If I’m not getting clients from my service club, should I quit?

Q & A by C.J. HaydenReaders often ask about the kind of results they should expect from joining a service club, such as Rotary, Lions, or Kiwanis. If you go to meetings regularly, exchange cards with people, follow up with other members after meetings, keep in touch with them, and still don’t get any clients from there, is it worthwhile being a member?

One of the points I make in GET CLIENTS NOW! is not to give up too soon on any one marketing technique. Most tactics take persistence and consistency to pay off, and if you only try them for a short time, you won’t get the same benefits as using them over and over. But if you have been using a tactic consistently for six months and aren’t seeing results, it’s definitely time to ask yourself why.

In this situation, I would suggest that the problem isn’t with networking as a tactic, but with service clubs as a venue. Organizations such as Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, etc., are not established for the purpose of building more business for their members, but for doing service in the community. So in order to get business from being a member of an organization like this, you have to treat it as a place to meet new people, build relationships, and create affinity with like-minded individuals, not as a place to find clients.

It might be easier to sort this out if you imagined the possibility of building your business by going to church. I would propose that getting clients is not the primary reason you would decide to go to church. But if you are active in your church, you will meet new people, build relationships, and create affinity with like-minded individuals. This activity ultimately translates to clients in a number of different ways:

o As you meet people, you usually tell them what you do for a living. In conversation with people at church events, you sometimes talk about your work. People get to know what you do, and if they need that service or know someone who does, they think of you first.

o Over time, you get acquainted with people you would like to know better, and interact with them outside church. Sometimes these interactions are social; other times they are business-related. If you meet someone at church who is in a position to hire you or refer you business, it would be completely appropriate to suggest having coffee to explore these possibilities. The two of you already have something in common and a level of trust, so you will often find people quite open to speaking with you.

o If you take on a volunteer or leadership role in church activities, you become more visible, and often have a chance to speak at meetings, appear in the newsletter, and interact directly with more people. Your profession is often mentioned in these contexts, and the entire membership may get to know who you are and what you do, leading to referrals and clients.

Many independent professionals have found that their church community is one of their best sources of clients… but getting business is not why they go to church!

You would never go to a church function to pass out business cards, nor cold call church members out of the directory to pitch business. You wouldn’t sit in a church service looking around the pews for likely business prospects. When you are at church, you would be focused on why you are there, and so would everyone else. But because you have something powerful in common with the other church members, affinity would develop, and business would likely result.

If you are in alignment with the mission and goals of your service club, and would eagerly participate in its activities even if you weren’t looking for business, it can be a great place for you to network. If you really don’t care much about the club’s mission, but are there simply to find clients and build referrals, it’s unlikely you will find much affinity with other club members.

You should instead spend your networking time at a leads club, Chamber of Commerce, or another group that has the stated purpose of building business for its members. You’ll be much more likely to find the affinity that leads to clients in an evironment where all of you are there for similar reasons.

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