Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from www.thewellpractice.com. We want to hear about your experiences in practice building. Please contact Robert McWilliams at [email protected].
When the tumbleweeds start blowing through your practice and you’re wondering how best to let people know you exist, my top recommendation is to get cozy with your fellow local wellness providers. I know networking can seem like a dirty – or at least unappealing – word, but there’s no better way to fan the embers of your practice than to get to know – and get known in – your community.
Seek out the wellness “rock stars” in your community by showing up where they are (e.g., yoga studio, health food store), and listening carefully to the names that keep coming up. Likewise, if someone is telling the amazing story of his practitioner, make a mental note. Local papers can also be helpful, but I tend to look more for articles than ads. “Best of” editions usually come out annually and they can be a great way to see who is getting acknowledged for their work in your town.
Trust me, once you connect to one person, the floodgates will open and you’ll have a long list of names that will give you a pretty good idea of who’s rocking it in your town. There are so many people doing amazing work, it’s in your best interest to find out who they are in your community and then – please – think of them and treat them as colleagues, not as competitors.
To acquaint yourself with the fine art of networking, here’s my list of “Dos and Don’ts” and a ”Why Bother” for how best to connect:
Learn About Them Before You Introduce Yourself
We live in a digital world. This is easily done. A little Googling is all you need to get a sense of who they are, what their practices are all about, what they’re interested in and value. Once you’ve gotten input, dive in! Read their web sites and bios, and if they have a blog or newsletter, read it and subscribe. Follow the digital breadcrumbs and really get a feel for who they are. This should be enough to get a sense of if and how you want to reach out to them.
For example, when I first found an amazing Pilates teacher in my town, her blog mentioned that she’d be heading to San Francisco to do a Pink Ribbon program. In my first email to her, I acknowledged this and told her I thought it was a wonderful thing to be a part of. It was a simple thing to do, and I wasn’t blowing smoke. We have since become fast friends, and I’ve rediscovered my love for Pilates. Don’t miss out on great relationships by being too shy (or lazy) to make a relevant first connection.
Ask Yourself the Question: “What Can I Do for Them?”
This is my prime piece of advice in developing networking relationships. Just take this one thing to heart, and you’ll do beautifully. Because we’re out there networking we usually approach people because we hope they’ll do something for us, namely send us clients. If the true question in your mind is, “What can I do for them so they’ll do something for me?” it will turn people off and send them running. Everyone can smell an ”I’ll scratch your back” vibe coming a mile away and it’s, well, gross.
Follow Through with What You Can Do for Them
The answer to the question “what can I do for them” will take a myriad of forms depending on whom it is you’re approaching. This means that you have to follow rule number one and get to know a bit about practitioners before contacting them. Once you’ve met, you’ll surely come across other things in conversation that you can do for them. Finding these things simply requires staying tuned in.
Two quick examples: I met a local nutritionist, and she was talking about how she recommends to her clients that they keep food journals. I had recently discovered www.Gyminee.com, which is a great free tool for food and fitness logging, so I passed that on. Another practitioner, a local massage therapist, mentioned how frustrated he was with the stool in his office, because he couldn’t adjust the height. We structural integrators happen to know about the magic of adjustable Rolfing® benches, so I passed that on. Are these mind-blowing contributions to their lives? No. But doing this kind of thing demonstrates that I want to be a helpful resource, rather than a leech.
Continually Follow Through on What You Can Do for Them
Stay in touch without becoming a stalker. If they have something that is continually updated, whether it’s a blog, a Facebook profile, or Twitter, stay up to date. If three months from now one of your contacts tweets that he is thinking about doing a renovation of his wellness center, send him the info on that great contractor you know. The occasional invitation out for coffee can work just fine too. You get the idea. . . .
Let Go of All Attachment to Getting Something from Them
Seriously. They don’t owe you. Just be a resource out of the desire to contribute and leave it at that. Connect with wonderful people who are doing amazing work and then treat them well. That’s all. Build a relationship, and the rest will follow.
Blanket Your Town’s Health-care Offices with a Form Letter
Don’t send a form letter introducing yourself to every wellness provider, doctor, and physical therapist in your town. In a day and age when you can make a relevant connection to someone by spending a little time with Google, form letters are insulting junk mail to the people who receive them and a waste of time and paper.
Ask for Anything in Your First Meeting
Re-read “What can I do for them?” above.
Ever ask for them to refer to you
Nope. Never, never, ever. If someone wants to refer to you, that will happen naturally. If someone doesn’t want to refer to you (or doesn’t have the opportunity), then he won’t and that’s ok. Really. Re-read “let go of all attachment” above.
Why bother spending time developing relationships with other practitioners when what you really need to be doing is developing relationships with clients? Because this is your connection to clients. Becoming a well-regarded member of your town’s wellness community puts you on people’s radars, establishes your credibility and authority, and makes you the kind of person people really, truly, genuinely want to refer to – without you ever having to ask.
Brooke Thomas is a Rolfing practitioner with practices in Brooklyn, New York and New Haven, Connecticut. She’s also the founder of The Well Practice – “the marketing phobe’s guide to growing a thriving wellness practice.” At www.thewellpractice.com you can download her free e-book Practice Building 101: The I-Don’t-Have-to-Feel-Like-An-Icky-Car-Salesman-Guide to Growing a Thriving Wellness Practice and read more practice-building tips on her blog. Brooke is currently writing about how she’s kicking off her third practice from scratch –both the successes and the wipeouts.How to Succeed at Networking Practice Building[:]