Successful Aesthetics Practice Networking
- Posted on: Mar 12 2014
Successful Aesthetics Practice Networking
Cheryl Whitman, Founder and CEO, beautiful forever
Introduction – What is Networking?
Networking is one of the more effective practice or business marketing tools, because it is in-your-face personal, and because it creates human bonds that will lead to trust – and more business.
By definition, “networking” involves developing contacts and exchanging information with other people. Unlike social interactions intended to develop personal friendships, networking is done for purposes of developing business. To be successful, your networking must be genuine and authentic. It must build trust. At its core, networking builds a reciprocal relationship – it is all about how you can help others, as well about as how others can help you.
Why should you spend your time networking?
There are a number of excellent reasons for networking, but they all add up to building your business, thereby generating additional profitable revenue. Some of the specific reasons include:
- Growing your marketing database
- Becoming known by “those who count” in target niche markets
- Increasing the number of referrals prospective patients
- Building profitable relationships
- Increasing product and service sales
- Enhancing your brand
- Building your reputation, leading to favorable word-of-mouth
Traditionally, networking has involved meeting people face to face at chamber of commerce meetings, civic clubs and other social/business events. Technology has expanded your networking opportunities – today, you can effectively network via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and other social networking sites.
Social networking is no longer merely helpful. It has become essential to aesthetic business and practice success. However, nothing can replace the impact of positive human interactions. Face to face meetings rapport and connect individuals in ways that social networking cannot.
Master networking – Where do I begin?
Because of its importance in practice building, mastering the networking process is a low-cost and high-impact way of growing your aesthetics business. Create what is known in the trade as an “elevator pitch” – a brief introduction to you and to your practice or aesthetics business. In less than 30 seconds, your elevator pitch must make your listener want to learn more about you. Find ways to differentiate yourself from others in your field. Give specifics about what you do. If you have are in a niche market with special skills and talents, mention that. Be memorable.
Because your elevator pitch is your door-opener, practice it on staff, family members or friends, and keep working on it until you’re comfortable with it.
Physician-to-patient referrals remain among the strongest and most effective referrals. Focus first on nurturing your relationship with professionals who currently refer to you, then expand your network by meeting and attracting other professionals into your referral network.
When networking, start with phone calls and professional-to-professional handwritten notes, followed up with emails. Build toward asking for relationship-building face-to-face meetings in times and places convenient for the other professional.
Once you’ve established your professional referral network, become comfortable asking network members to introduce you to prospects. Done right, asking for these introductions will not be seen as being pushy, over-aggressive or inappropriate. As with the “elevator pitch,” practice asking for referrals on staff, family members or friends, and keep practicing until you’re comfortable with the process.
This same approach can be followed as you include others into your network of potential referral sources. These should include non-medical health-related professionals (chiropractors, podiatrists, etc.), aesthetics-related business owners, salon and spa owners and others who are in a position to make qualified referrals.
As consultants beautiful forever can assist with promoting you to the community and to get involved locally by arranging professional introductions to local businesses and physician practices.
Our team is also available to accompany you to meetings to help guide you with assisting in creating discussion points or to create a custom power point presentation and flyer type hand out targeted to a specific location.
The best places to network are professional society events where you’ll meet individuals just like you, people who work in your field and share common interests and knowledge. These are great places to meet potential collaborators.
However there are other places that also work in reaching out to prospects and referral sources, including:
- Corporate health fair
- Charity wine tastings
- Hospital or healthcare fund-raising events
- Gallery openings
- Classical music concerts
When you are ready to reach out beyond your professional society to network with other potential members of your network, start locally. Patients will come from a geographic area – generally within five to 10 miles of your office.
Many civic and business groups offer an online member listing with profiles; review this list to see if the organization is a good fit before investing time and resources. Civic, cultural and business groups often meet once a month – generally around a meal – while others hold mixers. Groups will often allow you to attend meetings or events as a guest, at least at first.
In selecting networking groups, ask yourself a few questions about the group’s ability to help you network successfully, such as:
- Does this group put you in contact with strategic partners?
- Does it attract your potential customer?
- Does it offer training in new skills that will help you find new business?
Only focus on groups that fulfill the screening criteria you selected. Then, when you’re ready to start networking, visit as many of those groups as possible, and look for other criteria, such as:
- Does the group have a comfortable (to you) tone and attitude?
