A steady stream of patients is extremely vital for the survival of every clinic! How effective is your referral program with your medical colleagues?
“The best way to predict your future is to create it!” — Abraham Lincoln
Medical professionals have built their success on forming and nurturing referral partnerships since time infinitum. The most powerful of these referral relationships are created when mutual benefits are built-in to those alliances.
This is precisely the point of this article! We intend to show you how to create stronger ties with your medical colleagues. Additionally, this piece will teach you how to provide greater value and separate yourself from other doctors also seeking referrals.
The first place to begin is with the basic inventory of your current actions, for example:
- What are you doing to position yourself with your colleagues to stand out from every other doctor that requests referrals?
- Are you a good and beneficial referral partner?
- Have you established strong bonds of trust?
- Are you providing a reciprocal benefit to your referral partners?
- Have you established a sense (within your colleagues) of superior expectations?
Many clinic owners give no thought to the fact that success in business is an on-going competition for survival! In order to thrive, you need to implement intentionality! Every day, you must build into your calendar a plan and action to generate more and better patient leads.
According to noted business development guru, Jay Abraham, there are only three ways to grow your practice. You either increase the number of new patients, get them to buy more medical services, or pay more for each proceedure.
For this article, we will focus on increasing the number of new patients. We will focus on the other two methods in future articles (as well as in past issues such as in “8 Steps For Increasing Business“).
CREATING AN ALLIANCE –
In order for a referral program to work, you have to do some investigative work. You must figure out your colleague’s needs and motivations. There are both psychological and emotional components in play when referring patients. You need to know about your colleague’s current referral partners. Why is your colleague using them rather than someone else? How committed are they to these people? How open are they to adding to their list of referral partners? Do they have long-standing ties such as school, social, or fraternal affiliations?
“More than features, more than benefits, we are driven to become a member in good standing of the tribe. We want to be respected by those we aspire to connect with, we want to know what we ought to do to be part of that circle.” – Seth Godin
As you can see, you may be asking someone to break or significantly bend long-established ties. In order to do so, you will have to consider “What’s in this proposed relationship for your colleague (ie. what’s in it for them?)?”
It may seem crass to say but we’re all motivated by self-interest. As such, as part of your detective work you need to uncover your colleague’s “why.” In other words, what is the perceived benefit they stand to gain from you?
Trust is the only sure-fire, time-tested method of bridging those emotional and psychological concerns. Let’s face it, any time you ask anyone for a referral there’s an element of risk involved by the referrer. Most doctors are highly invested in all facets of their patients’ treatment. If your colleague doesn’t know you well there may be natural trepidation. It’s reasonable to expect the referrer to be concerned about possible negative outcomes. They may very well be thinking how will this affect my professional reputation if this person doesn’t deliver! For that matter, how will it affect their relationship with the patient if you don’t perform?
Therefore, you must do everything in your power to establish trust almost instantly! Be prepared to set someone’s mind at ease with your competence, your bedside manner, and your expertise. Additionally, prepare a dossier of your achievements, include an introductory letter, and incorporate current and past patient recommendations.
Further, the best referral marketing programs don’t just ask – they give! Before asking your medical colleagues to introduce you to their patients, you need to create the framework for a mutually beneficial patient exchange relationship.
Actually, Lindsey Getz wrote to this very point in her highly enlightening article for Today’s Dietitian titled “Go Fish — Four Strategies to Increase Practice Referrals.” She uses the example of D. Milton Stokes, MPH, RD, CDN, owner of One Source Nutrition, LLC, a nutrition counseling and consulting firm in southern Connecticut, “I seek out the other professionals who would be working with the same type of clientele,” he explains. “I send an e-mail [or] letter or call them and request a meeting, and I always phrase it that I want to get to know that individual so that I would feel comfortable referring my patients to them. When you refer your own patients to a professional, they are more inclined to refer back to you as well. It means setting up a cross-referral network.”
ADDING A COMPONENT OF FAMILIARITY –
Keep your referral partners informed about the things you’re doing by creating an exclusive online community. This gives them an opportunity to get to know your brand and service quite well. Ultimately, this allows you to create meaningful, long-lasting relationships that will keep your brand top-of-mind. Consequently, the relationship should inspire referral leads.
The idea for your exclusive online page is to develop your personal platform. This “stage” allows you to share treatment information with like-minded medical professionals. Further, it allows you to provide a unique insight into who you are and what you care about. If your passions involve community and charity events, share these potentially common interests. If you’re a foodie, let your colleagues know through your posts. The point is, these are excellent resources for creating camaraderies.
I was reading an article in PureB2B.com, and the author Johanna Rivard writes directly to this point in her excellent piece titled, “15 Effective B2B Lead Generation Ideas for Your Marketing Campaign.”
I was struck because this is exactly what we have been advising our clients for years. It’s not that we’re so smart, but this information is so important. It’s being written about by so many authorities, and can mean the difference between your success or failure!
Ms. Rivard states that finding different ways to attract referral source will eventually lead to positive results while staying ahead of the curve. She suggests the following as great lead generation ideas for your marketing campaign. Further, all of these suggestions, because of their economic entry points, are fantastic for your return on investment (ROI).
- Online Generation via Social Media: Social media has changed the landscape of lead generation, and has become one of the primary ways of reaching and doing business with referral partners and patients.
- There are a lot of social networks in existence, but the main ones are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+.
