Igniting Local Referrals

NITIN CHHODA:    Hi everyone. My name is Nitin Chhoda from Nitin360.com, one of the premier physical therapy marketing blogs in the world. I have with me one of the premier fitness instructors in the United States. His name is Donovan Owens.

NITIN CHHODA:   Donovan has a pretty interesting system to get referrals by using your local community to be able to fill up your physical therapy clinic or in Donovan’s case; your own fitness boot camp with qualified prospects that can really boost your business. Is that right Donovan?

DONOVAN OWENS:    Oh definitely. They are all over the place; it is a matter of taking action to find them.

NITIN CHHODA:    Absolutely, so Donovan, for a physical therapist who is trying to gain recognition within the local community and start either a group exercise class or just drive more patients to their practice and increase awareness for their practice, what are some strategies that you might recommend that can work immediately?

DONOVAN OWENS:    Okay, some of the immediate action steps that can be taken: First of all, getting involved with the community; get involved with the local Chamber of Commerce. Most local Chamber of Commerce participants are business owners within the community.  So, if you really want brand awareness, join your local Chamber of Commerce; this gives you access to the events that the chamber puts on, access to the email list, their newsletter, subscriber lists. Most chambers would let you actually grab information with their own newsletter. So for instance, with my chamber, I can actually send more promotions out through a newsletter which reaches a minimum of 400 business owners who all have their own risks. It is a pretty powerful tool.  Join the chamber of commerce, that is the first thing. Next thing would be to look for local events that are in your area that you can get involved with. The community is always doing something and always looking for people to get involved in health. If you go into everything you do with a giving hand, then something will always come back to you. So find people who need help in local events, charity events; anything that people will flock with. Everybody that you want to be involved with, is already doing something. For this, it is easy to get into their circle. That will be tip number two. The third one, which is pretty powerful, is to think of five key people in your community that could benefit from your service or any new program you are about to start. Leverage those people by getting them involved for a very small fee or even better free of charge so they can experience what your program is about. Your requirement from those five people would be they are walking and talking billboards for what you do. This will send you at least 2 qualified referrals every month and basically follow your program to the T. That is a great trade off for free training. Most people would be very glad but you need to really think about the influential five; who they are, what demographic they belong to and give those people your program one way or another. Those are the three key things that I have used that have grown my business; doubled, tripled and even quadrupled my business just by getting involved and giving back.

NITIN CHHODA:    If you are in a new area and you don’t know anybody, how would you go about finding 5 influential people?

DONOVAN:    Well the first step is to run the chamber of commerce because at that chamber of commerce, there is going to be one influential person. Whoever is the fate of that chamber, he is highly influential.  Because they are constantly in front of new business owners, business owners that have been in the community for a while, they know everybody.

There is a school board in every community, so get to know the people that are on my school board, build relationships. Go in and tell them you want to find out about the school system and if there’s anything you can do to help. Volunteer. Get to know who the decision makers are in that area. Every city or town has churches. There are programs that go on in those churches so we have to be part of the church programs; but you have to make a relationship with somebody who is part of that church. In my case, I made a relationship with my lady who runs the mother’s out program for the church which happens to be the community program but it goes through this church. I had a relationship with her.  I was able to leverage that.  You don’t have to know just anybody. You need to know the key area of the goal, and then you have to build a relationship over time by going in with a giving hand. Those are really the three key areas that I use to actually gain leverage.

NITIN CHHODA:    Let us say you walked into a church. Do you try and speak with the manager at the church ?

DONOVAN:    Yes, I do find out who the decision maker is and again, you can do this, if you start with the chamber of commerce. Your chamber knows pretty much who is connected where. You can go to a chamber and ask if there are any church events. Is there a mother’s day out program? Are there any big programs that the church can hold in the area? They can lead you to that. And from there, you just start to go to some of these events and see the people who are around. It might take you 3 weeks, it may take you a month but get to know who those decision makers are by getting involved; then you know who to approach. Because every area is going to be a little bit different. Every area doesn’t have the same program. That is how I approach it. Everything for me filters through the chamber of commerce because they know everybody and they know what is going on in the community.

NITIN CHHODA:    Right, in your case Donovan, how long do you spend each week networking and building relationships?

