Be honest: do you trust an ad on the TV or radio, or do you trust a glowing recommendation from a friend or family member? People often don’t trust advertising. But when someone close to you recommends something, you give their words some weight. After all, this is someone you know, like, and trust. You expect they’d only suggest something they themselves enjoy or would use. Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools in existence, and yes, it is in fact a tool—and one that’s often over-looked for podiatric practices. It’s what we call referral marketing, and it’s the second pillar in our well-rounded Four Pillars of Marketing strategy.

Getting that Word-of-Mouth to Work for You

Most doctors already understand why word-of-mouth is so beneficial for a practice. A single person who loves you, glows about you to others, and tells all her friends and family to go to you can bring in a substantial number of additional visitors. And yet this tool is so often overlooked when officially marketing your practice. The problem is that doctors just aren’t sure how to make this strategy actively work for them.

Here’s the key: referral marketing means getting other trusted sources in your community to recommend you. It means building trust between your practice and anyone in your community who might endorse and suggest your services to people who would benefit from them. Often this means establishing relationships with medical practitioners in other fields, local businesses, and other alternate sources who might encounter potential patients.

This does mean getting out into the community and talking to people. That’s why this second marketing pillar is also called “shoe-leather marketing”: you wear out your shoes going around town to referral sources.

Building a Referral Marketing Strategy

This whole referral marketing might sound familiar. Many new doctors actually do this themselves when they are new to a practice or launching their own business. When you’re new to the field, you have plenty of time to go around and build those relationships. If you’re busy, though, this quickly falls by the wayside. You focus more on actually treating your patients and less on your referral sources. Unfortunately, as a result, those relationships suffer or disappear altogether.

If you’re serious about growing your practice, however, you have to invest in this marketing pillar. This is where a strategy comes into play. You need one or several cheerful, out-going employees to go around and build those relationships for you. This could mean regular visits to local shoe stores for podiatrists, local health or pregnancy centers for OB/GYNs, local salons for plastic surgeons, and so on, in addition to making friends with other doctors.

Through planning regularly scheduled visits with valuable goodies or handouts, you can build trust and endear referral sources to you. You can’t just show up and talk for five minutes once a year and expect them to trust you, though. You have to care about them, invest in your relationship, and provide them with a reason to like you. That way they are more likely to be willing to hand out your card, promote you in their businesses, or recommend you directly when they come across someone who would benefit from your services.

How Top Practices Can Help

All this planning, much less the actual going, can seem like a lot of overwhelming work—but it doesn’t have to be that way. At Top Practices, we’ve developed many effective strategies and organized plans to help you establish your own referral marketing and make the most of it. Many of our Mastermind members are already executing this marketing pillar successfully—and they’re sharing their experiences with fellow Masterminds. You can learn from fellow doctors who are already seeing results about what works and what doesn’t. We can also help you integrate this marketing pillar to work hand-in-hand with your overall marketing strategy.

Referral marketing is the professional word-of-mouth method for savvy doctors. It’s a valuable tool that uses trusted relationships to direct people who actually need your services straight to you. You need a strategy, though, for it to work. Don’t neglect this important method for growing your practice. If you’re at all interested in referral marketing, or in expanding your practice in general, let us help you. Just contact us for more information or to get started today! You can reach us by e-mailing [email protected], or by calling (717) 725-2679.