- So, make sure to sign up on these systems and start regularly posting and engaging so that your target audience will get to know you better.
- Email Marketing: It may seem like email marketing has been forgotten because of all the other possible online media. But, in truth, it is still very much alive and is one of the most efficient techniques when it comes to lead generation from business colleagues.
- People still use their email on a regular basis, and email marketing is a great place to invest. Optimize this channel by sending your referral partners information on products or services they may benefit them. Your goal is to be a top-of-mind, trusted provider of information as well as medical care.
- Optimize the Landing Page: The landing page is the first thing that people get to when they go to your website. So it’s vital to pay attention to this page and make a good first impression.
- Make sure that visitors would be able to find what they want to know, and navigation from this page to the rest of the site should be easy
GIVE THEM YOUR BEST –
Until your relationships develop, your online presence will be the way that most people get to know you. Make sure you give them your best!
Further still, as you develop your social media make it user-friendly, easy to navigate, and informative. Take the time to deliver impeccable content so that your referral partners will return several times.
Keep in mind that you are trying to win over this colleague. You would like them, as mentioned at the onset, to break or perhaps severely bend their current ties. Give them a good reason to do so!
It simply can’t be stated enough, content (more specifically strong content) is king! Unfortunately, content marketing has become a catch phrase, an opportunity for people to sound smart but not say anything! Briefly, according to Josh Steimle, contributing author to Forbes Magazine and one of the top 50 marketing influencers in 2016, “content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable client and business-to-business action.”
The key word here is “valuable, engaging and fascinating.” The goal is to provide as much value and interest from your content marketing to as much of your target audience as possible.
Remember, your website has a dual-purpose and serves two target audiences (your referral colleagues and your patients). Never forget your patient base; which you always have to maintain very informed and engaged!
Perhaps more important than understanding what content marketing is, is understanding why content marketing is important to your clinic. The content you provide is directly tied to the four steps of the patient’s buying cycle:
- Awareness. Before alert, a patient may have a need, but they are not aware there is a solution.
- Research. Once a future patient is aware there is a solution, they will do research to educate themselves. This absolutely applies when dealing with elective procedures.
- Consideration. At this point, the patient starts comparing different procedures from various doctors to make sure they’re getting a high-quality service at a fair price.
Now let me show you how to “super-size” your appeal to your referral partners. In so doing, you will create distance between you and every other doctor wanting referrals.
THE LAW OF SCARCITY –
We all place a higher value on an object that is scarce, and a lower value on those that are abundant. The thought that we, as humans, want something we cannot have drives us to desire the object even more.
In order to attract referral partners to you, you must develop your brand and become a sought after expert. If you recall a few paragraphs ago I mentioned creating a dossier. Along with the information, you plan to leave with your referral partner, include any articles you’ve written, any published expert testimony that has appeared in the media, or books you’ve written.
The information you leave behind has the potential to separate you from all other contenders for said referrals. Keep in mind, that every day you’re in business, there’s someone else who wants the same thing you do.
Becoming a published author creates scarcity. Perhaps the greatest benefit is the ability to use your book to expand your influence and change lives. By sharing your experience and your passion with others in an authentic, “non-sales” or intrusive way, you open doors for more meaningful relationships. Through your writing, you cultivate a way for readers to get to know, like, and trust you—and your message.
Further, your authority is established through your book: the common thread among clinic owners and professionals who have published a book is the instant credibility they enjoy.
As soon as people know you’re an authority on a subject that interests them, they’ll be interested in what you have to say.
Prospective patients, organizations, referral partners, and the media all want to talk to the “expert.” Having authored a book on the subject at hand gives you immediate and significant credibility. When you leave your portfolio with your proposed referral partners, your book will make you both memorable and builds scarcity.
As you can see all these facets are building on a foundation of potential trust. This next portion should take you to atmospheric levels!
THE LAW OF RECIPROCITY –
Once you’ve developed and nurtured your advocate relationships enough to submit referrals, it’s important to reward them appropriately.
I’m not referring to a bouquet of flowers, lunch, or even a bottle of wine. Though all these items are fine, they just aren’t enough and they do nothing to help you stand out. There is no better way to take care of a colleague than with a stream new patients.
“According to the law of reciprocity, when you give, you receive,” says Larina Kase, PsyD, MBA, a marketing psychologist and author of The New York Times bestseller The Confident Speaker, among other titles. “When you provide true value for your referral partners, they do the same for you. The value you provide needs to be authentic and the giving needs to come from a place of inspiration—without necessarily the expectation of something in return right away.”
Your goal is to set-up a collaborative effort with like-minded professionals and to add value to their practices and patients as well. This will ensure your advocates refer to you again and again—making your referral marketing program a powerful source of new business, and an integral part of your marketing strategy.
“Paint the picture of who you work with and how you can help them,”
Increasing the number of referrals you receive does require extra time and energy, but the payoff may be well worth the effort. And while success will vary based on your practice location, specialty, and other factors, giving these tried-and-true methods a shot just may help you reel in some new patients.
We hope you get a lot out of this piece! Much of this requires experience; let us show you how you too can generate more referrals from your colleagues. We will gladly share our wisdom with you! Should have further questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
Brought to you from the desk of Steve Cox,
co-Founder of StevenVonLoren — Marketing Strategists;
Direct: 530.492.9971; Personal eMail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Amazon Profile