Last year I was asked to give a talk about how coaches, consultants and trainers can promote themselves. There’s a lot of marketing that you can do when you provide a service and you could spend a lot of time doing it. However, much of it won’t work and won’t give you the results that you want or need. In my talk I simplified marketing by telling my audience that when you provide a service, there are three main marketing activities that you need to carry out. I called them the ABC of Marketing a Service business. Not very original, I know, but they really are tried and tested. In the last blog I explained that A is for Ask for Referrals. Now we’ll look at B – Business Networking.
Why does Networking Work?
When you provide a service such as coaching, consulting or training, your clients are really buying you – your expertise, skills, knowledge and time. You can’t put your skills into a box and sell that box to someone. They have to meet you or see you in action. One of the best ways to meet your potential clients is through networking. This gives them the chance to start to get to know you, to decide whether or not you can help them with their current problems and if they actually like you enough to work with you.
When we last measured the marketing that we do at Appletree, the numbers showed that 28% of our current clients have met us at networking events and that a further 22% saw me in action at a workshop or heard a webinar that I delivered. That is half our current clients! (Most of the other half come through referrals.)
Where should you network?
There is a huge range of networking events that you could attend and if you’re not careful, you could waste a great deal of time and money going to meeting where you simply won’t meet the people who are likely to buy from you. Our clients are coaches, consultants and trainers, so we don’t go to networking events that are full of people who sell products. We also only work with people who are serious about growing their business and who are prepared to invest in their business. This means that we don’t attend many free events or meetings for very small start-ups – because they just can’t afford us!
Stop trying to sell
After 17 years of running this business and going to networking meetings, it is still shocking to see the number of people who spend time trying to sell their products or services to the other people in the room. If you’ve just met someone for the first time, how can you possibly know whether or not they need or want what you are selling? Wouldn’t it be better to spend time asking them questions about their business and finding out what issues they are struggling with? Surely it would be better to offer them some free advice, if you can help them, or put them in touch with someone else who can help them, rather than trying to force your solution down their throats?!
It’s a marathon, not a sprint!
Networking is about building up relationships with other people, getting to know them over time and giving them time to develop the level of trust needed for them to spend money with you and your service. It’s a long term marketing activity that can take years. While you might meet a new client at the next meeting you attend, it’s more likely that you’ll need to keep going to meetings and keep in touch with the people you meet, for months and even years, before someone is ready to buy from you.
If networking isn’t currently bringing you a high proportion of new clients, then you really need to review the networking that you’re doing. Look at the meetings that you’re attending to make sure that they’re right for you – and full of the right sort of potential clients. Look at how you behave at networking events – are you asking lots of questions and listening? Are you helping the people you meet and following up with them? Look at how you’re networking right now and if it’s not working, make some changes to make it more effective.
In the next blog in this series, what will C be for? Cat, caterpillar or cow?