What is the best way to get a meeting with another business owner?
I am new business owner in a small community and I am just looking to network and attract new clientele. I have tried emailing, phoning, and setting up in-person meetings with other business owners but nothing ends up following through. I understand it is summer and people are busy, but how can I get other business owners to sit down with me for just a few minutes to see how we can help each other?
Email them. Introduce yourself and let them know who you are and what you might be able to help them with. Ask to grab lunch or a coffee. Check out Email Hunter, it's a great Chrome extension that'll help you uncover most Linkedin user's email addresses.
One word of caution though - make sure you are targeting the right type of role/persona. If you're a designer (like your profile mentions) then you'll likely want to target the marketing folks at a business instead of the owner/CEO/president.
And, to take it a step further, many (very) small businesses don't have the budget to pay a professional designer what they deserve.
Make sure you're targeting companies that are likely to have adequate budget to pay you fairly for your time...one strong indicator you might look for is that the company you're approaching does have a dedicated marketing person onboard. That person will not only recognize your value but they likely have the capacity and budget to hire you, too.
In my experience, joining a professional association - like a Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club - is a great way to network with other small business owners. Networking this way takes the pressure off of cold-calling or unexpected visits to their businesses. It also shows your commitment to your community and that goes a long way.
Loads of useful information already, but I would like to share a method that has worked for me. It's along the same line as those that have talked about building relationships.
The toughest part of this process for me was identifying my target market and then finding them online (i.e. social media groups, forums and sites like MeetUp). Once I did, I joined them too. I listened to what they talked about, especially to the things they were asking each other for advice on, were having problems or were pain points in running their businesses. I started replying with suggestions and tips. Sometimes I had no clue, but a few minutes of research and I was able to fulfill a need ... provide value. I offered ways for them to address their issues themselves. I much less time than I thought it would take, they started asking ME not the group for information. From there is a pretty easy transition into letting them know what my business could do for them and their businesses. More than 50% scheduled consultations, and almost 80% of those that did became clients.
I understand that getting clients - FAST - is critical to a lot of business owners. This won't get you a consultation tomorrow or even within a few days, but it will get you the meetings you're looking for if you put in the time.
If you're still with me, one more thing you might try. Are you using video in your messaging campaign? Record a series of 2-3 minute videos that talk about your service or product and include it along with an invite for a consultation. Give potential clients a reason to want to talk to you. 9-10 people will watch a short video more willingly than they will use the scroll bar to read an message that goes "below the fold".
There are a lot of great responses here regarding joining organizations - to which I wholeheartedly agree.
I'd like to address the actual process of networking. If we network specifically to build clientele, that's a narrow focus. If, instead, the idea is to build relationships, we can expand our clientele exponentially.
To this end, here are some tips on relationship-building:
1. Be completely respectful, kind, and interested in everyone. You never know where the ripples go! Someone who you may not see as a potential client is likely to be connected to someone who is.
2. Build a relationship first. You may know someone who can assist a new contact in a way that you cannot. Perhaps they offer a different service. Be willing to make introductions and hook people up with the contacts and resources they need.
3. None of us can be all things to everyone. With an existing client, be willing to refer them to someone else if that meets their needs.
In other words, build relationships based on truly caring about the people you meet and about their needs. If you are centered, relaxed, and interested in helping people, that will do more for your business than if you are simply trying to get customers.
I agree networking is the way to go, if you don't fancy starting your own group, there are lots of networking groups you can join just do a search for groups in your area.
Try a few before you join to make sure the group is the right one for you, prices vary (many offer the first couple of sessions free of charge), some can be very expensive with registration fees and a monthly charge and can be quite pressured, others are more informal. Frequency can be weekly, fortnightly or monthly, and at different times of the day. The Chamber of Commerce networking sessions are often free if you are a member or at a reduced price, so its worth checking it out.
Just one additional piece of advice, like most things in life never sign up to a networking group after the first visit, give your self time to consider if it is the right one for you.
If you are pitching a product or trying to sell, you won't get it done.
But the real answer is "it depends". You have to solve a problem that the business owner has and provide a result that he or she wants to see.
Networking and referrals are the two fastest ways. But don't sell. Make it a "get to know you" conversation.
For me, as a marketing strategist and strategic business advisor, I use free 30 minute strategy sessions where I talk with the business owner about their top 2 or 3 problems and offer a solution and a plan to solve them. No selling involved.
I run a small, expert Digital agency here in Birmingham UK called Odyssey New Media (odysseynewmedia.com).
I have 2 words for you - Business Networking !
My best advice to you is to consider starting a business networking group but one that you actually organise.
> Venue - Source a venue that is cheap, light and friendly - golf courses work well.
> Set a time - Breakfast 7-9am works well as its outside of working hours and kick-starts people's day.
> Food price - agree a price for breakfast/lunch with the venue, let them do the catering too.
> Annual registration fee - Get people to pay a monthly registration fee (or annual fee up-front to insure their attendance). Don't make it too expensive > > Parking - Ensure there is Free Parking at the venue or surrounding nearby roads.
> Frequency - The frequency should be every 2 or 4 weeks, personally I prefer every two weeks.
> Encourage one-to-one meetings
> Encourage business referrals but not too aggresively as you don't want to pressure people.
This way if you organise it, you will be able to invite businesses for free as guests and this gives you the lead on who to invite and more people will want to network with you as you'll be the organiser.
I've been netowrking with a networking group here in the UK, and I'm currently organising my own closer to home through their brand. Networking works and it gets you in front of business owners which is exactly what you want. Outside of networking events it's good to have followup one-to-one meetings so you can talk in more detail and see how you can help each other out.
