Referrals have become a big business. Hundreds of organization offer referral groups which you can join for a fee. Books have and are being written and there are seminars galore. Business people are taught that you have to ask for referrals in order to grow your business.
I don’t think that personal referrals will ever go completely away, but I do believe that there is a shift coming which will replace much of the traditional referral. One asks for a referral to find someone to accomplish a specific “want”. We most often accept the personal referral even though we don’t know much about that person or if he can satisfy the specific need we have.
The change is the internet and all its related technologies. If I have a need for someone, I can go to the internet and search for exactly what I need and at the same time find out as much as I want to about the person I am considering hiring.
I read about a new term, “search-based dynamic”, which is slowly gathering steam, taking over how people will eventually select most of the venders (products/services) from which they will make their purchases.
What does that mean to a business? It means that you have to have a very defined target market and then make sure that your name will come up when someone from that target market is searching for a product or service that you provide. If you are found, the opportunity is there for you to open a conversation and to establish a meaningful relationship. To achieve that position of being called first you have to be the very best, most informative, most capable, and most accessible provider of that product or service.
Younger consumers have grown up with the internet and social media; these along with search engines, are a normal source of information for them. When they want a product or service, they probably will not call and ask for a referral; they will go directly to the internet. Older consumers are rapidly moving towards technology as a source of information and are using the internet for their products and service needs. I was at my local Apple store last week and a class started at 7pm on how to use the I-pad. Every seat was taken and many others were crowded around to hear. The interesting thing is the age of the participants, they were all middle age plus.
The internet is really an economic engine which has to be recognized by the business owner. Company size will no longer be the governing factor in consumer selection. Small companies will have the option of collaboration (more on this topic later) to offer competitive and even better services and products.
There is a change in the business wind. Is your sail up ready to catch it??
Nick J. Petra CFP At Strategic Duck, we are ready to help fill your sails. www.strateicduck.com