Niki Campbell by Niki Campbell
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Whether you are newly certified or a veteran health and exercise professional, building your client base is a primary key to your success, and in-person networking is one of the most powerful ways to connect with potential clients and raise awareness around your business and offerings.

While it’s easier to email your contact list or post every day on social media (both are important in the marketing mix), there is nothing quite as effective as face-to-face connection and conversation. Whether it’s at your local chamber of commerce, a new mom’s club or a faith-based networking organization, in-person interactions are a highly valuable and relatively inexpensive way to build your brand.

The benefits to connecting with potential clients in real life are numerous. Not only is it a more memorable way to make connections, it’s also a great tool for building a referral network of complementary businesses that can send referrals your way. Networking in-person also builds your business acumen by exposing you to new business ideas and best practices, giving you access to peers who may be dealing with the same challenges and helping you improve your public speaking skills and confidence.

Depending on your personality type, the idea of attending a networking event may feel intimidating, and with so many to choose from, it can be overwhelming figuring out which one is the best for your business.

How to Find the Perfect Group for Your Business Needs

When it comes to choosing the right group or event for you, keep your ideal client in mind. What types of events do they attend, or what networking groups do they belong to? If your ideal client is a busy, stressed-out business owner who doesn’t have a lot of time for self-care, look for groups where business owners gather to connect and learn. Some obvious choices are a local chamber of commerce, Business Networking International, or The Rotary Club. If your ideal client is a woman in business, try the National Association of Women Business Owners.

Of course, you don’t need to join a big national group to reach local clients. Many cities have specialized, local networking groups started by passionate business owners in the area. For example, a quick online search for “women’s networking groups near me” returns several pages of groups that bring busy women together for support and networking. Don’t forget there are networking groups for all ages, genders, ethnicities and religions. Get as specific as you want to be to find the right connections for your business.

How to Make the Most of the Networking Experience

Now that you’ve identified the group that’s right for you, it’s time to hone your networking skills. Working the room when you are new to a group or don’t have an outgoing personality can seem daunting and even exhausting for some people, while others love the thrill of meeting a whole room of new people. Whichever person you are, these tips can help you make the most of your networking event.

  • Go with an open mind. Not every event is going to serve up dozens of qualified leads, but each one can potentially connect you to someone who may be a few degrees from that perfect client. Networking events usually offer learning opportunities, so always go in with a desire to learn while you are making connections.
  • Seek to serve, not to sell. Most people are anxious to tell others all about their business or services. While this is important, after your introduction, ask questions to learn more about the other person. For example, you might ask, “What is your biggest challenge in business right now?” or “Tell me about why you decided to go into this line of work.” You can learn a lot about a person when you get them to talk about their life and work. It may result in you being able to help them solve a problem (i.e., sell them your services).
  • Make a mental list of the services you need. Networking can connect you to your next great employee, a creative web site designer or even the plumber you need for a home-improvement project. Always be on the lookout for a local business you can support through the networking group.
  • Follow up with value. If you have a great conversation with someone and get their business card, follow up the next day with a note thanking them for their time and offer something of value. This could be a link to an article you talked about or the name of another business owner they should meet. Offering something that has nothing to do with a product or service you sell helps to build trust and credibility.

Networking requires putting yourself out there, often in situations where you don’t know anyone. While it can be scary, it also creates a world of possibilities for business growth right in your own backyard. Spend your time in groups that connect you to your ideal client and approach each event with the goal of being a resource to someone else.