Your best yet most underused asset as a wellness professional may be your network of clients and professional colleagues.
Try these five new ways to capitalize on your network:
1) Ask network contacts to display your marketing materials.
Think creatively about who the most helpful contacts could be. For example, if you specialize in stress management workshops for new moms, think about all the people in your network that are likely to encounter lots of new moms. Managers and staff for Babies-R-Us and other retailers that specialize in baby products? Or for mall stores like Pea In The Pod? How about pediatricians? Midwives and doulas? Lactation advisors?
It may not be appropriate or realistic to put your materials right next to the cash register – so think creatively about other spots that might be even better. For example, countertop displays of flyers in the restrooms can be an excellent spot, without the distractions of the check-out counter. Perhaps your services have a natural affinity with certain products…so that’s where your materials really should be displayed. For example, if you’re a massage therapist and one of your network contacts manages a boutique, perhaps your flyers or business cards could be displayed next to soaps and bath oils.
Remember to restock the display of materials and update it periodically with new materials. Don’t want to wear out your own shoe leather? This is a great opportunity to get your older kids and their friends to drop off materials…usually for the cost of an extra-large pizza with everything on it.
2) Invite network contacts to sponsor or fund events you’re hosting.
First, decide who in your network is a good match for your event. Don’t approach everyone in your network indiscriminately – choose the best fit. For example, a chiropractor who’s a network contact might be interested in working with your massage business to jointly sponsor workshops on managing lower back pain. A natural foods store might match well with a nutritionist or dietitian.
Now, it’s certainly possible that a contact may contribute cash in exchange for a named sponsorship. But don’t stop there. For example, if you need a place to hold meetings, perhaps someone in your network can make a conference room or vacant office available. Or they may be willing to allow you to use their office equipment – say, a high-speed color copier – or their vendor discounts, particularly if your project has a charitable component.
3) Work with your network contacts to publish information about your business.
For example, people who belong to industry associations may be able to help you publish an article by recommending you to the right people. Perhaps they can suggest a feature on your business in an upcoming issue. Or they may be able to help you get a brief mention of your company placed in a newsletter or blog.
Often overlooked: 1) think about the people in your network who have received media attention. Pick their brains on how they did it and who they know. They may have media relationships that you can tap into if you have an intriguing story idea that would interest their audience. And 2) remember that your professional advisors – accountants and attorneys, for example – are also part of your network. Ask them who they think does a great job of getting media exposure for their business. Perhaps they can arrange an introduction so that you can pick their brains, as well.
4) When you get a key referral, invite your network contact to attend the introductory meeting.
One of the most powerful things a colleague can do when they make a referral to you is actually participate in setting up the introductory meeting and even attending if possible.
At a minimum, phone calls to both of you and/or an e-mail to both of you making a joint introduction is much more helpful than simply giving you the referral’s contact info and leaving it in your hands to make the call.
5) Ask network contacts to follow up with people they’ve referred to you.
Two reasons: first, they may get feedback that’s likelier to be honest about the referral’s reaction to your initial meeting. If the referral’s reaction isn’t what you hoped it would be, it’s better to know than not know. And you want as much insight as possible into what you could better next time.
Second, your network contact may be able to address questions or reassure the referral about concerns. For example, if you’re a dietitian your network contact may be able to reassure a prospective client that you’re going to be encouraging, not critical, about their eating habits based on what they heard from other people they referred to you.