Creating A Referral Machine 1 of 7

keep the gearsCreating A Referral Machine 1 of 7

You are ambitious. You are savvy. You want to be more successful. You want to work smarter and not harder. You know that referrals are the means of achieving that. Referrals are the most effective means of creating this greater success.

The best place to be in business, (any business or profession) is the point where your new clients are almost exclusively generated from people in your network. These are friends, colleagues, strategic partners and even former clients sending you prospective clients.

At this point, your network becomes your sales force. In short, you have effectively created a referral machine and that machine (i.e., your network) is working for you, even when you are not working.

This begs the question, “How do I create a referral machine?” We start on this in Part 2.

Networking And Stone Soup

Networking And Stone Soup

In Marcia Brown’s old tale, entitled Stone Soup, plague-ridden villagers were stingy with their food and had no interest in sharing with anyone but their own.

This begins to change, however, when a peddler tells the villagers that he would like to share some stone soup with them (essentially throwing a few rocks in boilinV (Soup)g water). This action, along with some goading words, moved villagers to become generous — one by one sharing. A head of cabbage here, some salt beef there, and voilá, before long there was a large brew collectively made and fit to feed all of them.

Brown essentially suggests that generosity and altruism are contagious. Is this just a hopeful fable? Or is there any truth to this assertion? Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D. and James H. Fowler, Ph.D tested this assertion and shared their results in their book Connected.

These researchers took a set of 120 students who were put into groups of four. The groups’ individuals were given some money to be used to perform an exercise composed of a series of tasks. Participants both profited and lost via these tasks in a capitalistic exercise. After each exercise, however, the individuals had the option of giving some funds to others at the expense of their own.

After each exercise, the groups were mixed up so that no two groups were ever the same throughout the experiment. In the first few rounds of exercises, no money was gifted.

Amongst the participants, however, was a plant — someone in on the experiment. This person we will refer to as the “Stone Soup Peddler.” After certain exercises, the Stone Soup Peddler started to systematically give away some of the money to others.

In the exercises that followed this exhibition of generosity, the people who benefited from the gift, gave more. In addition, even the people who witnessed the gifting, but did not directly benefit began giving more. These altruistic gestures then began to spread through the group.

In business, no doubt, you are dependent upon others giving to you. You look for others to give you information. You look for people to share referrals with you. You need people to share insights and ideas with you.

Acts of generosity, however, are inspired somehow. That is people do not just give. Rather people are moved to give somehow, some way.

As the story of  or the Christakis-Fowler study illustrates, you have the power to inspire generosity through your own generosity. The substance of the act does not matter. What does matter, however, is that you act, as this simple gesture becomes contagious. You can literally inspire your entire network with one small act to literally anyone. A simple referral. An introduction. Sharing of insight or information.

Any or all of this will inspire your network to give to others. In so doing, not only will you have done something wonderful, but you will also be in close proximity when the generosity begins to materialize.

The Power Of Flocking

The United Kingdom has had a longstanding milk distribution system in which milkmen in small trucks bring the milk in bottles to the door of each country house. At the beginning of the 20th century, these milk bottles had no top. As a result, birds had easy access to the cream that rose to the top of the milk in each of the bottles.

In fact, two different species of British garden birds, the titmice and the red robins, capitalized most on this opportunity. Each species
learned to siphon off cream from the bottles, tapping this new, rich food source.

In addition to not being sanitary, these birds were stripping milk of its vital nutritional value. This prompted dairies in the 1940’s to start installing aluminum seals on milk bottles. Thus, when the milkman delivered the product, the birds were effectively prevented from getting at the cream.

U (Diagram 3)This only worked for a short while, though. One by one, titmice learned to pierce this weak defense. Before long, the entire titmouse populations were only mildly inconvenienced by the aluminum caps.

The same was not true of the robins. As a species, they never learned how to get around the bottle cap and pierce the cream at the top of the milk. Certainly, here and there, one robin would be fortunate enough to figure it out, but as a whole, the species was foiled (no pun intended) from getting at the milky cream, as they once had.

Why was this the case? After all, the robin and the titmouse were very similar birds in size and physical characteristics. The difference was in how the birds interacted within their own species.

The robin is an individualistic bird. They are self-serving and territorial. Rather than cooperate with one another, when fellow robins comes near the robin will chase it off.

The titmouse, on the other hand, is a communal bird, relying on one another heavily for survival, sticking together in tight groups of at least eight to ten. As such, they are able to cooperate and collaborate together, quickly learning what works and what doesn’t for one another. They have an efficient social propagation process in which they are able to adapt to changing conditions and learn from each other because of their mutual dependencies.

In short, the titmice almost universally prevailed against the aluminum caps because they learned from one another. After all, that is their way.

On the other hand, while an occasional robin might have gained access to the cream, the successful birds never shared the information with others.

