141. How To Build Your Referral Network ft. Michelle Ellis

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One of the first things I did as a health coach was get out there and build a referral network. I cannot recommend this enough, guys, because when social media becomes unreliable, you’ll always have your referral network to fall back on as you build and grow your health coaching business. 

In this episode, I am talking to Michelle Ellis about how to build your referral network with tips and advice from our own experiences so you can get off the struggle bus and start helping clients get healthy! We’re covering everything from building a referral network in your local community to pitching your services to local businesses because we want everyone to stop struggling and start building a profitable health coaching business

Connect with Michelle:

Michelle’s website: https://michelleellisco.showit.site/#/
Michelle’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theorganiccopywriter/ 


Rachel: Hey there, guys, you’re back on the Healthy Hustle podcast. And I have my good friend Michelle here who’s also a copywriter and a health coach. She specializes in copy now, but I love to bring her on, because she can give that assisted perspective of what it’s to start your health coaching business. 

So I’ve been talking to a lot of coaches who are feeling they’re on the struggle bus on their social media, maybe the algorithms are not playing nice. I know they’re not playing nice for me. So one thing that I did when I first started coaching was to get out there and build a referral network. A coach was asking me the other day when I made a social media post about this about building your referral network and how to do it. She said, can you just give me some extra tips for building this because I’m on the struggle bus. 

So Michelle, let’s get everyone off the struggle bus because that is a pain in the ass. And it’s not good for getting clients to make changes in the world, and building a profitable health coaching business. So let’s talk about a few ways that you did when you were coaching to build your referral network?

How To Build Your Referral Network Offline

Michelle: The first thing that I did was get connected locally. Online, even though it was cool and fun and everything, it felt a beast at the time. I just felt  okay, that’s going to be something that I’m going to do simultaneously. But I also have all these local connections that I don’t want to lose sight of. 

So I got connected specifically with the grocery stores that I was shopping at. Wild By Nature, Whole Foods, and some other local venues that were mom and pop stores. They didn’t have a name, but they had a name in the community. There was only one of them on all of Long Island, but they would allow you to go in and leave your brochures, leave your business cards, connect with them. 

At the time I really was one of very few on Long Island health coaches, which was really nice. And there were a lot of naturopathic doctors and acupuncturists and chiropractors, one of those cork boards that you can put something up and those were great. 

Even also some online things that they did. So I would go and say, Okay, I would to do a workshop. Can I do a workshop on this topic? Would this be helpful for the people that come here? I could give them a grocery list of things they would buy in your store? 

Rachel: I think those mom and pop shops are looking for education. I know at the place that I used to go La Leche League was in the back breastfeeding their babies, and they had a whole bunch of venues that.

Michelle: Yeah. It was really cool because they would do monthly newsletters and real fliers. So it’d be online, but it would also be on fliers that they would pass out themselves of what’s happening this month. On these workshops my name was alongside doctors and stuff. So I thought it was the coolest thing ever. 

Funnily enough, there were people who came to the workshop, a doctor, we exchanged business cards, and he was like, Look, I can definitely refer to you, you can refer to me. We each had our own scope and we complimented each other. So that was really great. They also just did a lot of the marketing. I did things, but they had their Facebook event on their business page. They had certain things that. 

Something else that I did that’s probably worth mentioning is Groupon. I got the detox on Groupon, I set it at a higher price and then you had to discount it. So I did that. It went out to people and I got people to join in. It was kind of cool because they push those sales and they push those specials out. I know that Groupon is still around. 

But things that are still happening are just great ways to really capitalize on an existing network without having to build one from the start right off. So I was building my own network. But in the meantime, I was using networks that were already available to me that I didn’t have to build by the 1000s I already had access to. So that was really helpful both online and offline because I did that in mom groups too. So there was a group of 30,000 moms, so I would do it there.

Rachel: I love that. I love going to grocery stores. I totally forgot about that because I would go to grocery stores, I would put up my card out, put up my flier and speak to them about doing a workshop or a grocery store, or shopping tour and make it really similar and make it a win-win. 

