With the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and especially the UAE on the brink of an Entrepreneurial revolution, Word-of-mouth marketing through referral networks is one of the best ways UAE Entrepreneurs can connect to or associate with people who can influence your products and services.
There are essentially only four ways a business can market its products or services:
- Through Advertising (in newspapers, radio, TV, Bill-Boards etc.) – though this requires large budgets and is most suitable for tangible products like retail
- By Cold Calling – many business employ teams of sales people who will sit with a phone and list of numbers to call or simply go door knocking. It is a numbers game, requires very strong skills and one needs to be averse to being rejected most of the time.
- Having a Public Relations (PR) Strategy – this can be effective but at times requires a large budget too.
- Having a Word-of-Mouth Marketing Plan – most people believe word-of-mouth works only through customers
Do you believe your best source of referrals is your customers? If so, think again . . .
The reason people sometimes fall into believing customers are there best source of referrals is that they’ve been trained to believe it and have never pursued any other source of referrals. The only referrals they’ve ever received are from customers.
Don’t get me wrong–customers and clients can be a very good source of referrals and I’m not denying that. However, many businesses (especially big corporations) are out of touch with the fact that other referral sources are available that can be extraordinarily powerful. Clients, although often the most readily available sources, are not necessarily the best or steadiest sources of high-quality referrals. The best sources in the long run are likely to be the people you refer business to. When you help another businessperson build his or her business, you’re cultivating a long-term relationship with someone who’s motivated to return the favour by bringing business to you, who’s sharing your target market, and who will work systematically with you for mutual benefit.
With a well-developed referral network, you can realize more good referrals from one or two professional referral sources than from all your customers combined.
Why? Because these professionals are better salespeople than your clients and they spend more time in contact with your target market. They know how to sell to your client base. They talk your talk. If you’ve done your job of educating and training them to refer business to you, they can communicate your value better to their contacts.
There’s also a built-in challenge with viewing customers as referral sources.
If you’re spending part of your time with a customer trying to get referrals, you’re generating a conflict of interest. Instead of devoting all of your time and attention to the customer’s needs, you’re diverting part of that effort toward your own self-interest. Instead of devoting all your time and attention to the customer’s needs, you’re diverting part of that effort toward your own self-interest. The customer may sense that they are not getting full value–and the truth is, they may be right. You may be sending mixed messages. You may be polluting customer service time with “give me business” time.
Yes . . . you can expect to get referrals from a happy customer, but you’d better make darn sure the customer is indeed happy.
This means keeping your attention–and your motivations–focused on the customer’s needs when that is the purpose of the visit or call. However, there’s nothing wrong with asking for another appointment specifically so you and your client can discuss how you can help each other.
Did you know there are actually ‘Referral Networking Groups’ you can participate in to build referral relationships?
The concept of Referral Networks has been around globally for the last 30 years or so but relatively new to the UAE and the Middle East markets. They are typically classed as ‘Hard-Contact’ networks where you meet your fellow referral partners as often as every week and build a very strong deep relationship with the simple objective of referring business to each other. Members have reported receiving as much as over 50% of their business just from such networks.
Why is Word-of-Mouth marketing necessary for UAE entrepreneurs?
I recently met a senior associate of a newly formed accountancy practice in Dubai who was looking to join one such referral network. I asked him what motivated him to join the group. He said that over the last 6 months, one of his business development team members had been making plenty of cold calls and on at least 3 occasions, he had been turned away as the person being called had cited he was already in a referral relationship with a fellow member in his referral network.
It is no longer just about selling but more about relationships.
With the advent of the Technology Age there is now a paradigm shift – ‘C’ for Competition is being replaced by ‘C’ for Collaboration. As the Leadership Expert with over 60 books under his belt, John C. Maxwell puts it – The biggest impact to your personal and professional life will be determined by “who” you are associated with, and your “connection to them”
The UAE is still a small country and amongst the business community, word gets round pretty fast. Never before has it been more crucial to be connected to or associated with people who can influence your products and services.