Today's post comes from PT Paul Potter, a private practice owner with more than 35 years of experience, host of the Functional Freedom Podcast, and the author of the Cash Therapy Practice: Professional Freedom in the New Healthcare Economy and On Fire: Ignite Your Passion with a Cash Therapy Practice.


If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a therapist say he or she needs more referrals, I’d be retired by now. After all, we all want a schedule full of clients we can help.

Many therapists have inflated expectations for their referral streams. At the same time, they often struggle with marketing their practices. Why? Because they don’t understand what it takes to generate business in the new healthcare economy. They’re convinced that marketing is not their job. If you fall into this category, you cannot afford to live that lie any longer.

Thanks to the Internet and social media, consumers have unlimited information at their fingertips and unprecedented access to the experiences and recommendations of their peers. These savvy buyers now hold the power; they often walk into their physicians’ offices and tell them exactly where they want to go for therapy.

It’s time to take advantage of this new era, to get your brand in front of consumers, and to ask your satisfied clients for referrals. This is how smart entrepreneurs build successful businesses.

To that end, here are ten strategies that will help you build your own effective referral network (for a more comprehensive look at physical therapy marketing best practices, be sure to check out this free PT marketing guide):

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1. Distribute a customer satisfaction survey.

Customer satisfaction surveys provide a fantastic opportunity for you to connect with your most satisfied patients. Remember to keep surveys short, accessible, easy to submit, unbiased, and always anonymous.

2. Set goals and track your performance.

One of the simplest ways to improve referrals is to focus your attention on those measures that lead to referrals. Your lead measures should be things that you can influence and that are predictive of the goal of more referrals.

3. Get out of the clinic.

The more well-known you are in your community, the greater your opportunity for referrals. Network with diverse groups in environments that allow you to demonstrate your skills and credibility as a therapist.

4. Create a blog.

One of the best ways to generate referrals is to give potential clients a chance to get to know you—thus allowing you to build trust. It is important to lead clients to one location where you can control your professional brand. Your blog is a platform that you can personally customize to shape a potential client’s experience.

5. Grow your social communities.

Social media platforms provide an effective mechanism for expanding your reach and generating word-of-mouth referrals. But to do that, you’ll need a strategy. Focus on posting helpful, useful content on one or two social media platforms where your ideal client is already present and interacting.

6. Keep in touch with your connectors.

Nobody builds a practice all by himself or herself. You need advocates who believe in you and your ability to help people. Most therapists can identify those clients who are the evangelists for their practice. They are the satisfied clients who will spread the news about your practice and connect others to you.

7. Fill your schedule with speaking engagements.

Take advantage of every opportunity to present yourself as an expert. Any audience that shows up to hear you speak is likely filled with natural clients for your services.

8. Network online.

Build your online presence by networking with key influencers. In the old days, “networking” meant convincing physicians to send patients to your practice. Today, the trick is to leverage any referral source who can direct clients your way: personal trainers, coaches, and massage therapists are the first ones that come to mind. Include patient testimonials on your website to enhance your credibility, and make sure your Google business ranking is high.

9. Connect with a community cause.

If you have any connection to a cause related to your practice, you can position yourself to both promote your business and do some good. Physical therapy has so many natural ties to health-related causes; if you’re not already connected to something, start looking.

10.  Love on your loyal patients.

We all have loyal fans who are extremely satisfied with the care they’ve received. Maintain relationships with these clients by staying in contact and letting them know how much you appreciated their business. (One idea: send them cards on their birthdays.) No single group will generate more referrals than your loyal fan base, and nothing carries more weight than a patient who says, “I’ve been going to my physical therapist for years!” 

The Bottom Line

Referrals are earned one patient at a time, and many times, they result from lasting relationships with very satisfied clients. Attracting more referrals starts with adding value to people’s lives and exceeding their expectations. Be consistent, genuine, and personable in your interactions with clients, and then deliver exceptional, reliable care. Patients of this kind of practice will gladly refer you to others.

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