When we discuss referral development at Bild and Co. we often talk about networking. The term networking can be defined by Merriam Webster as:
The exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.
So how do you network effectively? Community networking events are usually easy to find. You can attend a Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours, weekly Rotary, and monthly health advocate or marketing meetings. All of the opportunities are there, but what makes these meetings productive? The key is to have a plan before walking in the door. Who do you want to have a purposeful conversation with? What one or two questions do you want to ask them? Is your goal to set up an appointment for them to come to your community? Have a goal in mind so that you don’t get swallowed up in the necessities of an event and lose productive time out of your day.
The second piece of networking is hosting an event at your community. If you are not part of an established networking group, simply invite people you individually network with and let them all meet! You are creating your own networking event by allowing people to form new partnerships and make connections.
Here are the key steps to get you started to hosting a networking event at your community:
- Poll your sources to see what time works best for most of them (early morning breakfasts tend to work best before everyone starts their day).
- Determine how you will serve food so that people can mingle and not feel like they are stuck at the event for a specific amount of time. A few examples are:
- Grab and go breakfasts, where you have a breakfast packed up so each person can grab one and eat it on the run if they can’t stay long
- Buffet style so that guests can come and go without needing additional service from staff with a plated meal
- Walking dinner for four people, where the goal is to have your guests tour more of the community. Have different elements of a dinner for four picked up at various spots throughout the community so that at the end of the tour, they have a complete meal for four. Guests can mingle around beverages and appetizers before and after the meal collection.
- How will you play host? You want to let you referral sources know that you want them to meet each other and you are there to answer questions about your community as well. A few ideas:
- Have some information about referral fee opportunities on the place mats.
- Include fun facts or a valuable information card with their packaged meal or as a give away.
- Have a raffle to collect everyone’s business cards. This also creates interest to draw them back next time! Encourage them to bring someone new each time so you can add them to your circle of influence.
- Follow up! Send a personal thank you to each person who came and ask for feedback! Would they like a speaker next time? Do they prefer a less formal event? What works best for them?
- Now RELAX! You just hosted your first on-site networking event at your community!!