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How to get referrals from the Mafia

Ever joined one of those “business referral groups”?  You know the ones I’m talking about: they meet for coffee at 7:00 a.m. once a week, everybody gives an “elevator speech,” then everybody else promises to keep their eyes peeled for prospective customers for that person during the coming week.

For some members, this works great.  The real estate agents, armed with a hot prospect, call the insurance agents, who then call the home inspectors, and so on.

Same with the wedding planners.  (Everybody wants to be on their list, because nobody spends money like Bridezilla.)  Photographers, caterers, graphic designers (somebody’s got to design those custom cocktail napkins, darling) — they all pass business around to each other, and everybody’s happy, happy, happy.

The group I was in even had a name for it: mafias.  As in, the real estate mafia for the real estate agents and the insurance people, the wedding mafia for the wedding planners and photographers, etc.  The goal was to get everybody hooked into their own mafia so they could pass prospects around.

And that worked great — for those in transactional businesses.  For others, though, the whole scheme fell a little flat.  In fact, one of the persistent criticisms I heard when I was a member of a networking group is that this whole mafia thing doesn’t work for business consultants and life coaches and their ilk.  To those folks, it hardly seemed worth getting up before the crack of dawn for the meetings.  Our membership churn rate reeked of disillusionment.

But what were we to do?

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