The Importance of Networking
Within the medical tourism industry, networking is connecting with others in the industry, sharing knowledge and information and uncovering hidden opportunities, but more importantly, it is about building relationships and getting to know people. On an international basis in medical tourism, networking is crucial to survival in this industry as EVERYTHING is built on relationships.
It is estimated that anywhere from 50-80% of business is generated from networking and word of mouth. For an industry like medical Tourism where hospitals are trying to develop a name for themselves and medical tourism companies are starting up operations, networking is critical to success. In the past, where there were only 5 or so major hospitals attempting to attract foreign patients from North America, now there are hundreds.
Hospitals, even if they don’t realize it, are in a networking game, with the end result being either success or mediocrity. Already we are seeing results of hospitals that are losing the networking game and losing client relationships, and I bet the executives of the hospitals don’t even know it's happening.
What are some of the key benefits of good networking?
Learning and sharing knowledge. As the old saying goes, “knowledge is power.” How do you find out what works or doesn’t work in the medical tourism industry? How do you know which hospitals provide the best quality of care, or which hospitals provide the best treatment to their patients? If you’re a medical tourism company how do you find out which hospitals are medical tourism company friendly or who can guarantee your customers a positive relationship.
All these questions are resolved through good networking. Networking identifies what are the best business opportunities and relationships. Missing out on those opportunities could be vital to your business plans for growth.
How do I go about networking? Where can I find out about networking events?
The best way is through the Medical Tourism Association which is always networking people and putting them in contact with each other and organizing networking events. But there are other ways as well.
Planning is very important to networking at events and conferences. Don’t just show up without a plan. First, choose carefully what events to go to and which not to waste you money on. Having good networking contacts in place can prevent your attendance t a conference frm being a complete waste of time. If possible, try to obtain a attendee list before the conference so you can determine which people you would like to meet with so you can seek them out at the event.
Show up before the event so that you can schedule meetings with people you already know ahead of time so this way you can devote your conference time to people you would like to meet for the first time. People seem to spend significant amounts of money, on airfare, hotel, and time away from work only to show up late, miss important networking time and spend their conference time meeting with people they already know instead of dedicating their time to new contacts.
It is a good idea to set up times to meet with prior business relationships before or after the event, or in the evening after the conference day has ended. If name badges are given out, wear them and wear them on your right side, which is the side you shake hands with. Talk with existing business contacts who can introduce you to new contacts before the conference. At networking events, time is critical and should not be wasted.
The most important rule: Don’t make any assumptions about people and treat everyone equally. You may have blown off what could have been your biggest client. In the medical tourism industry, sometimes the big movers and shakers may come in small packages and although you may not have heard of them, they may be moving quickly and quietly in the background.
Don’t be a Wisher.
In this industry we see a lot of hospitals that are “wishers.” They wish to be in this industry but do nothing about it. They are perpetually in the state of “observing the industry.” They feel if they say they want foreign patients, they will come. Wishers do not go to conferences do not advertise and are not responsive to emails or inquiries.
Realize that if you do not spend the money to market yourself, there will be someone coming up behind you ready to do so and they will be the ones getting the patients. If you don’t advertise, people don’t know about what you or your hospital has to offer. Any organization, particularly in global healthcare needs to market their name and services and make good attempts to network.
Don’t Act too Big for your Shoes.
Unfortunately what we are starting to see in the industry is some foreign providers who believe their reputation alone will drive the patients to them. Now that they have achieved “brand” recognition, they forgot how they got there or who got them there, and they don’t spend quality time networking and don’t focus on developing new relationships. The reality is, there are a hundred hospitals that may have the same quality of care waiting to step into your shoes.
Medical Tourism Companies do not send patients to hospitals that do not give value to good personal relationships. Moreover, international patients go overseas for care based upon what they hear or read and who they have spoken to. This is an extremely important point. Cooling business relationships to move on to the next best thing is a sure fire way to stall the inflow of patients. As fast as a reputation can be built, it can also be lost.
Be conscious of what you do!
One very large mistake seen at networking events is being an “eye-darter.” The eye darter is always looking around the room to find someone who they think is more important to talk to. Here is a reality check for those of you doing this, it is extremely obvious, very rude and makes people feel you are not genuine and a strong business relationship cannot be built with your organization.
Eye contact is considered very important anyone who cannot maintain eye contact tends to come off as insincere or dishonest. Remember, everything you say, every movement you make is being watched and analyzed by those around you. Promote a positive image and treat people respectfully.
Choose the Best Representative for your Organization to Network.
Hospitals and Medical Tourism companies should choose the person from their organization who is the best representative of their group. Someone who is likeable, sociable and sincere and a good communicator would be the best option. Your representative at networking events can make or break your organization’s image. People want to do business with people they like and they feel they can count on and build a relationship with. They don’t want an impersonal business relationship.
Respond to People.
So, now you have networked. What’s the biggest mistake organizations make? Never following up. Send an email every now and again. Follow up and see what new business opportunities are out there. In business, constantly following up with business contacts always develops new business deals and sales in the end, either directly or be referral. People remember those who keep in touch. Y
ou have to chase business if you want it, and don’t assume people won’t forget about you or get distracted and not think to send a particular patient your way. Hospitals can easily lose patient referrals simply because companies that have dealt with them for years don’t know they have a certain specialty or because the phone line has been silent for too long.
A great way to network is to create a newsletter and send it out monthly to remind people of you, your organization and what you are doing. I guarantee you will be surprised on the responses you get and the opportunities that come to your door.
Press and Media coverage is priceless. If you have an opportunity to have your organization in the press, jump at the opportunity. It is surprising the number of organizations that respond slowly to press inquiries and lose a major opportunity. How do you think the top international hospitals built their reputations?
Through the Press! We have seen organizations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to try and get mentioned in the press and never get one mention. While our organization, the Medical Tourism Association has gotten several of our organizations mentioned for free!
Networking saves time, money and effort in Marketing
Speaking at every major Medical Tourism Conference in the world and traveling to different countries, we see a lot at conferences and social networking events. Organizations in this industry always have to be at the “top of their game.” You can never lose sight of your goals and objectives and never get complacent. You need to conduct yourself in business as if tomorrow some other organization may be seen as the new leading hospital or medical tourism company. Keep that in your mind when you network, when you deal with people, and when you develop your marketing plan.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, a famous American poet almost 100 years ago said, “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path right to his door.” Without knowing it, Ralph Waldo Emerson may have been the best expert on networking. His advice really hits the target on medical tourism, where hospitals are in foreign countries and remote places. Reputation, networking and word of mouth will bring patients to your hospital no matter where you build it, even if it is in the woods with a beaten path leading right up to the hospital’s front door.