How do I get my staff doctors to establish better relationships with referring vets?
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Referral medicine is just that, based on receiving cases from someone else who deems you to be worthy of the referral and a good reflection on them. So the key to motivating staff specialists to create and nurture relationships with referring veterinarians is to establish from the outset that their employment is contingent upon building business and that part of their responsibility as a doctor at your specialty practice is to generate referral relationships for the entire practice, not just their own cases. Include these responsibilities in clearly defined terms in the employment agreement so that the performance expectations are articulated in advance. Salary guarantees should be designed to motivate a new doctor to build business incrementally, with monetary rewards at each defined increase level. Thus, hire only those who are willing to take ownership of their employment and are willing to collaborate and act as partners to their associate specialists by working to introduce referring veterinarians (rDVMs) to their colleagues. This is the essence of specialty and referral medicine. Without this attitude of relationship building, education, and health care partnership, you are merely directing cases to another practice that truly lives by this philosophy. If it is not you, it will be your competition.
What are some good marketing tools for referral practices that, whether internal or external marketing, are unique, fun, simple, and inexpensive?
Think outside of the box. If you are a referral practice and your goal is to service the general practitioners of your community, buy a bunch of practice-branded umbrellas, and the next time it rains, deliver them to nearby veterinary practices. You need to find creative ways that are unique, memorable, and serve a purpose to reach out to clients (rDVMs). A gesture like this shows that you care and are willing to take the time to be there for them, even if it means a bit of inconvenience, to demonstrate your commitment to the partnership.
Get to know your rDVMs, their spouses' or partners' names, how many children they have, where they went to vet school, and their hobbies, and then acknowledge specific milestones. A simple handwritten note will do. In fact, it's one of the most overlooked but cost-effective tools available. Often considered an old-school tactic, in today's busy world who wouldn't appreciate a note acknowledging a referral, a birthday, a child's graduation, or publication in a trade magazine? Keep good notes in your medical records database that include this personal information so you can quickly refresh before or during a call. Everyone on your team will then have access to it so they can use it as baseline information to more easily establish a relationship.
An overlooked area of outreach is staff of nearby referring clinics. These staff members are sometimes unsung heroes who rarely receive recognition. Even though the doctor typically is the one who chooses where to refer a client, staff can do a lot to support the referral. If you offer a discount on services to staff of referring clinics, make sure they know about it. If they are satisfied clients, they are certain to offer kind words when the doctor refers clients to your practice. Acknowledge the staff periodically by restocking your brochures, dropping off coffee and bagels, providing Valentine's treats, and so forth.
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