Have you considered business networking to grow your private practice?
Now, if you're sucking on your teeth and about to click away, stop! I understand your misgivings! As an introvert that'd sooner stick pins in my eyes than endure small talk so trust me, I understand.
But networking in your local area can be a great boost for you both on a personal and a business level.
Let's take a look at 10 reasons why networking is perfect for your therapy business.
1. It raises your profile.
In a market where there are so many counsellors, networking is a great way to be seen and remembered. You'll become real, not just some tiny photo on an online directory.
They'll experience your warmth, your knowledge, your expertise and your humour.
You'll be remembered. You'll stand out.
2. It de-mystifies counselling
Has this ever happened to you: you're at a party chatting away and they ask what you do. 'I'm a counsellor' you reply, and they look slightly terrified and start shuffling their feet and can't maintain eye contact.
Maybe it's just me..?
But joking aside, many people don't really know what we do. They think we'll psychoanalyze them, or we're stuffy know-it-alls, or are judging them, or can see into their mind...
When the truth is we're pretty normal people that want to help other normal people that are struggling with life. Obviously. But it might not be obvious to them.
Being around people and letting them know you're warm, kind, compassionate, funny and normal (whatever that is!) makes you a whole lot more approachable.
This is actually such an issue for us as counsellors I started the #TherapyRebrand movement to help us tackle it. Take a look at the free webinar below for lots of ideas how to raise the public profile of counselling.
3. Explain the benefits of counselling.
When you are networking you have the chance to talk about the benefits people experience after working with you.
They know that people go to counselling because they are experiencing difficulties or have a mental illness, but they may not be aware of how beneficial, how positive and how life changing it can be.
You can tell them how people feel after counselling, that clients feel less stressed, have more energy, have stopped needing antidepressants, have made peace with their past, have started to like themselves, have better communication, can stand up for themselves, have an improved libido etc.
Realated post: Features Vs Benefits: A Therapists Guide
Which takes the focus off the depressing, negative association - people go to counselling as a last resort because they can't cope - and makes it positive - people go to counselling because they want to have a more positive and content life.
Enjoy your networking! Remember:
- Networking is about building long-lasting, trusted relationships. It is NOT about selling.
- Always follow-up
- Circulate, don’t get stuck in your comfort zone
- Always have plenty of business cards/flyers – wherever you are
- Have fun!
The services you provide are of a highly personal nature, so trust is vital.
Speaking to people will give them the chance to get to know you, and how you talk about your practice.
Their intuition will let them know that you're genuine and can be trusted.
You could also talk about the strict confidentiality rules we adhere to.
You may very occasionally have the people that you meet at business networking meetings come to you for counselling, but the purpose of networking isn't to get clients from the room. It's to get referrals.
It's a good idea to do your homework before you go. Often, there's a list available of the people attending so take a look and see if there is anyone in particular that might be a good fit for you and make sure you introduce yourself and have a chat.
It's important to remember that networking is about building relationships NOT selling so don't try to push your business at them. Introduce yourself, ask about them, be friendly.
Don’t expect to leave a meeting with a full diary, it simply isn't about that. It can take 4 – 7 contacts before referrals might be given - maybe more - so you need to be in for the long game, but you will forge important relationships with other local business people.
Related post: Harness The Power Of Word Of Mouth Marketing
6. Making contacts
Business networking is a fantastic opportunity to meet local people that may prove very useful to you – a printer, an IT expert, an accountant etc.
You'll get the chance to meet, connect and make contacts will all sorts of people.
And as business networking is all about referrals and helping each other out you'll meet some great people, and feel confident about sending people to them.
People who are new to networking are often daunted by the prospect of approaching strangers and starting a dialogue.
What they should not do is march up to people and start selling, they should resist the temptation to start talking about themselves and their business.
Instead, a far more effective approach is to walk up to people in a friendly (non-threatening) way and ask them about themselves, their business, their journey even.
By asking about their business, it puts them at their ease and then when its your turn you can tailor your own pitch accordingly.
7. Cost effective
Often, networking groups can be very low cost. In Lincoln there are a couple of breakfast meetings that are only £5, which includes a bacon butty!
Some cost considerably more, but offer more in return.
With some, you have to be a member and some just go when you want. There are many options.
There are networking groups to suit everyone and at every time of day. There are breakfast meetings that start about 7am, lunchtime networking meetings which include lunch and of course, some in the evening.
Do some research in your area, and find one that feels right for you and fits in with client commitments.
I'm usually seeing clients in the evening so the breakfast ones fit best for me. Yes, the 7am start is a bit of a jaw dropper, but it's worth it.
Networking groups very often have a training element where local businesses give a talk.
These can be really useful and I’ve experienced lots of advice about marketing, local events, cyber safety, changes in legislation, journaling for business…the list goes on.
Also, you could give a talk about your business – sometimes you do it for free, sometimes you have to pay, but its very cost effective promotion of your business and the services you provide.
Networking groups give you the chance to form collaborations with other businesses. You may find someone that would be perfect to put together a workshop with, or share office space, or advertising space.
11. It's fun!
Isn't business networking all about men in suits and uncomfortable handshakes?
It can be, but it most certainly doesn't have to be! Take a look at Jackie's networking group 12:30 The Womans Company , it's business networking but with a large sprinkle of fun! (be sure to read her tips and grab her helpful PDF above)
Being a counsellor can be intense and isolating. I was invited to speak at the BACP student conference Feb 2017 on how self care for counsellors is an ethical consideration, and did a lot of research on burnout.
It's vital that both personally and professionally we achieve balance in our lives. and networking can help with that.
Networking gets you out there to make connections and friendships – and have a laugh!
What about my 'elevator pitch'?
At many (but not all) networking groups you're required to do a 60 second 'elevator pitch'.
What's an elevator pitch?
Well imagine you are in a lift with someone important and you want to let them know all about your business in a very short space of time. What would you say?
So it's telling others in a very succinct way what your business is all about - and I mean the benefits a client experiences after counselling rather than that boring 'I see people with depression, anxiety, stress blah yawn'.
If that sounds scary - well it can be the first time, but so are many things! EVERYONE is nervous to start with, so give yourself a break! Feel the fear and do it anyway, that's what I say!
It can be made a huge amount LESS scary if you plan what to say in advance, write it down and then time yourself saying it - yes, out loud!
It's a strict 60 seconds, so when your time is up you stop talking even if you haven't finished so timing yourself both helps your confidence and ensures you don't miss that important last bit.
Networking groups know it can feel daunting the first time you visit, and many have a dedicated person to take you under their wing and show you the ropes.
So give it a go, what have you got to lose?
If you want more help with your networking, I cover it in the Grow Your Private Practice Book.
The book has three sections:
Do you want to get started quickly and on a budget? In the quickstart section, I show you how to get started when you don't know where to start - website not required.
Do you have a nagging fear that you're not good enough and feel like a fraud? Take a look at the section on mindset, and see how being in private practice really helps your personal development.
Does the thought of being visible make you feel awkward? Relax, I'll show you how to attract clients in a way that feels right for you, no selling yourself required.
Just click the link below.