You’ve found and decorated the perfect space for your health & wellness business. Your website is up, and your business cards are fresh off the press. Now what?

“If you build it they will come” might work for baseball fields in Iowa, but that attitude probably won’t bring in the number of clients you’re planning on. That’s why I called on an exceptional networker I know to speak to my business and marketing students last week.

Networking 101

On an unseasonably warm day in December, I met with Dr. Chris LoRang at his office, Capital Chiropractic & Rehabilitation Center in the East Village of Des Moines to discuss his take on networking. As we walked around the East Village sipping coffee from Mars Coffee Bar, we stopped several times so Chris could chat with people he knows, which seemed to be nearly everyone. He knew their names and their businesses, and he made a point to inquire about how things were going.

Obviously, Chris LoRang doesn’t waste time sitting in his office waiting for patients to stumble upon him. Here are some of his tips:

1. Get Involved

Now that you’ve done the hard work of opening your business, you have some time on your hands before your schedule starts filling up. Use that time to get involved in the following ways:

  • Get involved in your community by volunteering for a cause or on the board of a nonprofit. It’s a great way to support a cause you believe in and meet new people who share your belief in a cause. Even if they aren’t interested in your services, they know plenty of people who are. 
  • Get involved with a networking group, like a chamber of commerce. You may have to pay a membership fee but everyone there wants to meet new people and help your business succeed. I recently joined the Des Moines chapter of FemCity, a networking group for women entrepreneurs, and love the energy of the group.
  • Get involved by supporting other small businesses. Visit the shops and restaurants nearby and get to know the owners and staff. They just might support you in return.

2. Be Authentic & Be Kind

I always thought you had to be an extrovert to survive a networking event. Honestly, I have fled networking opportunities to go home to my pets and a good book. The real measure of success for a networking event is not how many business cards you collect, but how many authentic connections you make. The next time you have the opportunity to network, keep these thoughts in mind:

  • Be authentic by slowing down and holding a genuine conversation with someone. Don’t be the business owner who shoves your business card into everyone’s hand, grabs a free drink, and leaves. 
  • Be authentic by expressing interest in people for who they are and what they’re interested in, not just what they do. Most people relish talking about what brings joy in their lives. Find out what that is.
  • Be authentic by kindly offering to help clean up after the event while everyone else heads home.  This kindness will be remembered.

3. Follow Up

All this networking is just the beginning. Make yourself stand out by following up with your new connections. Consider these follow-up tips:

  • Follow up requires a system. You know those business cards you collected? Make note of where you met the person and something interesting you discussed.
  • Follow up also requires you to connect again. Within the next day, send an email or card. Perhaps you could invite the person to coffee to continue the conversation? Put a check or an “X” on their business card indicating you followed up.
  • Follow up could entail a thoughtful gift, like the great new book on networking (or whatever you might have discussed) you mentioned. Or it could be the newspaper clipping about their latest business venture, so they have an extra copy.

These are just a few thoughts on marketing your business through networking. A book I enjoy on this subject is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.

What are your networking tips for small business owners?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.