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Mastering the Professional Referral, Part 2 - Professional Referral Networks

Establishing professional referral networks is a key ingredient to ongoing practice success. Positioning yourself successfully and differentiating yourself such that your name is the one thought of when a referral is indicated, is the result of effective referral relationship networking.

In part one of this series in the last issue entitled “The Psychology of Endorsement” we discussed the powerful psychology of professional referrals. We learned that a professional referral is one of the most powerful endorsements that we can receive. This is because a professional referral is a direct endorsement from a fellow health professional with whom the patient already has a trusting relationship.

To have a patient arrive at your door under “doctor’s orders” to see you specifically is a gigantic statement of validation. Your goal should be to establish referral relationships like this with doctors who are convinced that you are the solution to their patient’s problems. You want your name to be on the top of their mind when they have a patient with a problem that you can solve.
Accomplishing this is the sum and essence of what a physician referral marketing program is all about. When properly executed, the natural outcome is to feed your practice a stream of new patients who have been pre-sold on your qualifications and are thus pre-conditioned to accept your treatment recommendations.

We must first ask “Why would a given physician refer a patient specifically to you? Why would they choose you over every other option in their marketplace, or in preference to just telling their patient to see any dentist?”

The answer to these questions comes in understanding psychology and applying appropriate marketing technique. You are in essence “selling yourself” to the physician. Once it begins to happen – once the physician understands the dental related problems which they could refer to a dentist and then believes that you are the best solution for them, you will be well on your way to becoming the preferred outlet for these referrals.

This means you will become included in their referral network. Every physician has one. In fact, any health professional that sees patients has one. A “referral network” is a group of allied health professionals to whom a physician routinely refers their patients. For example: every doctor has one or more favorite colleagues in pulmonology, internal medicine, endocrinology, cardiology, OB-GYN, physical therapist, and so forth, to whom they refer patients. It is usually always a reciprocal referral relationship. They are “favorite” because they have proven their expertise, trust, and accommodation through repeated positive interactions with each other.

However, very few if any physicians have a specific dentist in their Rolodex referral network. And this is precisely the point! This is the wide-open opportunity in front of dentists! The emerging science and changing standard-of-care are putting physicians under more scrutiny and pressure to include oral health in their evaluations. Consequently, they must now begin considering oral health status of their patients and begin making appropriate and timely referrals to dentists. Who will get these referrals in your community?

If done right, if you do even just a little bit more to differentiate yourself than any other dentist, it will become much easier to be naturally invited into and included in a physicians referral network. Again, winning or being rewarded with this distinction is what the physician referral marketing program is all about!
Thus the goal of a dentist wanting physician referrals is to become included in their referral network. The immediate question to ask is “How?” The answer is that this distinction and preference will be given to those dentists who make a concerted effort to educate and inform their physicians about dental-related medical problems, and who make an effort to stay in front of the physician in a repetitive basis so that they become “top-of-mind.” It’s about establishing expertise, confidence and in building a trusting relationship.

In our next installment we will discuss the importance of having the right "Calling Card."