Power up your efforts with relationship-based marketing.
Like most business owners, you want your practice to grow and prosper in the years to come. But with all the available options to help you market your business, it can be overwhelmingly difficult to choose from among them.
One often overlooked source of practice growth is your local business community. You may think you already market to local businesses because you participate in community organizations with other business owners. That’s a start, but it shouldn’t be the end of your marketing endeavors with other small businesses. Intentional relationship-building should be an ongoing component of your marketing plan.
Best-selling author Michael Gerber (The E-Myth and other books) says we spend too much time working in our practices but not enough time working on our practices. Try to schedule time every week to build relationships with businesses in your community.
The small-business owners in your area can relate to your challenges of owning and operating a practice. In addition, they may be more likely to seek the services and products of other local businesses (like yours).
As with any marketing strategy, your business-to-business efforts should be designed to establish a genuine relationship. We’ve all heard that people do business with individuals they know, like, and trust. The same is true for businesses, too. After all, businesses are owned by people, so you need to establish the same rapport with business owners and their employees.
To help people ultimately trust you with their health, you need to get out of your office and into their environment. Here are a few suggestions of things you could begin to implement tomorrow to enhance your business-to-business (B2B) marketing:
1. Make a list.
Some of the best local businesses to develop relationships with will be those whose services are complementary to yours: Massage therapists, personal trainers, physical therapists, homeopaths, naturopaths, and the like.
Include small businesses from other industries such as hospitality, IT, grocery, government, trade professions, and so on.
Set criteria so your list isn’t over-whelming. For example, perhaps you want to focus on businesses within a five-mile radius of your practice or those that have 10 to 50 employees. Consider starting with a small number of businesses (maybe 10 to 20). Once you’ve opened relationships with the first group, you can then proceed to the next portion of your list.
2. Start making connections.
Using your list, designate the businesses you’d like to start with and then connect with those owners and employees. How you connect with each business may be different, but here are some suggestions to get you started:
Call a business on the phone and ask to schedule a 15-minute get-to-know-you meeting with the owner or manager. When you arrive, have some business cards, brochures, or promotional items ready to leave behind. Show interest and curiosity in their business. Ask for specifics on what they do as well as who their target customers are. After you leave, take a few minutes to jot down some notes about what you discussed. This way you can refer to specific details when you follow up with a thank-you note or in future discussions. And be friendly to the employees while you’re there as well.
Reach out via LinkedIn or other social networks to make a connection. Then follow up with an in-person meeting.
Poll your friends and associates to see if they personally know anyone on your list. Ask if they’d be willing to make an introduction. A warm introduction between friends or business acquaintances can be better than a cold call.
Invite the owner or manager to coffee or lunch for a longer conversation with fewer distractions.
A popular section in some practices is the “community corner.” This is a small area, perhaps a cork board, shelf, or tabletop where you keep business cards, brochures, coupons, and promotional items from other community businesses. Patients like coming to your office and getting information about other local entities. When connecting with businesses, ask if you can place some of their materials in your community corner. Encourage them to create their own community corner as well. Cross-promotion doesn’t have to stay in the physical realm; cross-promote other local businesses via social media. Consider putting a community corner page on your website to list local businesses with contact information and links to their websites, too.
4. Be creative.
Consider giving discounts, coupons, or promotions to the employees of the local businesses you’ve connected with. Perhaps you provide lunch-and-learn health talks or co-sponsor a charitable event. Figure out the health needs and wants of these businesses and see if you can help meet them.
5. Keep in touch.
Once you’ve established a relationship with a local business, don’t let it die. Set reminders to touch base every few months by phone, mail, or in person. (There are plenty of companies and apps you can use to help automate this task.) Don’t forget to acknowledge and appreciate any assistance they give to your practice. For example: If they refer a patient, send a (HIPPA compliant) thank-you note back.
A caution about B2B marketing: Before you cross-promote another company, properly vet them. Your recommendations carry your reputation.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy, and they can provide a tremendous boost to your practice’s bottom line. Take a long-term approach to cultivating relationships with small-business owners and employees. You may not see results overnight, but with consistent effort the number of businesses (and people) who know, like, and trust you will grow. And so will your practice.
Kelley Pendleton, DC, is a chiropractor, healthcare marketing consultant, professional speaker, and the author of Community Connections! Relationship Marketing for Healthcare Professionals. She uses her experience and expertise to help other healthcare professionals build the practices—and lives—of their dreams. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through drkelleypendleton.com.