In the last two days, I’ve received two automated email messages with the subject line, “Are you taking on new clients?”
Curiosity getting the best of me, I followed the link to a site called Referral Key. In the latest (and probably inevitable) iteration of social media networking, Referral Key offers a referral exchange platform that removes the inconvenient work of having to actually know people and understand their businesses before exercising professional judgment.
The promise? Hey, if you give rewards, you get referrals. If you give referrals, you get rewards. Whatsa’ matta’ wid dat?
Let me back up a bit to explain my own referral policy. Many people think I’m crazy, but…I won’t accept cash or percentages from professionals I’ve referred my clients to. Conversely, I won’t “reward” people (other than with gratitude, good will and maybe some in-kind services) for referring me.
Why? To maintain client confidence. Whether I’m the one referred or I’ve referred someone else, clients can be sure the recommendation was made, not on the prospect of obtaining a “reward,” but in the belief that the recommendation is in their best interest.
Which isn’t exactly the modus operandi of this referral model, is it? In fact, Referral Key extends the weakness of LinkedIn one step further: instead of exchanging contacts among people we barely know, we can now dilute our credibility even more by exchanging referrals with virtual strangers.
Put yourself in the client’s shoes: How would you feel about hiring professional talent based on an exchange that emerged from a social media site that encourages spam-messaging of your LinkedIn network base?
Call me crazy. Call me old-fashioned. But if you want a recommendation for marketing or creative talent based on my first-hand experience working with legions of professionals, call me on the phone. I may not have the right person for you in mind. But if I do suggest someone, it will be because I genuinely trust that person’s ability to help you. And nothing else.