Beverly Hosford by Beverly Hosford
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Everyone knows that word-of-mouth marketing is the best way to obtain quality referrals. Plus, it’s cost effective. Consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a personal recommendation than they are from seeing a random billboard or poster.

Your clients might network for you by telling others that they use your services. If they don’t, it’s pretty simple to let your clients know that you have openings in your schedule and are looking for more clients like them. Generating strong word-of-mouth business by building relationships and networking, however, takes considerably more effort, but is usually well worth it.

Referral Networks

Building relationships with massage therapists, nutritionists, medical doctors, chiropractors and other health practitioners can help build a strong foundation source of referrals. Businesses that help people stay healthy through an approach that is complementary to yours are excellent candidates for collaboration.  

You can attend networking events, but they won’t get you results unless you go the extra mile. If it were easy to build a strong referral network, everyone would do it. Carefully choosing like-minded professionals is one secret for success. Another is ensuring you meet the standard of quality that you seek in others. You might be just what others are looking for, as well. You never know when you’ll meet a potential new client or referral source, so be ready.

Five Traits to Practice and Look for in Others

Trait #1: First Impressions

From business cards to your attire and what you say, positive first impressions are essential. In real estate, it’s called “curbside appeal.” The appearance of the outside of a house can make or break the first impression. Once a judgment is made, it can set the tone for the best or worst.

People formulate their opinions within 30 seconds of meeting you, so being well spoken and clear about what you do for a living makes a big difference when meeting new people. This comes from practice.

Trait #2: Be Both Personal and Professional

Be both personal and professional. When people are paying for a service and disclosing private information, they want trust and connection. Aim to strike a balance between being confident and knowledgeable, but also easy to talk to.

It’s easier to be yourself and stay current on knowledge when you’re doing something you enjoy for a living. Find a niche within the fitness industry that interests you and brings out your best self. Seek out other practitioners who enjoy what they do as well.

Trait #3: Capability

Be honest about the results you can help someone achieve, and don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Increasing strength, balance and mobility are reasonable claims. Telling people you’re supportive and motivating and will keep them accountable is also fair.

Steer clear of others who promise to fix every problem or have a magic pill. It leads to disappointment and can be harmful if someone is operating outside his or her scope of practice or expertise.

Trait #4: Accountability

Don’t waste time with people who seem overly busy, rushed and burned out. Follow through is a trait worth waiting for and happens when people have their priorities straight. People who keep their word are also responsible and reliable and typically have good time-management skills.

Keep your promises, prioritize responsibilities (like building a referral network) and eliminate energy drains from your life.

Trait #5: Communication

A good team player recognizes the importance of communication and takes the time to cultivate it as a strong skill. Everyone wants to be heard and likes being asked thoughtful questions.

Learn to be present with people, observe non-verbal cues and ask clarifying questions. Surround yourself with others who have these skills as well.

Ways to Break the Ice

When you meet someone with whom you want to refer services, make the first move. Just ask. Invite the person to coffee or for a phone chat about exchanging referrals. Say, “I think you’d be a good referral for my clients. Would you be interested to explore this possibility? I’d like to learn more about you and your work.” If you seem like a good fit after that, exchange services to experience each other’s work.

When someone says no (it will happen), or doesn’t have time, keep moving forward. You’ll find people who are a good fit and it will be well worth the time and effort you’ve put in.

Collaboration Ideas

*Exchange business cards and keep them in sight at work.

*Host a collaborative workshop and invite both sets of clients.

*Offer a complementary consultation to one another's clients.

*Produce a newsletter together for both of your audiences.

The more time you spend crafting your appeal as a practitioner, the stronger your referral network will become, which will go a long way toward helping you create a successful and thriving business.

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