Ask Dianne: How Do We Get More Referrals in Our Private Practice?

ask-expert31Q. I want to set-up a system for getting referrals in my practice. My partner thinks we should make a list of potential referral sources and invite them to a “Get Acquainted” Reception that we host where we would do a short intro/program and then serve great food. Is this a good idea? How can we make a one-time event lead to getting referrals on a regular basis?

A. First I want to commend you for the idea of setting up a system for getting referrals. This is one of the most important things you can do for your practice. A system means you have a thought-out process that is carried out on a regular basis to achieve your goals. System also means you have several elements or pieces in place that are designed to work together to achieve the goal.

With that in mind, you need more than one “thing” in place to get and continue to receive referrals from your desired referral sources. The reception is probably not your best starting place.

Most people approach referrals from their own perspective, one of needing something that the other has (the ability to make a referral), rather than from the viewpoint of the one expected to provide the referral (what does this person need? Why would they be interested in making a referral and in making it to you?).

This lack of forethought leads to unrealistic expectations, such as the idea that sending a letter to request referrals is all that’s needed to open the flood gates. Or, the idea that a party with good food will leave such a great impression that the attendees will now entrust their clients or patients to your care.

When I put it like that, you can probably start to see the flaws with this approach.

People do business with those they know, like and trust. Your referral system has got to build in a way for this to occur in some form. Rare is the referral to an unknown entity.

What are you really offering to the person from whom you want to get referrals?

Getting referrals to market your private practice is about building relationships.Sit down with your partner and make the list of potential referral sources they suggested, but this time, instead of planning a party, review the list to determine how you can help them.

Develop a strategy for reaching out to the people on your list.  How can you convey the benefits of choosing your practice as the place they send their clients/patients? Find a way to make it easy for them to refer to you.

When you have this system in place and successfully implemented, then you can have the party as a celebration of your success.

  13 comments for “Ask Dianne: How Do We Get More Referrals in Our Private Practice?

  1. Bizcoach Dianne
    March 22, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    Hi! Thank you for reading today’s article. Hope you like the “new look” for the newsletter.

    As a subscriber to my newsletter, I want to include you in a conversation about marketing – that’s why this launch of the new feature includes the opportunity to win a $25.00 Gift Card. Just post your thoughts as a comment and you are automatically entered to win.

    It couldn’t be easier!

    Thanks for being on my mailing list!


  2. Jen
    March 22, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    Okay, I’ll be the first. I like the new format for the newsletter. The Amazon gift card is a neat idea to get people involved. I usually just read but I don’t think I’ve ever left a comment anywhere. Your suggestions on the questions to consider have given me somthing to think about. I’m going to register for the teleclass.

    Can anyone send in a question to be answered?

    • Bizcoach Dianne
      March 22, 2011 at 5:07 PM

      Hi Jen! Thanks for taking the plunge and being the first to comment! If you’ve never commented before, I know it takes courage to step out there and I appreciate you for doing it.

      There’s no right or wrong answers…just what you think about the topic. It’s all part of the conversation.

      And, yes, anyone can send me a marketing question. I will choose a question to answer on a regular basis and post it in the “Ask Dianne” column so everyone can benefit. Here’s how you can submit a question:

      1. You can hit reply on any newsletter to send a question.

      2. You can grab my email address from any newsletter and use it to send your question.

      3. You can post a question at the end of one of the articles.

      Thanks again, Jen, for being the first to respond!


  3. Thomas Blake
    March 22, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    I registered for the teleclass. I was wondering how do you go about doing things like letting the person you are asking for the referral know why you are the better choice? Wouldn’t a letter be the way to go? Most people are so busy you can’t get in to see them. We get referrals but not as many as I’d like. I’d like to see what other people are doing.

    • Dianne Dawson, Founder PPMR
      March 23, 2011 at 11:40 AM

      @Thomas Blake, Thom, it’s not that sending letters doesn’t work – it just doesn’t work well by itself as a marketing tactic, as many readers will likely attest.

      Thanks for posting that question. I’ll be talking more about this next week so I’m glad you’re joining us for the teleseminar.

      “See you” there!


  4. March 22, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    Dianne, is there any research “out there” about how effective a strategy it is just to ask clients for referrals (or tell them you would appreciate referrals) to their friends, business associates, and such, particularly when the client is thanking you for your service or assistance? [Like Jen, I think the new format is a winner!]

