An image of people's avatars linked into a web is used to illustrate the concept of networking.

Developing a professional network is an essential element of building a sustainable business, no matter what field you are in. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” As a sports massage therapist, networking with a personal trainer or health coach can be the start of a mutually beneficial referral network.

For example, if you were to connect with an individual or business in health and fitness, you may become a preferred provider to whom they could refer clients who need massage therapy. In turn, you could refer clients looking to improve their health and fitness to your network of personal trainers and health coaches.

Overall, this creates a more holistic, team-based approach to serving your clients. This begins with partnering with like-minded professionals in complementary areas of wellness, including the fitness industry. As you begin building your network, consider these seven effective ways to connect with health coaches and exercise professionals.

7 Steps to Build a Sports Massage Practice by Networking

1. Focus on Alignment. When seeking out exercise professionals, health coaches and fitness facilities, look for those who have beliefs and values similar to your own, as well as those who have different educational and life experiences. The goal of building a network is to provide reciprocating value to your connections.

2. Engage with Others’ Social Media Content. There are many social media channels on which you can engage with exercise professionals, health coaches and fitness facility owners such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn. If you want to create an interactive network, you must commit to being a supportive professional. Follow your contacts on their respective social media channels and go beyond a simple “like” by making a comment, resharing the post or tagging clients or other professionals who can benefit from the content. If you see content shared by one of these individuals or businesses that rings true for your massage therapy practice, consider posting something similar that speaks to you and your values.

3. Build and Share Relevant Content. Your followers, which likely include other massage therapists and others in the health-and-wellness industry, will continue to follow you and engage with your content if it is meaningful, relevant and consistent, as opposed to feeling random and disconnected. It’s also valuable to create a specific aesthetic or a consistent look and feel—such as making sure all your posts use the same hashtag or photo filters—so followers instantly recognize your content.

4. Meet Other Professionals. As professionals, we are accustomed to attending conferences, webinars and other learning experiences. A great way to gain a different perspective of the health-and-fitness industry is to attend events at a local gym or even national events that are hosted by large fitness-industry organizations. Don’t forget local community opportunities like job or street fairs where you can showcase your services.

5. Communicate regularly and often. This tip goes beyond engaging with other professionals’ social media content: It’s about taking the time to personalize a message. Touch base with your contacts and ask how their work is progressing, or follow up on talking points from your previous conversation or email exchange.

6. Explore collaborative opportunities. Each exercise and health care professional has their own scope of practice and provides distinct services. Approach exercise professionals and health coaches in your network about partnership opportunities that involve lunch-and-learns, workshops or other events for your clients (and theirs). Joining forces widens your reach and offers a unique experience for consumers.

7. Celebrate Accomplishments. You and your contacts will experience accomplishments and professional achievements. It might be that a colleague of yours published a position statement, gave their first live webinar or provided their expertise in other ways. Celebrate these milestones with them and share them within your network. Think of this as a virtual “brag board” or “winner wall.” And remember to promote your own achievements as well.

Networking is a necessary practice in any field, and it requires more than an invitation to “connect” or a handful of “likes” on shared memes. It requires intention, thought and consistent deposits in the rapport bank account.

Just as you would plan time to engage in continuing education and skill development, plan time for networking. Plant the seeds, nurture them consistently and share in their benefits.

Cedric X. Bryant

About the Author

Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, FACSM, is president and chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise. He stewards ACE’s development of strategies to deliver exercise-science and behavior-change education in ways that are engaging and compelling, recruiting more people to become exercise professionals and health coaches and equipping them for growth in their respective fields.