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Over the last week, I have been reminded of some early lessons learned about Referral Marketing. One of these is that the easier you are to refer, the more referrals you will get. Specialization can greatly increase your Referrability. Specialization, however, is a concept that can be counter intuitive to many of us. When asking for referrals, specialization is critical. This topic is one that hits very close to home for me because I have been a generalist, at heart, from the beginning. I hope that the painful lessons that I learned can help.

1. Specialization makes it easy for your partners to understand what you do.

I once knew a man who owned a florist, well actually, he owned a combination florist, restaurant, wedding chapel, limo service, auto detailing shop and lawn care service. You may think that I am making this up, but it is unfortunately true. Imagine asking him what he did… right.  I think you get the picture.

Oftentimes though, it is much more subtle. When entrepreneurs start businesses, we don’t want to say no to a client. This is especially true if we might have a skill set that can accomplish the job. A painful example comes from my history. I was practicing as a business consultant and, as such, I provided a pretty diverse spectrum of services. Most of the people in my network didn’t understand what I did. One of my clients, however, found out that I had done some database design in the past and this led to some jobs for her. Of course, after completing the jobs, the testimonials that I received made it even harder for me to get referrals. I had confused my network even further by getting testimonials for something other than I wanted to get referrals for. I wanted business consulting clients not database design clients.

2. Understanding what you do makes it easier to understand who your clients are.

I am currently building a business teaching Kung Fu and Tai Chi. After last week, I am questioning if I enjoy making it hard to get referrals. I have spent the last two years focusing on the academic accuracy of marketing materials rather than focusing on my potential clients.

People often aren’t sure who is a target client for you unless you tell them.

3. Knowing who your potential clients make it easy for your referral partners to know when they meet one.

 This is soooo important!  You’ll never get referrals unless you decode this for your network and referral sources. They will be walking by referrals for you on a regular basis. I have to admit that the process of writing this blog has, in itself, shown me some glaring holes in my business and marketing plan.

Let’s all specialize and stand out from the crowd.

Happy Networking,

Rich Martin