Ducking into the dimly blue-lit front vestibule, our diva paused and looked for her cousin amid the flow of beards and side undercuts. It wasn’t hard to spot her in her blue oxford shirt and white pants in this crowd. She did not fit in. However, per usual, her cousin had already made friends with some young Jim Morrison look-alike. “There sure are a lot of un-ironic hats in this place,” thought our diva as she made her way through the mash. “Well, it is called The Bourbon Academy. I should have known.”
The Bourbon Academy was another bar/venue in a different neighborhood from Hail House. But, they both had a similar vibe in the music and musicians they presented with slightly different crowds making up the bulk of the audience. Our diva was constantly working on her upcoming residency at Hail House. It was next weekend!! She couldn’t help but think, however, about what would happen after this residency. After scrambling to deal with the collaborator who flaked on her, she decided that she wanted to give herself a break from the administrative work and the practicing. She had texted her cousin, this was her neighborhood after all, and asked her to meet her to check out this place.
The Day 18 challenge on your journey is to systemize your referral network.
Feeling a little uncomfortable about going to a music venue and not getting a drink, our diva decided to forgo her acid reflux plan for two drinks at the very most while she was hanging out with her cousin. She had been doing so well with the medication and on her nutritionist’s plan. She could tell it was making a huge difference in her life. How had she been so oblivious before? She felt a little silly that she had been so negligent of her body since it had been screaming at her for quite a while. But, she tried to remind herself that she didn’t know what it was. It’s hard, and a little scary, to take care of things when the path to fixing them is obscured.
Her drink from the cocktail menu came with a fancy display of singing an orange peel with a match. She thanked the bartender and tried to engage him in conversation, but the bar was too busy and he moved on to other customers. As her cousin was wrapping up her conversation with Young Jim Morrison, our diva turned her back to the bar to survey the scene. The musicians playing that evening were on a break so people were milling about talking to each other, looking at the art on the walls, and heading in and out to smoke. She let her brain start to daydream a bit about the future. She would really love to perform here next. In her thought process, she was bumping along from “who sells to the same people that I do?” or really “where do people that like my kind of music go to listen or engage?”
Competitor or Collaborator?
At that moment, something in her peripheral vision piqued her attention. She glanced over to her right to notice another singer that she knew of but didn’t know well enough to go over and talk to her. It made sense that she was there. This was definitely the crowd that she ran with musically. Our diva started to question, “is she a competitor or a collaborator? Are we competing for the same presenters and opportunities?” She let that tumble around in her mind for a moment until she decided that it would definitely feel a lot easier to think of her as a colleague instead of competition. “I just have to make sure that I differentiate myself from her and then presenters can book both of us!” Our diva smiled.
“Who are ya smiling at?” asked her cousin. Our diva laughed and thought about launching into the whole thought process she had just underwent, decided against it, and said, “thanks for meeting me here!” Her cousin excitedly told her about how she had meant to get over here and all the fascinating things she just talked about with Young Jim Morrison. Then, she catapulted right into, “so, are you going to pitch your residency idea here too?”
“Wow, you just get right down to brass tacks, don’t you?” responded our diva.
“I just figured we were on some sort of scouting mission.”
“Well, yes and no. I needed a break and I’m trying to check out new places. But, it didn’t seem to hurt to start getting a lay of the land.”
“Yeah, you gotta know where to fish.”
“Oh, you know. Umm Elisabeth L. Misner, yep that’s her name. Her big thing is, ‘Master networkers think like anglers. The Angler goes looking for a particular kind of fish; she knows where it is likely to be found and what kind of bait to use. She knows you can’t just throw your line in any puddle and expect a strike. To be an Angler, you have to plan ahead, research your quarry, look in the right places, and shut out all distractions.'”
“I hadn’t thought of it like that.”
“Ha! That’s why you’ve got me, darling. So, do you know anyone who’s got an in here?”
Developing a Referral Network
“Does anyone in your network know or work with the people who make decisions here?”
