Successful hypnotherapists Deborah Pearce and Nicola Griffiths share their top ten networking tips to attract clients for free (or nearly free). Their suggestions are down to earth, do-able and they work.
There’s plenty of hype around networking – it’s THE thing to do if you want to grow your business. But what exactly is it? Put simply it’s using your relationship with existing contacts to help you spread the word about your practice. If you can influence the influencers, so much the better (more of this later). Whether it’s face to face or on-line, what you’re aiming to do is to share your enthusiasm for hypnotherapy with as many people as possible. Then, any time someone is looking to try hypnotherapy, you’ll be top of their mind.
The good news is that, although they can be time-consuming, most networking opportunities are free.
1 Shop locally
You don’t need any special skills, you don’t need any marketing budget, you just need a little more time than it takes to sweep around the supermarket. Postage stamps cost the same at the local Post Office as they do at Tesco, working lunches from the local sandwich shop can offer more variety and better value than most supermarket shelves. The better value may not be in the price you pay at the till, but in the rewards you might reap later.
Whilst you’re making your purchase, strike up a conversation. Debs is a master of this – Sandwich shop: “No raw onions thanks, they’ll smell in the therapy room”, Bedding shop: “Just a basic pillow thanks, it’s for the therapy room”, Newsagents: “Can I have a receipt for the notebooks please, they’re for the practice”. As soon as the staff express an interest Debs is handing over her business cards and generally enthusing about hypnotherapy.
Other traders appreciate the fact that you’re supporting them and, even if they aren’t in need of your services themselves, they are key influencers in the local community. It all helps with Word of Mouth, the Holy Grail of Marketing. This is an aspect that a lot of therapists take for granted; they focus on the internet or where they are going to advertise and overlook this powerful word of mouth marketing. This might be due to lack of confidence or simply not thinking about it, but if you want to increase the number of clients you have, then this is a key area to consider.
2 Network whilst being MOT’d
Remember that your hairdresser, dentist, optician, accountant, garage mechanic or plumber has a vast network of customers. Never let an opportunity go by to let them know what you do, and again enthuse about how effective hypnotherapy is. We both get referrals in this way.
It’s Debs’ ambition to convince her accountant that if she talks about hypnotherapy non-stop whilst having a massage, it should be classified as marketing and hence be tax deductible. Nice try!
3 Connect with other therapists
We all know that members of the public often have misconceptions about hypnotherapy. It’s surprising how many therapists have those misconceptions too, so don’t assume that other therapists have a good understanding about what you do. If you work in a therapy centre, offer the other therapists a free consultation and relaxation session, so that you have the opportunity to explain the way you work and they can experience hypnosis for themselves. They’ll then be able to talk with much more knowledge about what you do and are more likely to make referrals to you. Make sure they have a supply of your business cards.
Conversely, keep a stock of their business cards and make referrals to them. Again, they’ll be more inclined to refer people to you.
Nic has this off to a fine art. She recommends offering free sessions to the receptionists at her therapy centres, as they will then be able to guide potential clients to her services more confidently. She’s also good at sitting on the stairs (of all three clinics funnily enough) and chatting to the receptionist, taking care to protect client anonymity. Simple stuff like “Just had one of my clients let me know they’ve just had their baby in 4 hours and not a pain killer in sight!” It’s the drip feeding that filters through to the subconscious (and we all know about that) which then allows the receptionist to guide potential clients to you. They may not have realised you did hypnotherapy for childbirth or worked with insomnia or anxiety; you have to spread the word.
4 Attend “Health & Well-being” events
Most areas hold some kind of health and well-being days where you can have an information stand for a reasonable fee. As hypnotherapists, it’s difficult to offer taster sessions, but you can attract people to your stand by making use of your GSR biofeedback meter (if you have one) to measure how ‘stressed/relaxed’ people are. This often arouses curiosity and enables you to strike up a fruitful conversation. Then give those business cards away! Nic is attending a Christmas fete at which the Fairford clinic where she works has booked a stand. She’s going along armed with her leaflets, the GSR meter and a pile of CDs to give away – yes give away! This is down to choice, but she finds that if she gives them away, people pass them on and next thing she’s getting a phone call asking if that new client can book in. Networking isn’t all about making money at the first chance; it’s about building the awareness so that you can get true value from paying sessions, rather than £10 here or there from the sale of a CD.
Remember, too, that the other stallholders are potential influencers, so be sure to enthuse about hypnotherapy with them.
If there aren’t any events in your area, consider setting one up with other therapists – but be sure to put plenty of energy into promoting it, as that’s the more difficult bit.
5 Give talks to clubs
Local clubs and associations are often on the look-out for interesting guest speakers. Debs gives 6-8 talks to WI Groups during the year and often gets invited back year after year. People who attend these groups are great networkers themselves and are often members of other clubs, so it’s an effective way of demystifying hypnotherapy to a large group of people. You may not get bookings as a direct result, but you’re helping to spread awareness about what you do. Oh, and they normally pay you to give a talk, so that’s an extra bonus. There may be health-related support groups or charities in your area that you could tap into, so think laterally.
One tip is to put a leaflet or some business cards on all the chairs in the room before people sit down – that way you know they’ll all take one. Again, take your GSR meter as this can provide a good level of interaction.
6 Tap into your client base
As hypnotherapists we have to be mindful not to exploit the sensitive relationship we have with our clients, nevertheless it is possible to engage clients in your networking efforts without applying pressure.
