New Tactic in the Quest for Permission

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So far, most permission marketing efforts have revolved around one of four general ideas:


• Talk to me (let me market to/with you) and I'll give you a chance to win a prize.


• Talk to me and I'll give you points or other items of low value, and, if you get enough of them, you get something worthwhile.


• Talk to me and I will give you information or insights into our products or news you are interested in.


• Talk to me and I'll give you a discount on our products or other similar benefits.


While other folks have experimented with many different tactics, it has been pretty hard to find one that beats these four. Mostly, the alternatives are marketer selfish and fail.


I'm pleased to report that I may have found a fifth.


Woody Chin, founder of Referrals.com, thinks he's found a way to change the way people interact when it comes to job hunts and even most business-to-business commerce. Instead of paying people a nickel or even a buck, he's paying people $1,000 to $5,000 each for that priceless commodity: a referral.


Here's how job filling works before referral.com : Hire a contingency headhunter. Offer to pay one-third of the final salary, but only if you hire someone the headhunter brings along. So the hunter stands to earn $20,000 or more.


Now, the headhunter hits the phones. He calls everyone he can and basically begs for leads. There's no obvious benefit to the referrer, except for the possible goodwill that can occur when finding a friend a job.


Woody and Referrals.com aim to change that process.


With Referrals.com, the hiring manager sends out a description of the job to people he thinks might know good candidates. These referrers can be people he knows in the industry, employees or super-agents (and anyone can be a super-agent - read on). The key here is that the referrals are from people whose opinion he values. The description includes a bounty he is willing to pay for a hire, as well as a limit to how deep and how wide a referral tree he desires.


Anyone who gets involved in referring can sign up to be a super-agent. Once you do so, your performance ratings will be available to hiring managers looking to find experts to help with their searches. And of course, you get first crack at the new job listings.


Let's say the company wants a chief technology officer and is willing to pay $5,000 for a successful hire. And let's say they're only willing to go two levels down the referral tree. A super-agent can send an e-mail to five people he knows who might be perfect for the job. If one of them takes the job, the super-agent gets $5,000 just for sending five e-mails.


But let's say none of the recipients want the job. But one of them knows someone who does. Bang. He forwards the mail a second time, and this time it lands on the desk of the perfect hire. Assuming this guy gets the job, the first super-agent and the second referrer split the money.


All of a sudden, you've monetized word of mouth! Referrals.com could create a class of thousands of super-agents who spend their time doing nothing but finding people through networking.


Essentially, the process lets just about anyone become a contingency headhunter. (Now, I know what you think of contingency headhunters, but the small scale of each person's tree makes it unlikely it'll ever get that bad!)


Of course, it goes deeper than this. If it works for headhunting, maybe it works finding new clients for Viant or people who are looking to take a cruise. Or what about real estate? If everyone could become a contingency broker, doesn't life online get interesting? If the Internet succeeds when it monetizes previously random analog events (like garage sales at eBay) then this may just be the killer app for this space.


Does Referrals.com work? I actually have no idea. It's just launching. But I do know that the company used the system to find its own chief technology officer.


For the record, I'm not an investor in Referrals.com. I just think it's neat. Give it a try (and you don't even have to split your first commission with me).

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