Once you’ve opened for business, you might have expected clients to just start lining up. More realistically, that usually isn’t the case. While there are many strategies you can use to start growing your client base, today we’re going to look at networking your way to new clients.
When you first think of networking, you might think of large conferences, like FNCE or the IIN Conference. These conferences are great to network with like-minded professionals, and can be an essential component to your overall marketing and networking plan. However, to help grow your clientele, it’s important to build relationships that help garner more referrals.
Here are 3 steps to start networking your way to new clients:
1. Start With Who You Know
If you’ve read our post, 5 Tips to Finding Your First 5 Clients, then you know that sometimes finding those early clients is just a matter of reaching out to friends and family. You may not be interested in having your uncle as a client, but he may have a friend who would be a good fit for your services.
Pro tip: We always suggest sending an email to your family and friends as the first step in announcing your practice is open for business!
You can take this traditional “send an email” networking 1 step further. Provide an example email of what your family and friends can then send along to their friends. Building your network is what networking is all about!
What should you include in your email?
- Your services
- Contact information
- A clear call to action
Your call to action is the specific action you want people to take after reading your email. Is it forwarding your message to others? Sharing your business page on Facebook? Be specific by limiting your call to action to just 1 action. If people see multiple actions they could take, they’re less likely to do any of it.
2. Make a List of Like-Minded Professionals
Networking isn’t only about gaining new referrals, but also learning from your colleagues. Create a list of like-minded professionals, some who can be potential referral avenues, but others who you want to learn from or brainstorm ideas with. You will learn a lot from those who have been in your shoes before. Reach out to other nutrition and wellness providers in your community just to start a conversation.
Take your time in creating a list of names and businesses who target a similar clientele as you. These are potential referral partners. You can probably think of a handful of people right now, but you should also do some research to collect names and information of people and like-minded businesses in your community.
For instance, if you are looking to work with diabetic clients, you may want to look for diabetes-related resources in your area, like cooking classes created for that clientele. Add the managers of programs like these to your list.
3. Contact Your List Regularly
Reaching out to the contacts on your list can include in-person visits, phone calls, and emails. Email or phone calls may be most effective to set up an initial meeting. Talking about partnership opportunities in-person is best. Invite your list of potential partners out for coffee to learn more about their business goals.
Like branding expert Mandy Enright told the Healthie team,”It’s not running into a physician’s office and throwing down some prescription pads. It’s sharing who you are, what you do, how you work, and why these physicians should send people to you.”
It takes time to build referral partnerships, but they can have a big pay off for your business in the end.
Even if you spend hours networking while first setting up your business, the payoff can return months, or even years, later. In the end, business really is about the relationships you build and who you know.