DONOVAN OWENS:    Well, my structured networking is 3 hours a week, I meet with 3 structured groups every week. An hour’s meeting every time and from each meeting, I make sure I set at least 2 one-on-one appointments to meet with business owners. Outside the structured networking meeting, we go face to face, one-on-one learning our passions. So if you do that, it will be 6 to 8 hours in total for quality networking defined with a purpose. Every time I go to a networking meeting, there are always going to be other people. And my thought is you don’t run into people for no reason. They are standing in front of you for a reason. So build relationships, speak, say hi and see how it turns out. To answer your question as far as structure goes, I spend about 8 hours a week.

NITIN CHHODA:    For these structured meetings, did you first go to the chamber of commerce and start there? For someone who does not have structured meetings, step one is they go to the chamber of commerce and make a connection. Step two is that they basically structure these meetings because you can’t possibly meet the same person week after week. You would need to meet 3 people on week 1, 3 people on week 2 and so on and so forth right?

DONOVAN OWENS:    Exactly, so I think we should get heard first. From the chamber, I met two ladies with whom I previously were with at other networking groups. They are called referral networking groups. In most cities, they are going to be free. You just buy breakfast or whatever depending on where you meet. In my case, I’ll go to a meeting on Tuesday and there will be 25 business owners in that meeting.  Of course it would take me a little while to meet all of them so I will pick out a business owner based on what their 30 second speech was about.  I’ll set up a 1 on 1 appointment with them to get to know their business better. You need to learn more about what they do. The chamber will do some form of networking too, which will kind of lead you to some referral networking groups that you want to get involved with on a weekly basis. The chamber may also have something weekly or monthly that you want to get involved with. At least 2 other groups, you can even go beyond that because once you start getting into networking, you’ll see how powerful it is. It is really a great tool to approach business so it kind of just snowballs from there.

NITIN CHHODA:    We setup the big meetings with the chamber, attend the chamber meetings which are usually once or twice a month and using the chamber as a source of information, setup meetings with individual businesses to meet with them 2 maybe 3 times a week. That is your structure, right?


NITIN CHHODA:    How do you plan events? Obviously making connections within the chamber and planning 2 or 3 meetings a week is not going to happen overnight. It is not going to take too long as well. You probably have meetings planned for the next 2 months.

DONOVAN OWENS:    I don’t go that far. I am about three weeks packed full and solid. I will keep it going like that. I started week by week and now it is 3 weeks out consistently. So you can go as far as you want. I would like to keep mine real closer just so I don’t lose track of what is going on. If you’re meeting people on a system basis or setting up meetings on an assisted basis you should be able to have about 2 to 3 weeks of full schedule networking in addition to the other activities that you have to do in your business.

NITIN CHHODA:    You basically want to identify the key people from other businesses that have the same customers as you. For example you are not going to go after people who are selling equipment to the elderly; you would go after specific businesses that have the same market as you.

DONOVAN OWENS:    Well, yes.  Initially yes because you want to try and get a kind of fast return on your time so it would be advisable to meet with people who you know or kind of like networking with. But you never know how somebody else is connected. They may do one thing but you have to almost guarantee that they know a lot of other people who all do other things. Never discount anybody. Make it a point to meet with everybody in your networking group.

NITIN CHHODA:    Did you go about setting up your own networking groups or did you just join other referral networking groups?

DONOVAN OWENS:     So far I have just joined other referral networking groups but you know it is a great idea if you have the time and you know the commitment to start your own. Do that and be seen as a networking authority. That is something that you really want to do.

NITIN CHHODA:    When you go to these meetings, are you just giving out your business card or some sort of trial coupons for them to handout? Or do you have a structure in place where you send email on a consistent basis with templates that these businesses can use to promote your business? How do you take it to the next level?

DONOVAN OWENS:    Well, basically what happens is, during the face to face meeting, I have one sheet that has all the information to the benefit of what I do in my business that I can give to anybody. I make them ten copies of that but I always give out business cards. I do follow up through emails to thank them for the appointment and let them know that if they ever want to give money to my business, they would get this type of referral incentive. You always want to take care of somebody who refers business to you. Let them know that you want to identify any referral that you get from them and if there is anything that you can do for those businesses. Ask them to inform you because again you always want to be giving. Yes, I create a one-sheet that I hand out to everybody that I meet so they can see everything that I offer.

