More Than WE Know

Women Entrepreneurs sharing Information, Inspiration and Support

Don’t be Afraid to Overfill your Networking Nets

Posted by Liz Fuller on August 21, 2007

fishing-boat.jpgYesterday we talked about the concept of referral marketing.  This is marketing based on the referral of clients between respected colleagues in separate businesses with similar target markets.  For example, a golf pro could refer a client to a chiropractor, or a realtor could refer a client to an interior designer.  These professionals share a similar client base, but provide separate services.

But what about providing referrals to people in the same business as you? Yes, you read that right, as crazy as it sounds, I am suggesting that you refer clients to your competition!

Before you dismiss it out of hand, let me tell you a story about a time when my husband and I were vacationing in India on the Arabian Sea.  We saw some fishing boats with large nets on the beach and were curious about how the fisherman managed the nets to catch fish.  The next morning we got our answer.

The fisherman sailed his boat out into the water while a crowd of men and women stayed on shore holding on to the net.  When the net was fully spread out the boat was probably 100 yards out in the water.  Then the net was lowered to allow fish to swim across. At a signal the net was raised, the boat headed back inland,  and the crowd pulled frantically to pull the net up on the beach. 

Dozens of fish lay spread out on the sand, sparkling in the sun. The crowd coverged and rapidly began collecting the fish.  There was much laughing and joking as they all shared in the fisherman’s catch.  In  a matter of minutes the fish were all gathered up and the crowd moved off back to the village to prepare and preserve the fish.  

Now, you could say that all the members of this village were in competition for the same goal – fish.  And each one could have worked individually to catch their fish supper.  On any given day, some  would have been successful, but many others would not. 

Those that were successful might even have caught more fish than they and their family could eat. They would have then thrown these excess fish back or held onto them only to throw them away when they spoiled. Meanwhile, other fishermen, who had been less successful would have had to let their families go hungry.

By working together the entire village was able to benefit.   They cast a wide net that brought enough fish to feed them all. There were several boats on the beach. The next day a different boat and a different net were used, easing the burden and reliance on a single fisherman.

In the same way, some weeks your networking is going to pay off. You’re going to receive plenty of referrals and have sufficient business. In other weeks, you may not. 

In the weeks when you have an excessively abundant business you have a choice. You can try to hoard the business, and perhaps stretch yourself too thin, do a less professional job, and ultimately waste the opportunity, or you can turn down the business and effectively throw it back. 

You also have a third choice, which is to share your present abundance with someone else, and trust that when the situation is reversed, they will return the favor.

Sharing with competitors is difficult. It can feel like you are taking the food out of your own family’s mouth and handing it to someone else.  But this is abundance thinking in action. You need to believe that if you share with others, they will share with you in return.  When you have a lack, they will help fill it.

I recommend developing some relationships with people you respect who are in a similar business as yours.  It will take great trust on both sides not to feel threatened or insecure. 

But done professionally and with integrity, you will find the benefits enormous.  There is no one who will understand you and your business as well as someone who is facing the same challenge. By taking a risk and having confidence in yourself,  you stand to gain not only referrals but insight, wisdom, understanding and support.

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