I hope that advice helps. If you need digital marketing or web development don't hesitate to give me a shout on rstoubos(at)odysseynewmedia(dot)com.
Owner/Director of Odyssey New Media
I was at a BBQ at the home of a very successful salesman and asked him about his obvious love of roses - the garden filled 80% of his backyard. His answer was, "the way into the bosses office is always through their gate keeper. The roses are for receptionists. Although some prefer chocolate. But never gift on first contact. It's only genuine when you know them by name."
I thought it was amusing and somewhat trite at first, but he went on to tell me how many sales he can attribute to winning over the receptionist. He spends as much time as possible talking to them, telling jokes and appreciating how they hold the company together. He writes down their names and treats them like they are the CEO themselves. Once they are on his team, getting the meeting with the owner becomes much easier.
The answer is very simple. Find out from then when is the best time that they can have coffee with you. Then invite them to coffee on their time and YOU pay. Sit down with them and "gel!" You keep quiet and let them do the talking. It's amazing what you can learn about them and how you can help them. Please note that this takes time because people need to get and feel comfortable with you. That is the reason why you have to meet on their time. In short, "you pay to play!"
Offer something of value. If you feel that these businesses can benefit from you, then give them a reason to believe it. I don't know your business, but in my case I offer a free marketing evaluation to potential clients and I also offer a free tool so business owners can check their online business listings. I give them value, once they see that, they are much more likely to want to talk to me.
I also echo the importance of chambers and other networking in a local market.
Not everyone wants to meet especially in person. What is the purpose of the meeting and whom are you trying to meet? Are you trying to meet competitors? Are you trying to meet people in a certain geographic location? People have busy lives especially business owners. There is not a lot of time in the day. Why do you need to meet in person?
Try to identify the purpose of your meeting. Once the purpose of the meeting is determined try writing a letter explaining the benefit to take time from their day to meet you and what goals may be achieved. You will get a small percentage at most. How many people have you contacted? Put yourself in their shoes. Why would you meet with them if they asked you. More information and clarification is necessary to assist you.
In the absence of chamber networking events, create your own. Invite a group of business owners to coffee. You don't have to make it a referral club, just that as you launched your business you would like to meet successful business owners without it feeling like a sales pitch.
That said, the "how we can help each other" is a cliché pitch all by itself so be careful with it.
For where you are there is a lot of advice here but maybe too much overthinking.
Ask. That's it, but keep it simple and connect with people's desire to help and to talk about themselves. Build relationships not clientele.
Don't email, call or network in person and say the truth, "Hi, I'm Grant Holsberg and I'm a new business owner. I see you've been around a while and I'm wondering if I could buy you a cup of coffee and hear a little about what made you successful. I'd be happy to stop by your place or meet at the diner, my treat of course. Is that something you'd be comfortable doing?
If you can't get that done you are going to have a very hard time selling what you do so you might need some sales training to learn the craft of getting appointments and what to do with them.
Demonstrate expertise - no matter what your product or service, you can do this.
If you're a real estate agent, offer seminars on SPECIFIC aspects such as "how to get financing as a first-time home buyer" - better yet, partner with someone strategic like a loan agent to divide & conquer the work needed to promote and organize!
If you're a restaurant, do cooking demos at a local shopping center and shoot a video for YouTube / Facebook.
When I was still brokering businesses, the #1 method of prospecting for me (typically seeing response rates of 67% and often higher) was to simply send a "12 Mistakes to Avoid in Selling Your Business" to prospects trying to sell a business themselves.
Hi Grant ~
What about a business introduction? Whom do you know that might already have a relationship with your desired prospect(s)?
And as the others touch upon, think about what your prospect needs, and start there. Rather than saying you do web design, peruse your prospect's site, social profiles, etc., and see what you can glean about where his/her business could use some assistance. Then see how you can help.
In other words: if your prospect is looking for more IT business, or needs tech support, perhaps you can recommend someone. Solving their problem puts you in their good graces. THEN you have a relationship begun, and can suggest some ideas for improving their site design to attract IT clients.
Is there a Service Corps of Retired Executive (S.C.O.R.E.) Chapter in the area? If so, you could reach out to them for assistance and they will advise you at little or no cost. Do you attend Kiwanis or Rotary Club meetings to get to know some of those business owners? At the least, you could host your own networking event as a way of trying to get their interest.
I have had success with Twitter and LinkedIn, provided you have a super-clear idea of:
The triggers (what triggers a request for your product or service)
The people (who are really involved in the request-approve-pay process)
And some info on the person you intend to approach.
If value for the counterparty is in sight, meetings will happen.
Mr Grant, the best is to go to their office. Then seek an appointment. In business this happens to us all the time. But we need to pursue, in our own interest .When the meeting does not happen, write a mailer to the person about your visit. But, if it goes too far, and they are not accessible then they are not worth being your customer at all. Mutual respect is also required. One more observation is that you have stated that you are 'new', in a 'small community'. Please don't think this way. You are a Business Owner and no one can take this away. So change your mindset that you are just like the other business owners in terms of your expertise and move forward. However, let not the 'good' n you change. Florence MacDonald
I think this depends on your part of the country...both Chambers and Rotary are pretty uninspiring in the PNW. Meetups are growing really fast and there are many of them designed to do what BNI is about but in a much friendlier and more helpful way...they are more like "commonality communities" with people of like interests. Might check these out to see if they are active in your area.
Find out how you can help with their problems, and call/email to offer your help.