This is a guest post by Massage Therapist, Tracey Smith
I need more bodies, bottom line, no beating around the bush, I need more stressed out, knotted up bodies on my table. And I no, I am not a “Dexter” wanna be. Just a massage therapist looking to double her clientele over the next year.
So I started a new hobby- Learning how to stalk clients… um… I mean “Advertising research.” I thought about “Craig’s List” (a place no respectable massage therapist should advertise at btw), newspaper ads, flyers, door to door and even tortured myself and potential clients doing chair massages at loud, crowded events which were NOT conducive to relaxation.
Eventually, I started talking to my friends who were small business owners. Several of them mentioned networking groups as being responsible for their success. One, fellow massage therapist even reported that her networking group was responsible for over ½ of her business. Hmmmm… Could this be a source of bodies for me?
What is a networking group?
But first things first, what exactly is a networking group? To paraphrase Wiki Answers, a networking group is…
…a group of business people from all different businesses that get together on a periodic basis for the purpose of generating business for each other.
Generally there are no competitors in the group-there are one plumber and one electrician and one insurance salesman etc. The premise of networking groups is that each member becomes a customer of the other members of the group.In addition, you recommend or refer potential clients to other members of the group and they refer to people to you.
I found this definition exciting. Wow, other people stalking clients for me? Fabulous! Sign me up!
How do I find a networking group?
Fellow Small Business Owners
By far the best way to find a local networking group is to talk to other small business owners you know. Talk to several, most will invite you to attend a meeting to learn more about their group. This is how I found the “Leads Networking Group” that I eventually joined.
Specific Networking Companies
There are specific companies that run networking groups strictly for business networking such as BNI (Business Networking International) states that it is the largest business networking organization in the world. It offers members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts and business referrals.
There are also other networking groups that exist for a different purpose. The most obvious is your local Chamber of Commerce. Chambers exist to promote and help businesses in their community. If you joined the Chamber, you would be in touch with a group of business owners and managers who are decision-makers and might become your customers. I found that the Chamber in my community operates several networking groups.
Keep in mind that these sources of networking groups often charge a membership fee.
You can check online to locate a networking group in your area. To start, try the BNI website listed above or check out MeetUp.com.
That first meeting
After talking to a fellow business woman, a personal trainer, I eagerly joined her at the weekly meeting of her “Leads Networking Group” which I later found was affiliated with our local Chamber of Commerce. Here’s what I discovered about networking groups.
- They have regular meetings. (usually monthly but some are weekly).
- Attendance is generally a condition of membership.
- Miss too many and you are politely asked to leave the group.
They ask that you generate a certain amount of referrals for your fellow businessmen. Often want you to provide an occasional one to ten minute presentation about your line of work. Which gives other members an opportunity to learn more about your business.