Make Business Relationships Work for You

By Rebecca Jones
[Ten for Today]

1. Beneficial Relationships
Building a professional network of like-minded colleagues can be just as important to your practice as building a stable of loyal clients. Professional contacts can be valuable sources of information, new ideas, and referrals. Be intentional about reaching out within your various communities to form mutually beneficial relationships.

2. Networking Events
One great way to meet these valuable professional contacts is to attend networking events. Your local chamber of commerce is a good starting point. Even better may be the Holistic Chamber of Commerce (, which has chapters in nearly 50 cities. The chamber’s website lists upcoming events. “Make those face-to-face connections,” urges Kristin Coverly, ABMP’s manager of professional development. “It’s a great way to meet people and also to get more knowledge about who they are and what they do.”

Another popular networking hub is Meetup (, which draws individuals together online to arrange in-person local events based on their topic of interest. At last count, more than 140,000 Meetup groups garner more than 2 million RSVPs to their events every month. But Abram Herman, social media and marketing coordinator for ABMP, urges caution when searching for relevant groups. “Some of the massage groups on Meetup are for more illicit services,” he says. “Not all are legitimate.”

4. Other Networking Groups
A career-centered networking group limits the number and kinds of professionals who are allowed to join and might include massage therapists, physicians, physical therapists, acupuncturists, and other health-care professionals. “The idea is that you get together regularly and let them know what you offer, where your offices are, and what kind of clients you’re looking for,” Coverly says. “The goal is to help each other out.” Again, your local chamber of commerce can help you find these groups, or you can do an Internet search for “networking groups” in your area.

5. Etiquette
Once you arrive at a networking event, don’t be a wallflower. But don’t go to the other extreme and become a fanatic who just hands out business cards willy-nilly. “No one will want to see you walk in a room if you do that,” advises business coach Tina Dietz, founder of
Tina Dietz Business Development
( “You need ‘permission marketing.’ After you’ve had a conversation with people, if they haven’t asked for your business card, ask for theirs. Then, ask if you can give them yours,” she says.

6. Networking Tips
Here are a few other tips from Dietz on making the most of your networking:
• If you don’t know what to say when meeting new contacts, ask them about themselves. Focus on them and what matters to them.
• Follow up the next day with a phone call, or invite a new contact out for a cup of coffee.
• Avoid jargon. It’s fine to say, “I’m a massage therapist”; better to say, “I’m a massage therapist, and I specialize in pain management”; but saying, “I’m a musculoskeletal fibromyalgia specialist” will be confusing and meaningless to most people.
• Be careful of your time. Some people only want to sell you something and aren’t interested in developing a mutually beneficial relationship. Avoid them and avoid being one of them.

7. Online Industry Forums
While online networking lacks the personal touch of face-to-face events, it casts a much wider net. LinkedIn ( is by far the largest professional networking website, with more than 250 million users. ABMP’s LinkedIn group alone has 15,000 members, most of whom are massage therapists or bodyworkers., an online forum moderated by ABMP with more than 15,000 members, provides a similar service, as do the various massage therapy groups on Facebook. All, to varying degrees, allow users to engage in conversations with others in the profession, post and read blogs, join subgroups, and read industry-related news.
“There’s a lot of discussion that goes on in these online groups,” says Herman, who moderates ABMP’s online presences. Joining moderated groups can help you avoid spam, and there are groups out there for virtually every interest area.

8. Mindbody Exchange
Online relationships with other health-care professionals can really boost referrals. One such platform for this is Mindbody Exchange (, an interactive complementary and alternative health-care site. Launched in 2013, the site quickly grew to encompass more than 20,000 practitioners. “We provide a platform for integrative health practitioners to collaborate with doctors, patients, and consumers,” says Gina Perrault, strategic partner manager for Mindbody Exchange. “Practitioners are able to list their practices and market their services for free, enabling them to gain exposure while also tapping into an existing base of consumers who trust Mindbody Exchange to verify and maintain up-to-date credentials. The platform also serves as a networking tool for practitioners to connect with one another and share business growth strategies,” she says.

9. Wellness Conferences
Attending conferences is an excellent way to make contacts. Across the country, plenty of organizations promote healthy lifestyles at events that are tailor-made for massage therapists.  
In Colorado, for example, Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) regularly hosts conferences for individuals in any profession who are focused on health, the environment, personal development, sustainable living, and social justice. “We’ve identified the ‘conscious consumer group’ out there, who has the mind-set of the early adopter, the person who wants to find things in line with their personal values,” says Ted Ning, principal at LOHAS. “We have different events where we bring in businesses who cater to this consumer, which includes 13–18 percent of the United States. By attending these events, you can meet lots of business leaders.”

10. Nearby Businesses
Networking needn’t be limited to professional colleagues. Geography can also be a potent networking tool. For example, a massage studio located in a strip mall might partner with other businesses in the same location to promote each other’s services. “You can work with them to cross-merchandise items,” suggests Stephanie Beck, online and social media marketing expert and author of Social Trigger Points (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013). “Maybe the massage therapist can offer clients a treat from the coffee shop next door, and coffee shop customers can enter a drawing for a free massage. It’s cross-promotion.”

To read this article in our digital issue, click here.