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How To Get More Patient Referrals

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

But Why It Won’t Save Your Business

I want to dive into a topic that I've encountered repeatedly over the past four years working as a business coach for cash based practice owners – a misconception that can significantly impact the way you approach marketing for your practice or service-based business.

The misconception I'm addressing is the idea that having just one or two reliable referral sources will ensure the success of your practice. This misconception often goes hand in hand with the sentiment of "I dislike marketing and sales; I just want to treat patients."

If you've ever found yourself thinking along these lines, you're not alone. But it's essential to unpack these statements and understand why they might not lead to the results you expect.

Let me reintroduce myself briefly for those who are new to our community. My name is Morgan, I'm a physical therapist who specializes in helping therapists establish and grow their cash-based practices. I've been creating content on various topics related to this since I started my practice in 2019.

Let’s start with addressing the misconceptions about referral sources and marketing that I've experienced during my time as a business coach.

Relying Solely on Referral Sources

The notion that one or two reliable referral sources will solve all your patient acquisition woes is flawed. It's a gamble, as you're depending on external resources to sustain your small business. If that relationship goes bad or the referring provider happens to go out of business, you may find yourself without a steady stream of patients. It's risky to hinge your cash based practice’s success entirely on external referrals.

The Role of Marketing for Your Cash Based PT Practice

Another common misconception is the role of marketing. Marketing isn't about directly getting clients; it's about generating awareness, attracting traffic, and building credibility. Without an effective marketing strategy, people won't even know about your services, making it challenging for referral sources to send you patients.

A basic marketing strategy could be something as simple as using your social media platforms (i.e. Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) to generate awareness, drive traffic, and help your audience to build trust in you. Implementing a content marketing strategy is one way to build an audience and let people know that you exist.

If You Hate Marketing

If you despise marketing and sales and just want to focus on treating patients, you’re not alone in your frustration. However, if you're a cash based physical therapy practice owner, you must understand that you need sales and marketing skills to help your practice thrive. Otherwise, you may be better off in a staff clinician role (hard truth to hear). Check out my blog post here to find out if you’re really ready to start your own practice.

At the end of the day, you don’t have to be an A-list marketing team all by yourself, but you will have to take time to learn about marketing strategy and the best manner to implement it. As much as I hope to stress the importance of a solid marketing strategy for long term success of your practice, let's dive into the ins and outs of building referral sources.

The Importance of Clarity

To obtain referrals, you must be clear about who you work with, the problems you solve, and the solutions you offer. This clarity is crucial when communicating with patients, friends, family, and other providers. A vague or broad description of your services makes it challenging for others to refer patients to you effectively. They don’t really understand what it is you do.

The Niche Advantage

Niche specialization isn't just about sounding credible; it also streamlines your focus. By specifying your target audience, you become an expert in addressing a particular problem for a specific group. This makes it easier for referring providers and patients to know when to refer to you.

Referring back to a strong marketing strategy, providing clarity of the niche you fall within is also important for your audience to know whether or not you're the right fit for them. Check out my blog post here to learn why every PT should be doing marketing.

As a business coach, and business owner myself, I can vouch for the importance of “niching down” if you’re hoping to drive a successful practice.

Consistency Is Key

Once you have a clear marketing message, plaster it everywhere. Consistency is essential because people need to see your message multiple times to take action. This message should be on your website, Google, business cards, social media, and other promotional avenues.

One thing I have often seen new practice owners struggle with is maintaining consistency with their marketing strategies. They often get frustrated because they are “posting on social media but not getting patients.”

Full transparency, as important as it is to create and implement a solid marketing strategy, it’s probably going to take the better part of 6 months to a year before seeing the results you are hoping for. Not to mention that if your sales skills suck, no marketing strategy can make up for that - find out more here.

Building Relationships

To develop referral sources, you must build relationships with other providers and professionals. This involves networking, spreading your message, and creating trust. These relationships give you the opportunity to ask for referrals, which is the first step to obtaining new patients from these providers.

This can look like something as simple as walking into a doctor's clinic or emailing the provider's office introducing yourself and your services. It could also be as formal as setting up a luncheon to present on your services at a referring provider's office.

The 100 Challenge

As a business coach for cash based practice owners, I challenge my students to go outside their comfort zone and complete an exercise called "The 100 Challenge."

Implementing a system, like the "The 100 Challenge" enables you to build and maintain relationships consistently. It provides a structured approach to networking and relationship-building. Remember that there's no shortcut; you must put in the effort over time to achieve success.

The bottom line is that it's essential to understand that referral sources are a nice-to-have but not a need-to-have. While they can bring in patients, you should not rely solely on them for the sustainability of your practice. A robust marketing strategy with multiple platforms and a clear, consistent message is crucial to long-term success of your cash based practice.

Getting referrals is not an easy task. Marketing is not a walk in the park. They both require groundwork, clarity, credibility, and consistent effort. By following these steps and building relationships, you can make the most of your resources and drive your practice's growth.

If you're feeling overwhelmed and would rather delegate the task of marketing to someone else, get in touch! I provide comprehensive digital marketing services for physical therapy practices and would love to chat about your practice and goals.

Listen to this episode on my podcast!

DPT to CEO the podcast


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