Not all networking takes place at events or in a formal setting. Networking consists of telling everyone you know, and everyone you come into contact with, something about your business in a professional, one-on-one context. Everyone in your “circle of influence” should know that you are a travel agent. Discipline yourself each and every day to speak to a potential client about travel. In this way, your business grows as your circle of influence grows.
By intentionally networking in this way, you can create increasingly large circles of influence. For example, perhaps one of your clients, an accountant, wants to travel, but he doesn’t have anyone to watch his pets. There is a young woman in your neighborhood that has a pet watching service, but she has never traveled with you (and she is not sure if she needs to pay sales taxes). Is there an opportunity here? Very likely so!
By having a ready list of service providers in various fields of work, you can assist clients with solving some of their own problems and place yourself at the center of a sphere of influence. By referring clients and potential clients to your own vetted list of service providers with whom you network, you become a “go to” person for such information. In addition, you have every reasonable expectation that those same service providers should travel with you and should refer their own clients to you for their travel planning.
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Referral network marketing ranges from informal, random arrangements to highly sophisticated clubs and organizations. It has the great advantage of being marketing that requires an investment of time instead of dollars. Rather than leaving such matters to chance, help direct the course of events by slowly beginning to develop a list of service providers that you can cross-refer and from whom you can ask referrals.
It is also possible to start and maintain a much more formal networking referral network: a group of like-minded business people who refer business to each other on a systematic basis. A referral network can grow your travel business in a powerful way.
Referral networks are typically comprised of non-competitive business people who meet on a regular, perhaps quarterly basis. For example, you might set up a referral network with five other local business people: an accountant, a financial planner, a hair stylist, a day spa owner and an auto mechanic. Each member has their own sphere of influence – a group of people they do business with on a regular basis as well as social acquaintances. At your meetings, each takes turn explaining to the others what they do, how their business works and the type of client they seek. The members exchange marketing collateral such as business cards and brochures, some of which will promote special offers on an introductory basis.
As the members return to their work place, they refer their own clients to each other. They provide their own clients with the literature of the other members when the opportunity to do so arises. The members take responsibility and accountability for referring a minimum number of referrals for other members each week and records the referrals made. Over time, each member increases their own sphere of influence in this way. Give serious consideration to working with a small group of other professionals in your community to set up a referral network.
Networking is a matter of very intentionally creating your own business opportunities. It is this type of positive effort on your part that will substantially grow your business.
Tomorrow – A Networking Mindset