In my newsletter last month, I gave three tips to develop excellent networking skills – remember, they were 1.) Spend time getting to know the other person, 2.) Be a giver before you seek to get anything from anyone, and 3.) Make sure you follow up with the person you are eager to network with.
Now let’s talk about communicating “your message”.
Every time you are in a conversation with someone you’d like to have in your network, you have the opportunity to share information about yourself and your work. You are, in effect, marketing yourself, either as a business solution, a service provider, or an ideal candidate for consideration for a position or another professional goal such as research collaboration.
So how do you do this effectively?
You need to answer the question that is flitting consciously or subconsciously through that other person’s mind – “What’s In It For Me? (whose acronym is WIIFM!) Why should I bother giving up my time to listen to or talk to this person?”
The best way to answer the WIIFM question is to have a focused, clear message that addresses the needs and interests of the other person and gets them to prick up their ears and pay attention to you.
Let’s assume you followed my earlier tips and initiated a conversation by expressing interest in the other person and listening intently to their responses. In doing so, you picked up what they love about their work, have enjoyed most about their career to date, what their struggles or issues are, etc. Now it is your turn to talk, and you’re asked “So what do YOU do?”
This is the time for your “message”!
Your message is designed to convey who you like to work with, what problems you solve, how people benefit from working with you/being your patient/employing you etc, and what action you want the conversation to produce.
For a practicing physician, your message might be about what your specialty is and what your practice’s philosophy is – how you like your patients to be treated, or which kind of patient problems you truly enjoy solving.
For a business owner, your message is likely to be about whom your service or product is targeted to, and what problems your business solves.
For a physician looking to change careers or jobs, your message will be about what you are passionate about doing, what your professional experience has been, and what skills you have most enjoyed using.
Here is the first of two tools to help you construct an engaging marketing message:
According to Robert Middleton of ActionPlan Marketing, the best way to construct your message is using “Marketing Syntax”. Much like a sentence makes sense based on the order of the words and the placement of the punctuation, (think of the difference between “Eats Shoots and Leaves”, and “Eats, Shoots And Leaves“) a marketing message is constructed to have a maximum appeal to the listener.
These are the elements (in this order) of Marketing Syntax:
- Who your target market is
- What pain or struggle your target market is having
- What the greatest benefit is that your solution can deliver (notice, I said benefit, as perceived by the target market, and in alignment with their pain or struggle)
- What some additional benefits are
- What proof you have to support numbers 3 and 4 (case studies, anecdotes about previous satisfied customers, testimonials, factual outcomes etc)
- What your “Call to Action” is.
Here’s my example for The Entrepreneurial MD:
“I help aspiring and actual physician entrepreneurs (target market) who are struggling to figure out what steps to take to build a thriving business or practice (the “pain” or “struggle”). When my clients work with me, they develop the confidence and knowledge to start the business that is right for them (highest benefit, all about my clients, NOT about me and how I do it – that would be the “features” which you want to avoid at this time). In addition, they accomplish this far quicker than they anticipated, with a planned, methodical approach and the help of the support team they are encouraged to assemble.
I began working with a physician who came to me with a or b struggle. In the course of working with her, we did q, r and s, and after nine months, she had x, y and z results (this is my hypothetical case study, or “proof”).
I’d love to set up a time to talk, so I will be in touch next week with your assistant to schedule a meeting (my call to action – notice, it isn’t a wishy-washy “if you are interested, I’d be happy to tell you more” or “let’s get together some time to talk further”. It spells out a specific next step – either a promise I will follow up on, or a direct unequivocal request I make of the listener).”
Another quick example:
“In our practice, we enjoy taking care of stressed-out executives who are struggling to change their health habits and manage their lifestyle-related illnesses. When such patients become part of our practice, we teach them simple ways to make healthier choices, so that they feel more in control of their health again. In addition, they love the convenience of communicating by email and having their questions answered promptly, as well as being able to schedule their own appointments with our scheduler system.
When we did a patient satisfaction survey 6 months ago, the two standout things our patients complimented the practice on were a and b.
Call (800) 555-5555 to schedule your first appointment and receive a f.ree “100 Tips to Wellness Handbook” at the time of your visit.”
Or: (this might be part of a verbal conversation at a healthcare executive leadership conference)
“I’m a physician executive who has worked with our organization’s multispecialty medical groups that have been struggling to maintain profitability. After I spent a minimum of six months working closely with the group physicians in the last group I worked with, the practice went from losing $x million combined, to being profitable to the tune of $y million. In addition, the group’s medical director reported a higher physician job satisfaction rating when they were surveyed and lower practice staff turnover.
As I am relocating to California for family reasons, I am seeking the opportunity to do similar work there. I’d like to set up a call next week to learn more about your organization, what the issues are that your physicians are grappling with, and what is working well for you guys”.
So how do you prepare for your next opportunity?
The next time you head to a networking situation, spend a little time deciding what you want to get out of the meeting, and then preparing a “marketing message” to communicate succinctly who you serve, what solutions you provide, what results you get, and what next steps you or your listener should take.
As there has been so much to say about the first tool to help you craft your message – Marketing Syntax for your message, I’ll save the second one for my next newsletter.
Please let me know if this is helpful…..or not!
If you have any success to report, or other networking ideas that have worked for you, please also share them on my blog or drop me a line at Philippa@entrepreneurialMD.com.