Networking is the key to building word-of-mouth promotion. A network is a group of interconnected or cooperating individuals who develop and share contacts, information and support. You can network informally by sharing resources with the people you contact, or formally by joining a networking group. The most successful networkers are those who actively support others in making connections. Networking is a perfect example of the adage, "The more you give, the more you receive."
- Role models and mentors
- People who share knowledge
- Experts whose services you utilize and can refer to others
- People who keep you informed of events and opportunities
- Those who are genuinely concerned about you, listen to you and support you
- People who actively refer potential clients to you
- Centers of influence
Purchase a professional address book, computer contact program or card filing system to keep track of your contacts. Include all pertinent information on each person and keep it current. When you collect business cards, always get at least three: one to file by name, one to file by business or occupation and one to give away.
Once you have the tools, you can begin developing your network. See "Building an Effective Network."
Work Your Network
Become visible in your community by attending business, civic and social events, and joining professional and networking associations. Take seminars and classes. Attend various types of functions so you can widen the scope of people you meet.
Whenever you meet someone, write down a few notes about him or her:
- where and when you met,
- who introduced you,
- what their line of business is,
- what their interests are and
- what types of resources they have.
Networking Group Checklist
1. Assess Your Needs and Goals
Identify the types of support you need between now and your first year in practice. Determine the types of groups that could help you meet those need (through their members and programs).
2. Research Potential Groups
Depending on the size of your town, there could be thousands of networking groups. Gather key information: the group's purpose (mission statement); when it meets, duration and location; dues and fees; how many total members and active members; number of massage therapists; types of businesses and professions represented.
3. Attend at Least Two Meetings
Before joining a group, make sure it's aligned with your needs and philosophy. See if you share any common interests and goals with the members. Ask yourself if you want to socialize with these people and are comfortable referring them business
Think about the other people you know to see if it would be beneficial for them to meet each other. Even if you cannot make any connections right away, you may do so in the future. You never know when a contact will come in handy.
Follow up on leads and information with a phone call or note. Take the initiative. Always thank people who help you (by giving you their time, support, advice, leads or contacts), even if you do not use their help or if the leads don't work out. When you are given a recommendation to utilize someone's services, tell the person who referred you. When you give referrals, make note of who you referred to whom. Find out if the referral was successful. The most fundamental element in effective networking is to follow through on your commitments.
>>For more tips and advice on networking, see Issue 4's Online Resources.
Choosing a Networking Group
Several types of networking groups are useful for massage therapists, from monthly social clubs, to community groups such your local chamber of commerce, to weekly "needs and leads" business associations. Participate in functions where you meet people with whom you can develop mutually beneficial relationships.