NITIN CHHODA:    Through all these meetings, you would then start identifying key people and ask them to become a part of your program in exchange for referrals pretty much?

DONOVAN OWENS:    Yes, definitely.  In the last two months, I have actually built a pretty big joint venture network with people that are in my wellness circle. I have a chiropractic physician who actually endorses the boot camps and does events with me 5 times a year. Since I cater to 95% of women, I have a beauty consultant who comes in and does make over for the ladies. I recently bought a life coach who will do 15 minute -power life coaching sessions whenever we hold events 9 times a year. I have a massage therapist who comes in and does 15 minute- massages. You want a joint venture with people so you build this network where he has to work for somebody else. If somebody has joint or back pain, I know I will have a chiropractor immediately for them to go to. If somebody needs make-up or needs somebody to take care of skin problem, I know where they are going to. If somebody needs fitness, they know where to go to.

NITIN CHHODA:    Are these referrals mutual referrals or are each of the referrals tracked for a referral bonus?

DONOVAN OWENS:    They are normally mutual referrals. We are not  like other joint venture groups. We don’t have any special incentives.

NITIN CHHODA:    Kind of internal network?

DONOVAN OWENS:    We kind of run the same circle together.

NITIN CHHODA:    Another thing which you have done that I think is very interesting is you actually took a more active involvement in the local chamber. You became an ambassador and you’ve become involved specifically with some parent teacher association in your daughter’s school.  Is that right?

DONOVAN OWENS:    Yes, I did.  Let me expand on that a little bit.

NITIN CHHODA:    Yes, if you could.

DONOVAN OWENS:    Okay, I want to get back part of this in the community so after joining the chamber it took me a little while to get really active. But then, I thought to the benefit of really helping other people and how it could help me by doing so. So I became an ambassador and being an ambassador you are going to get involved with a good thing. You go out and you meet local businesses that are just starting. You welcome them to the community. It puts you up with a lot of people, the events which you have in the forefront of the events, helping out and sponsoring a thing like that. The lady with the smooth board got me involved in doing some boot camps for the teachers. I started a program called the watch dogs which is a nationally known program now. Basically, it builds a team within the campus; it’s just a campus safety net throughout the school year. An adult male figure is a good safety net in the school so I started that program as team leader.  When two people see you credible, it keeps on getting back to you. They know this guy who does all these things to help people and he does not only own a fitness business, he is also a physical therapist. People want to use you for everything that you do for everybody else.

NITIN CHHODDA:    Donovan, I consider you to be at the cutting edge of communication. What you have started doing recently is starting to offer more fitness boot camps to corporate people. I know that is something that you just started and you may not have any specifics on that. Do you have any advice for physical therapists that are looking to start corporate fitness boot camps that you can share with us?

DONOVAN:    What I would say is, it is not really any different than starting anything else. You need to know who your decision makers are in order to get the program setup. Sometimes that takes time. Be willing to get those relationships so get into whatever corporation you are looking at, you can visit their website find out what they do. Learn about them so you speak to them intelligently and that you are offering something they can use a lot of times. The websites contain the decision makers’ name. Have the benefits of your program, your resume and your profile all lined up so that when you present, they see that you have a program they will benefit from. You have the credentials and also you are confident about what you are doing.  Identifying the decision makers is the biggest thing, because you don’t want to go in and talk to the front desk lady.

NITIN CHHODA:    That gives me an idea. When you go to the local chamber of commerce or even their website they actually give the names, email addresses, phone numbers and addresses of local businesses. What you would do, correct me if am wrong, that you would either get in touch with those businesses yourself. What I would probably do and again, you are welcome to correct me, is to have an assistant send them an email introducing you and what you can do for them, any issues that point to your credibility. Then follow up with them a week later and then a phone call two weeks after that. The assistant can essentially schedule appointments for you with which you can create a schedule of one on one meetings from there. What do you think?

DONOVAN OWENS:    Yes, definitely.  You have to find what is going to work for your area. I have found that this kind of common grid works just about anywhere you go. Everywhere, it is a little bit different. People like to be coached in different ways especially in different corporations. That is why it is important to get as much education about that business before you start your approach if you still don’t have an internal relationship with somebody who can keep you in touch with the decision maker.

NITIN CHHODA:    Right, that makes sense. That is the common thread that you are talking about, the fact that you should be somewhat familiarize with the business.

