“Your power is almost directly proportional to the size of your network and the time you spend maintaining it. Put bluntly, the most influential people I know are also the best networkers. They know everybody from everywhere, and have been out to lunch with most of them.” ~ Tom Peters
There are many examples of the old adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That’s why networking is one of the most important things you can do to grow your business.
Networking helps you meet new clients, potential business partners, funding sources, and fellow fitness professionals to form reciprocal referral relationships with. Of course many of us don’t enjoy networking. If you’re one of these folks (like I am), I’d challenge you to get out several times a month and maybe start with small groups. For example, the Colorado Fitness Association has monthly networking events that are always held at a local pub and are pretty low-key. When you do go to networking-type events, remember to have business cards or a professional marketing piece ready to hand out to anyone you meet.
Some obvious places to network include fitness association meetings, BNI groups, IDEA events, Chamber of Commerce events, and any one of the hundreds of local Meetups in your area. These meetings are not intimidating, and everyone there wants to meet people, just like you.
Associations that are dedicated to fitness professionals are especially valuable because you can share ideas on everything from equipment discounts to industry trends and legislation. The Colorado Fitness Association group recently expanded to serve other states, look here to see if there’s a chapter in your area.
Another way to meet people is to offer your services as a guest speaker for local civic groups, schools, clubs and corporations. Some groups that welcome speakers include local MOPS groups, businesses who have lunch and learn seminars and libraries.
As far as the speaking session itself, think about providing information that is relevant and non-salesy in nature. When you finish your presentation, let the audience know you’ll be available for questions and make sure to stay to chat with folks afterwards. Only when the session is done and people individually approach you should you specifically talk about your services and prices if asked.
Trade Shows and Expos
Local expo events are also a great place to meet new clients and expand your network. There is usually a fee associated with these events, so you’ll want to consider the size of the audience and their interest in your services before deciding to attend.
In preparation for these kinds of events, you’ll need to think about your display table and what sort of graphics you’ll have. Often you will only need to supply a tablecloth and you can have inexpensive tabletop signs made at FedEx Kinkos or your local office supply store. We suggest setting up an uncluttered table with a few pieces of information about you.
You might also consider a fish bowl for business cards with an associated drawing for a free month of services. Offering a special deal that is only available at the event is also a nice touch. Most importantly, you need an efficient way to collect contact information because that is where you’ll find the real value in expos.
For more ways to grow your business, checkout our Ten-Step Marketing Guide. In it, we’ll take you through the ten most important steps for building your fitness business.