If you are a therapist or healer with a private practice or you run a small service-based business, you have a number of choices for how you will market your biz, and many are completely free. There are the usual social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, and there’s YouTube if you’re a little more ambitious. If you’re a registered therapist you might have a listing with your college. Growing and nurturing your own email list is also a good choice (I can help you with that if you’re interested.)
But if you’re looking to garner actual paying clients (not just likes and follows), not much compares to local networking.
Even if you are set up to serve clients globally (online coaching sessions, for example) here are some compelling reasons to start with eye contact and a smile in your own community:
- Building Genuine Relationships: Networking allows you to establish authentic connections with other professionals, potential clients, and partners. These relationships are often deeper and more personal than online interactions.
- Trust and Credibility: Face-to-face interactions and personal referrals from your network can establish trust and credibility more effectively than social media connections. People tend to trust recommendations from those they know and have met.
- Local Expertise: Networking within your local community can provide insights into the unique needs, preferences, and trends of your specific area, enabling you to tailor your services more effectively.
- Referrals and Word-of-Mouth: Networking often leads to referrals, which can be more reliable and valuable than leads from social media. People are more likely to trust services recommended by someone they know.
- Collaborative Opportunities: Building a network of professionals in related fields can lead to collaboration opportunities, providing complementary services to a broader client base.
- Immediate Feedback: In-person or live interactions allow for instant feedback and the opportunity to address questions and concerns in real-time.
- Deepen Your Brand: Having real conversations is priceless practice for honing how you explain what you do and who you serve. This helps you establish a strong personal brand, which will then be more compelling when you share online with a broader audience.
- Niche Communities: Networking allows you to connect with niche communities, which may be harder to find or engage with on social media.
- Offline Events: Attending networking events or conferences provides opportunities to stay up-to-date with industry trends, share knowledge, and learn from others in your field.
- Long-Term Relationships: Building a strong local network can lead to long-term business relationships that extend beyond immediate marketing efforts. These relationships often continue to benefit your business over time.
While social media has its advantages, local and in-person networking stands out for its ability to create meaningful, in-depth connections that are often based on trust and shared interests.
It can be a powerful complement to your overall marketing strategy, especially for counsellors, group practices, therapists, healers, and service-based businesses that rely on personal relationships and trust.
Despite all the advancements in ‘augmented reality’ and global connectedness, the energy of in-person contact remains king. There isn’t much that can beat the shared energy-field, organic eye contact, and handshake or hug that local networking encourages.
Here are a few ideas for local networking, to get you started:
- Chamber of Commerce Events: Join your local Chamber of Commerce and attend their networking events. These gatherings are often attended by other business professionals, potential clients, and community leaders.
- Industry Conferences and Trade Shows: Attend conferences and trade shows relevant to your industry. These events provide an excellent opportunity to connect with peers, learn about the latest trends, and meet potential clients.
- Local Meetup Groups: Many areas have Meetup.com groups dedicated to specific interests or industries. Join relevant groups to connect with people who share your interests or may need your services.
- Business Networking Groups: Look for local BNI (Business Networking International) or similar networking groups. These organizations are specifically designed for professionals to exchange referrals and grow their businesses.
- Community Events: Attend local fairs, festivals, and charity events. These gatherings attract a diverse crowd and offer a relaxed environment for building connections.
- Seminars and Workshops: Host or participate in seminars or workshops related to your field. Sharing your expertise can help you connect with people interested in your services.
- Local Workspaces and Coworking Hubs: Many cities have coworking spaces that host events and networking meetups. Consider working from such spaces periodically to expand your local network.
- Volunteer Opportunities: Get involved in local charities or community service. Volunteering is an excellent way to give back to the community while also making valuable connections.
- Local Business Mixers: Keep an eye out for local business mixers or social events, often hosted by organizations like local business associations or networking clubs.
- Lunch-and-Learns: Host lunch-and-learn sessions where you provide free information related to your field. This can attract potential clients and demonstrate your expertise.
- Local Speaking Engagements: Offer to speak at local events, workshops, or seminars. Speaking engagements can position you as an authority in your field.
- University and College Events: Contact local educational institutions and inquire about speaking opportunities, workshops, or career fairs where you can connect with students and faculty.
- Local Social Clubs: Explore local social clubs, sports clubs, or hobby groups that align with your interests. You may find potential clients or partners in these clubs.
- Coffee Shops and Cafes: If you know me you know this is one of my personal favorites! Local cafes often host community events, open mics, or themed nights. Attend these to meet people with shared interests, or just get some work done in the morning with a fancy coffee and strike up conversations as the opportunities arise.
- Referral Partnerships: Build relationships with businesses that complement your services. For example, if you’re a personal trainer, partner with local health food stores or wellness clinics.
Remember, the key to successful local networking is not only attending events but also actively engaging with others, listening, and building genuine relationships. Over time, these connections can lead to valuable opportunities for your small service-based business.