- Do you feel welcome – could you see yourself actually being productive in this group meeting?
- Are the members seem supportive of one another?
- Does the group seem to have competent leadership?
When evaluating formal networking groups, visit appropriate groups few times before joining. Arrive at the meeting early and stay late. While there, participate – that’s what networking is all about. Even though you’re there to help grow your business, don’t come across as someone who is only self-involved. Become known as a helpful and respected resource. Once you commit to the group, if possible, consider hosting a meeting – having prospects or referral sources in your office can be a big plus.
Also consider if you might be able to provide a program yourself, or sponsor a speaker. Should people give you referrals, follow through quickly and efficiently, and do so with the utmost respect and professionalism, and keep your referral source in the loop. Remember that your actions are a reflection on your referral source.
When and How to Network
Leisure Time – Networking during leisure activities works well for professionals – office hours have other priorities. Golf, tennis and other activities can create a potential bond that leads to referrals.
Volunteering – Pick a rewarding cause then take a leadership position that will help you stay visible. It’s an example of doing well by doing good.
Alumni Events – There is a not-unreasonable expectation that alumni will help one another. So, if your alumni association meets locally, you have a ready-made connection.
Women Only Groups – Some women’s networking groups are long-established, while others are fairly new; some are online only, while others hold in-person events or offer one-on-one mentoring.
Airport/Airplane – Don’t underestimate the value of using this “down time” in a plane or at a gate effectively.
Civic organization – Civic organizations with a purpose you can support are great places to build relationships with others, and to help the community at the same time.
Internet Business Networking Websites – In the 21st Century, this may be the most obvious networking tool of all. Social networking sites are open 24/7, and they make it fairly easy to locate people with similar interests. Online ties can be weaker than in-person relationships, but they are a place to start.
Blogging – Your goal by networking online is to become seen by target audiences as a “subject matter expert” or “thought leader” – someone who people turn to with confidence in areas of your expertise. This requires a two-phased program – creating and posting “content” (blogs, video blogs, case studies, white papers, white-board videos, webinars, eBooks, etc.) and then using the social media to generate “conversation” that promotes the content while positioning you as an expert. Most professionals find that the time involved makes professional “ghost writers” to create the “content” – and the “conversation” that promotes it effectively to your target audiences.
Social media sites useful in promoting aesthetics practices and businesses include:
LinkedIn – Whatever your business objectives, LinkedIn will help you to build a network of useful contacts. People are on LinkedIn with the sole purpose of connecting for business reasons. LinkedIn’s subject-matter groups represent an effective way to position yourself as a subject matter expert, and to invite people to view your blogs and other content.
Facebook and Twitter – These interactive conversational sites are more places to connect with consumers – patients and prospects – than with professional referral sources.
Pinterest – This is a relatively new and fast-growing social media site that is more visually-oriented, and therefore better for posting before-and-after case study material.
Create and Nurture Network Relationships
People are not truly part of your network until you have created a perceived relationship with them. Within 24 hours of meeting someone in person, follow up with them via phone, email, text or some other means of communications. Then continue to nurture this new relationship with information (emails, text), invitations (have them join you on social media sites) and in other ways to help grow that relationship. This is where the conversational side of social media can prove helpful.
Making it Personal – Set Up a Meeting
If a prospective network member seems likely to be able to provide valuable referrals, make that relationship personal by scheduling a follow-up meeting. Pick a neutral meeting location (i.e., not your office, or theirs) that is convenient for the other party – a restaurant or coffee shop usually works. Don’t be late, and be sure to pay the bill – after all, you’re the host.
These initial meetings should not be just about work, nor should they be just about you. Focus on interpersonal subjects that will help to build this new relationship, and talk about things that you both find interesting. Be sure to pay close attention to their body language. If that the other person seems to be losing interest, change the topic.
This first meeting – as well as follow up meetings – is one of the keys to successful networking. If this person is worth courting for your referral network, you’ll have to plan on more meetings. Networking relationships take time to build.
Conclusion – Networking Pays Off
With time and effort, networking will materially grow your business. Plan on growing your business by developing a workable blend of social networking and face-to-face networking. Consider the rewards of a solid new referral source, and be prepared to put in the time and resources necessary to nurture that referral source as a member of your network.