The simplest way is to hand out business cards like they are confetti. A good tip with business cards is to always give out two or three. That way the recipient can keep one for themselves and easily pass your details on to a friend who may have an interest. Another tip is to ask clients if they would like to receive the occasional newsletter from you. You can decide whether that’s hard copy or email (email is quicker and can be free to send). Occasionally clients respond to newsletters by booking ‘top-up’ sessions, but that’s not necessarily the aim. The idea of any newsletters you send is to remind them about your services, so that they may be prompted to refer you to any friends or relatives who are experiencing difficulties.
Don’t forget that a client who came to see you five years ago for a fear of flying may very well refer a friend or colleague to you for the same thing, but if they were talking to a friend about insomnia/anxiety/ childbirth etc, would the penny drop that you also work in that area too – especially if that client hadn’t originally come to see you about that specific problem? This is where the newsletter comes into its own, each time you send one out it’s on a different topic thereby spreading the word about what you do.
Fill the newsletters with interesting information about hypnotherapy or news about your practice – they shouldn’t read like sales brochures. Maybe link through to recent positive press coverage (there’s enough of it out there at the moment).
Former clients can be your biggest advocates, so it’s worth maintaining contact with them. Only send newsletters to clients who have given their permission and always provide an easy ‘opt out’ mechanism. We recommend using proprietary email distribution software such as Constant Contact or Mailchimp which handle opt-outs for you.
7 Join peer support groups or business clubs
Look out for any support groups in your area. These are a good way of spreading the word.
Nic had an interesting experience when she attended a business forum in her area; the chap seated next to her asked what she did, he then completely blanked her when she replied “I’m a hypnotherapist”! Nic had asked for an opportunity to do a 2-minute ‘elevator talk’ to the whole group and when she sat back down the chap turned to her and said, “My wife could really do with coming to see you.”
Therapists’ support groups can be very helpful for networking. Again they provide an ideal forum for dispelling any myths about hypnotherapy. Once other therapists have met you and talked with you, they’re much more likely to make referrals to you.
8 Build an on-line presence
Networking is by no means confined to face to face conversations. More and more on-line platforms are springing up to enable individuals with a shared interest to seek peer advice and exchange ideas.
Used in the right way, they can be a useful addition to your networking armoury. Be wary, Nic puts her head in her hands when she sees fellow therapists moaning on Facebook – every person looking at that page then gets a more negative view of that hypnotherapist, so use with care. You will have connections on social media sites with people who are ex-colleagues, general friends etc. If they feel that you’re having a bad day or your business isn’t going well, that can seriously have an effect on them introducing people to you!
We recommend that you sign up to at least one of the on-line social media platforms. If you’re not using any at the moment, Twitter is probably the quickest to master. If you have the time and inclination, sign up to several, such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+. You’ll be able to contact individuals directly or broadcast messages and updates to the world at large. It’s a good idea to sign up to special interest groups or forums.
Consider having a blog on your website, but be realistic about how often you will update it and set your readers’ expectations accordingly.
Now, and here’s the important bit, signing up to these tools and not participating is a bit like going to a business networking event and just standing in the corner watching. It’s important that you make a contribution. They provide an ideal opportunity for you to enthuse about hypnotherapy, especially valuable if you join non-hypnotherapy groups such as your local area business forum. If you contribute regularly, others will notice you and you’ll again be top of mind when someone is seeking a hypnotherapist in your area.
Nic has a lovely example of social media in action: Nic tweeted: “I love the paninis at Café 7a next door to my therapy room”. Café 7a tweeted back: “Thank-you!” Lick The Spoon Chocolate Shop tweeted: “And their brownies are gorgeous but I need to lose weight”. What happened next? Café 7a tweeted: “Go and see Nicola then, she does weight loss”.
That’s how simple it is!
The other advantage of using social media is that you can include links to your website from your update messages. If people click through, this will not only increase traffic to your website, it will also help your site’s rankings on search engines, as you get extra ‘brownie points’ for links from social media.
9 Consider volunteering
If you are able to set aside a few hours a week, it’s worth considering volunteering at a local charity, such as a hospice or other health-related support group. Volunteering enables you to network with other therapists and staff at the centres, again helping you to spread the word.
In fact, if you’re at the stage where you’re building your practice and you have time on your hands, volunteer to work in a shop. We know of one therapist who built her practice by volunteering to work in a soap and candle gift shop to give the owners a break for a few hours a week. With their agreement, she used the opportunity to promote her therapy and got direct bookings as a result.
10 Be a sandwich board
Be mindful that people will judge the effectiveness of your therapy by how you conduct yourself. You never know who might be at the other end of the supermarket aisle or on the next table at a restaurant. They could be a potential client.
Debs recruited a client this way at the end of a meal at her favourite restaurant. She invited the owner along to her Open Day and the owner introduced her to a fellow diner who she knew had a fear of flying. Thank goodness Debs had been on her best behaviour.
Remember, you ARE a celebrity! This is especially true if you’ve done what we’ve done and splattered your photo across all of your promotional material. We both get recognised in the street and we take care to act accordingly. Calm, peaceful tranquillity surrounds us and envelops us!!
Having our photos so prominent in our marketing materials is a great opener when we’re out and about. People can strike up conversation with us, giving us the perfect opportunity to talk about our work and add value to our networking efforts.
If you’re looking harassed, scruffy or grumpy, that’s going to create a poor impression. So, no more road rage, no more tutting in the queue at the bank, no more falling-down sessions at the pub – just a totally professional, upbeat, cheerful, can-do demeanour at all times. Well, as much as you can!
Networking is cumulative. The aim of networking is to make sure that when people are considering booking a hypnotherapist, you’ll be top of mind. You won’t necessarily see immediate trackable results, but the cumulative effect over time will be hugely beneficial.
Deborah Pearce & Nicola Griffiths can be contacted at www.therapistsmarketingsolutions.co.uk