When I was approaching them I would say I really love shopping here. This is what I can do for you, I can also promote you. So there was that cross promotion. I did that also with a local juice place that I ended up doing a recipe book that had raw ice cream Minette. So I did a recipe book can charge for the raw ice cream presentation, which was really the ebook. 

So looking at doing local things and look into local vendors. So one, definitely make a list of 20 people in your local area that you want to approach. These can be chiropractors, gyms, spas, grocery shopping places, or anywhere that is a local venue that you can go and approach with a workshop. Do you have anything else you want to add to number one?

Michelle: Yeah. Think about the people you can get connected with that you usually were already connected with. Because we’re living that lifestyle. We have our holistic doctors and our list of places to go to and water therapy, and all these cool places already go to and we already shop at. So why not go and drop a business card and just have a conversation. That’s all it really takes. 

Rachel: Take time out of your weekend or during the week to find out when the owners are there or the general managers, then go and introduce yourself. I used to take two hours out and just go to these little different hubs of Florida Del Rey, Boca Raton and meet people and vendors. It’s such a great way to build your referral network and get a list of people who are referring to you. So let’s go on to number two, which is networking groups. 

What Networking Groups To Consider For Your Referral Network

Michelle: Definitely working with networks that are already existing on Facebook was a really big one for me. I was really serving moms, helping them lose weight was a really big one for me, because I had done it at that time, three times. Now twice. I had done it twice at that time. Now I’ve had four kids, but I was always a big gainer during pregnancy, no matter what, I gained.

Rachel: I gained no joke, 60 pounds.

Michelle: Yeah. Each time, no matter what I tried. I think the last one I was maybe 45 pounds. But it was always over what they say. I’ve always lost it within six months or less. And so for me, I went right, that route first. Okay, detox, weight loss, then digestion and things I added in my workshops for digestion. But for the most part, I focused a lot on weight loss with the mom groups. 

I felt that was an immediate result that most moms wanted. Especially a lot of them who just had children looking for ways to lose weight right after and feel really good about themselves. So I went right to the admin of the group first and foremost, and asked  Hey, can I upload this file, which was my freebie? Can I upload this file here? It’s free. 

Rachel: And your information inside the book?

Michelle: Yeah, and they let me do that. So it was really nice because that helped me connect with people that I’m still connected to today on Facebook, which is so funny. It’s just great and they loved it. Then they would reach out and ask do you have something longer? Do you have something for this? What do you recommend for this? And then they just started coming to me and asking questions in private messages.

Rachel: Well, you did it in the file section, because then it stays there for a long time. 

Michelle: Yeah, honestly, it’s probably still in there. I’m still in the mom group, for sure. Butthe group has just grown. So that was one big group for me that I did specifically and then specialty groups.

So groups for IBS groups and things that. Which were my other focus people who were looking for it naturally. I would just go in there, not advertised, but go in there post a picture with myself or something I was doing, holding, if it was a certain type of product or whatever I was looking at. I would just say, Hey I’ve been struggling with this for X amount of years. I decided to look into this further, I became a health coach. This is what I’m doing and I’m just blown away, by natural remedies and everything. 

Then people would just start commenting, rather than me going in there and saying, Yeah, I got this cool thing so it would just really create interest and then people would just naturally engage which is still the algorithm breaker today. You know, because Facebook loves that, the more engagement that you can get naturally and organically, the better your posts are gonna work anyway. 

Rachel: Well, and it’s the opposite, which is creating your own Facebook group. I know that that really built my networking, and to get very specific on your group name, having a goal, I can’t say enough this specific on a group name, because there are things I still to this day. It’s why I talk about YouTube a lot. I will go to YouTube to research that something. But I’m on Facebook a lot. If I type in something, I pull up a group. So I think networking in your own group, maybe starting with a challenge?

