There are countless ways to market your practice; networking is one of them.
What is networking? Let’s define it as the exchange of information between people to develop and maintain personal and professional relationships.
But not all networking is created equal…
There is the kind of networking that happens naturally, and the exchange of information is a by-product of the interaction with another person.
- You tell your friend about the wonderful experience you had eating at the new Italian restaurant. Both food and service were exceptional, and you give the place a five-star rating! Consequently, your friend gives the restaurant a try and just loves it.
- A friend at work tells you about a new (to you) password-manager. The program has worked well for her. She finds the program easy to use; it’s getting the job done, and is relatively inexpensive. Based on her recommendation, you give the program a try and are pleasantly surprised!
But then there’s the kind of networking that happens by design; exchange of information and referrals are intentional and the explicit goal of the interaction.
Networking by Design
It’s the kind of networking that happens during networking meetings and events. Many groups meet ongoing to facilitate networking amongst business owners.
And here is the question…
Should you join a business networking group as part of marketing your practice? And how effective are networking groups to help you build your nurse practitioner practice?
Well, let’s take a look…
Why People Join
There’s a multitude of reasons people join business networking groups, some of them are:
- Mutual support
- Business education
- Membership benefits (insurance, discounts, etc.)
- Enjoying more credibility
- Increased exposure
- Getting referrals
Depending on where you are in the country or abroad, you’ll find different business networking groups. However, there are some you’ll find in most communities.
- BNI (Business Network International)
- LeTip (similar to BNI)
- BNI and LeTip are relatively similar in how they work and what they provide.
- The two groups often only allow one business per category to avoid saturation and competition within the group; typically there are insurance agents, plumbers, roofers, accountants, massage therapists, mortgage brokers, and so on.
- You may be required to exchange some referrals with other members of the group or utilize some of their services. Not only does this lead to more business for members of the group, but it also provides greater exposure for the businesses.
- Groups meet regularly, often weekly or more frequently. Members have the opportunity to introduce their business to the group.
- There are annual fees, and there may be monthly dues to pay.
- If you decide to join, understand you are expected to participate in meetings and to network with members of the group. Ongoing meetings and the requirement to bring referrals may not be right for everyone or every practice situation. However, it may be well worth exploring.
- Chamber of Commerce
- Most chambers meet for business openings, hold workshops, bring in speakers, and offer special interest groups you can join.
- Typically, there is not an expectation to generate referrals, as there may be with other organizations. Referrals are more likely to happen naturally over time as members get to know each other.
- Women in Business Networking
- Local Business Networking Groups
- Network for Young Professionals
There may be other business networking organizations in your community; a simple Google search will tell you. Alternatively, search for a local Meet-up in your area.
Things To Consider
But before you decide to join a business networking group, here are a few things to consider:
- How often do they meet and are you required to attend all the meetings?
- When do they meet: AM or PM?
- Are you required to bring referrals and do business with other members of the group? If that’s the case, it may not work for your specific situation.
- Are there businesses in the group that somewhat compliment your own, such as Chiropractors or Therapists? It’s much easier to make referrals to a business complementary to you, then making one to a business totally unrelated to what you do.
- What is the cost to join and the cost of membership?
- What is the length of obligation: month-to-month or yearly?
- How does the networking group compare to other groups in the community?
Networking groups like BNI or LeTip may not work or be right for everyone.
And that’s ok because you have options. There are other organizations you may want to join.
There are service organizations like the Rotary, Lions, and Kiwanis Club, and they may be a better fit for you. While they too have regular meetings and there is a cost to join, the feel, tone, and focus are different.
Not surprisingly, over the years, many healthcare professionals have built successful practices by joining service organizations.
While they join to contribute to their communities, by default they have the opportunity to network. Membership in service organizations gets the word out about you and your practice and can help to grow it.
You may want to consider networking as a way to market your Nurse Practitioner practice.
As with most anything, there are time and fees required to participate in networking.
For some, the more direct business networking organizations may be just right.
For others, the more relaxed and indirect approach to networking that service organizations provide may be a better fit.
The choice is yours!
Do you belong to a business networking group, and how has it helped you? Share your experiences… leave your comment below.
By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, LAc; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.“