Local networking events are an excellent place to connect with other like-minded individuals.
Attending Local Network Meetings to Build Your Client List
It’s natural for an online services business professional to seek out other online businesses to work with, but did you know that you can also find clients locally, too? The key is to strategically attend local network meeting events that meet your criteria. There are probably many local business events in your area. Let’s take a look at the possibilities.
Chamber of Commerce: Every community has a local chamber of commerce. Many times you do not need to be a member to participate. I have been to events at the Chamber in both Santa Clarita and Santa Barbara over the past seven years and I do not belong to either group. If you can get involved in events using your skills to help, people will start recommending you.
Your Strategy: Align yourself with the smallest businesses and if they have a sub group, those who work from home or do business exclusively online. If they don’t have this already, offer to start the group and host it at your home, the library, or somewhere else that works for everyone. You’ll become invaluable to the organization if you do this.
Women in Business Meetings: Women sometimes prefer a group that caters just to them, and women’s business organizations are now more popular than ever before. Many local women’s business meetings like to have an expert speak on various topics and you can learn from those who are active in specific areas, such as business blogging or social media marketing.
Your Strategy: Share your knowledge and expertise openly and see where it leads. Offer to be a speaker or to assist in any way you can to show that you are sincere and dedicated to helping others succeed.
BNI International Meetings: Business networking groups like this are excellent ways to find clients to work with. I have not attended these meetings personally, but have many friends who have made great progress with the connection they have made. The way it works is that only one business or person from each profession can join each group. The members agree to recommend each other. It can be pricy to get in and you have to be comfortable giving a presentation to the others before they accept you, but it can be very lucrative in the long run.
Your Strategy: Showcase your business in the best light during presentations, and become a resource to this group of networkers. Recommend them to others in the rest of your local networks and they will return the favor many times over. The great thing about BNI is that within a group, you’re the only one in your niche, so you can offer a lot to the other members.
Start Your Own Meetings: Using a social program like http://www.meetup.com to plan and organize local business meetings. You can start it with your own presentation. You’ll need to find a space. A good idea for locating space is asking for free space from an hourly office rental firm. They might like the idea of getting some free advertisement for your weekly meetings being hosted with them. You can also rent space from your local public library, some churches, and clubhouses associated with local HOAs.
I was searching for a Meetup near my home almost three years ago and found the one Wil Mattos had just started. It turned out he lives just six miles from me and was looking for a way to meet like-minded people. That’s how I connected with him when he was first partnering with Jason Fladlien and now I am one of their top affiliates. I also connected with several new clients at that meeting and have even been the speaker for the group twice. You just never know where local networking events will take you.
Strategy: Become an expert in your field on a local basis, such as with blogging, SEO, or email marketing. Get known as the go-to person regarding your niche. By having your own meet ups and conducting your own presentation those who attend will automatically see you as an expert and come to you if they need extra help. If you can align with an office rental agency you’ll be golden.
When you attend any local events go prepared to promote your business. Bring business cards that list your website or perhaps a QR code on them that will take them to a form to get on your email list. Get their cards too and contact them. Invite them to coffee. Give them advice if they ask for it and really connect with these local people and you’ll be surprised to find that you can find plenty of local clients to fill any open billable hours you have.
Service Organizations: I got my start with Rotary, and international service organization, so I can personally attest to the value of being a part of groups such as this one.
Strategy: Attend a few times to see if the group is a good fit for you. Every group is about the people, so you’ll want to make sure you like the members before going any further. If you do decide to join, do it from a purely philanthropic standpoint. Spend time helping with the group’s projects and learn to enjoy serving others in need. Rotary was the first service organization I had ever been a a part of, and I loved it so much I soon joined other groups as well, including the Elk’s (based only in the United States) and Zonta (an international business women’s group that works to advance the status of women worldwide).