DONOVAN OWENS:    Right, be familiar with the business. Have your pocket ready with the things you would like to present, the benefit of your business, your certifications or copy of your insurance; where all the key things that they may ask about  your program is laid out. And any documentation that kind of solidifies why a program like this is beneficial. People want to know why, what is in it for me? Why would I allow you to come into my corporation and then pay you to do this?

NITIN CHHODA:    Have you been in a situation where you essentially cold call people or emailed people who didn’t know you, and actually landed personal appointments from them and referrals from them? I had to be really honest with you. I have never been in that position just because of the power of networking. That is the first thing; you have more people in your network than you know you do so start meeting with them right away. Start sending emails. Start meeting face to face. I am a big fan of face to face networking. Start getting involved with other people’s things and then watch just how many other people are around that circle so you could really go after them.

NITIN CHHODA:    Go after the lowest hanging fruit, right?

DONOVAN OWENS:    Yes, exactly.  People in the wellness industry are celebrities. The red carpet has been rolled out. We just have to be willing to walk on it.

NITIN CHHODA:    That is pretty amazing, Donovan, for someone who is looking to build relationships for the first time with local businesses and to use that as leverage to get more referrals. Your number one bit of advice would be to look within your own circle, ask people who they know get in touch with those people and talk to them.

DONOVAN OWENS:    Exactly right. I went to a restaurant last night. There is something I want to do with the joint mission with this restaurant later on as a promotion. I have eaten there a couple of times. When I went there last night, I told the manager, “Every time I come here I get great service and I really enjoy your atmosphere and the food is great”. He said thank you, thank you. I said “I am a local business owner too. I just want to make sure that other businesses really reap the things that are going on with the other businesses”. I really appreciate that but you can guarantee that the next time I go to meet him, he is going to say “let us do this together”. Build a relationship without trying to get anything else but ultimately in the end, you will be able to sow what you need.

NITIN CHHODA:    That makes a lot of sense because each one of us has actually been in a position to help other businesses. We just don’t realize it immediately.

That was an amazing lesson in networking and referral generation besides one final question. Besides going after your immediate circle of individuals, are there any other avenues? I have heard of a website called LeTip International. Have you heard of LeTip?

DONOVAN OWENS:    Actually, I haven’t. You are educating me. I have to write that down and look that up. What is it about?

NITIN CHHODA:    I want all the therapists to see what just happened here. The difference between someone who is actually looking for referrals from someone who has an appointment with referrals is a quest for knowledge. Donovan has educated us so much in this call, and all I had to do was mention something that was new to him and Donovan pouncing on it that you can be such a good teacher and you can be successful. Thank you for this lesson. I appreciate it. I personally have not leveraged the local chamber of commerce. I had massive success with LeTip International. It is a slightly more stepped up version of the local chamber of commerce where they have local referral groups and the primary goal of these groups is to generate referrals. They only accept one professional for each area. For example, there is already a physical therapist in LeTip, they won’t let another physical therapist in. That makes it semi-exclusive and it is definitely worth checking out and I know, Donovan may be on the phone with them if not by the end of the day, by tomorrow, because he is that awesome.

DONOVAN OWENS:    Thank you very much. I am going to check that out. I just love that stuff.

NITIN CHHODA:    Excellent, thank you for your time. This interview will be on our website very shortly and I will send you a link with it. Are any of our listeners who are physical therapists who have their own clinics all over the country? If any of them want to hear more about you or learn about you, which website should they go to?

DONOVAN OWENS:    Actually, I don’t have my coaching website up yet, but I will love to talk to anybody. If you go through busywomenbootcamps.com, my information, my phone number is on there; also you can look me up on Facebook, just search for Donovan Owens. I spend a lot of time on Facebook. You can send me a message on Facebook which goes straight to my email.

NITIN CHHODA:    Then you are willing to answer questions or help anybody who needs some advice. And Donovan your last name is spelled “Owens”, correct?

DONOVAN OWENS:    Right, Owens.

NITIN CHHODA:    Donovan, thank you. I know I am going to get a lot of feedback from therapists who are impressed with this call and everybody who is listening can take this information to the bank right away.  I really appreciate your time. I know you are a busy individual and thank you buddy.

DONOVAN OWENS:    Thank you very much. It was a pleasure talking to you.

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