Why Connecting in Real Life Is So Important
If like many small businesses, you’ve been neglecting the opportunity to take your online connections into the real world, the time has arrived. We’re going to explore three ways you can connect with your clients in real life to help drive traffic to your shop.
Be active in your community
As a successful member of your community; investing and giving back is the perfect way to support those who’ve helped get your shop off the ground. You’ll be able to foster deeper connections and feel the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing good for the community.
On the business side of things, becoming active in your local neighborhood has many tangible benefits for your shop:
1. Partnering with a charity to sponsor a community event is excellent exposure for your shop, on top of that, potential clients love being able to choose you knowing it’s helping a cause they care about.
2. Making donations to charities and non-profits can be great for publicity. Often these organizations are happy to recognize their donors on their websites, social media, and during future fundraisers. Plus, it feels fantastic.
3. You can offer your services at a local event (ex. free haircuts)
4. Special events: donate a portion of your shop sales to a charity on a particular day that has significance to the cause or your community.
5. Support a kid’s sports team for the season.
Each of these ideas will get your face out into the community, demonstrate your expertise, build trust and who knows, you might just meet potential clients looking to book an appointment. More importantly, you’ll be making a positive impact on your neighborhood; you really can’t ask for much more.
I’ll leave you with one incredible example of giving back found within the barbering community.
View this post on Instagram
View this post on Instagram
Photo credit: @daniel_heroculture
The Street Thug Barbers were founded in 2015 by Cameron Sterling, Josh Malcolm and a former partner after realizing the impact their human connection through haircutting was making.
These three men, later joined by Farzad Salehi, along with a rotating group of volunteers from around the world head to Vancouver BC’s Downtown Eastside every Sunday giving free haircuts to people in need. To date, they’ve given over 7,000 haircuts!
This group of barbers has been changing lives and inspiring a community by giving their time every week. They use their skills to connect with a group of people who often feel as though they’re invisible.
How can you make a positive impact in your community?
Take your Instagram connections offline
It would be unrealistic of me to expect you to divert your efforts away from Instagram and focus solely on offline marketing. I understand the lure of likes and follows and the anticipation of your growing popularity. However, you hold the power to develop real-world connections through Instagram; you just need to know how to use them.
So, if you’re going to dedicate precious time to connecting online, you need to be resourceful.
With a new goal of driving the community you’re building offline, and into your shop, you’ll need a fresh approach. To stack your Instagram community full of potential clients, raving fans and industry insiders, you’ll need to engage daily with credibility:
There’s one major caveat here: to effectively participate in a conversation your comments shouldn’t just be emojis or one-word responses. Your goal is to provide support, valuable information and gracefully handle feedback, so you need to contribute thoughtfully.
Sharing here is about your content (i.e., Instagram posts, stories). It’s important to mix up your content, so it varies between educational, inspirational, motivational, and entertaining. Try to keep the number of sales related posts to a minimum; you’re aiming to provide information and value to your community first.
3. Like & Follow:
Seek out others in your community that inspire you, are supportive and have high engagement. Social media is all about the give and take, staying “social” if you will – when you’re only a taker it will show quickly, and building trust will be difficult.
Once you’ve mastered engagement, it’s time to start hitting up people’s DM’s. As I mentioned before, even if you’re doing everything right on Instagram, social media has reached its saturation point. You need to execute a plan to move these online connections offline and begin building in-person relationships.
It may seem uncomfortable at first to send direct messages to potential clients, but it’s all in the approach! Remember, you’re not trying to sell, but instead, you’re providing value.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Use the first contact as an introduction to your business; thank this person for following & supporting you. Let them know you’d be happy to answer any questions they have about you or your services.
2. Invite them to an upcoming event at your shop
3. Invite contacts within your industry for a coffee to talk about challenges, forthcoming events, possible collaborations
Ultimately you want to provide your ideal client with valuable information, build their trust and then move the relationship offline.
Step out of your comfort zone
Raise your hand if you love networking 👋. If the thought of being with a group of strangers makes your palms sweat and mouth dry up, don’t worry you’re in the majority. But let’s face facts, it remains one of the best ways to forge connections for yourself and your shop.
How effective is networking? Well, here are 5 reasons that will have you checking Meetup for the next event near you:
1. It helps you understand the ins and outs of your business
Networking is a fantastic way to learn more about the lifestyle you’re already living and breathing. It gives you the opportunity to understand the industry better and hear about the challenges faced by others who are in it.
2. It can provide new opportunities
We’re all well aware that people recommend the folks they like. When you get yourself out there and start talking to and interacting with others in your industry, you might just find yourself in front of a contact that could help you land your dream opportunity.
3. You build a community of advisors, friends, and experts
What do you do when you have a business related question? Or how about a marketing dilemma? I know that Google is good for a lot of things, but you just can’t beat having a group of business advisors and friends with a diverse set of life skills you can turn too when you’re unsure. That’s what networking will help you build.
4. It’s a great way to increase your word-of-mouth referrals
Most of the communities we work within are pretty tight-knit. If a friend asks for a referral, do you send them to someone you follow online for an appointment or the person you can vouch for because you know them in real life? That’s what I thought.
Referrals are invaluable; they come built-in with an extra layer of trust and help you move one step closer to a booked appointment with a client.
5. You’ll become a better communicator
Getting out there and introducing yourself and your shop to strangers teaches you the most effective way to get your message across. This will help you tighten up your angle across all channels – online and off. Nailing down your introduction might seem impossible right now, but after a bit of practice, it’ll become second nature. You won’t even remember why it ever seemed intimidating.
As entrepreneurs in creative industries, it’s important to remember that there are opportunities to network all around you. If you still feel too uncomfortable talking yourself up at a “traditional” networking event, choose community events (like an art gallery opening) or find organizations that matter to you (your favorite charity gala) and see when they’re holding a get-together.
For less formal networking, check out apps like Meetup and see what type of groups are getting together in your area – if you can’t find one that interests you, start your own.
It’s never too early — or too late — to invest in your network and start building offline connections. The best way to improve your networking skills is to put yourself out there and give it a go.
It’s time to evolve with the changing digital landscape
Well, there you have it, three straightforward ways to facilitate real-life connections that will help increase the number of booked appointments at your shop.
As the digital landscape shifts again you’ll need to take your online connections offline to remain competitive, what changes will you make to stay connected?
Let us know in the comments we’d love to hear from you.