Most of your chamber members join the chamber for two things that are—for the most part—intertwined, networking and increased customer sales. While many business owners want more sales, savvy ones know some the ways to create the most lucrative opportunities are through building a network, engaging with people, and receiving referrals. Sure, advertising and product or service price can increase sales but those two items must constantly be adjusted to move the dial. Relationships continue to increase sales with minimal maintenance. One of the best ways to grow these relationships is through a formalized chamber referral networking group.
Nielsen found that people are 4x more likely to buy when they’ve been referred by a friend. Trust plays a critical role here as Nielsen reported that 92% of consumers trust referrals from someone they know. Additionally, these customers are worth more to businesses in the long run. According to the Wharton School of Business, referral customers have a 16% higher lifetime value than non-referral customers.
As a chamber, if you’re able to harness the power of referrals and connect members in a way that benefits their business, your retention numbers will benefit as well. Businesspeople will see the chamber as a critical factor in their success. But managing a referral networking group takes work. A badly managed group will quickly fail to provide a return on time investment and members will lose interest.
Managing a chamber referral networking group can be a challenging but rewarding experience. As the leader of the group, it is your responsibility to ensure that members are engaged, informed, and actively participating in the networking activities.
6 Must-dos When Managing a Chamber Referral Networking Group
Here are some tips on how to effectively manage a chamber referral networking group:
**1. Set clear expectations: **From its inception, it is important to set clear expectations for members. This includes attendance requirements, referral quotas, and meeting etiquette. Be sure to communicate these expectations clearly and consistently. Get a read on whether this is your members’ first referral networking group or whether they’re veterans. Referral networking groups operate differently than the average chamber networking mixer. Newbies must understand this. Establish rules about what will happen if someone is not meeting group expectations and communicate those to your group. Consider asking them to sign a document of understanding so everyone is clear. And...
2. Be clear about the role you will play: some chamber professionals attend every referral networking meeting, while others simply provide the meeting space and turn the running of the meeting over to the group’s leadership (if there is a chamber member leader). You can’t be everywhere at once. Look for ways to groom a leader and be available when needed.
3. Foster a positive and supportive environment: Members of a chamber referral networking group should feel comfortable and confident sharing their business ideas and goals. As the leader (or group organizer), it is your responsibility to foster a positive and supportive environment where members can connect, collaborate, and learn from each other. If you follow the structure of a traditional referral networking group, you will limit the number of professionals from each industry, which should reduce competition within the group. It is still possible that there may be difficult personalities or rivalries. In those cases, issue warnings quickly about the consequences of their actions and what will happen if they continue with the infractions. Also, help make everyone feel their products or services (and their value) and voice are appreciated and encouraged. Speaking of…
4. Provide educational resources: Depending on the experience level of your group members, a nice addition or perk to the networking opportunities might be access to educational resources that can help them grow their businesses. Extras like guest speakers, training sessions, and online resources can create buzz and help members be more successful. 5. Give members the tools they need to track success: If you’re the only one tracking referrals and the business that comes out of your group, you’re missing an opportunity. Giving your referral group members referral tracking software allows them to see not only how successful they are and where their leads are coming from but also the success of others. This can be an intense motivator and one that clearly shows the value of membership. 6. Track progress and celebrate wins: Finally, it is important to track the progress of the group and share successes along the way. This includes tracking the number of referrals generated, the amount of business generated, and the growth of individual businesses. Recognizing the hard work and dedication of members can go a long way in keeping them engaged and motivated as well as help you market the expansion of a second chamber referral group. You also want to save this information when your members are renewing. Showing solid examples of how the cost of chamber membership paid for itself through new business generated from a chamber referral group can drive members to write the renewal check.
Managing a chamber referral networking group requires a combination of organizational skills, communication skills, and leadership qualities. By setting clear expectations, fostering a positive environment, encouraging participation, providing educational resources, and tracking progress through user-friendly tools, you can effectively manage a successful and thriving networking group.