One of the easiest ways to build a quality lead-sharing group is to begin by finding one key person that is interested in participating, and scheduling a meeting to discuss formation of the group, establish guidelines for the group and determine the characteristics of the people you want to include. Then each of you should invite one person – making sure to follow the guidelines you established for inviting new members – to the next group meeting.
Four people constitute your initial group. Together, you should determine the best regular meeting time, such as breakfast, lunch or dinner, or business hours, evenings or weekends, and ideal frequency. Where possible, use the meetings as a way to establish relationships with potential clients. If, for instance, restaurant owners are prospects, meet in a different establishment each time and get to know the restaurateurs. (Because Yellow-Tie holds monthly skills-enhancement workshops, members are allowed to conduct their group meetings immediately following these workshops. That way our Referral Network members can not only leverage the power of the group, but can also leverage their time.)
At your first group meeting, decide how to expand the meeting to new members, making sure to have only noncompetitive companies in your group. Some examples that have little crossover are attorneys, accountants, business coaches, HR professionals, information technology professionals, printing vendors, computer hardware and/or software vendors, banks and credit card companies, and newspaper and/or magazine publishers. To find additional potential group members, ask your current clients something like, "From whom do you regularly buy products or services."
Establish the “3 LQs” of lead sharing – lead quality, lead quantity and lead qualification – and make sure all members of the group understand the process to be used when sharing leads.
Establish that no member’s name is to be “dropped” (used as a reference or social proof), without that member’s permission. (This will avoid potential abuse by some members.)
Ultimately, however, the leader of the group must assume responsibility for organizing meetings, sending meeting reminders, creating and establishing group guidelines and instigating activity. He or she should also create a master list of members, so that everyone has contact information for everyone else.
A lead-sharing group that produces high-quality referrals on a consistent basis is one of the most productive marketing activities that exists. It takes time, energy and dedication to build such a group, but the rewards far outweigh the investment.