With all that social networking is supposedly offering I would have expected referrals to be more popular and effective than what I have experienced. For marketing agencies, marketing consultants and marketing service agencies referrals are the real gold standard.
People that know me have heard me say referrals can only go bad. I say that with my tongue in cheek to a degree but there is an underlying seriousness to my observation. If you ask me to suggest a company or individual to perform some sort of service you are counting on me to give you a good reference. So if it works out you will not be surprised nor will I really receive any credit since that’s why you called me in the first place. However if the referral does not work out I can then only look bad. It’s all the more reason why a genuine and honest referral can be so powerful.
So referrals would be better offered without solicitation. This is a bit of an odd concept I realize in that it is not often in practice. LinkedIn attempts to do this with their ‘write a recommendation’ feature for your contacts (highlighted whenever you make a ‘new’ connection). Yet often I find that while I know the person that I have LinkedIn with, when I first connect with someone new, I am not immediately thinking of or able to make a recommendation or referral.
We all know referrals are extremely powerful. They can help cut through a great deal of red tape when they come from a trusted source. So how can people make professional referrals be part of your resume without being overly cheesy or promotional?
Here are a few suggestions:
1) Only write a referral for someone you have personally worked with more than once.
2) Go through your network and think about writing a referral or recommendation for as many people
in your network as you feel truly merit one. This could represent quite a few people so it might
take some time.
3) Take the time or offer to speak to someone who wants to know more about the person you are
referring or recommending.
4) Don’t ask the person you are referring or recommending to write a corresponding referral for you –
let it happen organically. It should not be a tit for tat thing.
With companies changing CMO’s and marketing service companies the way people change socks, referrals and recommendations have never been more important. Associates that I have informally polled noted that there are increasingly fewer engagements gained through recommendations and referrals. I think it should be the other way around.
How about getting started on writing a few referrals/recommendations today?
Mark — I agree with you on the basic premise — but I think that the referral through Linkedin has proven itself to be worthless. I have only written a small handful of referrals there because I value, as you do, the power of a referral. When a site ‘includes it in its basic architecture’ it kinda loses the value.
I do find it interesting how many amazing people are recommended out there — millions of them. I wonder with so many perfect people — is there anyone out there that is just mediocre anymore? Possibly this is a cultural issue though. When we fail to tell young Johnny that he is last in his class — but we refer to him as the bottom 50%…or when 9th place still gets trophies…do we really wonder that personal referrals have limited reach any more?
I think your third point is the best — and something I will take to heart. Right now I think the only worthwhile referral through Linkedin is one that says — this person is great — and I would love to tell you how he/she could help your company. Call me at X.
Chris, I find it interesting that you feel referrals through LinkedIn are worthless. I’ve not found that to be the case although there have been occasions when a referral for me or someone I know went nowhere. But I’ve also found a surprising amount of goodwill and action on the basis of a recommendation that put two people together that heretofore would not have had a good way to connect.
Thanks as always for your thoughtful comment.