How To Start With A Challenge To Engage Interest

Michelle: Yeah, I think I did a holiday muffin top blast off thing. And it did really well. There were 50-something people that came in. I didn’t really even advertise it much at all organically and even do paid ads or anything. But I just posted about it a lot. Hey, I’m doing this thing. And I didn’t realize how many people would actually join because it was kind of a spur of the moment thing that I decided to do. I was really doing it also for myself if I was just being honest. 

Yeah, I’m a health coach, but I also ate a lot for Thanksgiving and we’re gonna do this together and people joined and they had great results. It was a three-day detox and it worked really great. I would post pictures of what I was doing. I did it in my own groups and that kind of started one of my groups, because I did a pop-up group for that and was really focused on that only. So it had  massive engagement during that whole entire time. Then I went and turn that in into a different group. Yeah, so it just helped.

Rachel: Yeah, I built so many groups until I finally started just having one main group. Yeah, I liked it specific when it was a pop up. I think those groups are great. I think as long as you can have them with a call to action, sign up for an offer, for a place that you’re still nurturing them, that’s where I would do these pop-up groups. And then I realized it was better just to do in my own group, create that engagement, but have a certain, specific challenge that we were doing or video teaching series, something that could create engagement, give them value. Have me show up get to know people and vice versa.

Michelle: Yeah, absolutely. Running multiple groups is very hard to do. But you can also archive them too. So if you do do it, now you can archive them, but it’s great to have to do that now,. Things have changed so much on Facebook to have that hub of your own Facebook group run the events in there. 

Rachel: Yeah, can you really just drive people there. It’s also great you do paid ads, you teach a lot about paid ads. It’s also a cheap way to get people on your list and to drive to your Facebook group.

Michelle: Absolutely. Yeah, that’s honestly one of the best things that you can do. Because then you get to deliver, you get to nurture in there and build those relationships and those connections and also people feel safer. Sharing their health issues, their problems.Nobody really wants to share how much weight they want to lose in a comment. It’s not typical. But if you’re in a group, they feel comfortable sharing talking about digestive issues, hormonal issues. Nobody wants to really talk about libido or acne or whatever, in a comment. So taking them to that safe space in that community is definitely the best thing to do.

Rachel: Well, and then there’s networking groups that you can look at offline such as going to toastmasters, or I know that I joined a few groups. They had a breakfast twice a month, I joined another woman’s group. They met and you got to feature yourself and stand up. Trust me. I was so nervous when I did that. Because I hate speaking in public. It’s probably one of them. I love zoom and the online world.  But all these different platforms. You can meet people, your people. 

Michelle: Yeah, exactly. I’ve gotten better..

Let Local People Know What You Do

Rachel: But if you are looking in your area, look for local places that you can join. Meeting people face to face can really prove to be a great connector. So think of those two groups that you want to join so that you can build your authority. I know that even my neighbors who knew what I did, were people that word of mouth was huge.

 So let people know what you do. Make sure that it’s not that sales pitch, but make sure that you can do it in your quick elevator pitch. This is my name. This is what I struggled with. I now a health coach and I work with people who struggle with ABC so they don’t have XYZ or so they can achieve XYZ. So make it to street, then let’s go on to Chamber of Commerce.

Michelle: Yeah. Which is really cool because you can register locally. Something else that I did too was I also registered locally with not just Chamber of Commerce, but also local papers. There was specifically one called Dance Paper in the Hamptons that I got into, and I reached out to them. So I had a higher caliber, basically, of an audience that was just people who were into health in that area that were invested in health in that area. 

They were frequently going to those types of natural grocery stores and looking for natural doctors. So it was my target audience. Doing that locally allowed me to be advertised for you, then you’re listed in there. People really do support local businesses. They shop locally. 

Rachel: The chamber of commerce is always doing these local events where again, you’re meeting these other vendors, you’re meeting people who are local businesses. They are really a great referral from a doctor or chiropractor or get to know the local spa, or some of these really cool places that people hang out for their health. 

How To Start Pitching Your Services To Local Businesses

Which brings us to the last one, which I love. So you have your list of 20 people already because you wrote them down. You definitely paused this episode, and you wrote them down right away. If you didn’t, you’re gonna pause it now and you’re gonna write them down. So I want you to think of these people, as business owners, just yourself, this could be the chiropractor, this could be a doctor, this could be a juice place.

