Finding Your Starting Point

Central to the referral-marketing process for any entrepreneur is teaching people how to send you referrals. To do so, people must know exactly what you do – what product or service you provide or make, how and under what conditions you provide it, how well you do it, and in what ways you are better at what you do than your competitors.

You have to communicate this information to your referral sources. And to communicate effectively, you must know the same things.

It may seem like a no-brainer; don’t we all know what we do for a living? Yes, of course, most of us do. But can you communicate it clearly and simply to your potential sources? When you try to do so, you may find that you’re not quite as clear on the facts as you thought. And if you can’t tell your potential sources what you do or what you sell, how can they send you good referrals?

For an effective referral marketing campaign, take a few minutes and get a clear picture of where your business stands today. You may think you know why you’re in business, but perhaps it’s been years since you have given it serious thought. Now is a good time to reexamine you’re starting point - why you’re doing what you’re doing. Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers.

• Why are you in business, other than to make a living – why do you do what you do? How does it serve others?

• What do you sell? Most importantly, what are the benefits of your products or services?

• Who are your customers? What are your target markets? Be specific, look at segments of your business to determine the niche or niches you prefer to work with.

• What are your core competencies, what do you do best? What are your strengths?

• How well do you compete? How do you stand out from your competition?

Answering these questions for yourself will help you tell others what your business is about. This will make you more effective at implementing a comprehensive and systematic referral system.

When you’ve written down your answers, think about how you can communicate this information effectively to your referral sources. How you communicate with others is very powerful. Lou Cassara talks about how important being clear with your purpose is. In From Selling to Serving, he states: “Your PVS (personal value statement) provides the opportunity for your clients, staff and family to market you effectively. You can build a distribution channel of people who can effectively communicate your value.”

We are so accustomed to the ubiquitous question: “what do you do?” at mixers, business events, seminars, etc…, etc… that we hardly give a thought to how we are answering that question. It is not enough to simply tell your contacts what label you wear, for example, “I own and operate a sporting goods store.” In order to deepen the relationship, you must be able to talk about what you do in a way that, as Lou says, “communicates the magic of your vision expressed through your words.”

Too many business professionals and companies try to be all things to all people. Focus on the things that you do well and document those things and your vision, in a way that you can communicate to others. By understanding clearly what you do, you are better able to communicate this to your referral sources. When you do this effectively, you are teaching your referral sources how they can refer you. And that is what this is all about.

By the way… what do I tell people about who I am and what I do? Well, one of the things I say is that I am changing the way the world does business by teaching people that; “When it comes to referrals - Givers Gain®”. Write THAT on a t-shirt!

Called the father of modern networking, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author and Founder of BNI (, the world’s largest business networking organization. His latest book, Truth or Delusion can be viewed at Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company ( He can be reached at .


Dr. Ivan Misner is the Founder & Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization. BNI was founded in 1985. The organization has over 5,800 chapters throughout every populated continent of the world. Last year alone, BNI generated 6.5 million referrals resulting in $2.8 billion dollars worth of business for its members.

Dr. Misner's Ph.D. is from the University of Southern California. He is a New York Ti...

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