How To Grow Your Online Business By Joining Civic Organizations
You want freedom.
You want to escape your day job.
You want to control your own schedule.
You wouldn’t have found your way to this website if those things weren’t true. (And I’m glad you’re here! I started my first business for those exact reasons, and I created this website to teach you how to do it too.)
One of the biggest ways I’ve gotten clients is by joining local civic organizations, like Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lions Club. But when I teach this to people they say “Ben, I thought the goal was more freedom! I don’t want to join an organization because I don’t want someone else to control a part of my time.”
I totally get it. It seems like an enormous commitment to say “Yep, I’ll be there every Wednesday at noon…” or whatever it is.
You’d get fired if you came to work late too many days in a row. Yet it’s still hard to get there every morning! So voluntarily showing up to a civic organization on a fixed schedule… it’s too easy to make excuses to back out.
I understand, yet I still think joining organizations is one of the absolute best things you can do to launch your digital agency. And in this article I’m going to show you how.
Why you should join a civic organization
I bet you’re still skeptical, so here are the top 3 reasons why I’m such a huge believer in leveraging civic organizations to grow your business.
It makes you more productive
You’ve probably heard of Parkinson’s law before: “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”
What this means is- if you set aside an entire day to complete a task that normally takes an hour… it’ll take all day.
This has happened to me a million times. I sit down at home, I get all settled in for a productive work session… and life happens. The phone rings. I remember a chore I need to do. A distraction pops up.
Pretty soon it’s 4:00. I finally buckle down and get to work. I still met my goal and got the task done on time, but there was a lot of wasted time.
So here’s the solution that has been a game changer for me: I sign up for a lunch with a civic organization.
Now instead of needing to get my tasks done by the end of the day, I need to get them done by noon. So when the phone rings or a distraction pops up, I can block it out and stay focused.
This has been one of my biggest secrets to success. It lets me get twice as much done in a day. And it has also helped me create a lot more free time. Instead of slowly chipping away throughout an entire workday, I can hammer out a ton of important work in the morning. Then I take the afternoon off and have fun with my family.
I love the freedom and flexibility I get from running an online business. I’ll never go back to a desk job.
But that’s not to say it’s perfect. There are actually some big challenges.
When you run a business out of your home, or from coffee shops, it can be really isolating. It’s easy to start going a little bonkers when you don’t have regular human interaction and there’s no reason to get dressed in the morning.
It’s important to remember that the reason we started our business in the first place is to improve the quality of our life. And a huge aspect of that is having fun and building meaningful relationships.
That’s exactly what you’ll find in a civic organization. Spending quality time with like-minded people will make your life better. And it will give you energy to keep pushing your business forward.
In my own business, my goal is to get in front of 20 new prospects every week. This might sound like a huge chore, but when I couple this with going to lunches with local clubs, it makes it fun and easy to make my number.
It makes it easy to serve
Of course you want to grow your business to make a lot of money. Money unlocks a lot of doors in life.
But I know money isn’t your only motivation. You want to make a difference. You want to leave your mark.
That’s what business is all about. I firmly believe that before we receive value (in the form of dollars) we need to provide value. And when you get good at serving other people, solving their problems, and making their lives better… money will never be a problem again.
Joining civic organizations is an amazing way to build your “service muscle.” The more you volunteer, the more you’ll start seeing opportunities to be of service, and the more you’ll build your capacity for being a servant.
With local clubs, all the organization is done for you. You don’t need to find ways to pitch in and help out. All you have to do is show up and the opportunities are already set up for you.
How to get the most out of your civic organization
There’s a very specific formula for getting the most out of the organization you join. Here is what has always worked best for me:
Step 1: Ask to tag along to an upcoming meeting
Almost every town in America has a Rotary Club, Lions Club, or Kiwanis. Your town might have others as well, but these are the best places to start.
They each have their own flavor, and their own causes they support. Read about each of them and see which speaks to you.
Once you’ve picked out the organization you want to join, go to the international website and look up your local chapter. You’ll probably find two things: the contact information for someone at your local club, and a button for you to join.
This is critical: DON’T JOIN!
The whole point is to form relationships. So I want you to call or email the contact person and ask them if you can tag along to an upcoming meeting.
If you were to sign up online, you’d have to show up by yourself and probably stand awkwardly in the corner. But by reaching out to the contact person, you’ll go to your first event as their guest. This means they’ll introduce you to everyone. You’ll be the center of attention.
It’s a simple tactic, but I can’t overstate how important and powerful this is.
Step 2: Start going on a regular basis
Your membership is an investment, not a transaction.
What I mean is, don’t think you’re going to sign up and instantly get clients. It’s not a direct exchange.
You need to show up repeatedly, build relationships, and give back. If you do, I guarantee you’ll be surprised by how many clients you get. And you’ll have fun in the process.
You’re going to learn quickly that people think your digital agency is cool.
The vast majority of local businesses struggle with internet marketing. They know it’s incredibly powerful, but they don’t know where to start.
They can barely wrap their heads around posting on facebook regularly. To them, running Facebook ads, building landing pages, growing email lists, creating sales funnels… these things are like magic.
