Imagine this – You want to grow your business, but you don’t know anyone.
What do you do?
Maybe you’re not in a new town where you have zero connections, but what I frequently hear with my clients is that they’ve already talked to their friends & family, and how do you connect with people who would be good customers?
Soon after moving to London, people would ask me “How do you know everyone already?”
Now I’m looking back on the strategic actions, and experiments, I used to build a network as effectively as possible…
I didn’t plan these out quite so clearly – some came naturally, and some came as a response to what was happening around me. But I’ve had some success with it, and I hope you can too!
Know who you’re looking for
Without even thinking about it at the time, I automatically had my eye out for 4 types of people:
- Target Market: Most of my clients are entrepreneurs, and I’ve spent a lot of time defining that as clearly as I can. And while my clients have not all been “Male, Married, between 35-45,” having that as my target has been a guide for where I chose to hang out, what my marketing message has been, what I’ve taught publicly, etc.
- Referral Partners: It’s not always easy to just approach your target market and sell to them. That’s why referral partners are critical – people who share your target market, but do not compete with you. Business consultants, for example, have a plenty of opportunities to connect their clients with me, because, while many consultants have all kinds of wisdom around what you should be doing to grow your business, they are rarely interested in helping you have the mindset to overcome limiting beliefs, negative emotions, and thinking habits that keep you from growing your business. Likewise, I don’t get into marketing strategies, HR processes, financials, and all the other aspects that business owners need help with, so I can refer my clients to business consultants.
- Connectors: There are special people out in the world who just have this unconscious compulsion to know everyone – for no other reason than that they enjoy knowing everyone. I am not one of those people. So relationships with connectors are incredibly valuable for me – helping me meet people in the community, find awesome resources, and get things done.
- Competitors: Not everyone agrees with me on this, but I think it’s important to build relationships with other people in the same industry. Not only do you have the possibility for referring business to each other, but you can also learn a lot from their perspectives, support each other, and stay current on the latest news and techniques. I found that the NLP practitioners and hypnotists don’t hang out together in London like we did in California, but I was able to form friendships with a couple, and it was good.
Go out & be around people
I started by looking for entrepreneur & business groups on Meetup, and I attended my first meeting only a couple days after arriving in London. That’s where I met Louise, a connector who instantly started introducing me to many other people in town. Louise quickly connected me with the community at Innovation Works, and I met a ton of people just by being present there.
I also attended a few business seminars, mixers, networking groups, and a toastmasters group. Some led to profitable connections, some to new friends, and some I left with nothing to show for it. All part of the process.
I met so many people in a short period of time, that it was difficult to keep track of all the names & where we’d met, and whether it was someone I had met before or someone I’d merely seen around somewhere – that made it a little shocking when they would say “Hi Wes!” (I’ve since started listening to Jim Kwik’s memory tips and improving in this area)
Attract them to you
I found that going to a mixer was a crap shoot – I might find some amazing contacts, and I might only find people who just want me to have their business card so they can move on to the next. Plus, it can be really noisy and difficult to have any kind of conversation. You never know.
Going to networking groups gave me between 30 seconds and 2 minutes of silent attention as I presented my “commercial.” Beyond that, there are limits to how well you can build relationships there.
Within my first month, I started London Entrepreneurs Business Alliance, a meetup where I could bring entrepreneurs into an environment and conversation that I had a lot more control over.
Have something to offer
The meetup group was something I could offer to anyone I met, without asking for anything in return. It was easy to invite them to our free events, where they could meet good people and share about their business. And it led to more connections and credibility for me.
I found that leading my own networking group was valuable to other people as well – I was contacted several times by people wanting access to the group. An international seminar came to town, and they invited me to be a sponsor and have a booth at the front door as long as I invited my network to come along. We were invited to a special event at the local theater. And people were offering to come and speak at our events.
Aside from the meetup, I offered my time and expertise to help build the community at Innovation Works. As part of their DECA program, I had free access to workspace, meeting rooms, and classrooms in exchange for my help welcoming people at the front desk, giving tours, optimizing the sales and onboarding processes, and bringing people in to the community.
Be the Authority
I had already published a book, but I didn’t talk about it much before London. I started using it as a prize for drawings at our meetups, or giving them out to people I met, or slipping them in to some book collections & libraries. I never noticed a direct benefit from doing that… no one ever saw my book and instantly wanted to work with me… but I believe it was a start of building my credibility.
What was more effective was speaking. At each meetup I would teach something for an hour or so. I’d find little events in town that were looking for speakers to tell their stories. I was able to share valuable strategies and information, and continued building from there to selling tickets to my own workshops, gradually growing longer and more advanced, receiving amazing positive feedback after each event. I’ve already heard from a lot of people excited to hear more about my next workshop when we come visit in October!
So, thinking about your goals – who can help you get there? and what strategies can you use to connect to those people? I’m curious how helpful these principles will be for you as you move forward!
Is there anything else you would add? Let me know in the comments.
This post is part of a series on my experiences in London Ontario. Click Here to see the rest.