|Internal communication||Client/customer relationships|
|External communication||Developing a word-of-mouth campaign|
|Public relations||Departmental collaboration|
|Corporate culture||Relationship advertising and marketing|
|Social capital||Improve vendor relationships|
|Human resources||Referral generation strategies|
Let's focus on the two roles of the CNO:
- Word-of-mouth campaigns
- Referral generation strategies
First, however, let’s address the thought that’s probably just popped into your head: Hey, it’s just a ten-person (four-person/one-person) organisation; how can I afford to hire a CNO to do my networking?
As business professionals ourselves, we remember what it was like trying to get a company off the ground. And quite frankly, there never seemed to be enough resources to take care of all the things the business needed, let alone hire an executive-level person. Create a CNO position in your company—and filling it yourself, at least in the beginning. In other words, don’t hire a CNO – just take on a CNO mindset.
How do you create a CNO mindset? Here are five actions you can take day to day:
- Engage in two to three networking events each month and follow up with people you meet.
As a smart, enterprising businessperson, you already know the importance of networking and how vital it is to meet new people. However, one of the biggest mistakes people make is failing to follow up. By adopting a CNO mindset, you recognise that meeting new folks while networking is just the first step towards generating more word-of-mouth business. The second step is meeting them later over coffee or lunch to learn more about their business and how you can help them. When you do that, you pave the way for future referral business.
- Touch base with past business contacts by making two personal phone calls each week.
A CNO’s job is maintaining relationships and generating referrals. And that can’t happen unless you stay in touch.
- Use postcards and greeting cards to stay in touch with people throughout the year.
A good time to do this is on annual holidays and on special occasions when a card can be an unexpected surprise. You can start off by buying a pack of 20 cards and sending them to people you’ve fallen out of touch with or with whom you’d like to reconnect—past clients, past vendors, a friend of a friend, another business owner you chatted with at your local coffee shop a few months ago. Doing this will keep you top of mind with these people in a unique way.
- Take good care of your database.
With all this talk about phone calls and greeting cards, it makes sense that a CNO should have a top-flight contact database and contact management system (CMS) to help stay organised and on top of things. For those of you who might not be familiar with those terms, a contact database is simply a storage facility enabling you to keep track of all the people you’ve met. It can be as simple as a physical card file or as high-tech as an online data site. It just needs to be something you can use so business cards aren’t falling off your desk and onto the floor. Using database management software can streamline and supercharge your referral generation system. Because there are data entry fields for many different kinds of information (email address, phone number, profession, where you met the contact, etc.), you can sort contacts by many different criteria and target emails to particular segments of your database with a few clicks of the mouse.
The reason these systems are so important for a CNO is because your contacts are your business! You can’t get referrals unless you have relationships, and you can’t have relationships unless you stay in touch and up to date with contacts. A good contact database and contact management system enables you to do both while creating a powerful word-of-mouth marketing campaign.
- Always thank your referral partners.
A “referral partner” is not simply a contact who gives you referrals every once in a while; a referral partner is someone with whom you have entered into a relationship that is mutually trusting, respectful, and beneficial. Maintaining that relationship means, among other things, thanking your contact for referrals. It’s not only good manners; it’s good for keeping the benefits mutual. Thanks can and often should take the form of reciprocation, of course; get a referral, give a referral. The Law of Reciprocity, however, doesn’t require such a quid-pro-quo response, and indeed it might even seem a bit artificial if it happened as a matter of course. The person being thanked might be inclined to think, "If my partner can send me one referral every time I send him a referral, how many might he be able to send me if he sent me all the business he knows I could use? Is he, in other words, holding back? Is he doling them out like dog treats every time I perform a trick?"
Rather than foster such ideas, make sure you send your partner a referral every time you have the opportunity; chances are the ones you receive from him (and others) will balance out in the long run. Gratitude by reciprocity should be given freely and abundantly and not in measured response to the number of referrals received. A referral partnership should never be viewed as a simple accountancy.
A simple “thank you” is always appreciated and should always be the first response given. It’s probably the single biggest action a CNO can take to maximise the number of referrals he gets. It will typically double the amount of referral business he gets from an existing referral partner. This simple thanks can take many forms other than a voiced “Thank you.” There are many ways to show your gratitude, but it’s important to simply understand that thanking the person who gave you a referral in the first place is just as important as getting that referral. When you do, that person will be more likely to do it again and provide another revenue boost for your business.