What does community look like for you and how can you use or leverage community in an authentic and ethical way to drive referrals to our business?
For me, community is a place of belonging. Where there is a feeling of safety. Where I can be fully authentic and vulnerable within that community. Not all of the communities that I am involved in have that, but my favorite communities have that sense of safety and belonging.
Communities can be neighborhood communities or parenting communities or even social media communities. There are some communities that are super fun and there are some communities that are committed to impact or reach.
However, the value of a really good community, a very supportive community where we can feel connected, where we feel that sense of belonging, where we can go for energy and motivation.That value is really hard to articulate and talk about, and really hard to measure.
Community – hard to explain, difficult to measure, integral to success.
It’s also important to note that communities are generally based on some kind of common connection.
When you think about the value of connections, especially for your business, being able to walk into a room full of basically strangers and be able to assume a connection is huge.
Just knowing that because we’re in the same space together, that we have something in common – that can really break down a lot of the barriers to being able to make new connections and build new relationships.
Community – starts with the assumption that we’re already connected in some way.
We just have to find our common ground to be able to create the foundation of relationship and relationship is the foundation of referral marketing.
The more that you can build our relationships within your community, the more you’re going to have effective referrals for your business.
What is the difference between a community and a network?
For me, community has more relationship, more connection, and more of that sense of belonging.
Networking is a way of expanding, of building those new connections and oftentimes our network will become part of our community, but not always.
So some of you may wonder, how do you ethically and authentically use your community as a source of referrals?
Yes. Ethically is a good question because we don’t want to be the one that’s the user or who’s just in a community space and only about the sale and only about the networking. It dilutes that sense of connectivity and authenticity that happens in a really strong community.
First of all, you have to ask for referrals.
If you don’t ask for support, the answer is always no.
My biggest challenge and a lot of the challenges that I see for people in my communities is, how do you ask.
There can be a lot of discomfort and limiting thoughts like… “oh, I don’t want to bother them.”
Or “I can only ask people who are in a better place than me, because if somebody is struggling, I don’t want to burden them.”
And certainly with the changes that have happened in the pandemic, a lot of people in your communities who used to be thriving may not be as much anymore.
The truth is that often when we ask for help, we give a gift of allowing that other person to be a source for someone else.
Think about what it feels like for you when somebody in your community actually asks you for help or support. It probably feels really good. It probably feels amazing that they see you as a possible source or solution to their problems or their stress.
Give that gift to others by practicing asking for support.
Authentically and ethically turn your communities into sources for referrals.
Another way to authentically and ethically turn your communities into amazing sources for referrals is to just start genuinely sharing your passions.
You’re working on a project, talk to people about it. If you developed a new offer in your business, talk to people about it. Share it with people.
People connect to energy and excitement!
So many creatives that I know really have relied way too much on the belief that “my work should speak for itself.” You being able to show up and talk about your work, and talk about your projects with passion and excitement and energy, will go a very long way to attracting referrals and projects who are also aligned with that passion and energy excitement.
If you can share with your community the kind of projects that are lighting you up is a really great, organic way to help them understand what you most want more of, and to be able to refer more to you.
Lead by example and give to get referrals.
Knowing exactly what you do makes you an excellent source of referrals for others because you also know what you don’t do, what isn’t part of your expertise. And when we start giving referrals to other people within our community, we are leading by example.
We are leading by saying, I’m going to give referrals to people with no expectation of anything in return. This isn’t an affiliate marketing relationship, but this is just, I know what I do clearly enough that I know that I can give other jobs or projects or opportunities to other people because I’m clear about what I do.
Know what you do (and what you don’t do) and be able to communicate it.
Build trust with your community over time.
What seems to be working much better is building trust and relationships over time. Try getting curious about people, getting to know who they are, and then getting to know how you can help or how they can maybe help you.
Yes, I know it can feel scary to ask for referrals.
I get it, asking for support, asking for referrals, speaking up in community can sometimes be scary, especially if you haven’t done it and you haven’t practiced it.
One of the things that community can bring you is a safe place to process that uncertainty and that struggle, a place to try on different ideas and get some feedback. To test things, to get comfortable with them.
Community is a safe place to practice.
Practice who you want to be, practice your marketing, practice your introductions, practice falling down, practice doing things for the first time in a safe environment of belonging and that safety is such a critical piece to helping you to grow.
Much of what stops us is imposter syndrome and uncertainty and lack of knowledge, and by being in a community, we can leverage other people’s knowledge and we can also practice our own mastery and master our practice.
An invitation to community
What if you don’t have a community like that?
Well, that’s where I can help you. I run a community called the Business Accelerator Mastermind.
It is a paid community where creative freelancers come together every week in a virtual environment to truly support each other in being more confident and successful. It is a safe place to practice, learn, and grow your skills in the mindset, operations, marketing, and referral generation for your freelance business.
Reach out, and get started.