There’s so many different really cool venues out there that are looking for people to do blogs or newsletters. So approaching them and asking if you can do a blog or newsletter is similar to pitching a workshop, but it’s definitely less commitment. 

So if they’re not ready to do a workshop, you can say, Hey, can I post a blog on your website, give them a nice picture of yourself, a nice bio, and have a free gift at the bottom of the blog. If they allow you that free gift, you can go and build your list. It’s the same thing with your newsletter. You can send a newsletter to them about a topic that of course applies to your niche or your sub niche, something that they would be interested in or something that would benefit their customers. You can do a newsletter again, giving a free gift at the bottom that they allow you to build your list. And if not just give that free gift as a file or an upload and give to their readers. But of course, you can still build your list by putting your information in the freebie. 

Do you have any other suggestions for how to pitch and make it smooth sailing?

Michelle: Yeah, I remember first getting into Mind Body Green, which was a great place. 

Rachel: I didn’t even think about building your network by doing Thrive or Mind Body Green. 

Michelle: Yeah. Those are great. I remember in MindBody green, I think the article that was accepted for me was, how I quit smoking naturally and what I did to support my body after. Which, I am still smoke free. So it’s been 10 plus years. But I shared that story. 

I shared it from the health coach’s perspective of how I could support my body in the process, because it was a whole nicotine withdrawal. They allowed me to have my bio, which led people right back to my website, which was great, because that’s where I housed my freebies, and my opt ins and things that and whatever was going on in events. 

I would have the event page with the calendar, if I was doing something local, and plus my programs were there. So it was really great to try to just get into those places. Honestly, all it really took was pitching to them. So you look for the person who accepts blogs, so they all have their own email address. But they typically go to a certain editor or a certain team that accepts those submissions. And then you email them, sometimes it’s submissions, but you just look for that underneath the contact. 

You would just say, “Hey, I’ve been a reader of MindBody Green (or whichever blogging platform) for X amount of years and I love these articles. I would love to contribute. I’m a health coach. This is what I specialize in.” List and hyperlink some examples. Even if they’re on your own blog I’ve written on this topic, this topic and this topic. I could definitely write on this, this and this for you and benefit your readers. 

Rachel: I’ve been health coach for X amount of years. Here’s some samples of what I’ve written. Would you be open? But I think getting a relationship first. I mean, that’s why I love the networking groups or I love that outreach when you’re going face to face, or even calling somebody to build that rapport first and to see how you can support each other. And then of course, pitch.

Michell: Yep, absolutely, definitely the relationship is key. Honestly, all of those businesses, the chiropractors and acupuncturists, they’re all looking for content for their website as well. They don’t want to be the one writing it all the time. So it’s always good to reach out and do guest blogging.

Rachel: Wow, this was a jam packed episode. I hope you get off the struggle bus with this. Social media can feel exhausting and there are times that I sit there and I just feel no inspiration. So in those times, or maybe you just haven’t nailed your message right or any of the things that contribute to social media. 

It’s about building those relationships. I had an amazing relationship with a gym locally, where I did workshops, got clients, one on one business, and also ran programs. Another great relationship was at a suite where I did workshops constantly for them. I would do newsletter takeovers and blogs. I had a yoga studio as well, a lot of places that really loved you coming in educating their clients on what’s better. 

So remember your 20 places, write them down, make sure that you’re reaching out to them and build that referral network. All right, Michelle, you have anything else you want to say?

Michelle: Yeah, just really just keep going at it. Don’t give up and sometimes it takes reaching out even more than once. So if you didn’t get the response you’re looking for, especially if you’re trying to build that referral base, just go back. Sometimes people are just busy and it might not be the best time so just whatever you do, keep doing it and keep at it. 

Rachel: Keep doing it. That’s gonna be the mantra for this week. Keep doing it, guys. All right, have a great one. Peace out and I’ll see you on the flip side. Bye, guys.

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