Have you ever experienced the joy of a vibrant professional networking community? There’s nothing quite like the connection, learning, and development that comes from immersing yourself among people with a shared mission and vision for their work.
While we used to experience a professional network at a yearly conference, if we were lucky, the digital age has brought a ton of new ways to network with others in our fields. Some of these methods are informal, like the rise of LinkedIn and the wonderful possibilities it brings for career progression. But many professional networks are looking for a more structured place to belong, and they’re building membership communities around a professional network. And they work! We’ve seen successful professional networks thrive, whether they’re made up of nurses, veterinarians, finance professionals, or something else.
In this article, we’ll give you 9 steps you can take to add 1,000 members to your professional network in the next 60 days. While it’s a daunting task, you might be surprised at how quickly your professional network grows!
1. Start with your existing network
This might be a bit too obvious, but it has to be the place to start. If you are active in an industry or field, there's a pretty good chance you know a bunch of people who might be perfect members for your professional network. While it can be a bit awkward to invite people directly, especially if there is a cost involved, if you focus on the value they will get and give them an easy out, you should be fine.
You could send a message like this:
I hope you're doing well! I wanted to let you know I'm part of a group creating a professional network community of small business accountants. We'll be running monthly professional development seminars, product demos for new accounting software, and the chance to meet and learn from peers. We've got a goal to help accountants 2x their revenue within a year. No pressure, but if you're interested it's $39.95 a month to join, and the link is below. Hope to maybe see you there, and either way, have a great week!
This type of message focuses on the value the community brings and makes it clear that there's absolutely no pressure to join. It's a great way to invite people already in your personal network, without feeling gross about it.
While the personal networks of you and your founding members might not be enough to take you to 1,000, they can give you a solid base of support to build on as you tackle the more scalable options below.
2. Capture word of mouth
The second 1:1 growth method with powerful potential is harnessing the word-of-mouth advertising of your existing members. Whether you have a formal referral bonus or not, you might be surprised to find that many members will tell others about your professional network if you just ask them! If you are focusing on providing value to your early adopters and building hype, it's very likely they will be willing to invite friends.
But don’t wait for them to do it. Ask them to! Encourage them to invite friends, and show them the process (in Mighty Pro communities this simply means sharing an invite link).
3. Channel email
If you do happen to have an existing brand with an email list, make sure it's a part of promoting your professional network. In addition to announcing the membership via email, you could also use your email list to run a promotion for a set number of days–in email marketing we’d call this a “launch sequence.” Pretty much any email software will give you the ability to set this up and automate it ahead of time.
Don’t forget to add a deadline of some sort! You’ll you will find that people respond best with a time constraint, and many of your signups via a launch sequence will come from the final emails (e.g "last chance to save 50%!”).
4. Use professional associations
If your professional network isn't already the national or regional professional association for your industry, is there a way that you can link up with the relevant one? Many associations have large membership rolls, and if your professional network is relevant to them, you might be able to advertise it in a magazine or newsletter or even get listed on their website.
5. Tap LinkedIn networks
While having a formal professional community will pay dividends, there are a lot of less formal communities on LinkedIn. LinkedIn groups are often gathered together around a shared theme or interest. You may even run a group already. But a LinkedIn group is a frustrating place to run any type of professional community, as you know if you’ve tried it. The algorithms don’t reward material posted in groups, so your members will almost never see it. Many people in a LinkedIn group are looking for better places to belong.
Inviting members from LinkedIn groups to a more structured professional network is a great growth strategy. If you run the group in question, it might be as as simple as posting an invite to your community within the group. But since the algorithm sucks for group posts, you can also "recommend post to group members." LinkedIn lets you do this once a week. This will share your announcement with your group members as a direct message. Alternately, you could individually message your members.
If you don't own the network, you'll need to tread more carefully. But it doesn't mean you can't publicize in groups run by others. Your best bet is to start with any groups that you are already active in. If the group doesn't commonly have announcements, it's a good practice to check with the group administrator to see if it's okay to share. If you are able to “tag” some relevant people in your post–do that. It will help the algorithm show it to more people.
6. Use "influencer" marketing
You might cringe at the term "influencer," but the idea is pretty simple. Influencer marketing means tapping into the name recognition of someone with an online following to promote your brand. It's probably not going to be Kylie Jenner or Gary Vee you need for your professional network. Instead, look for thought leaders in your space who are respected and have a following–especially “micro-influencers” with followings of less than 50,000. Sometimes they will be willing to promote relevant things, even just retweeting or sharing to their network. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you have a budget, you might also opt to hire to speak, maybe running a webinar or other event (more on this below). It's a value proposition that a lot of brands have used to launch their recognition to the stratosphere.
7. Run an event
We touched on this above, but there is really nothing like running an event to launch a community and gain new members. Something like a virtual conference gives you the opportunity to add a ton of value, networking opportunities, and educational content. Mix this with a few guest speakers who have some name recognition in your industry, and you've got the recipe for an amazing event.
If you choose to, you can charge for tickets to the event, and offer an upsell into your community at the end, making it a natural growth process.
This could look something like this:
*The Digital Marketing Whisperers virtual summit is happening this week! It will bring together top names in digital marketing from companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, sharing their knowledge and helping you bring your clients HUGE growth, fast. Learn to scale your digital agency 10X over the next year. *
Bronze level: $75 = 1 admission + 1 month of membership in the Digital Marketing Whisperers community.
Silver level: $175= 1 admission + access to recordings of all the sessions + 6 months membership in the Digital Marketing Whisperers community.
Gold level: $375= 1 admission ticket + virtual lunch with the speakers + access to recordings of all the sessions + 12 months membership in the Digital Marketing Whisperers community.
8. Host a webinar
Webinars are the internet's favorite marketing tool and for good reason. They're easy to set up and organize, you can use the registration process to build an email list, and you can establish yourself as an industry leader in a short period of time. Webinars can be used to create value, and the video format quickly builds trust with an audience. Some people also choose to use a pre-recorded webinar format. By publicizing it, or even paying to advertise a registration call on Facebook or YouTube, an on-demand webinar can become a powerful lead generation machine. You can automate virtually the whole process, from an initial sign-up to the final special offer to join your professional network.
A webinar, especially a pre-recorded, advertised one, isn't everyone's cup of tea. But if it fits with the brand you're trying to build, it's a powerful way to get in front of people and build trust. Make sure you provide a ton of actionable value in it, and don’t just sell. With a call to action at the end that invites them to join your professional community, it can be a way to grow quick.
9. Offer a free trial
Last, but definitely not least, you can offer a free trial to your professional network. This can be combined with any of the above strategies.
The advantage to a free trial is that you can quickly get people in your community without paying anything, letting them see the value that your brand is giving before they commit to buying. Mixing it with any of the options above is a surefire way to get a bunch of people into your professional network fast.
But we should add a caveat here. Free trials come with big downsides, including less engagement (people don't value what they haven't paid for), and the risk to your community cohesion that a revolving door of members can pose. Use free trials carefully, keep the trial periods fairly short, and watch closely to make sure it doesn't negatively impact your community spirit. Once you hit your growth targets, you may even choose to end the free trial. It depends what’s working for you and your brand.