We’ve all heard business professionals emphasize the importance of networking in order to grow any business. Well the necessity for this type of marketing tactic is even more critical in our industry. Because the Personal Training industry is a face-to-face, service-oriented business, the most effective marketing initiatives will always be face-to-face encounters.
With our business, Northwest Personal Training & Fitness Education, we have always experienced exceptional results from attending networking events in our community, joining groups like the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Women in Action business groups and having booths at local business and health fairs. We often leave events with 3-10 business cards, having developed new friendships and with the knowledge that these relationships will turn into direct or indirect business for our company. Just yesterday I (Sherri) attended a local business educational seminar that was hosted by our local business journal. Not only did I learn a number of great tips for our business, but I also had the chance to meet 8 different people sitting at my table. At the end of the day, two of them asked me to call them to set up an appointment because after spending an entire day together, they realized that they could use our services. So as a business we are very strong promoters of getting out into the community and connecting with people.
However, we have also received numerous calls and emails from trainers who have said they’d previously attempted this approach with zero success. So then we realized that we were sending Personal Trainers out to “Build a House” but we had forgotten to give them the right tools to build it! So this article will focus on some of the basics of HOW to network, connect with people, build relationships and ultimately grow your business.
Step One: Determine which events you want to attend
If you want to start meeting people to help grow your business, you’re going to have to determine what is going on in your community. The best source for this type of information is always your local newspaper. Call to find out when they run the “Local Calendar of Events”. Typically newspapers run these calendars on Sunday and will often run an additional calendar on Thursday or Friday to let people know what’s going on for the weekend. You can also get a more business-focused list from your local Chamber of Commerce or Business Journal. If you live in a larger community, there will be numerous events that you can choose from, and obviously you can’t attend all events so you’ve got to pick and choose which events will suit your needs, interests and ideal client demographic.
First, ask yourself “What is the type of client that I am trying to attract to my business?” and secondly, “Based on their characteristics, which events might they be attending?” Answers to these questions will help you to narrow your choices. You may also decide to simply attend events that you would really be personally interested in – this way, you’ll be genuinely interested in the topic, you will have shared interests with others there and you won’t come across as someone who’s just there to ‘work the crowd’.
Any event whether, it’s a trade show, health fair, book club, fund raiser, seminar, or focus group can offer excellent networking opportunities. If you have a team of trainers, assign different trainers to attend different events so that your company will always have a profile at each event, without carrying the burden of attending all the events just on your own.
Step Two: Attend the Event/Meeting
Scan the Room
Have you ever been in a situation where you arrive at a party or an event, you look around and you know no one, everyone seems to be involved in a deep conversation and you just can’t seem to break into anyone’s circle? You stand there alone becoming more and more horrified by the moment. You feel stupid and all you want to do is quickly exit. Well here’s a method to avoid this type of scenario.
Anytime you enter a room, pass the doorway, step to the right or left of the entrance and just stop and take a moment to look around the room. Look for someone who is standing alone – they are probably currently experiencing what we just described above and are praying for a kind soul to come and rescue them. Or look for two people who are in conversation but appear to have run out of things to say to each other – you’ll know this because they’ll be together but their bodies won’t be quite square to each other. They’ll be slightly turned out to the crowd, looking around the room, sipping on their drinks. They are also dying to be rescued by someone who can come and add a spark to the conversation. Never try to interrupt a pair or group of people who are very engaged in conversation – you will most likely be considered rude and/or obnoxious.
Make your introduction
What is the first thing you are going to say? It’s always easiest to enter a conversation with a comment specific to the current environment. “Wow, that Christmas Tree is beautiful!”, or “There sure is a lot of people here!” or to ask a question “Did I miss anything” or “So do you know what the agenda for the evening is?” Then it comes natural to introduce each other. Practice your intro. Who are you, what do you do – does it sound interesting?
It sometimes fun to add humor to your introduction. For example “Hi, I’m Sherri, I’m a Personal Fitness Trainer and I spend my days torturing my clients!” or “Hi, I’m Joe, I’m an Exercise Conditioning Specialist and I spend my days forcing my clients to do the things they know they should be doing” or “Hi, I’m Sherri, I spend my days teaching my clients how to move and eat – I’m a Personal Fitness Trainer.” Making light of what we do is just a fun way to segment into a good conversation on the topic. The beauty of our industry is that absolutely everybody is in some way interested in health, fitness and nutrition. It’s not like we’re the owner of an AutoGlass shop – not everybody needs a new windshield. But almost everybody wants and needs to look better, feel better and have more energy. I find engaging someone in conversation is very easy. Just remember the cardinal rule of conversation and that is, avoid just talking about yourself and what you do. When discussing health and fitness, avoid lecturing and preaching and instead, be sure to ask them lots of guided questions, LISTEN and be interested in their comments, and provide eloquent, concise, accurate information when they ask you a question. Also be sure you get a clear picture of what they do professionally, recreationally and socially. Look for some common ground –a topic that you’re both really interested in. Before you know it, you’ll have made a new friend.
Some people get so stressed about trying to collect and distribute business cards to as many people as possible that they never allow themselves to really connect with someone. As a result, they leave having only created superficial acquaintances. In order to really connect with someone you have to invest some time and energy. That means you can’t expect to meet everyone attending the event that day. People do business with people they know and LIKE, so you have to give people the opportunity to really get to know you. And that’s not going to happen in just a few minutes. At any event you attend, you should attempt to only retrieve and distribute about 1-3 business cards – and they should be with people you have taken time to truly connect with. If you do more, great, but at the very least, be sure to really connect with 1-3 people.
As I mentioned earlier, you can’t expect to attend all the events in your community, so it is really just a matter of the Law of Probabilities. That is, the more events you attend, the more people you meet and you’ll more than likely start to see a lot of the same people, allowing you even more opportunity to build on the relationships. Word will get around. When people think about health and fitness, they will think of and come to you!
Step Three: Following Up
Once you leave the event, a good tip is to immediately make a note on your new friend’s business card – write anything relevant to the conversations you just had. For example, yesterday, after the event that I attended, I wrote on the back of one of my contact’s cards, “Works in the same building as our facility, wife is 2 months pregnant, she wants a pregnancy-program. He wants to lose some weight and get in shape. Likes racquetball. Told him I’d have Toni, our pre and post-natal specialist call him to get more details.” These notes are invaluable because they remind me of our specific conversation and their particular situation and in turn it gives the person the message that I was really listening and taking note of everything they were saying.
I generally don’t call anyone after we meet unless they asked me to. However, I will often send them a card with a note expressing that it was nice talking to them. I may also mention at some point in our conversation that our business sends out weekly health and fitness tips and ask them if they would like me to add them to our client list. If they respond positively, I write on the back of their business card, “Add to email list”. Just remember this rule - If they asked you to call or you said you would call, be sure you do. Otherwise, don’t – it’s too aggressive and intrusive. A nice card is often more subtle and effective.
Getting out into your community is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to grow your business. All it takes is your time and some tools to help you connect with people. Good luck and have fun building relationships!