Referring business is a skill, and well, some people are just better at it than others

Just recently , a fairly new acquaintance of mine referred someone to me, or rather , I was referred to them.

This is not unusual - a lot of people see a lot of opportunity with the various business interests that I have, notwithstanding my startup Rocking Rose, and my new social networking App Network Buddy.

And if you consider my "Day Job" with Dolphin Worxs as their main person , chief chick in charge and all round general Bossy Person, you get the picture that a lot of people would like to sell me, or pitch to me, a variety of services or products, and even partnerships.

However - this recent incident brought a wry chuckle to my throat. For the sake of keeping things anonymous,  I will not name the company, referee, or service that was referred to me, I shall instead talk about Baking Cupcakes.

The Story Begins

I was on the phone with said New Acquaintance, when I happened to mention that I hadn't been able to call them back in recent days, because I had been a little busy Baking Cupcakes.

side note - I was in fact Baking Cupcakes for one of my largest clients, and it was an activity that I happen to be fairly good at, I have a custom recipe, which I have perfected over the years, and I follow it to the letter. The result is that the final Cupcake is exactly what the client ordered. I was being paid to Bake Cupcakes. 

We continued our discussion, and the call ended.

A couple of days later , I was formally introduced by email to a Specialist Cupcake Maker. Someone to whom I could outsource my Cupcake Baking Woes.

Say What How ?

Cue extremely puzzled expression while reading emails.

A day after that , the Specialist Cupcake Baker replied to the email, thanked my aquaintance for the referral and confirmed their availability to speak with me.

Alrighty then.

Steph Looking at her phone confused
but ... I like Baking Cupcakes ...

I made a mental note to call or reply to Cupcake Specialist at some point to politely thank them and confirm that I was not actually in the market to outsource my Cupcake Baking Activities.

Before I could do that, I was called. On a Public Holiday. To discuss my requirements for the Cupcakes. It was a slightly awkward call I can assure you.

Said Cupcake Maker had done nothing wrong, and was in fact following all the right steps for a word of mouth referral. It would have been glorious, had I actually wanted,  or needed to outsource my Cupcake Baking Activities.

But I didn't, and in fact I didn't even say that I wanted to, I simply mentioned that I had been very busy Baking Cupcakes. And that was it.

One Sentence. That's it. And it turned into a referral.

So - what's the point of my story?

If you are listening for subtle cues about pain points, that's fabulous. Just don't listen so hard, that you invent pain points where none exist.

And if you are going to refer, or you think there's a potential referral, clarify.

All it would have taken, is one question about whether I was struggling with Cupcake Making and I would have quickly assured my contact that I was in fact thoroughly enjoying the work, and quite happy to do it. It was in fact not something I needed to outsource.

Don't be a blunt instrument where tact and precision are called for. Don't be the referral equivalent of the spray and pray letterbox drop, or the business card confetti at networking events.


Just Do it ! And test, test, test ....

This is a quick post , being written on a train , at 7:52 am on a Saturday.

Yes - I'm on a train to the city before 8 am on a Saturday morning - welcome to the life of an entrepreneur ! Why I'm on the train , is another story for another post ...

This post is about a wee bit of testing I did recently for the Network Buddy app and service that I am developing.

There are 2 pieces of advice startups and new business owners with new ideas will hear over and over,

The first , is just do it. Get started. Don't wait, don't keep your idea secret and work on it alone, tell everyone and anyone, and get started. Want to know if someone will buy something at a certain price point ... sell it to them.

And the second , is to test, test and test some more. Never stop testing assumptions, never stop testing your idea, and never stop testing the advice you get from people.

And to help you understand how you really and truly can do this , on a shoestring budget, for a new idea in it's infancy - here's a real world example from the life of Steph ( it's like the life of Pi but without the amazing CGI, or a tiger. It's more like the Life of  Brian actually.... )

So about 6 weeks ago ( give or take) I decided to take this idea I had for being a Network Buddy / consulting mentor/ networking helper - and turn it into a scalable tech business .

It didn't just happen by itself, I had several conversations with some amazing women at the Fishburners Female Founders Hackathon in Sydney . And I had several more conversations with lots and lots of people subsequent to that weekend , as I attended every single networking event I could lay my hands on to test the hypothesis.

And here's how it went.

I put up a website , with a landing page - briefly outlined Network Buddy as a service/app to connect people for the purposes of mentoring/buddying each other at Networking events.Thus far , this has cost me nothing but time, and a small fee for shutterstock. I'm using a free AWS micro instance and a wordpress install with a free launch page template

At the first networking event I went to , I had nothing printed with me, I just talked about the idea,and mentioned the website . I had 8 signups in one night.

I then put up a facebook page - and asked the amazing secret society of awesome women that I belong to ( you know who you are *wink wink*) to give me some feedback on the landing page. They did, and it was good constructive feedback . Some even signed up. The page hasn't changed much publicly (mostly because the launch page template I used doesn't lend itself to too much customisation) - but all that awesome feedback has been taken in and will be used for the final release of the website.

Then I attended a networking event which was all about networking. ( duh!) And to that event I took with me pamphlets, which I designed and ran off on my home printer.

Home printed Pamphlets ???

They were not perfect, or professionally printed. But that wasn't the point. I didn't have time ( or the budget) to have 1000 pamphlets printed . I need 30. and this is why.

I printed 2 variations of the pamphlet , so only 15 of each .... they looked the same, but had slightly different content .... I placed them on the table at the entrance to the event in 2 piles , right next each other.

At the end of the event , I had 3 left of option A , and 14 left pf option B . A very definitive result for my test.

Option A - all about finding a Network Buddy, being too shy to introduce yourself , and not knowing where or how to effectively network at an event.

Option B - All about becoming a mentor and the Network Buddy - helping other people to find their feet , and raise money for the charity of your choice at the same time.

 Photo of Homemade pamphlets showing 2 piles with sightly different content
Option B at the top - lots of leftovers
Option A underneath - only 3 left ... much more effective

My theory going in, was that at that specific event, I would likely find a lot of people looking for help and feeling unsure , and probably not more than 1 or 2 Buddy Mentor people.

Knowing this - I have tailored the actual content and design of the brochure to speak to people who need help, and will be sending it off to a graphic designer imminently for that professional touch.

I just received my first batch of 50 business cards -- and have commenced dishing them out to test reactions to the design .... watch out for the results of that test in future posts.

 

 Photo of Network Buddy Business Cards - first draft from and back
The test cards ... (ps I do love them myself)

So - there you have it - for the cost of 30 sheets of A4 paper , printed on a home printer - I established very firmly what type of content and style I needed for my brochure , and I also established a very firm need for the idea as well.

Test, test and test some more -- just do things - don't wait until you have the perfect design or the perfect budget. People will not be able to tell you about something that they cannot see , so if you need to know which content works better, or which image works better , print up something and hand it to people, and watch their reactions . Far more accurate than asking them outright what they prefer or think about your idea or how you should market it.

Rocking Rose  over and out for another day of hustling.