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About Philippa Kennealy

 

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC is The Entrepreneurial MD Business Coach who wants to help you build your business!
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« Physician speakers - please, no more PowerlessPoint presentations! | Main | Entrepreneurial physician business owners' five biggest fears »
Tuesday
Aug092011

Networking for your business - how to eliminate the "work"

I was never taught how to network. In fact, the concept was completely alien to me until I began my physician coaching business. Back in 1988, when I joined my medical practice, word was "to grow your practice, you should get to know the other docs by hanging out in the doctor's lounge at the two hospitals that you belong to". So, despite not being much of a coffee drinker, I'd go to the doctors' lounges early in the morning or at lunch and force myself to sit with people and strike up a conversation. Some days it felt awkward or even painful!

I didn't know it but I was engaging in "business networking".

Fast forward to 2002 when I was getting my coaching business going, I recognized how clueless I was about getting clients. I was overwhelmed by the thought of talking about my business. I attended a few Chamber of Commerce events as well as some of the local networking groups and was underwhelmed by the results. I couldn't stop dreading every occasion I was forcing myself to attend.

However, slowly, I began to get it!

My clients weren't signing up from those artificial situations. They were coming from interactions when I wasn't even aware that I was networking. I was merely being curious and interested in people I was meeting, and doing a lot of listening. I was also inadvertently being of value when spontaneously volunteering to send a copy of an article, hook someone up with a resource or taking time to teach someone on a topic that I was interested in. I sat over many a lunch hour teaching acquaintances about some of the Internet stuff I was learning all some of the productivity tools I was using. Simply because these materials fascinated me as well!

I was actually giving value without expecting anything in return (okay, maybe I was hoping for a “thanks”!)

How does this kind of business networking work?

According to "Girard’s Law of 250” (so named for one of the world's greatest salesman, Joe Girard), about the maximum size of people we can comfortably handle knowing and interacting with regularly is 250. Is this circle of friends and acquaintances big enough to help us land our next job, grow a medical practice, or sell our new widget to? Probably not.

We need to look for leverage.

Leverage comes simply from the fact that for every one person you develop a relationship with, you expand your own circle of influence by another 250 people. Get to know 8 or 10 people well, and get comfortable enough with them to eventually request introductions, and suddenly you have access to several thousands of people.

If you're able to get one person to "know, like and trust" you, you've opened the doorway to 250 others. One patient who becomes a raving fan can drive 10 or even 20 new patients to your practice. Likewise for any other service business you may be developing.

So let me boil this business networking stuff down to a few simple tips.

  1. Treat every hand you shake as the hand that will open the door to 250 more people
  2. Be yourself, don't be a fake
  3. Be useful
  4. Be friendly
  5. Be abundant – share, give, help, teach – unreservedly and without hesitation!
  6. Give more time than you think you can afford
  7. Become an “educational marketer" - be willing to teach and share your expertise.

If it’s time for a business networking refresher, you can read my series of a few years ago here (this page links to all 5 articles in my series).

Remember, every small effort you make getting to know people shows people you're interested in them and can easily prevent costly PR purchasing with others. 

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Reader Comments (2)

This is probably one of the best bits of sage advice written about networking and marketing. Having started down that road recently, I can already attest that networking at any/all events where your target market is located more than justifies the time/money required to be in attendance.
Public Relations vs Networking

Generally; public relations is deemed to be much more credible than marketing, networking or advertising endeavors.

Doctor purchase advertising but hope for positive public relations. Media coverage is probably most synonymous with the concept of public relations since reporters or editors will cover your story if it seems newsworthy, timely or important to their constituency. It is usually in the form of press releases, feature articles, announcements, seminars, charities, alliances and endorsements, testimonial and other referrals.

Vendors for other PR opportunities include: sorts stores, pharmacies, school nurses and gym instructors, middle, high school and college coaches, medical supply stores, police and fire departments, senior and rehab centers and nursing homes. If this tool is pursued, it is important to be systematically aggressive (proactive) in design. For example:

* Target your media audience (reporters, editors, program directors, TV, newspaper and radio editors, etc.). Send your targeted media audience a letter of introduction and offer to tell a personal or patient based success story about your medical specialty and practice. Include an office brochure, business card and brief curriculum vitae.

* Be available when a reporter calls. Some PR professionals suggest that you always take a medical call, and offer to call back at a set time, based on the reporter’s deadline. This gives you time to think about the topic and set up your “key message”. Meet the deadline and always call back to encourage repeat media appearances.

* If you are fortunate enough to be interviewed directly, keep your message short and supply additional written information to the reporter. Follow-up with a thank-you letter and synopsis of your response. Offer to keep the media representative informed of current updates in your specialty or practice.

* Of course, for larger practices, a professional public relations agent might useful at an additional salary of 20-30 thousand dollars per year to your office budget; but true public relations void of expense. Public relations activities include: letters to the editor and op-ed pieces; media coverage and infomercials; by-lined articles and speaking engagements.

Public relations are subtle and somewhat uncontrolled. Advertising, on the other hand is more blunt and controlled. The advantage of true PR is that it is “free” when un-sponsored.

However, since PR agents want do “accomplish something” to justify their existence, be prepared for even more advertising expenses. Monitor them carefully. Good PR agents should more than justify their costs; if not, replace them or use your imagination and do it yourself.

Good luck!

Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP
[Atlanta, GA USA]
http://www.BusinessofMedicalPractice.com
http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com
August 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Miller RN MHA

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