A Different Way To Network
Are you turned off by the idea of networking?
If so, I totally get it.
When you think about networking, you probably think of “stuffy” events with lots of business cards being exchanged but no real connections being made.
Trust me when I tell you that networking does NOT have to feel icky… even formal networking groups can be places where you meet like-minded people who you develop relationships with.
But I want to take the conversation in a different direction and talk about what I call “organic networking.”
This is networking you do as you go about your normal activities.
It’s a time-efficient (and fun) strategy because it allows you to spread the word about your business without adding much extra to your plate.
How Does Organic Networking Work?
Every day, you likely come in contact with lots of people – co-workers, if you have another job, people at the gym, the store, other parents and teachers if you have school-aged kids, people in your neighborhood that you see walking the dog. Or, people you see in groups or activities you’re involved in.
These are all people who may either be potential clients or they may be people who know of potential clients to refer to you.
While you may not want to coach your best friend, your neighbor’s mom might be looking for support. It could be that someone in your running group wants help with her nutrition. Or, the woman sitting next to you at your child’s soccer practice might go to a personal trainer that she wants to introduce you to.
What I find is that we can be really good about hiding out or feeling shy about talking about our work, but I’m guessing that your business is a passion of yours and the more people who know what you do, the better. Plus, people truly enjoy hearing what you’re up to!
What I love about organic networking is that you don’t have to constantly feel like you’re trying to sell everyone your services. It’s really about being yourself and telling people what you’re up to … and listening for when people are interested in learning more.
Want to ramp up your organic networking?
If you aren’t very involved in any groups or activities, think of one or two places or groups where you could start to have a presence.
That may be in the PTA of your child’s school. It may be joining a running group. Or it could be volunteering somewhere that’s meaningful for you.
It should be something you WANT to do and will ENJOY be involved in — regardless of how it can help your business.
How to Talk About What You Do in Everyday Conversations
When someone asks you “How are you?” you can say “I’m great. I don’t know if you know, but I just launched my wellness coaching business. It’s been a busy time, but an amazing experience and I’m working with some amazing clients.”
Or you can share a special program that you’ve been working on by saying something like, “I’m great – I’ve been sitting at the computer all day – putting the finishing touches on a 7 day cleanse program that I’m leading in a couple of weeks.”
In either of these cases, the person you’re talking to will likely want to hear more. It will peak their curiosity.
PRO TIP: When people do express interest, don’t let that opportunity pass by… The people you’re taking to may feel shy about saying they’re interested in learning more.
Listen for code words such as…
“I could use help with that..” or “I have a friend who has been looking for someone to help her with [blank]..”
If someone says “I could use help with that” they may say it in somewhat of a joking manner, but look at that as an opening.. You can say something like “I’m happy for us to find a time to chat more “ or “I’d be happy to send you some info.”
If someone says “I have a friend who has been looking for someone to help her with [blank]..” you can say something like “I’d love to talk to them. I offer a free initial consultation. If you want, I can give you one of my cards to give to them.”
With organic networking, you don’t have to constantly feel like you’re trying to sell everyone your services. It’s more about being yourself and telling people what you’re up to and listening for when people are interested in learning more.
You might be surprised by what happens when people overhear you…
The other day I was at a yoga class. The class hadn’t started yet and two women were talking.
It turns out that one is a dermatologist and she’s about to open a dermatology practice. The other one is opening a pediatric dentistry practice in the same building as the dermatologist.
We already have a great dentist, but I was excited to overhear the dermatologist because I’ve recently realized that I don’t have one and it would be good to have someone I can go to if I need to.
That’s the power of organic networking..
Organic Networking with Friends, Family, and Colleagues
Part of organic networking is spreading the word through friends, family, and colleagues.
While you may be just starting to build a list of subscribers, you have networks of people you can reach out to.
Friends and family don’t *typically* make the best clients, but they may know people who are looking for help with exactly what you help people with.
Just think about how YOU find different experts – whether it’s a hairdresser, a plumber, or an amazing babysitter. You ask around, right?
Word of mouth referrals can make a huge impact on your business because typically, when someone finds out about you through someone they trust, they are going to come to you already feeling pretty “sold” on working with you.
So how exactly do you go about promoting through friends, family, and colleagues?
The first way is through conversations. Talk about what you’re up to. Share your excitement. If the person you’re talking to seems interested in what you do, great! If they aren’t a good fit for your services, don’t be shy about asking for referrals.
You can do this in-person… on the phone… or over email.
People LIKE helping and the fact that you’re actually ASKING them for referrals will make them much more likely to think of you when they do come across someone.
Three of my first few clients came through friends of mine who referred their friends and family to me.
You can also promote to your network through social media.
When I say “promote” I’m not saying that you should make offers very often on social media, BUT, social media is a great place to keep “reminding” people about what you’re up to.
Pick one social media outlet, such as Facebook, and make sure you’re “friends” with all of your family members, friends, colleagues, and even acquaintances.
Regularly post about what you’re working on, tips, successes, and recipes.
Facebook doesn’t allow business promotion on your personal page, but if you give it a personal twist – of just updating people on what you’re working on and what you’re up to and sharing information, that shouldn’t be seen as promotion.
By doing this, your business and services will be top of mind to your network. People will get curious and take notice!
Now I’d love to hear from you!
Do you feel like you’ve been “hiding out” and keeping your business a secret? Where (and with whom) can you start experimenting with organic networking? Share your comments and questions below so I can support you.