If your practice is in a growth phase and you have scope to take on more clients, physician referral marketing is a vital focus area. But, even if you’re not expanding, an established network of referral relationships can help keep your practice ticking over on autopilot, so you can focus on your practice rather than filling appointments.
With that in mind, the next question is, how do you build your network of physicians that will refer to you? A strategic approach can go a long way to improving your strike rate with physicians, and that, along with our 5 mistakes to avoid, will set you up for long-term fruitful relationships with referring physicians.
How to Approach Physicians for Referrals
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy that works for physician referral marketing, but these steps will help you establish relationships and grow your referral base.
1. Define Your Unique Selling Proposition
While you’re not marketing a new set of sneakers, the concept of a USP (unique selling proposition) is still important. Physicians still want to know why they should choose your practice over the one down the road.
This is the core message that you want to communicate to potential referrers. It might be a niche that you specialise in, a value-adding offer that no one else has, your location, or your experience.
If you’re not sure what your USP is, have a look at Why Should a Patient Choose your Clinic over your Competitors and Your Unique Selling Proposition articles for some inspiration to get you started.
2. Focus on Physicians that Already Refer to You
Over and over again, studies show that existing customers are the most profitable, and this logic extends to physician referral marketing. This is because it’s easier to get more referrals from a physician who already trusts you than to get referrals from a new physician where that trust relationship isn’t in place.
It’s vital to foster the relationships that you’ve already established because:
a) They may refer more clients to you because you’re top-of-mind
b) If you don’t, they may refer potential clients to other practices (because they feel you’ve taken them for granted)
Make a note in your calendar to connect with your referrers every month or two, then just do it! Whether it’s a quick email, a phone call, or a face-to-face chat, you don’t want to give them a chance to forget about you.
Put yourself in their shoes and try to think about what would make life easier for them and their patients, then try to remove roadblocks that might prevent them from referring to you. To get the ball rolling, when you meet with physicians, ask them these three questions. By showing an interest and taking action on the information they share, you can cement your position as the go-to person when they have a patient to refer:
- Is there anything we can do better or differently?
- Have you had feedback from clients that would help me improve my offering?
- What can I do to make your life easier?
3. Target New Practices in the Area
Keep an eye out for new practices that open in the area. They may not have a network of professionals to refer to and would therefore be open to sending clients to you.
4. Offer clients the best experience
Clients will share their experience at your practice with their physician, and if the physician receives negative feedback from a patient, it will damage your relationship with your referrer.
5. Make it Easy for Them to Refer to You
Make sure that they have your card and that your website is updated with clear contact information. You could even go one step further and add a referral form that physicians can use on your website.
6. Focus on Building the Practice of Your Reputation
Part of encouraging physicians to refer to you is to build your reputation in the community. If you have a practice that is well-known among medical professionals and is well-established in the local community, that visibility will give physicians the confidence to refer to you.
5 Common Mistakes to Avoid
1. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Like any business, it helps to diversify your client sources. This means setting up a network of physicians’ practices who are happy to refer clients to you as well as focusing on other sources such as social media, honing your website, optimising your Google maps listing and more.
Also, consider that there are many other types of referrers, not just physicians. Depending on your specialisation, you could build a network of referral partners in your local community, including personal trainers, health food stores, schools and universities, Pilates and yoga studios, gyms, aged care facilities, other related health professionals, and community leaders.
2. Don’t Be Too Eager
Physicians want to feel comfortable when they refer their clients, but you need to strike a balance between adding value and looking desperate. For many physicians, it’s a red flag if their referral partners are getting in touch too often, as it shows that their practice isn’t full.
3. Don’t Take a Scatter-Shot Approach and Hope for the Best
Choose the practices you want to work with carefully, decide how you want to approach them, then interact consistently. This might look different for different practices, and you may even want to segment practices accordingly.
Some physicians like the personal touch and appreciate in-person visits, lunches, and surprise treats for the practice, while others would be happy to receive an email update once a month.
4. Don’t Dismiss the Importance of Referral Feedback Letters
The most important thing to a physician is the health and wellbeing of their patient. If a physician has referred a client to you, it’s well worth the effort to keep the physician informed of their patient’s progress. By doing this, you communicate that their patient is a priority for you, which builds trust because the physician knows that their patient is in safe hands.
Damien Adler, a co-founder of Power Diary and Director of Mind Life Clinic, shares his insights on how to write a great referral feedback letter and explains how it’s benefited their psychology practice.
Does this sound like a lot of work? Well, if you consider that it takes under half an hour of your time (with a bit of practice), and there are no other costs, this is actually a really affordable way to build your physician referral marketing strategy.
Power Diary makes it easy to streamline this process; you can set up letter templates, which will ensure that you communicate the most important points. And, as with anything, if you have a system and a process for getting these tasks ticked off, it’s much more likely that you’ll actually get to them.
5. Don’t Forget to Measure Your Efforts
This is where the 80-20 principle comes into action. You may get on well with a specific physician, and they may enjoy being taken out to lunch once a month, but if they’re not referring clients to you, you need to decide whether it’s worth the effort.
Similarly, you may have physicians that regularly refer clients to you but do so because they trust you rather than because you send them regular lunches.
You’re too busy to maintain a long list of referral source contacts, and if you don’t have a system, there are potentially excellent referrers who will fall through the cracks.
To keep track of your top-performing referrers, you would pull the “recent referrals” report (Reports → System → Recent Referrals). This report gives a list of clients referred to your clinic in a specific time period.
So, for example, you could run this report in December and set the time period for January to December. This would quickly show you who has referred the most clients, and you could show your appreciation by delivering a holiday gift to the practice.
Expired or Soon-To-Be Expired Referrals
To stay on top of whose referral period is expiring or soon will be in a particular time period, you would run this report (Reports → Clients → Referral Expiry). In general, you’d want to run this report monthly to ensure that the referrals don’t expire. It’s also a great way to stay top-of-mind with physicians who have referred clients to you.
The inactive referrals (Reports → System → Inactive Referrers) is another important one as it provides a list of referrers who have not sent clients within your specified time frame. It could be that they haven’t heard from you in a while and have started referring clients elsewhere, or maybe a patient gave negative feedback about their experience with you – either way, you want to get in touch with the physician and find out what’s happening!
Physician referral marketing is often touted as the best way to bring in clients on autopilot. And it should definitely be at the top of the list for healthcare practice owners, but it’s not the end of the story. Establishing and maintaining these relationships takes time and effort if you want them to be fruitful, and, unfortunately, there are many mistakes that practice owners make along the way that could impact the relationship.
If you’re serious about growing your practice, practice management software can help streamline parts of the process, making it easier to identify and stay in touch with the right referrers so that you can focus on managing your practice and seeing your clients.