September 1, 2011

Social acceptance: Build tight referral networks


How do you become the marquee company where you’re the one, go-to person with whom everybody wants to be associated? Everyone else is using you; so-and-so used your company, so therefore you must be good.

In fact, the goal for your business should be to get into this position, so that you can get the best jobs with the best margins. In the higher-income world, money often becomes less of an issue because it is abundant. Although it is still an important consideration, value and time tend to be even more important.

Join the club
As I have hinted in earlier articles it is important to get out there and network, especially within a group. I joined a golf/tennis/curling and squash club about six years ago, and I now get tons of quality business because of it. Fortunately, early on, a few people took the chance on hiring my firm. Now everyone is hiring my firm. It’s not that I am necessarily the best, but rather we are “the company to use” in that circle.

As I found out, members of golf clubs do not have time to cut their own lawns or micro-manage people. Their time is very valuable, and they would rather pay to play and pay to have work done. There just are not enough hours in the day to work and play.

Social acceptance equals trust
Trust is another key factor. If everyone trusts you, then you must be trustworthy. It is less likely in your peers’ minds that you would try to pull the wool over their eyes. In fact, you are viewed as trustworthy by the group because of social acceptance, and how you behave amongst them.

These tight networks, in upper income brackets, can quickly become a huge source of revenue. It builds brand, loyalty and a steady source of work. It costs only the investment of your leisure time, an expensive membership and some annual fees.

If you want to get better business more easily, consider joining some sort of high-net worth club. It usually starts with someone finding out what you do and asking for advice.

On one of my golf trips with “the boys,” I met a senior partner in a law firm who bills out at more than $800 per hour and he asked me about stonework at his farm. I gave him a referral since our company does not do work in the country. A year later I got a call for a landscape project on his home in the city worth well over six figures.

It is important to never hard sell these people. Once they are comfortable with you for who you are — the true you — they will call. I am closing at about 90 per cent on club referrals so far!

The reason people join groups is because they are like-minded and have similar interests. Leverage this opportunity for your business while having fun.

Clubs are a great forum for branding and marketing. As a bonus, instead of staying home and watching TV, get out there and exercise with your family. You will be healthier and richer for it.    

George Urvari has been a partner in a Toronto-based design-build landscape firm,for over 20 years.