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5 Steps to Physician Marketing: Generate Quality Physician Referrals in Less than 2 Hours a Day

5 Steps to Physician Marketing: Generate Quality Physician Referrals in Less than 2 Hours a Day
Maria Riccobono

Last week, my article focused on why physician referrals are important to your practice.  This week, I want to get to the nitty-gritty of how to start generating referrals.  What prevents most practice owners from starting a physician marketing program is they feel it requires too much time.  If done strategically, tactically, and consistently, you don’t have to spend hours every week acting like  a pharma rep.

Follow the five steps below to get your physician referral plan underway:


Identify Top Physician Targets

Spending a little time up front to identify your top physician targets will save time, and allow you to execute the plan in a couple of hours per month. Find your MVPs (Minimum Viable Physicians) – these are the low-hanging fruit, or the path of least resistance. They are not always the top physicians by volume or reputation, but are the easiest for you to begin generating referrals. Compile a top-down list of all physician practices in your area, using the following criteria (from greatest to least importance):

  1. Physicians who have referred to you before
  2. Physicians who have not referred, but you share mutual patients
  3. Physician behavior profile and access
  4. Practice location (in proximity to your practice)
  5. Patient demographics and volume of the practice

This list should generate dozens, if not more, viable targets. The first 10 doctors on this list make up your top 10 list. The remaining physicians will be used to replace and supplement targets on your list as needed.

Block Time Each Month for Office Visits

Setting aside time each month to conduct visits will ensure you keep to your plan. Consistent communication and visits with offices is essential to ensure that the message that you deliver are remembered in your absence. Below are some best practices for setting your schedule:

  • Pick a specific day and time each month to do physician visits
  • Depending on overall radius, you can estimate 5 offices per hour for “drop ins”
  • Schedule lunch and learns when possible – not required, but drastically shortens time to seeing your first referral, and allows you to get in front of the physician


Develop & Implement a Strategic Messaging Plan

This is where the rubber meets the road. It is essential to create a strategic message that will resonate with the physician and motivate him to change his referring behavior. Follow these steps to craft and deliver your message:

  1. ONE PATIENT TYPE: Identify a specific patient type for physician (i.e. diabetics). Help the physician imagine that patient by focusing on specifics – such as, are newly diagnosed, or do they have difficulty complying to regimens, etc.
  2. RATIONALE/Evidence Based Medicine: Present clinical data to support that this patient type should be referred for an exam (for example: link between oral care and diabetes and other chronic health conditions)
  3. WFIIM (What’s in it for Me?): Explain how referring to you will benefit the physician’s practice, patient outcomes, etc.


Gain Commitment and Provide Resources

If the physician does agree to start referring, get more information so that you can provide resources to make it easy. For example, ask if there is a referral coordinator, go visit him/her to see how you can help make their job easier, or if you can provide brochures or business cards.

At this point, you will have a good idea whether the physician is buying into your message. Ask the doctor for some commitment (ideally referrals, but if he isn’t ready, ask if you can come back with more information – although the goal is getting the doctor to start referring patients to your office, sometimes small victories are just as valuable.)


Track, Evaluate and Modify Physician Targets as Needed

In last week’s article, I mentioned how important it was to know what physicians are saying to their patients about dental care. Getting a physician to understand and preach the importance of good oral hygiene to his/her patients, goes beyond the referral. In my next article, I will discuss what physician marketing is really about.

Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Physician marketing is a long-term strategy that can be very effective if done strategically, tactically and consistently. Delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right audience, will determine your success in generating referrals. If you would like help in understanding or developing any of these steps, please feel free to contact me directly.

Every month, you should pull a referral report by physician to see the number of referrals generated, and if any of those referrals are the type of patient you identified with the physician. If you haven’t seen any referrals after 6-9 months of consistent visits, evaluate whether the physician should be dropped from the top 10 list, and replaced with another.

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