When I say the word "networking," small business owners often get anxious. Many people associate networking with awkwardly meeting people and forcing conversations about business. This is not what I am talking about! I almost never recommend cold calling potential referral sources or clients. The most effective use of your time and energy is almost always to give to the relationships you already have. There are 3 stages to networking: adding people to the mix (or the pipeline), following up with people, and making some sort of "close" with them (either receiving a referral or business from them). It is that second stage that is often neglected and that actually needs the most attention.
For example, if you are a therapist in practice for several years with a struggling practice, let's look at your networking strategy. If you went to school in the area, worked at an agency in the area, or even just practiced in the area for a few years, you've come into contact with a lot of therapists and other professionals. Rather than adding people to the list of those you know, your time and energy will be better spent by thinking of all of the people you already know and especially those you like, those who have referred to you, and those with full practices. Any person who meets 2 of those qualifications or even 3 goes to the top of the list!
An effective strategy would be to get back in touch with all of those people, perhaps a few each week. When you reach out to these people, your focus is not on asking for referrals or even telling them about your business. Your focus is on learning what is going on with them and finding out if there is any way you can be helpful. Find out what methods they are enjoying using these days, and how you can best refer to them. That is a phone call or an email that your colleagues will be less likely to ignore. Before you make any phone call or send any email, take a moment to get grounded. Take a deep breath or get a cup of tea and get in touch with your excitement about this work. Every call or email that you start from a place of love and openness will carry that tone with it. You will feel more energy and stop feeling dread at hearing the word "networking".