it automatically drags in everybody from your email account, which means 1000’s of useless contacts. Also, since Facebook have disabled access to personal profile messages, CRMs have no way of knowing if you chatted to someone on there. In the end, it just made more sense to go with a manual process.
2. Making Regular Contact
At a bare minimum of once per week, set aside some time to go through your makeshift spreadsheet CRM (or real CRM if you like) and purposefully contact the people you haven’t spoken to in a while. Matt advises to do this once per day, every morning. This is a great idea and something you should probably make the time for. I find I interact naturally with people during most of the week anyway, so I only set aside one block per week to get to everyone else. That’s Wednesday morning for me.
As always, the easiest explanation is by example. Here’s my spreadsheet. It is not perfect, but it works for me. The full list of columns:
- First Name
- Last Name
- Last Contact - A date field when clicked shows a date picker
- How Often - How many days (maximum) I want between talking to the person
- Overdue - How many days overdue (formula =if(C2="",D2,today()-C2-D2))
- Conditional formatting green to red
- Met At - where we met, if relevant
- Category - The kind of person they are
- Referred By - If a specific person introduced us
- Notes - Anything I want to remember
- Emails, Phones
- Social media profile links
You’ll notice in the category column, I have “friend.” Yep, I even use this to keep in touch with friends that I forget to see regularly. And yep, I’m a bad person.
A todo pops up into my “Today” list on Trello on Wednesday morning thanks to an IFTTT trigger. This kicks off my standard process.
- Go through the list and set a new “last contact” for anyone I spoke with or contacted in the last week
- For anyone that will hit overdue in the next week, reach out to them
Making contact with someone can take a lot of different forms. It changes every time, but it’s usually one of the following:
- Invite them to an event I plan on going to
- Line up a coffee date or a Zoom (online) coffee date
- This is usually for the closer contacts when just catching up and chatting makes sense
- Share something interesting like an article or tool that is relevant to them
- Introduce them to someone that I think they’d like and be able to work with (asking both sides for permission first)
- Refer some work to them
- Drop them a genuine thankyou if they've done something that has really helped me
- Just say hi and ask what’s up, how’s things been?
And I do this either by:
- Facebook Message
- Tagging them in something or comment on something of theirs (this is a last resort. It’s not as personal, but sometimes I can’t think of something to say)
That’s as simple as it is. A few messages or emails here and there to keep in touch, with the occasional meeting.
Meeting New People
One thing we haven’t covered yet is getting people in and out of this list. It’s super important that you keep up to date and add any new people you have met that will be great for you to keep in touch with. Another thing Matt talks about is reaching out to strangers. Making contact with new people can take so many forms. You could simply reach out and say you love their stuff and see where it goes from there (can start with the same kind of thankyou note mentioned above). You could ask a mutual friend for an introduction. Here’s a personal example that demonstrates the power of reaching out to new people. I tweeted at somebody on Twitter telling them I loved their podcast. We tweeted a few times, which turned into an invite to be interviewed for that podcast. That turned into a second interview, and then an introduction to someone who runs another even bigger podcast. The host of the second podcast introduced me to several other key people. I now consider both hosts friends. In business terms we’re talking exposure to 1000’s of podcast listeners, and more in their communities. That started with a single tweet.
Don’t be scared to move people off of this list. As your business changes, you change, or people change, you might find talking to some people really difficult. They might be unresponsive, unreliable to simply unhelpful. No point bashing your head against a wall. I simply cut and paste that line of the spreadsheet into an “Archive” tab. That way I don’t feel bad about deleting them.
Go and build your makeshift CRM spreadsheet, of course. And grab Matt’s eBook. Would you like some help or clarification on any of this? Feel free to ask in the comments.