Consistent referrals are the mainstay of any physical therapy practice. For many practice owners, constantly worrying about referrals can be a stressful, unwelcome burden causing some to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. We all have similar insecurities when it comes to marketing our practice and asking for referrals: fear of rejection, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of looking foolish.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Marketing is about how you and your practice show up in the world. It is about communicating your message to attract the people you want to attract to your clinic.
In simple terms, marketing and generating referrals is about relationships. Direct, authentic communication, taking an active interest in solving the problems of others, and demonstrating how you can be part of their solution are the tickets to referral success.
Approaching referrals as a chance to build genuine, long-lasting relationships, and not some sales tactic, can transform the awkwardness of speaking with referral sources into powerful conversations. This approach helps build greater long-term relationships, and that translates into consistent referrals, new patients and cash flow.
Here are four tips to consider as you expand your marketing efforts through referral relationships:
1. Expand Beyond Physicians
There’s no question that doctors are still a fantastic referral source. The doctor, front desk person, and office manager carry a ton of influence when making referrals to patients. However, it can be difficult to set up meetings due to their time limitations.
But physicians aren’t the only referral source in town. The key is to branch out beyond the doctors in your community…include other not so obvious health and wellness providers, specialty stores, hospital administrators and anyone else who has influence over your target patient population. It’s easier to set up meetings and build a relationship that turns into referrals to your practice.
2. K.I.T (Keep In Touch)
Staying top of mind with your referral sources is important as you continue to deepen your relationships. And staying in touch doesn’t mean you have to spend a bunch of money buying lunch for the office or dropping off wine during the holidays. There are other ways to keep in touch with your referral sources that are simple, easy and less expensive.
Social media channels like LinkedIn or sending a simple email can be effective in staying at the forefront of your referral source. Sharing an interesting article or blog or checking in on how things are going show that you are interested in them and this isn’t just a fleeting relationship. Think of your interactions with referral sources as ongoing conversations—exploring how to better serve them and heal more patients together.
3. Be Interested, Not Interesting
If you went to see a comedian at a comedy club, you would say that the comedian was being interesting. The focus and attention was all on them. The audience, in turn, was being interested in the comedian, providing their undivided attention to watching and enjoying the show.
When it comes to having engaging communications with referral sources that lead to referrals being sent your way, it is important for you to be INTERESTED. You can do this by asking questions and listening intently. Focus on the problems they are having and look for ways to help. It doesn’t mean you won’t have a chance to talk. You will. And when you do, be genuine and open. Go ahead and share your business mission and perhaps why you do the work that you do. Feel free to share what your practice does best and what differentiates your clinic from the rest.
As compassionate caregivers, physical therapists can feel conflicted about asking for referrals. But rather than avoiding the dreaded “ask,” – which is what most of us do — I advocate a slight change in approach. Try asking this simple question: “What can I do to better support you and help your patients?”
By using words like “support”, you won’t feel like a used car salesman. You will approach it with a “I am here to help and I want to know how I can do that for you” perspective. Having a different approach starts with a different mindset. If you think of this conversation as a way to help more people, you will show up more powerful and confident. Advocating for yourself is a good thing. Offering support and help are good things. Before you show up to this meeting, take a few moments to get in the right frame of mind. It could make all of the difference.
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