    • Dianne Dawson, Founder PPMR
      March 23, 2011 at 10:47 AM

      @Susan, Susan, you’ve pointed out the best time for asking for referrals – right when the client is appreciating the work you are doing for them. In their excitement about their great results, they are willing – and sometimes eager – to share their success and your information as a great resource.

      However, some professions don’t allow practitioners to request referrals from clients. In those cases, you have to find other ways to encourage referrals without violating any regulations or requirements in that area.

      When asking for referrals from clients isn’t allowed, one can seek referrals from other professionals. I’ll be covering that in my free teleseminar, “Solving the Referral Puzzle”, next Tuesday, March 29th.

  5. March 22, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    Like Jen,

    I have never commented before. I have been on your mail list for a long time but never really pursued it since I have been part of a group of providers. I hope to launch my own practice soon and am looking for effective ideas. As a person who opened a branch office of a social service agency by providing counseling services, I tried sending letters, making phone calls, meeting numerous people and yes, hosting a party but usually with only minimal success. A few clients came and continued to come or send referrals over the last 8 years but as they have moved on the ripple effect has diminished. It seemed like a lot of labor for only a few clients and I am interested in how to be more effective. By the way, I like the new format.

    • Dianne Dawson, Founder PPMR
      March 23, 2011 at 10:57 AM

      @Denise, Congratulations to you on your plans for opening your own practice! Thanks for sharing your story about diminishing returns on your quest to get referrals. I’m sure others have had similar experiences and that can be very frustrating.

      That’s why I’m doing the complimentary teleseminar next Tuesday, March 29th. “Solving the Referral Puzzle” will cover five critical factors related to getting referrals. There’s a link above to register if you haven’t already. It’s my gift to you for being my subscriber.

      And speaking of that, yes, you’ve been on my list for quite a while and I appreciate it. So glad you like the new look of the newsletter. It was fun putting it together.

      It’s good “talking” with you again, Denise!


  6. March 23, 2011 at 1:23 AM

    I’m also a long time list member, and I love the fresh, new look. I agree that it’s definitely a winner!

    My question is about how to make it easy for others to send you referrals. Can you offer any specific examples on that? I also wondered if others have developed creative ideas they might be willing to share. This seems like a key point to me because time is an issue for everyone. The easier it is for someone to send a referral, the more likely they are to do it.

    • Dianne Dawson, Founder PPMR
      March 23, 2011 at 11:03 AM

      @Susan LaBorde, Hey there, Susan! So glad you like the new look. Great questions you’ve asked.

      How about it readers? What can you share about making it easy for people to refer to you? Stories on what worked for you – or what to avoid – would be great to share here.

      Thanks for asking those questions, Susan.

      I’ll “see you” on the call next week.


  7. Sandi Foley
    March 24, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    Hi there from Australia,

    Your new format is a winner! Easy on the eye and inviting to read aesthetically.

    My comment may differ from country to country however;

    One idea we use in our practice, and from a specialist perspective is: the use of a referral pad which provides your contact details, area for the patients details to be completed and the reason for referring etc. The referral pad is a reminder to your referrer that you as a specialist exist and can sit easily on the referrers desk for immediate referral!

    or if and when a new referrer has referred a patient we (the doctor) take the time to contact the referrer directly by phone to introduce our services ie 24 hour service by Practice Nurses etc. We find this is of great benefit in developing the relationship with our referrers and adds personal touch.

    Hope this information helps!

    • Dianne Dawson, Founder PPMR
      March 28, 2011 at 12:50 PM

      @Sandi Foley, Hi Sandi! Yes, a referral pad is a real winner because it serves several purposes. First, it makes it super-easy for the person to make the referral and has the added bonus of being pre-printed…no doctor’s hand-writing to try to decipher (smile).

      Second, it’s right there as a constant reminder of you and your services. If you design it well, meaning you brand it with your logo and tagline or marketing message, it has the opportunity to do double-duty again.

      First, reinforcing to the patient why you are a good place to be referred and second, reminding the person who is doing the referring why choosing you to send their patient or client is a good decision.

      A referral pad with your logo and marketing message printed on it is a smart marketing tool.

      Thanks Sandi, for telling us of your experience in using one.


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