And where can I go to meet lots of potential clients?
As a Registered Exercise Professional this question does not have a one size fits all answer. Because . . . . .. it depends:
- Which networks are your current clients and prospects attending?
- Which networks are your peers and competitors attending?
- What is the best time/day of the week for you to network?
- Why do you want to attend a networking event?
And if you are not sure of the answer to 1 and 2, go along and find out for yourself – or ask your clients where they go to network. Today a lot of networking is social e.g. golf, sailing, running, book clubs, special interest groups. A very busy Sydney based personal trainer generates more than 80% of his work from his local sailing club. While another high achiever generates her leads at the races. This is a fun way to combine your interests, your networking and business development. However, if you want a more business-like approach to networking, you may feel more comfortable attending a traditional business network.
The time of day best suited for your availability – may vary from a breakfast meeting (usually 7 a.m. for 7.30 a.m. start) to a business after hours (normally 6p.m.-8 p.m.) Instantly I can imagine many personal trainers dismissing business networks because that is “potential client time” for you. However, most of these networks are either fortnightly or monthly – and they are a great investment of your time. If you wanted to be really clever, you could invite a group of your clients to the event – and cross network them with each other as well as prospects for their business.
It’s important to find the network that suits YOU and also to be very clear on why you are attending in the first place.
Is it because:
a. Your competitors are there (a great reason for you to attend)?
b. You know that these networks attract the sorts of clients you are wanting to work with
c. Attending business networks will certainly make you stand out as being very professional and business focused
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
My rule of thumb is – try before you buy. Attend a network as a non member, before you actually commit to becoming a member. Most good networks will allow you to attend at least once, before encouraging you to join. From experience, I normally attend a new network at least twice before I join. In that way, I can feel out of my comfort zone the first time when everything is new and then I know what to expect the second time – which is when I normally decide to join a network or not – and just attend future events as a non-member and play a slightly higher ticket price. If ever I feel pressured into joining a network, that is normally a sign that this network is NOT for me. No one likes to be sold to.
Networks like Business Network International (BNI) encourage people to be invited by a member before attending. Originating in the States with founder Ivan Misner, BNI is a fast growing international business referral network group, who – normally meets for breakfast (although there are a smattering of lunch groups sprouting up Australia wide). The ethos is simple – Givers Gain! All members are encouraged to show up every week for their chapter meeting and bring one or more referrals for members of the group. The value of the referrals are then tracked and monitored. www.bni.com.au Plus there is only one person representing a profession e.g. one mortgage broker, one professional trainer etc.
Which networks are right for you will often depend on:
- Which networks do your current clients and prospects go to?
Chambers of Commerces are always filled with lots of prospects and you get to attend an event in the location where you want clients to be.
If you google Chamber of Commerces and preferred locations – you will find a stack of potential events. Work out your budget and book today!
We could fill pages listing the thousands of Australian associations, networks, chamber of commerces, business enterprise centres, special interest groups etc. Trust me there is no shortage of networking opportunities – if you can’t find any – ask your clients or associates for help. Remember if your competitors are attending something – maybe you should be there too.
Whichever networks you decide to attend – stick to the basics:
Be friendly, act like the host and not the guest
Ask questions and listen to the answers
And most of all – follow up without being pushy.