For me its referral, referral, referral every time.
My business has literally been built on the back of word of mouth and networking so the ROI I get from it is huge.
I was having this conversation with a group of business people the other day and it’s interesting hearing the comments that some people have had no work from networking but have got work from referrals or word of mouth - what do people consider as ‘networking’?
For me, any interaction that I have with other business owners is ‘networking’. I am not a member of any formal networking groups, I have tried it in the past but for a number of reasons, including the fact that I am not in one place long enough to justify paying annual membership fees, I didn’t want to commit. I have rarely picked up customers directly from one specific networking event so if you look at the ROI on me attending once specific event, it would be low, however, I know that of the last 9 customers that I have picked up, every single one of them has come via word of mouth referral of people I have met at networking events, conferences or business groups - so if you look at it holistically, the networking I do has brought in almost all of my customers.
I personally think that a lot of business owners are missing out on a lot of opportunities by not being aware of where their customers actually come from. It’s a useful exercise to track back any enquiries or new customers to who they know and how they actually heard about you. You might be surprised by what you find. As an example somebody might appear to have come via the yellow pages, or your website - if you actually look into it and ask them, it may well be that they had seen you on facebook or twitter in the beginning, or heard people mention your name, then when they look in yellow pages and see your contact details, they are perhaps subconsciously more likely to call you first over other people.