If the social-networking phenomenon of Facebook and LinkedIn is any indication, people are starved for contact. You can turn that to your advantage by bringing your clients and prospects together, creating your own referral network, according to John Jantsch, creator of Duct Tape Marketing.

“[T]he best way for small business owners to take advantage of the craving for content and contact is to form communities around products, services and ideas,” he writes for The Marketing Advisor, a marketing newsletter by Melissa Data. He gives some examples of ways to bring clients together:

Peer-to-peer education – Who better to sing your praises than your current clients? Holding focus groups for your current clients and prospects creates a non-selling environment where your clients can talk about what your service has meant to them and what they need you to do to improve.

Referral communities – Got a blog? Gather a group of businesses with similar interests to contribute. Everyone involved can take advantage of the referral network that forms around that community.

Natural word-of-mouth marketing – “When you deepen a relationship with a client by opening up your contacts and clients to them, you will find that they will begin to naturally (…) talk about what you do that matters to them,” Jantsch writes.