The lesson here is simple: Birds, like the titmice, that flock seem to learn faster, evolve more quickly, and increase their chances to survive.

This is true for you as well. When you interact with others, you learn. You learn new information. You learn new techniques. You learn how to dress and talk. You probably learned how to open a carton of milk.

In your life, in order to quickly get over obstacles and move past barriers and on to your goals — such as finding clients — you should take every opportunity to behave as the titmouse and help each other succeed together. This would include sharing tips and tricks with one-another or taking an interest in the needs of your peers.

The Strength Of Weak Ties

A (Networking)In addition to the types of people with whom you network, to benefit your network you also need to consider the extent with which you know people
in your network. This is known as “The Strength of Weak Ties.”

In his 1974 book Getting A Job, author and sociologist Mark Granovetter found that 56% of people found jobs through personal contacts. This is
not surprising. After all, it is “not what you know, but who you know.”

The surprise in his research, however, was that the personal contacts used to obtain these jobs were not from family or close friends. Rather a significant majority of people who found jobs via personal contacts did so via their “weak ties”. In fact, 55.6% of individuals reported that they saw their “job-producing” contact only occasionally and 27.8% saw their contact only rarely.

Therefore, when it comes to finding out about new jobs – or, for that matter, gaining new information or looking for new ideas or finding clients – weak ties tend to be more important than strong ties.

Why? Because your close ties tend to occupy the same world as you do. For example, a spouse or close friend might substantially share the same network as you. Thus, they could only refer or connect you to people you already know.

Mere acquaintances, on the other hand, are much more likely to know something or someone that you do not. While you might share a small overlap in networks, most of the people they know are completely unexplored territory for you.

Bringing the concept of “The Strength of Weak Ties” into your business, profession or career means this: Do NOT rely on those that you know real well to build your clientele.

Rather, a better means for fortifying your network is to make a point of occasionally associating with people you know, but not that well. The person from work that you sort of knew from occasional meetings or trips up on the elevator. The person at church that you see every week and can address by name, but you know little else about them.

Thus, from a networking perspective, the most important people in your life are the people who aren’t closest to you. In fact, the more people you know who aren’t close to you the stronger your position becomes.

In summary, what matters in getting ahead is the quality of your relationship, but one measure of quality is to what extent someone is not particularly close to you. Having lunch with your long-time best buddy can be fun. It, however, does little to build your network. If you want to build your network, have lunch with someone you know, but not that well (e.g., the friendly stranger).

The “Kevin Bacon” Game

bKevin Bacon is a relatively well known and popular American actor. The idea behind the Kevin Bacon game — which is a popular pop culture trivia game – is to link any actor or actress through the movies they’ve been in, to Kevin Bacon.

Example: Mary Pickford was in “Screen Snapshots” with Clark Gable, who was in “Combat America” with Tony Romano who, 35 years later, was in “Starting Over” with Kevin Bacon. Three Steps.

In the 1990’s, computer scientist Brett Tjaden (University of Virginia) using the Internet Movie Database determined that Kevin Bacon was on average 2.8312 steps from any actor or actress (which placed him 668th of all actors and actress). Then using the database, he determined the overall connectivity of every actor and actress in the database. Among the top 50 were names such as Martin Sheen, Robert Mitchum, Gene Hackman, Donald Sutherland, Rod Steiger, and Shelly Winters.

In the magazine Nature, Duncan Watts and Steven Strogatz further reviewed this analysis and attempted to determine why an actor such as Burgess Meredith, appearing in 114 films, ranked in the top 20 when Gary Cooper with a similar number of films ranked even behind Kevin Bacon at 878th and John Wayne with 183 films only ranked 160th.

What they concluded was that while Gary Cooper and John Wayne appeared in a significantly greater number of movies, the movies they did appear in where similar movie types. In fact, over 50% of John Wayne’s movies were westerns.

Burgess Meredith, on the other hand (who only appeared in approximately 60% of the movies as Gary Cooper and John Wayne) appeared in a wide variety of movies types: 42 dramas, including Of Mice and Men (1939) and Rocky (1976); 22 comedies; 8 adventures; 7 action; 5 documentaries; science fiction, horror and a western; 4 thrillers; 4 crime movies; 2 children; 2 romance; 2 mysteries; 1 musical; and 1 animated film.

Here is the “take away” from the Kevin Bacon game and the analysis of the relative connectivity of actors and actresses. First, take a look at your network. If it is unproductive or stagnant, look at whom you are involved with.

Does your network look like Burgess Meredith’s career? Great! Does your network resemble the career of John Wayne? If so, work to diversify your network.

If everything you do revolves around work, family, or one group of people, your network will have limited potential. To explore the real potential of your network, however, you need to live in lots of worlds. Get involved at work. Get involved at church, PTA, youth sports. Belong to a trade association outside your profession.