Referral marketing for freelancers

How cross-promotions via Slack complement your marketing mix

You have probably heard of referral marketing. How does it work in general? You know someone, are convinced of their performance, and then recommend them. A typical example is a move to a new city. You are looking for a hairdresser, a doctor, or an electrician and ask your new neighbors or friends if they can recommend someone to you.

Referral networks

The whole thing also exists more professionally, in the form of referral networks. I have been self-employed for several years and have therefore been interested in such networks.
In Germany, but not only here, the BNI, for example, is very well known and widespread. The idea is the following: There are local groups (“chapters”) with 20–60 members each, in which different fields (branches) are represented. An absolute exclusivity applies to one’s area of expertise to not compete with each other. The goal of membership is to recommend as many of the entrepreneurs represented in the chapter as possible. The chapter meets once a week (usually 06:30–08:30 a.m., before work). There everybody has one minute to present his work / his unique selling proposition and contact wishes. Besides, one company gets the possibility of a longer (ten minutes) presentation per meeting. Afterward, one exchange business cards. On average, each member makes 4–5 concrete referrals per month.

Joining such a network is undoubtedly an excellent way to win new customers. But why have I not become a member? In my work as a freelance consultant and coach, I work for large companies throughout Germany. The BNI chapters are locally oriented. It’s certainly excellent if you are a real estate agent, for example, and thus have many opportunities for a local referral.
I don’t think that such membership makes sense for entrepreneurs who are not closely connected to the local community. I also find it difficult to recommend someone whose work I haven’t experience myself and from whom I have only seen a presentation.

Cross-promotions in Slack groups

I am active in various groups that organize themselves and exchange information via Slack workspaces. In one of the Slack workspaces, so-called cross-promotions take place regularly. The participants recommend content, blog articles, social media contributions, etc. from each other. You can make referrals via likes, comments, or sharing. So the idea is similar to a referral network, but from my point of view, better.

Such a cross-promotion has the following advantages:

  • You don’t recommend someone else’s service that you don’t know, but content that the person has created. Since x contributions present their content every day, but you only promote some of them, you choose those that resonate with you, i.e., those you really like.
  • Promoting contributions by writing comments or recommending them to others also increases your own visibility.
  • You are motivated to create good content regularly.
  • The members of the cross-promotion don’t need to be at the same location. You can participate remotely from anywhere in the world.
  • Participation can be easily organized via a Slack channel.
  • The process is very transparent.

What is the concrete procedure?

Transparent rules and a straightforward procedure are defined, which all participants adhere to.

In the group I am active, the main rules are as follows:

  • A separate slack channel is created for each cross-promotion.
  • The rules are pinned to the channel.
  • Each cross-promotion runs for one month. You can join the promotion until the second day, after that not anymore.
  • From Monday to Friday, you suggest daily your contribution, which you want to get promoted. These can be short contributions (social media posts) or long contributions (videos, articles). There must be at least one long post per week. The link to the post and the support you want (likes, sharing, comments), you post in the Slack channel.
  • From Monday to Friday, you support three posts of others daily. In the Slack channel, you mark the posts you promoted with 👍🏼. The emoticon allows others to see which posts have already been supported and which still need support.
  • If you forget to post something one day, you are out (for the current month).
  • The channel has a moderator, and there are accountability posts 3–4 times a month asking if you have completed all activities of the previous week. You have to answer within 24 hours. If you miss the deadline, you have to support ten more posts.
  • There is a small prize for those who make it to the end of the challenge.

General requirements for a cross-promotion

To ensure that a cross-promotion works effectively, consider the following requirements:

  • A certain number of participants is required. 25–45 is a reasonable group size. Only if there are enough participants, you have a good choice of content and can recommend the ones you like. You also have a good mix of social media channels. Not everyone is represented on every channel, but with many participants, there is something for everyone.
  • There should be a moderator who opens the channel, plugs the rules, answers questions about cross-promotion, and also, if you use accountability queries, creates them, and follow them up.
  • While the local referral network mentioned above requires exclusivity of subject areas, it makes sense to have one subject connecting all of them. Because only then will you find the others’ contributions interesting and will gladly recommend them to others.
  • One should agree on the language(s). Specify the language of the posts (e.g., only English) or allow posts in any language and asking those who speak the same language to prefer such posts.

The result

The first time I took part in such a cross-promotion was in October 2020.
My findings:

  • It was fun.
  • I read a lot of exciting articles and got a lot of inspiration.
  • The reach of my content has improved. I have gained new readers/followers.

I write on Self Improvement 🌱, Productivity 🎯, and Agile Product Development 🏄. My goal is to provide Inspiration.💡

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