Referral MarketingThis month, we’re talking a lot about marketing rehab therapy to consumers. And while that’s an important piece of the marketing puzzle—especially in a world dominated by search engines and social media—we’d be remiss to skip over another key method of generating more business for your practice: referral marketing. To significantly boost the number of referrals you receive, you’ve got to be proactive. So, here’s a rundown of some referral marketing best practices to help drive more patients through your front door.

1. Build relationships. When people—physicians or others—refer patients to you, they’re putting their own reputations at stake. To make them feel more comfortable about sending patients your way, you’ve got to make them feel more comfortable about you, both as a therapist and as a person. So, unleash your inner extrovert and put yourself out there. Make friends with potential referral sources. How? In this day and age, the options for reaching out are plentiful—phone, letter, email, social media—but there’s nothing more genuine (or memorable) than a face-to-face interaction. Make it a priority to stop by a handful of physician offices every few months. A friendly smile can go a long way. But don’t limit yourself to physicians; local athletic trainers, yoga instructors, and massage therapists can be great sources for referrals as well. Just make sure you actually get some face time with the man or woman in charge—not just the front-office staff. If the person you came to see is busy, try to set up an appointment to meet or have lunch.

2. Be valuable. This means more than just providing exceptional patient care (although that’s pretty important, too). But to prove your worth to those who have not yet discovered how awesome you are, you have to make yourself—as well as your passion and expertise—visible in a public way. Volunteer at local sporting events, write a column for your community newspaper, or host a free fitness clinic. The more you engage with people in your area, the more they’ll value your professional skills and knowledge—and the more likely they’ll be to endorse that value to others.   

3. Follow up. The referral process doesn’t end once a new patient walks through your door. Continue to nurture your relationships with referrers by touching base with them periodically, whether it’s by phone, email, or business lunch. Each time someone sends a new patient to you, respond with a prompt thank-you call or—even better—a clinic-branded, handwritten thank-you card. That way, you’ll always stay top-of-mind—even as other providers jostle for referrals, too.

4. Simplify the referral process. In the age of laptops, smartphones, and tablets, people have little patience for inconvenience. So make sure all of your contact information (on your website, business cards, and social media accounts) is current, and if you don’t have a website yet, get one—stat! Then, to make it even easier for people to refer patients to you, consider posting a user-friendly patient referral form on your website for physicians and other referral sources to access, fill out, and submit to your practice. Include the form’s page URL on your business cards and marketing materials. Need help creating a form? Check out Google Docs.

Speaking of Google: you can also use it to add a dedicated referral phone line. Simply create a free account with Google Voice and record a custom greeting. It will even transcribe your voicemails straight to text, so your front office staff can transfer referral information right from your email to your documentation software. How’s that for organization?

5. Embrace EMR. In addition to upping your credibility factor with clinic-branded notes that appear neat, clean, and legible, some EMRs offer referral reports that help you track how many referrals you’re receiving from each source. That way, you can adjust your marketing efforts based on who needs a little more attention and who needs a thank-you.

 Have you tried any of the above methods to bolster referrals in your practice? What advice do you have for therapists looking to strengthen their relationships with referral sources? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. And for more great physical therapy marketing advice, be sure to download our free PT marketing e-book.