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Small business can profit more from giving

22 September 2008


Small business can profit more from giving

Great customer service, fantastic features and low prices are not enough to generate positive word of mouth anymore; to be successful, the modern small business must learn to be more giving.

“By being more giving, I don’t mean extra helpings of dessert, free pens and umbrellas – although that certainly helps,” says BNI New Zealand national director Graham Southwell. “Most small businesses don’t have the budget for freebies, and everybody’s doing it anyway.

“BNI contends that ‘givers gain’. By that we mean that if you develop the habit of being on the lookout for opportunities for others within your social network, and then pass those referrals on them, they will eventually begin to reciprocate.

“These opportunities may be job vacancies, sources of additional information the person may benefit from or business referrals. The key is to give, and give and give and go on giving. Eventually it starts to come back the other way. Reciprocity is a social obligation inherent in human nature and it doesn’t take long to activate.”

Graham says if a business really wants to be remembered, talked about or to receive more referrals from other businesses, a good start is to select a small group of people who they want to receive the referrals and word of mouth from – and then to start giving them referrals.

A good example is Roy Cox, a director of Trustworks Ltd – a Wellington based painting and decorating company – who uses his observation skills to help him find referrals for other complementary companies.

“By keeping an active look-out I can identify other needs that my customers might have. I talk to them about it, and then recommend somebody who can help them solve their problem. By having an active policy of giving referrals to other businesses, I currently have more than 14 months work ahead of me at any one time. It’s got to the point that I am passing referrals on to other painters and decorators.

“The way it works is that when I give a referral to another person or business, they always want to return the favour so they start to keep their eyes and ears peeled for referrals to give to me,” says Roy.

Graham says that he also knows of an accountant who has written on the back of his business card: ‘If you want a good plumber, speak to me’. People invariably ask why he has that written on his business card. It’s a great conversational piece for getting the process started.

“In the end however, most people find the satisfaction of just having helped somebody is also reward enough,” says Graham.



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