As a smaller business operator, there are fewer things more satisfying than receiving a good business referral from another business operator.
Typically it means that the referrer thinks very highly of you, or risks sullying their reputation with the referee.
So, when you miss out on a good and qualified referral, something has clearly gone terribly wrong.
Which is what happened to one of my referrals just last week.
Call to action
As is quite the norm these days, a member of a popular smaller business group on Facebook put out a ‘call’ for a good bookkeeper well versed in Xero in my locality.
Knowing that my referee did just this and was indeed in the locality, within a few keystrokes I had tagged her, knowing that this would immediately alert her to the call by way of her notifications and allow her to pitch herself to the ‘caller’.
Tagging works by simply typing the name of your Facebook friend. Facebook recognises this and immediately notifies the ‘tagee’ that they have been tagged by way of their notification alerts – allowing them to respond.
Feeling that I had done the right thing by both caller and referee, I then returned to my busy workday.
Next day I wandered by the Group again, curious to see how my referee had gone. Unfortunately there was no response at all – just my lonely tag sitting among a series of recommendations and acknowledgements between referrer and referee.
In other words, she simply didn’t see either the tag or the notification of it.
This has a number of bad ramifications for my referee.
First and most obvious, she didn’t get to pitch herself to the caller when she looked well placed to win the business.
Given this was a free, qualified and endorsed lead, this is a social media disaster for my referee.
But wait there’s more.
Snoozing and losing
By not responding to my tag, my referee looks inattentive and disinterested. Sure she may have a million better things to do than monitor Facebook or may even be on holidays, but still, no response in a week now makes it look very negligent indeed.
So quite apart from missing the lead, it now affects the professionalism of her business.
I mean who in their right mind wouldn’t respond as soon as possible to a referral given by a well-meaning associate?
In fact, the best thing I can do by her is remove my tag before more group members see that she is apparently disinterested in new business.
But wait there’s even more.
Why wasn’t I told?
Depending on her and her own friends’ notifications and attentiveness, many of her friends would have seen my tag of her come up in their own feeds and notifications.
So, there’s a chance that friends of hers knew about the call before she did. The real attentive ones would be awaiting her response to the tag and may even be curious as to why there wasn’t a response.
But yes there is even more….
Lots of my referee’s competitors saw the call and responded to it for all to see. That means that not only did they go into the mix to be considered for the work, they also promoted themselves to anyone else reading the thread and who may well be prospects themselves.
Because I only tagged the name of my referee, she didn’t get this free promotion. Yet another missed opportunity for her.
And again, not a great look all-round.
Timing is everything
Now had I had time, I would surely have backed up my tag with a notification on another medium like Facebook message, text or email. But with so many distractions in your working day, who really has time?
Of course, many would say that Facebook in itself is a distraction, so who has time to monitor it?
But as the above episode illustrates, in a medium which – with connections into the right groups and other referral mechanisms, can spawn free and qualified leads, can you afford not to?
To maximise your chances of receiving and responding to these calls, not only is it important to join and monitor as many relevant (Facebook, LinkedIn and others) groups as you can, but – as we have seen here – make sure you can monitor and respond to it in a timely fashion.
Otherwise it’s really just a free hit for your competitors.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.