May 16, 2017


By Ivan R. Misner, Ph.D. and Vince Vigneri

Word-of-mouth advertising or, as we know it better, Referral Marketing is often touted as one of the oldest and most powerful forms of marketing, and while most real estate agents understand how it works, many do not know just how they can turn it into their most powerful business tool. 

If you want to be successful at developing word-of-mouth through networking, you should be as organized and thoughtful about it as you are about other types of advertising and marketing you do. 

Here are 10 ways to be effective in networking groups.

1.  Know HOW to ask for the referral.  There are specific techniques you can learn and develop that will help you hone your ability to ask for the referrals you want.  One such technique is to ask “who do you know who...?”  You would then list several types of people you can help, such as someone who is new to the area, someone recently married or who has just started a business.

2.  Diversify your networks.  When joining various organizations, make sure you select a well-rounded mix of business groups in which to participate.  These groups might include business referral groups, chambers of commerce, community service groups, and or trade associations. Try to avoid being in more than one group per category (i.e. two chambers of commerce) as this will divide your loyalties and put you in a position where you will be making promises to too many people.

3.  Develop a creative incentive to encourage people to send referrals your way.  A realtor in Northern California offers his own estate bottled wine as gifts to people who give referrals.  Others provide gift baskets or personalized gifts as a way of recognizing the efforts of people who have passed on business to them.

4.  When attending meetings and other networking events, bring the right networking tools with you.   These include:  an informative name badge, business cards and a business card carrying case to hold others’ cards.

5.  Spend time developing your networking skills.  Read books and articles on networking, listen to tapes and talk to people who network well.  Networking is an acquired skill.

6.  When attending a business mixer, act like a host, not a guest.  You are wasting your time at networking mixers if you stand around visiting with coworkers or others whom you already know rather than meeting new contacts and introducing them around.  These networking meetings offer a great way to increase your visibility!  If appropriate, ask to be the ambassador or visitor host in the organizations to which you belong.  As such, it will be your official duty to meet people and introduce them to others.

7.  Invest time in developing a 60-second message about your business that explains what you do.  Try to think of a Memory Hook — a brief, ear-catching phrase that so vividly describes what you do that people will be able to visualize it in their mind.  For example, a real estate agent on the east coast introduces herself at networking groups by saying, “if you know someone who wants to move, tell them to call me and start packing!”  When you meet people, use your Memory Hook.  Chances are this will help them remember you and what you do.

8.  Connect with people outside of business meetings whenever possible.  Drop notes, letters and articles that might be of interest to them in the mail.   Call to check in with them or invite them to events you may be attending that might be of interest.

9.  Monitor the referrals you give and receive.  This tells you how often you are giving referrals and to whom.  Having this information helps you focus on helping people who have helped you in the past.  It sets up the reality of the “two-way street” nature of word-of-mouth marketing.

10.  If you have the opportunity to distribute your materials to clients or at networking meetings, do it.  Bring brochures, newsletters and other information about your company and your products and services.  If people can see, touch and hear things about your product and services, they’ll be more likely to use you or refer you to others.

You are potentially linked to a vast network beyond your own sphere.  By implementing the tactics above, you will receive benefits from that network.  Maximize your opportunities to cultivate networking relationships with others and you will see just how effective word-of-mouth advertising can be!

Dr. Ivan Misner is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization, which has more than 4,900 chapters in 37 countries. Dr. Misner is also the author of several books, including the most recent addition to the bestselling Masters Series—Masters of Sales (, and the New York Times bestseller TRUTH OR DELUSION? (; and he is the Senior Partner for the Referral Institute (, a referral training company with operations around the world.