June 2011
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Find New Clients to Grow Your Business

 
 
In the previous article on generating leads for your Pilates business, the focus was on maximizing your current clientele. These clients can be a great tool to get more customers. Getting brand-new business, however, always begins with providing consistent, fantastic, relevant experiences while offering high-quality customer service to your existing clients.
 
Another source of generating leads is through networking. People you meet anywhere can be future customers, referral sources, and affiliate power-partners. The key is to ALWAYS carry your business cards. You never know when the person in front of you at the bank might strike up a conversation, and realize that you can offer the solution to his/her back pain.
 
Where can you meet people? Professional associations (chamber of commerce, Rotary Club, Women In Business, BNI–Business Network International), independent lead groups, fairs, events, internet marketing, social activities, children’s activities, waiting in lines, etc. You are a walking advertisement.
 
A challenge is to figure out which of the above channels fit with your ideal clientele, budget, credibility, company brand and relevance. In past businesses, I had many fruitful relationships through the chamber of commerce. In my current studio, in a different market, the chamber hasn’t netted new business, despite the after-hour business networking events and card collecting. I’ve had better success with independent speed networking evenings hosted by a local café. These involve around 20 or 25 people gathering at tables to practice their 2-minute “elevator pitch.” With good e-mail follow-up the next day, I regularly net a few introductory lessons, which often lead to a sale.
 
What is an affiliate power-partner? It is a person with a compatible business interest with whom you can cross-refer. Obvious top runners are hair stylists, estheticians and allied health professionals, such as massage therapists and chiropractors. You probably already have trusted referrers. The goal is to agree that you will help each other out. Power-partners take an active role in talking about each other’s business and creating warm leads. This can mean having joint links on your Web sites, a favorite picks list in your newsletters, co-promotions or events. Having regular conversations with each other helps move both of your businesses forward.
 
In building a strong referral network, develop good will by giving a referral before you ask for one. Make it happen. The law of reciprocity is such that if you do a favor for someone, they’ll feel inclined to do something in return. Referrals are so valuable because they make conversations easier to get started, and they give you credibility.
 
Who in your “contact sphere” is a potential referral source?
  • Customers
  • People your studio does business with—who do you write monthly checks to?
  • People you’ve received a referral from
  • Friends and family
  • Employees
  • Online media sources
  • Networking sources
 
A seasoned networker has her “schpiel” down. It’s called an “elevator pitch.” This is your 1 or 2-minute answer to the loaded question, “What do you do?” The objective is to have a concise description of what you do. This should be about four sentences. The first sentence identifies you and shares what you specialize in. The second describes what problems you have the solution to. The third differentiates you and establishes your credibility and why you’re better. The last sentence is a call to action. This is when you specifically tell them what to do next.
 
Best practices are never to start with what you are. Don’t say, “I’m a Pilates teacher,” or, “I’m a financial planner.” To draw people in, start with a benefit. “I change and sustain lives through Pilates.” (This might be your mission statement!) Then, move into what your business is about, and what kind of customers you are looking for. Always end with a hook or special offer, like, “Please call me for a complimentary lesson to see how we can help you reach your goal.”
 
Put your mission statement and working elevator pitch into your e-mail tag line. This way, you’ll always see it, refine it; and most importantly, have it in your consciousness. So, when you get the loaded question, you can take a breath, and answer confidently and concisely.
 
When you meet people, use an attention grabber with an open-ended question such as, “Do you work out?”, “How do you stay fit?”, or “If you could change one thing in your fitness program, what would it be?” Invite people to talk about themselves and open up a field of trust that gives you permission to dig for their hopes, needs and wishes.
 
Traditional advertising is expensive, and has unpredictable results. A small Pilates business usually doesn’t have a big advertising budget. Advertising requires reach and frequency to get a prospect’s attention. Do you have the means to run a weekly or monthly ad in a paper or local magazine? A one-time ad is just not going to grab a reader’s attention and move her to take action. Traditional direct marketing is expensive too, with just as poor response rates. Typically, success is 2 percent. That means 98 percent of your mailing list trashed your postcard! It’s no longer cost-efficient to send out uniform broadcast messages to every potential consumer.
 
There’s no doubt that in today’s fast-paced world, leveraging new technology is a critical component in generating leads. Technology demands engagement with individuals. Advertising is being replaced by direct dialogue and promotions. No doubt, you have already begun using social network vehicles like Facebook and LinkedIn, or daily desktop deals. Being on these sites doesn’t directly sell your services. It helps to increase your brand’s awareness, which eventually does lead to sales. We have to see social networking as only part of a strategy that is combined with a Web site, blogging, marketing materials, advertisements, newsletters and networking.
 
E-mail me for more tips on prospecting and showcasing yourself!
Carol Appel 
 
 
 
 
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