You know that one of the best ways to grow your practice is to create a strong network of professionals that you trust, who trust you and who will send you referrals.

You want to do that, but don’t want to feel like a spammy salesperson handing out your business cards to whoever will take them.

Maybe you tried networking but quickly became dejected because it “didn’t work”.

I’ve collected advice from some of the top therapists in private practice, ones that have been networking successfully for years.

Here are the top three mistakes they see people make and how they fixed them to stand out in a crowded market and grow their referral base. My hope with sharing them here is to inspire you to give networking another go or to try a new approach.

Mistake #1: Showing Up Like Everyone Else

Just like most other areas of running a practice, establishing a niche or area of specialty can help you in your networking efforts. It makes you stand out, it makes you interesting, it makes you memorable.

“Be unique… Many therapists will network by saying that they work with men, women, adults, children, depression, anxiety, etc. In other words, they can work with everyone and everything… it’s clinicians who establish a specialty or niche who stand out at networking events.”
David Klow – http://www.SkyLightCounselingCenter.com

Sure, it may be counter intuitive to exclude people and narrow your target market but that’s exactly what will help grow your network. Even if you’re speaking with people who don’t need help in the area that you provide, they are more likely to connect you with others in their network who do.

I decide to spend time getting to know other professionals in my local community when I sense they are like me… an outgoing person who has a passion for what they are doing. I look for people who are offering something unique that would benefit my clients.

Liz Morrison – http://www.LizMorrisonTherapy.com

Mistake #2: Not Being Persistent

We’re all busy. We all have tons of new things vying for our attention every day.

If there is someone you genuinely feel you should connect with, someone who you can help and someone who can help you then you have to go out of your way.

Show initiative, follow up and be persistent.

Don’t just send a single email or LinkedIn message and then forget about them.

Also, find a way to make it work into their schedule.

I prefer that people reach out by email to set up a time to meet for coffee. It is tremendously helpful if they are willing to come to my office and meet with me there between clients. This allows us more time to get to know one another rather than having to rush out to a coffee shop between sessions.

David Klow – http://www.SkyLightCounselingCenter.com

Yes, this might sound like a lot of extra effort, and time to invest. But think it through… If you could build one quality relationship with the right person, how many potential clients might they send to you over the life of that relationship? It doesn’t take many of those connections to build a very full practice.

Making a first impression in person can go a long way in determining whether or not someone will be added to my networking list. If I feel that they are going out of their way to engage with me, there is a higher chance I would make a referral to them in the future.

Liz Morrison – http://www.LizMorrisonTherapy.com

Mistake #3: Thinking Mainly About You

Show your community that you aren’t just out for yourself. You’re looking to build real connections with real people. Those relationships are a give and take just like any other.

Find ways to become valuable to the members of your network.

Some ideas are
● Volunteer your time to serve on local associations
● Share the “treasures” you find – when you hear about new policy form updates or changes to legislation
● Take people out to lunch
● Make referrals out as often as you can
● Thank others when they send you a referral, even if it ends up not being a good fit
● Do community service – such as free lectures at local schools

Tracy Bennett- http://getkidsinternetsafe.com/

It can be easy at first to force yourself to do these things. But be careful, don’t just force it. Find a way to really feel, deep down, that you want to help other people regardless of what comes of it for you. Otherwise, other people will subconsciously feel like you have ulterior motives.

If you’ve read this far, don’t let these ideas fall by the wayside. Do something with them to improve your practice.

Which of these mistakes will you be working on this week?

Networking photo available from Shutterstock