Nurturing Your Network

Current Clients and Business Referral Partners

By Alissa Haines
[Blueprint for Success]

Making new connections is vital to keeping a small business growing and thriving. In our last column (“Root Canal or Networking?” January/February 2018, page 24), we conquered networking awkwardness and how to get out of a rut and into successful networking situations.
Now that you have these connections (on top of all the connections you made before you even realized you were networking!), what do you do with them? Like every other successful relationship, they require some effort and diligence.
I’m a big fan of ritualizing all the tasks of running a business, and networking is no exception. Breaking down the steps of nurturing your network will make it easier to do.
Massage therapists typically have two networks to consider: current clients and business referral partners. These networks require different approaches, so we’ll tackle them separately.

Current Clients—Ask, Track, Thank
Clients are often our most fruitful referral partners, so it’s important to have a routine for recognizing and thanking those loyal referrers. I follow an Ask, Track, Thank protocol.
The first step is to ask how a new client came to you. You can put “Referred by …” on your intake form, and then ask, “May I thank them for referring you?” It’s pretty rare that someone wouldn’t want you to thank the referral source, but it’s important to be respectful of the new client’s privacy, and it sets a professional tone. Win-win!
Next, you’ll need to track where your referrals are coming from. Create a spreadsheet or a paper file and make note of your most common referral sources. It may start with “website,” “Facebook,” “Yelp,” then slowly build a list of clients who refer to you as they come in. Make a notation as more referrals come in from those sources. It doesn’t need to be fancy; it just needs to be easy to use.
Finally, it’s important to thank your referral sources. You may choose to send an email, but I’m a fan of the old-school, handwritten thank-you note. It adds a level of class and conveys how much you appreciate the referral. There’s no need for a Shakespearean monologue, just a simple, “Thank you so much for referring Jane! Your trust and referrals mean the world to me.”
Keep a stack of notecards and stamps handy and decide exactly how you will ritualize the task. I find it’s easiest if I do it right away—the same day a new client comes in—as I make notes on their first visit and file the intake form. Some may find it’s easier to send notes on a weekly or monthly schedule. Figure out what works for you and make it happen for every single referral.

Business Referral Partners
Nurturing our business-to-business relationships requires a different approach. Sending a handwritten thank-you note is still a great idea and adds a personal touch to the relationship, but there’s more to do.
The most obvious way to build the partnership is to send your referral partners new customers. When a client mentions needing an oil change, recommend your car guy. When a client could benefit from physical therapy, send them to your favorite local practice. That will be more memorable and meaningful than anything else you can do, and it will lead to more referrals coming your way, as well.
Share your love for local businesses and referral partners as you go about your day. Use your favorite social media platform to check in to the businesses you frequent and write reviews for all the local businesses you patronize in your normal routines. Whenever I get my oil changed, I use my Facebook business page to check into the auto shop, and I rave about the great service and superfast Wi-Fi that makes it easy to work while I wait. You can check in at your bank, laundromat, chiropractor, palm reader, and all the other places you hit on your regular errand runs.
Follow the social media accounts of all your referral partners and share their relevant posts with your own audience. You could add a small-business blurb to your regular emails and plug a new partner in each email.
My very favorite way to send love to my referral partners is an annual “My Favorite Things” blog post. Make a list of your favorite local businesses and write a simple sentence or two about what makes them great. Be sure to include a link to their website. Publish the blog post on your website and share the heck out of it in your emails and social media.
It’s worth mentioning again: consistency is key. Don’t just make one referral and call it a day. Constantly look for ways to support and send business to your referral partners. Once you start looking, the opportunities are everywhere.

Reward Your Very Frequent Referrers
When you get rolling with networking, you’ll find you have a few well-connected clients and local business owners who send you lots of new clients. In these cases, it may seem redundant to send thank-you notes every few weeks. A small gift once or twice a year could be a really sweet gesture to show your appreciation.
While it’s common to send gifts of appreciation during the winter holiday season, I prefer to thank my VIP referrers off-season. It doesn’t matter when you do it, but be consistent year to year. A gift doesn’t need to be expensive or fancy—simple and thoughtful is enough. And if you can purchase gifts at a local business, even better.
Once you get the hang of it, thanking clients and referral partners may become your favorite part of networking. It feels warm and fuzzy to think about how kind and loyal your community can be and even better to be generous with referrals and thank-yous in return. Make it a habit and the benefits to your massage practice will grow over time and help build your client base.

Allissa Haines runs a massage practice and collaborative wellness center in Massachusetts. She partners with Michael Reynolds to create business and marketing resources for massage therapists like you at