Most practitioners wish they could increase referrals enough to fill their schedule, but in my experience, very few practitioners do what’s necessary to put—and keep—themselves in front of others so that can happen.
When you don’t know—or don’t do—what it takes to get referrals, your alternative hands-on practice is likely to look more like a roller coaster than a reliable source of income.
Here are the two most important things you can do, to get people in your community sending more people to you.
#1: Get known as an expert
Without a doubt, the most important thing you can do to get more referrals is to become known locally as an expert who helps particular people solve a particular problem.
This means is that you have to be willing to increase your own reputation first, rather than the reputation of your modality—so you may find yourself resisting this step.
It’s kind of like putting on your own oxygen mask first, and if you don’t do it, you greatly reduce the number of referrals you’re likely to see in your practice.
The reason is that people remember specifics, not generalities.
If you talk about how your work “helps older people who are trying to maintain their independence,” your listeners start thinking about the older people they know… and which of their friends have older people in their lives…
- Is anyone I know worried that they might lose their driver’s license or have to move into assisted living?
- Oh gosh, my aunt just broke her hip!
- I guess I’m in the sandwich generation… everyone I know seems to talking about their aging parents.
- Dad told me just last week that they’re thinking about selling the house because the maintenance is too much for his back…
On the other hand, when you say that your modality helps everyone, your listeners think about…
Clear, relevant pictures don’t easily come to mind for generic ideas and there’s nothing more generic than your modality when you talk about how it applies to everyone in the world.
If you’re worried that you’ll lose a wide variety of other people you want to work with, remember… when those particular people who have that particular problem ask you if work with other people who don’t have that problem, you can certainly say “YES!”—because what we’re talking about here is clarifying what you are known for. We are not suggesting that you ever turn away anyone you want to work with!
#2: Stay Top Of Mind
The next important thing to do is to stay in front of people, especially those who are most likely refer ideal clients to you, or become clients themselves.
Potential referrers are as busy as you are. They are going to forget about you as quickly as you forget most of the messages that bombard you in the course of a day.
You may find yourself taking it personally or making a judgment about the other person. You may tell yourself that “people just don’t get it.”
This is a great way to talk yourself into a downward spiral, but fortunately, there’s an antidote for that: keep in mind that this is a function of the life in the 21st Century! It’s not a judgment on you. It’s not an indication of other people’s mental ability or their commitment to growth or wellness.
It’s about the capacity of the human brain to hold information and maintain sanity.
The best way to get known in a world that’s moving as fast as our world is going is to show up in the same place on a regular basis, so that people get used to seeing you.
Where is that “same place” that should you show up? It’s a place where you can be easily seen and where your message can be revealed, expanded, and reiterated over time—their email inbox.
Now, here’s the #1 secret about emailing clients, potential clients and people you hope with refer others to you: send them email on a regular basis.
Don’t send the kind of email you force yourself to write every 3 or 4 months—you know what I mean? Don’t send the emails that really are just an excuse to flash your schedule at them. That’s the kind of purpose you might try to hide that by bracketing your calendar with a seasonal celebration (Yay! It’s summer! I love the beach!) and an desperate appeal for help (Please forward this to everyone you know!) at the end.
Instead, send the kind of email that works—email that helps people to see you as an expert—yup, an expert who helps particular people solve a particular problem! Send email that helps people want to know more about you and gives valuable information they aren’t getting elsewhere.
In other words, send email that helps people learn more about you, get to know and like you, and begin trusting you.
The reason you want to send emails like this is that all the research shows that when things are otherwise equal, people will always choose to do business with the person they know, like and trust.
If that’s not you, it will be someone else.
And when you’re in business for yourself, you can’t afford to do the groundwork and let somebody else get your clients.
That’s why building your email list and using it to nurture clients and referrers is one of the wisest things you can do with the time you’ve scheduled to work on your business.
Will you do something about this, or talk yourself out of it?
Experience shows that only a few practitioners will step up to the challenge of building a great practice. The rest find ways of forgetting about what works until rock bottom appears under their feet.
I get it, because that’s where I was before I learned how to get clients.
I had tremendous resistance to “narrowing” my description of the people I helped. It felt precarious to take myself out of my comfort zone… especially because it was counter-intuitive to to even imagine that I could get more clients by talking about helping only a portion of the world. It felt like inviting people to reject me when I even thought about sending emails twice a month to people who said they were interested in what I do.
All I can tell you is—it works. And not just for me, but for colleagues who have tried it.
What will you do with the two action steps I’ve outlined here?
I hope you’ll start promoting yourself as an expert, start building your email list and start keeping in touch with the people on it!
Because I know the other choice all too well. Silently cataloging the reasons this isn’t going to work and anxiously waiting for rock bottom is painful, and that’s not what I want for you!
Thanks to Metropolico.org for the handshake photo, via Flickr
I blog to give you ideas on how to build a great practice, so that hands-on work will continue to be available to the people who need it. Get ongoing help by subscribing to my regular emails, filled with tips and help to get more clients. Just put your name and email below and submit!