You might think it’s important to try to network with everyone, but quality is more important than quantity. Pick your community wisely, and nourish those relationships. After all, it really only takes a few good connections to get many clients.
Building relationships is vital in private practice. Not only do these relationships turn into referrals, but relationships also turn into connections that support you in your journey to your long-term goals. It’s important to be authentic and genuine with the relationships that you build! Think about your community and your niche and what kind of relationships you find easy to form. If you’re in the right niche, chances are that you’re passionate about the work that you do, and gravitate toward others who feel the same way. Forming these relationships will be so rewarding to you that it won’t feel like work.
In order to nourish the relationships that you’ve built, remember to follow-up. Many professionals meet one another at meetings and networking events, but the follow-up part is key to forming a lasting relationship. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Take a professional out for coffee or lunch. Rotate through your connections, and spend as much time on this as it makes sense to you. Consider these meetings as part of your job. Make it affordable, so you can pay the bill if you’ve asked the other person out. This is just common courtesy, and makes the other person feel appreciated.
Send business cards in the mail and ask for cards back. Sending a short note with cards is just a friendly reminder that you’re here for their clients if they need to refer. And providing cards to referral sources means that they have something they can hand out to potential clients. Ask for their cards back so that you’re as equally prepared.
Write an email (and/or a written thank you) after meeting with someone. This gesture will not go unnoticed! It’s so rare to get actual mail anymore, that it’s sometimes nicer to send a printed card.
Communicate through their preferred communication medium. Does someone prefer talking on the phone, using email, text, or fax? Keep a note about which method, and follow up using that method! The easier it is to communicate to say “hi”, the more likely your relationship will grow.
Give out holiday gifts. It’s a nice gesture to say happy holidays once a year. A bottle of wine or a box of chocolates is always appreciated. If you’d rather stay away from material gestures, you could always donate to a charity in someone else’s name. If you can’t afford to spend a lot of money, an annual holiday card is also a great idea. However, remember that there are many holidays to consider in December!