Marketing wisdom dictates that to attract clients to your business – whether that’s a business coaching consultancy or any other type of business – you need to hang out where your clients are. For business coaches and business mentors one of the prime places to hang out is at business networking events.
It must work judging the number of business coaches and mentors I’ve met at recent networking events! Typically these events – as well as their online counterparts – attract business owners and senior business leaders, all of whom can be excellent candidates for your business support services.
However, it’s competitive. How many times has your heart sunk when you arrive at an event and see that one of your local competitors is already working the room? I’ve even heard a disgruntled attendee at a networking event exclaim, “not another business coach, isn’t there anyone here who doesn’t want to sell me business coaching!” It can be hard to reach potential clients when the barriers go up at the mere mention of your profession, and especially if someone else has already triggered that effect.
Generally people don’t want to be sold to; instead they want to make their own decisions about whether they need business coaching or mentoring, and then source a trusted advisor when they’re ready. The same is true for other consultants and B2B suppliers, however for the business advisor it’s often even more sensitive. I think this is because giving someone professional business advice can be very personal. Whereas a business owner may be happy to say they need support with marketing, they may be more reluctant to say that they’re struggling to run their business or they don’t have a business plan for growth etc.
Therefore gaining their confidence and trust, and demonstrating the value you can deliver, is really important before you try to pitch your services.
Not easy to do at a monthly business networking meeting. It’s something you need to do regularly and build on week-to-week or month-to-month with your target clients.
Our Business Hubs naturally attract a few business consultants. From my observations those that successfully build relationships with Hub members, which results in signing up new clients, do the following:
#1: Identify the right groups
We’ve had business consultants, often affiliated with national franchises, attempt to sell their services to our members at rates they cannot afford. Typically our members are micro businesses, often a sole trader, or small businesses of up to 20 employees. Therefore any services must be targeted at these types of businesses – not medium or large enterprises!
Check out the groups and find out what types of businesses attend. If they’re not your market it will be an uphill struggle, so find a group or event that is.
Finding a niche is also a great strategy. If you’ve already got a few clients in a particular field you may find that there are sector specific groups you can attend.
#2: Listen to attendees
Before pitching your business to anyone, sit back and listen to the business owners and senior leaders talk about their businesses, the challenges they have, their goals and achievements to date. With this information you will be able to target your services in a much more relevant, value-adding way. It’s likely that there will be key challenges that are shared by many attendees; these might present an opportunity to offer a specific group workshop or masterclass and provide you with a vehicle to upsell your core services.
#3: Be helpful, be free with your advice
To build trust there needs to be an exchange. If you are able to offer someone advice or assistance within the format of a networking event – i.e. a quick conversation or a comment on a social media post – do! By being helpful and not ring fencing your advice with a contract and monetary exchange, you can build trust and demonstrate the value you can deliver.
#4: Be consistent
Turning up regularly, contributing to the group, and leading by example by practicing what you preach, are sure-fire ways to establish your reputation and build trust with other members of that group. Many of us are guilty of dropping in and out of networking groups depending on whether we are actively looking for clients or not; instead try to be consistent by putting aside time to focus on the groups that have been good to you. You can always turn clients away or recommend other colleagues if you haven’t got capacity.
#5: Build your own niche
As mentioned before, targeting a specific sector or size of business will help you engage with business owners in a more relevant and personalised way. There may be opportunities to do a guest speaking slot, where you can deliver a highly targeted talk for that audience using relevant examples from your experience. There may be scope to develop specific services for this group that will deliver them a great ROI and help differentiate your services from other competitors.
One way you can put all of the above into practice is to set up your own networking group. This could be an online group on social media, targeted at local business owners of a certain size or sector specific, or a weekly or monthly event in the real world! This can provide you with a forum for building trust, demonstrating your expertise and identifying potential leads, without the hard sell.
In fact you could go a step further and set up a Business Hub in your town. Our Hub franchise owners have found that running a local business hub alongside offering consultancy services is a great way to build a business community and establish a pipeline of clients for their businesses. Not only do they attract revenue from running the Hub and selling their services, they also benefit from the supportive and collaborative community that all business owners need – even business coaches and mentors!
To find out more about starting a Business Hub in your area, click on the link below.