So all you have to do is introduce yourself. They’ll ask what you do. Tell them you run a digital agency and nine times out of ten they’ll say “Whoa! I’d love to get more clients with Facebook. Do you think digital marketing would work for my industry?”
You don’t need to be pushy about your services. Just show up and introduce yourself and I promise people will ask questions that will naturally open the door for you to talk about your business.
The key is just committing to showing up regularly so you can build those friendships and create those opportunities.
Step 3: Offer to help
After you join your organization, ask, “How can I be more involved? What are some problems you have? What can I help with on a weekly basis?”
When people see you supporting the club, they’ll do everything they can to support you in return. (Even though there were several chiropractors in my club, people always referred my office because I was the most involved.)
But there’s another benefit too: EVERY civic organization needs help with digital marketing. They’ll ask you for help managing their social media, or growing their list, or being more visible in the community. These are all things that are easy for you to do but make a huge impact for them.
And when people see you doing it for the club, they’ll think, “Well I could probably get them to help in my business too.” It’s a great way to help out, but it’s also a secret way to demonstrate what you’re good at.
The funny thing is, we understand what a huge world digital marketing is. There are so many skills and niches under that one umbrella. But for most people it’s all just “that internet stuff.”
So when someone sees you do one thing well in the realm of digital marketing they assume you do everything well in digital marketing. If there’s anything even remotely related to growing your business with social media, they’re going to refer you.
Another great way to get involved is to offer to speak. I talked in this article about how you can offer to teach a class for the Chamber of Commerce if a weekly speaker cancels. I’ve gotten enough clients to sustain an online business from this one tactic alone.
Don’t let these common excuses stop you…
Now you know why and how to join a civic organization. But I know there are still a few common objections that are going to stop you from picking up the phone or sending that email. I want to kill these excuses so they don’t prevent you from growing your business.
“But what if I have a day job?”
People often tell me, “I still have a day job, and I can’t get time off to make it to the lunch meetings.”
I totally understand. But keep in mind, so does everyone else in these organizations. So if they can take off a lunch break, so can you.
Here’s how to do it: ask your boss if you can go to the lunch and represent the business. Tell him/her that you’ll talk about the company.
It is 100% fine to represent your current employer and your digital agency at the same time: “Hi, I’m Ben. I’m a chiropractor at Poplar Bluff Chiropractic, and I also run my own digital agency that helps small businesses with internet marketing.”
I’ve never heard of a boss saying no to this. It’s free publicity for them so they will always let you.
“I’m an introvert!”
It can be really daunting thinking “I need to go to a meeting and try to close clients. I need to bring my A-game and make a good pitch for my business.”
My advice: don’t!
Remember that your mission isn’t to make pitches and close sales. It’s simply to build relationships. (After all, building relationships and providing value to people is the easiest way to make sales.)
You will definitely find clients in your civic organization. (We’ll talk about how in just a moment.) But more importantly, people are going to refer you.
The other members of the group are the influencers in your community. They’re the ones who are running businesses. They’re rubbing elbows with everyone in town. They have the biggest networks, and they’re involved with the most activities.
You don’t want to be a salesperson and try to close these people. You want to be their friend so they tell others, “Oh, you need help with digital marketing? You should talk to my friend Ben.”
This should take all of the pressure out of going to meetups. Don’t think of it as a business event. Think of it as a social event where the goal is to have a good time and be of service to others.
Business will be the inevitable byproduct.
“I want to get clients outside my town.”
People tell me all the time, “I provide a service to dentists. I don’t want to work with the 5 dentists in my town. I want to work with the 200,000 dentists across the whole country!”
Of course, it’s tempting to take your service nationwide and not be limited to fishing in a small pond.
But here’s the thing: you absolutely CAN get all the clients you need from a single civic organization. I’ve seen people do it all the time.
Even if you want to go nationwide, getting your first few clients locally can create your initial revenue stream. Then you can reinvest in facebook ads, running webinars, or other client-generating activities.
And once you get plugged into your local group, you can also leverage branches in other locations. For example, if you take your family on vacation, send an email to the local club of your organization and ask if you can join one of their lunch meetings.
I promise they’ll welcome you with open arms. And just like that you will have doubled your network, and created evangelists who will refer your business in a new city or state.
This is huge for digital agencies. It doesn’t make sense for a doctor or lawyer to build their network in another state. But as digital agency owners, we can leverage in-person contacts anywhere in the world.
The best time to start…
You’ve probably heard the saying, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Like a tree, it takes a little while for relationships to grow. (Not as long as you think, but still it doesn’t happen overnight.)
So don’t wait to join a civic organization. Don’t tell yourself “I have to get my website finished before I go to an event.” Or “What’s the point of joining if I don’t have my domain yet?”
Join today. Start building those relationships now, and when you’re ready to start signing up clients you’ll already have a ton of prospects.
To make it easy for you, here are links where you can find your local chapter of the following organizations:
All of these clubs do amazing work. I’d love it if you left a comment below and told us what organization you’re going to join and why.
And of course if you have any questions, leave those below as well and I’ll do my best to answer.
Now go send that email, go grow your business, and go serve!
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