Referral isn’t simply another word to describe an introduction. The two are different, and one is more powerful than the other when it comes to building your network, securing opportunities or embarking on relationships that can positively impact your future.
Find out more about the difference between referrals and introductions below. Then, dive into our research on which are more effective before learning how you can use Introducely to grow your circle and make critical personal, business or academic connections.
What’s the Difference Between Referrals and Introductions?
When people talk about referrals, they’re usually speaking in the context of a specific type of transaction. You refer a friend to the doctor because they need immediate medical care, even if it’s just an annual exam. Someone refers a client to you because they know the person wants to purchase something you sell or engage a professional to provide a service you offer. More often than not, you’re just passing a name along to someone in need.
Referrals are transactional before they’re personal. Introductions are personal before they’re transactional — if they’re ever transactional at all. Referrals are passive, unreliable, and hard to scale. Introductions are active, reliable, and scalable through incentivization.
An introduction is a connection. If you say you can introduce your friend to a family law professional who you know, you’re connecting two people based on their personal relationships to you. That connection — one that’s personal and based on mutual trust — forms the basis for a much more reliable relationship right off the bat.
The Proven Power of Introductions
Is it better to ask for (or give) a referral or stick with introductions? We surveyed more than 10,000 people on the topic, and the results are heavily in favor of introductions. Let’s dig into the results to explore why introductions are more powerful than referrals.
Introductions Are Specific
Participants in our survey felt they would be 200% more successful in finding a quality service provider via personal introductions when compared to asking for a referral on Facebook.
One of the reasons for this may be the specific nature of introductions.
If you ask for a referral on Facebook, you’re making a general plea to your social network. It sounds like a helpful action to take because you’re asking dozens or even hundreds of people at a time. That makes it more likely someone might know of a person or professional who meets your needs.
But outside of being kind, no one really has a reason to respond. And the responses may be all over the place when you receive them. For example, you could ask for referrals to licensed house painters and inevitably someone’s going to tag their cousin Jake who does handyman side gigs on the weekends. He is not licensed and has never painted a whole house by himself.
Introductions tend to be more specific. If you explain to a friend that you’re looking for a licensed contractor to paint your house, they’re less likely to suggest an introduction to someone who doesn’t fit those specific criteria.
Introductions Aren’t Limited in Scope
Referrals are limited. Someone gives you the name of a chiropractor, for example, and the expectation is that if you reach out, it’s for the purpose of engaging the chiropractor’s services.
Introductions are more open. Yes, you can certainly introduce someone who wants a back adjustment to your neighbor who is a chiropractor. But you could also introduce a college-age person interested in the medical field to your neighbor, a doctor who is willing to sit down over coffee and answer some questions about medical school and internships.
This is probably why 70% of the participants in our survey said they believed introductions provided a personal, professional or social benefit. Often, introductions can provide benefits across more than one of those categories.
People Making Introductions Are Potentially More Aware of All Sides
Even more people in our survey said they believed that an introduction to the right person would positively impact outcomes. Around 80%, in fact, put their confidence in introductions for helping them move in the right direction.
The role of the person making the introductions probably has a lot to do with the increased likelihood of a good outcome. With a referral, the person usually has a one-sided, or at least lopsided, awareness.
Here are a few examples to help illustrate this point. Your friend wants to start a business and needs some accounting advice. You’ve previously worked with a CPA you liked, so you give your friend their name. You are motivated to help your friend and know about their needs. You might like to see the CPA succeed because you appreciated their previous work, but you don’t know if they need or want more clients of this type. You’re more aware of one side of the referral.
In short, you might care a bit more about whether the CPA is a good fit for your friend than if your friend would be a good fit for the CPA. This is only natural, and it can go both ways with referrals.
Introductions even out the playing field a bit. Because the person is getting personally involved to make the connection, they’re likely to know more about the needs of both sides and consider them.
Consider this example. Your brother-in-law is looking to hire an executive assistant. Your neighbor’s son just graduated with an associate degree in business, and you know he worked part time for the past few years in his aunt’s office.
You make an introduction via email, at your next backyard barbecue or via text. You’re confident stepping into that introduction because you’re aware of the needs of both sides and actually think it’s a good match.
Now, think about a slightly similar scenario. What if the neighbor’s son didn’t have that experience and education but he simply needed a job? Instead of making the introduction, you might simply tell him you know the company is hiring and point him in the direction of the online application.
It’s obvious which is more powerful.
Introductions Are Wanted on Both Sides
Almost three-quarters of the sales professionals who responded to our survey said they believed personal introductions provided the highest quality of leads. That’s in part due to the fact that, as a lead, introductions have usually been qualified more thoroughly than referrals.
When someone goes through the trouble of introducing people, they’re likely to have verified that both parties are interested in the introduction. At the very least, most people aren’t likely to spam those in their network with introductions unless they personally strongly believe the introduction will be welcomed. And when both sides have a desire for the connection, positive outcomes are more likely.
Expand Your Introduction Opportunities With Introducely
In designing Introducely, we wanted to ensure we were providing people with a networking tool that was backed by research. The results of our survey helped inform our approach and provided the proof that introductions as a networking tool works.
Here’s a quick look at how Introducely is designed to capitalize on the power of introductions:
- Requesters can be as detailed as they need to be to inform Introducers about their needs. That way, introductions aren’t based on a lopsided understanding of needs, and they can be specific.
- Introducers have a stake in the game that goes beyond a desire to help one or more people. Requesters can offer a reward for good introductions, increasing the chance of high-quality responses.
- You can choose from six introduction methods, ensuring Introducers and the people they’re connecting you with can work within a method that’s right for you and them.
- You aren’t limited in scope. You might indicate you want to meet a writer interested in giving a talk to teens about writing but once you get connected, how the relationship grows is completely up to the two of you.
Interested in leveraging the power of introductions? Have a huge network and enjoy working to connect people for positive outcomes? Get in on the ground floor with Introducely by signing up today. The platform is for anyone who needs more connections or who has a personal or professional network and wants to make some extra cash helping others grow theirs.