LinkedIn is great, but for many the time spent is futile at best. Perhaps it is because that anything worthwhile in life and business is rarely easy. “Connecting” with people on LinkedIn is pretty simple, but many will say that it isn’t highly effective for the casual user. The time spent browsing on LinkedIn can be better spent by a walk around your neighborhood. to get to know the businesses vying for customers just as you are.
For real face-to-face networking to be effective you need to be creative and ready to present actionable ideas. Sure, smiles and handshakes are great, but if you want to work with that portrait studio three doors down, you need a plan. You could certainly offer a commission or stipend to that photographer for anyone he recommends, but frankly that’s passive. Instead think about mutual benefit. That photographer wants a wider audience, as do you. However, be respectful in your presentation of ideas. Don’t assume someone will work for free or cheap because it is good exposure for them, however that said opening up those discussions requires skill and an idea that just makes good business sense.
Here are a few ideas:
Hire the photographer to create an album of 50 or 100 high quality, edited photos for marketing and advertising use. Use these photos to attach to your socially posted WODs. Offer the photographer a trade of service, perhaps 3, 6 or 12 months of access to your box based on price. Perhaps you can up the ante if you offer to credit each photo as you post it.
Team up with traditional gyms in your area. Maybe there is a 24-hour independent gym who is feeling the squeeze from national chains. Perhaps you can include membership to their facility in the cost of your own membership and pay a discounted rate to the gym. They should be delighted to have a lead source and it would be a great benefit to offer your members for days they just can’t make it to a WOD for whatever reason.
How about Realtors? Surely they can’t help your business? Well, they surely can. Realtors are your conduit to new residents. While relocating CrossFitters may already have sought you out, there are many who haven’t. Realtors are a great way to get information into the hands of new area residents. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Sure you can hope they find your website or Facebook page, but don’t leave those meetings to chances. Same goes for apartment complexes too. So, if they ask for something in return you of course can pay a commission in cash or offer complimentary memberships.
If you reach out and spread the word, people will take notice. Engage other local businesses and make networking work for your box.