Building your referral network is central to the success of medical practices and many small businesses. In this podcast I discuss how not following and capturing referral data is one of the biggest missed opportunities and the simple solution to fixing this problem so that you can build the best referral network you can and maximize the impact it has on your business.
Note: The alternative title for this post was “Getting Bogged Down In Data”.
If there’s one trap that everyone falls into at some point in their marketing career, it’s over-analyzing. We all know how important it is to track the right data when you’re launching a new campaign, or building out a referral network for your medical practice or small business – but over-thinking which data-points you need can actually lead to precrastination and a lot of wasted opportunities and delays.
To be fair these issues tend to be befall those relatively new to marketing more than anyone else, but even experienced marketers can fall into the same trap when faced with something they’ve never had to work with before.
These delays and wasted opportunities are not what our clients are paying us for. Our clients expect us to hit the ground running and create actual results, but how do we do it?
Let’s assume you’ve never built a referral network for a medical practice or small business before and you’re suddenly thrown in a the deep end and have to start building one at an established practice that previously handled all their own stuff. You’ve been handed a couple of spreadsheets that they’ve been using to track referrals, but they appear to have somewhat contradictory data. Where do you begin?
Talk to the client and set your goals:
Confer with your client and find out what is they wish to achieve. Obviously they all want to add to the bottom line, but for most medical practices it will be something like: “Renew relationships with past referrers who aren’t sending as much work, strengthen relations with existing referrals, and bring in new referral sources”.
Examine the existing data:
Use past data to figure out who you need to be courting to bring them back into the fold. Most practices and small businesses will have some form of referral tracking in place, and the very least they should be able to pull data from their CRM or practice management solution. If the don’t then you’ll have to do some extra leg-work with the client.
Discuss your observations with your client as some declines in referral sources may have “political” reasons and may be a waste of your energy. Very often your client will have a fairly good idea as to why someone stopped referring to them and this can give you very valuable insight into how to approach them.
Do your research and identify new referral sources:
Chances are that the sources referring to your client are not the only fish in the pond. Get online, hit up directories and find out what other potential referral sources are within your client’s catchment area.
Decide What Information You Need To Track to be effective:
The previous three steps were easy, now comes the part the holds most people up – deciding what information to track and how to track it. The more information you track the harder it can be to find a tool that will allow you easily manage the data, and frankly, the more work there is for you. After a certain point the tracking of unnecessary information becomes a burden and a time drain. Too much data can cloud your view. Lets keep it simple.
Get yourself a whiteboard.
Write down all of the data points you would like to be able to track (Name, contact info, NPI number, past referral numbers etc..)
Go have a cup of coffee and talk to someone about something completely different.
Come back to your whiteboard and start erasing all the data points that you don’t ACTUALLY need! Be aggressive. If it’s just a “that would be nice to track” but doesn’t actually help you beyond looking pretty on a spreadsheet, then kick it to the curb.
If at the end of your murderous erasing spree you’re tracking more than 6-8 data points you’re doing it wrong.
Track Your Information And Visits – Get A CRM
Finding a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution that fits your needs is considerably easier now they you’re only tracking a handful of data points, but there are somethings that you will want to consider.
- It should allow you to easily import contacts from your email platform
- It should integrate with your email platform so that you can tag emails and assign them to relationships and organizations
- It needs to have strong note taking abilities
- It should have a strong mobile app. You don’t want to be carrying a laptop around all day or filling in your notes when you get back to the office. If you can do it all on your phone, then YAY!
- It should be scalable – someday you may grow your consulting activities beyond yourself
Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to enter all of your potential referrers information in straight away. Add them as you intend to visit them, and any competent CRM will start building relationships and tracking organizations as you tag emails and correspondence leading to organic population.
As an added bonus, a CRM will help you track your progress, projects and tasks, making reporting to your client considerably easier.
Prioritize your list
Based on your research and existing referral data you should now be able to easily prioritize the practices that you need to reach out to first. Talk to your client once your list is complete – explain your reasoning as they may have some insights into the meetings you’re about to setup.
Start making phone calls, sending emails and hit the streets.
Get out there. There’s nothing holding you back now except you and your willingness to make contacts. Send your emails, make your calls, visit offices, attend conferences and events, shake some hands! Track and analyze your results, rinse and repeat accordingly.