to the creation of our business. The story begins with our founder who
was a seasoned small business owner and was always looking for ways of
generating new sales leads for his tax practice in the most cost
effective way possible. The Harvard study set out to answer one
fundamental question: What should the ultimate referral system look like
from the small business owners' viewpoint? After interviewing scores or
small businesses and conducting concept engineering and logic chain
techniques, Referral Key emerged as the world's first online platform
that encourages referrals to drive revenue and build stronger
Located in Boston, we were in the midst of a social networking frenzy.
While every corporate blogger with too much free time seemed to be
churning out stories promoting social/business networking as the next
greatest thing since profits, we were hard at work trying to measure the
actual ROI of these activities and look for a solution that would
incorporate the familiarity of a meet up group with the undeniable
cost/time effective advantage of an online tool.
The case study at Harvard gave us incite into how a successful referral
network works. We found that a common element within any successful
referral relationship is 'trust". Trust is developed when you know
an associate and are familiar with their work. When you refer a client to
an associate your reputation is at stake as well. Trust is not a common
trait amongst large social and business networking groups. Many
sociologists find that virtual relationships hold little to no weight in
the real world. Ironically, a recent BBC study found that people with
more connections in the virtual world tended to have fewer connections in
real world. There is nothing wrong with social networking but we were
concerned with "actual" mutually beneficial relationships that
drive revenue. Needless to say, having hundreds of contacts on LinkedIn
may be a great way to promote your resume but will result in little if
any qualified business leads.
The second most important trend which emerged from our case study was
that referral relationships break down when they are not mutually
beneficial. If you send an associate 4 referrals and they don't send you
any, it is likely that your business relationship will become dormant.
This is the inherent dilemma hampering many meet-up groups. Besides being
time consuming and expensive, meet up groups often attract very strong
contributors as well as very weak contributors.
The question then became: How can small business professionals exchange
referrals with associates they know and trust, forge new relationships
based on familiarity, and ensure all of these relationships remain
reciprocal? It was out of this need that Referral Key was born:
Unlike other sites, when you sign up with Referral Key you invite
associates that you already know and trust to exchange referrals with
you. This sends a clear message that you're serious about exchanging
referrals. Because they know and trust you, there is a strong likelihood
that they'll accept your invitation; solidifying your business
relationship. You can then exchange referrals, rate those referrals, and
use reporting tools to track the effectiveness of your referral network.
To help ensure reciprocity, at the end of every quarter the system sends
both you and your referral associates an email asking you to rate your
referral relationship as either "balanced", "you should send more
referrals" or "you should receive more referrals". Once
both you and your associates have entered your assessments, Referral Key
will compare your responses to determine if there is agreement.
Within two weeks, you'll receive a quarterly appraisal report showing
whether or not you and your associates are in agreement regarding your
referral relationship. Referral Key makes it easy for you to
quickly assess agreement with your associates using color coded scores:
If there is an imbalance in the relationship both parties are encouraged
to open up a dialog ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship.
Finally, to develop "new" business relationships to exchange referrals,
you can tap into your associate's networks. Suppose you are approached by
one of your clients asking you to recommend a good real estate attorney.
Well, you may not know a good real estate attorney but your associate
"David" happens to know a real estate attorney by the name of
"Alex". With David's permission, you can contact
"Alex" through Referral Key with confidence and draw attention
to your strong connection with "David". You can then send your
client to "Alex". If the referral was qualified and timely it's
likely that you'll have created a new referral relationship with
"Alex" without ever compromising the familiarity or trust of
We've approached referral networking as a precise science. Regardless of
outside economic forces, our member's professional relationships have
remained fruitful and our business continues to grow
In a nutshell, for millions of small businesses, referrals are the single
most important source of new revenue. Referral Key is a business
networking utility that helps you manage your trusted referral
relationships more effectively to increase sales, expand your
professional network and differentiate yourself from your competition.
Unlike other social or business networking sites that are focused on
managing a vast number of professional contacts or have an asymmetrical
benefit, Referral Key is a platform that encourages referrals to+drive+ revenue and build stronger professional