“Well, like I went to school with some musicians who played here last year.”
“Wow…” her cousin’s enthusiastic facial expression was starting to morph into concern. “Darling, we’ve got to get you thinking about your referral network.”
“That sounds a little too business-y for me.”
“Okay, well, is it easier to get booked for a performance when someone else vouches for you?”
“Boom. Referral network.” Our diva gave her cousin one of those little side-eye smirks. Her cousin went on, “Hear me out, the whole point of networking is so that you are the first person that people think of when they have a particular issue. ‘I have a opening on our performance calendar. What should I do?'” her cousin mockingly wailed. “They need to call you. But, if they don’t know to think about you, they’re gonna call someone else.”
“That makes sense but I don’t even know the first place to start. My professional network is basically just other singers and like a few conductors and directors that I’ve worked with around here.”
“That’s fine. You can start there. After your residency, send some emails or meet for coffee and tell them about your performance. Be natural about it. Nobody likes being pumped for contacts or information. Just share what’s been going on in your lives — back and forth. This should be a two-sided conversation. If it seems like a good time, explain that you’re trying to build this idea or project and ask them if they know anyone who would be interested in it. If they give you a name or an idea, ask your colleague if you can use their name when you contact the prospective client. Bonus points to you if your colleague offers to make the introduction on your behalf. That’s when you’re really killing it.”
How to Work a Room
Our diva and her cousin talked for a couple of hours about referrals and how they made a huge impact in her cousin’s work as well as her social life. Her cousin told her about how when she went to knew places, she made sure to spend lots of time with people she didn’t know yet. Just the simple act of telling herself that she had to spend time with people she didn’t know made her more comfortable chatting up strangers. She also mentioned that it made her a lot better at her 30 second introduction. She was able to give a compelling answer to people when she was asked, “what do you do?” She mentioned that at first she was downplaying her work because she thought that “talking about work is boring.” But, she realized after doing some work on differentiating herself, her skills, and her firm that you could be boring talking about deep space exploration if you don’t spend some time getting it right. It’s more about talking about what makes it interesting to other people. She talked about finding common ground right away. Her cousin’s business was marketing, so she would ask new contacts about how marketing intersects with their lives. It was a sure-fire win. People always had some connection.
Types of Networking Groups
This lengthy conversation got our diva thinking about how she could up her referral network game. She realized that there were definitely different sources of referrals and a hierarchy of networking situations. In fact, she even did some research when she got home by looking up Elisabeth L. Misner’s name and she ran across a quote from Ivan Misner describing the six types of networking groups:
- “Casual-contact networks – general business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce that allow people from various overlapping professions.
- Strong-contact networks – groups that allow only one member per profession and that meet weekly to exchange leads.
- Community service clubs – groups like Rotary or Kiwanis, which exist primarily to serve the community but which are also a good source of referrals.
- Professional associations – groups of people in a single industry or profession whose primary purpose is to exchange information or ideas.
- Social/business groups – dual purpose organizations such as the Jaycees that combine business with pleasure, emphasis on the latter.
- Women’s business organizations – relatively recent networking groups paralleling the “old-boy networks” that formerly excluded females.”
Our diva realized that she had mainly been trafficking in the professional associations area of networking. Most of her time was taken up with working and performing music. She met a lot of new people by doing various opera productions, but 90% of her network was other musicians. She wanted to diversify. She could definitely make some casual contact networks by going to these venues more often and becoming a familiar face. More than that, she decided to find some ways to join more community-minded organizations. She hadn’t noticed before how isolated she was from the rest of her city.
After this residency, she decided, she was going to work on building a more thoughtful and formal database of networking contacts. Her cousin said that she might even want to look into a CRM down the line. To become more thoughtful about the process, she was going to put into place a formal system to track work that came from referrals. She fantasized for a second about what it would feel like to have a referral marketing plan for each project. “Wow, that would be incredible,” she thought. But, she knew the first step to kick off this whole grand idea needed to be getting better on “working a room.”