Do you remember the game “Othello”? The game consists of a board laid out like a chessboard (but with more squares) and a stack of black and white chips.
The object of the game is to control an entire board with chips of your color (either white or black). The way to do this is to lay down chips so that two chips of your color outflank a row of chips of your opponent’s color.
You might think of your referral base the same way.
Your community is the game board. Each square represents potential referral sources. Your goal is to have each referral source become educated about how your practice serves patients, and to think of you first when they find someone with a health-related problem you can solve.
Most healthcare professionals don’t think aggressively enough about controlling the “game board” of referral sources in their community.
There are tactful, educational ways to develop your referral base — without feeling awkward or inauthentic.
One of the exercises we do here at The Healthcare Marketing and Practice Management Institute is to ask healthcare professionals to think in a systematic, disciplined way about the entire universe of potential referral sources in their community. Usually we find that these professionals have a respectable base of referral sources already, but they have not developed a systematic and proactive program to develop new referral sources while nurturing the existing referral relationships.
For instance, we recently worked with a physician practice that had offices near each of the two hospitals in their community, one on either side of town. An analysis revealed that the practice had done an excellent job developing loyalty from referral sources on the East side of town, but had barely penetrated the potential referral sources on the West side of town.
Once they recognized this fact, we went to work to educate a variety of potential referral sources on this side of town — while also taking care to thank and update existing sources.
As in the game Othello, if you don’t control the board, somebody else will. Don’t let things evolve naturally when you think about referrals. Rather, develop a proactive (and tactful) strategy.