Warren Buffett has the ukulele. Jay Leno has antique cars. Richard Branson has kitesurfing.
Most successful people have some kind of recreational hobby – a passion for a musical instrument, a unique collection or a devotion to a certain sports team. (Go Jayhawks!)
Leisure activities have proven benefits, including a positive effect on blood pressure and stress levels. But what if your hobby could also lead to a bigger book of business?
That’s exactly what happened for Breandan Filbert, the founder and managing partner of SalezWORKS, a business training and consulting company. Filbert started a monthly networking-on-horseback group in 2001 with others who shared her love of all things equine.
Filbert can directly tie her “most significant business” today to relationships she formed in that networking group throughout the years – and she’s not alone.
Helen Gulgun Bukulmez, a personal injury and immigration attorney in Kentucky, founded Hiking Lawyers in 2008 when she began meeting other lawyers, judges, clerks and legal staff who shared her passion for the outdoors.
“Initially, it was a laughable idea: hiking lawyers,” Bukulmez said. “Over time, other colleagues saw how hiking provided us with the balance, health and networking we all want in our lives and began joining us.”
A decade later, the group now touts more than 1,000 attorneys across the country and around the world, who frequently share ideas, recommendations and expertise with one another. Shared interests can provide a common denominator, but Bukulmez said business development opportunities come from actively building relationships and offering value.
How can you turn your hobby into a marketing method? Filbert shared her process:
- Understand the people in your network. Take time to know their interests – and what their business needs might be. Social media profiles can be very informative.
- Look for common ground. Actively cultivate connections who share your passion. Include it on your social media profiles, and share it (when appropriate) in business meetings. (If your contacts don’t share your interests, they might know someone who does.) That added connection will allow you to build affinity and trust.
- Create social engagement opportunities. Bringing people together outside of the workplace is key to nurturing these relationships. Filbert mentioned a well-known financial advisor who invites a mixture of current and potential clients on “extreme” hunting trips. By the end of the excursions, he has connected with prospects over a shared experience, transforming many of them into clients.
- Transition to a professional level. Between innings or axe tosses, engage your fellow hobbyists in business conversation. Invite them for a meeting to learn how you can help each other.
As Filbert said, the only thing setting you apart from the competition is your ability to forge a stronger bond. The more you share with a client or prospect, the better your chances for referrals and leads. (And you might just have fun doing it.)