Written by: Dean Hua

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I’ve always believed in this. But it helped reinforce my belief when I had a meeting with Christina Haylock of Ford Communications the other day. We sat down to talk about all things marketing. As we finished up the meeting, Chris had said that the concept of self referral doesn’t work in networking. She, of all people, should know. She runs her own BNI group in Reston, Virginia and is exposed to all the different types of networking activities that occur.

For those not familiar with the concept of self referral, it’s very simple to understand. I meet you at a networking event. We sit down and get to know each other and are supposed to refer business to each other. I refer you and you refer me business. That rarely ever happens.

Why? For any myriad of reasons. One explanation is that networks are not built in that manner. You might be in finance and she might be in the IT business. There is little to no synergy there and it’s most likely that the two of you hang out in different social circles. Birds of the same feather flock together. Neither one of you have the same feather.

Referals tend to work in a more haphazard manner and is more serendipitous. This picture below is a better example of how networks and referrals work;

self referral

The teal figure refers business to the figure in baby blue. The baby blue figure refers business to the navy blue figure. And then the navy blue figure ends up referring to the teal figure.

That’s just how the world works. If you don’t believe me, go out and keep doing what you’re doing. Keep expecting others to refer you business just because you met each other at an event. That’s an easy way to go broke and a complete waste of time.

What’s a better way? Know the type of feather that you have. Go hang out with people who have the same feather or want to meet people of the same feather. If you’re a financial advisor ( and there are tons of them out there), then go hang out where other tax attorneys, CPAs, and estate planning professionals hang out.

Determine who your target market is and reverse engineer the process to figure out who the hubs are.

But don’t ask or expect the self referral process to work. If there is a high likelihood that you won’t refer business to them in the immediate future, then whose to say that they’ll refer business to you anytime soon?


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