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New referrals come from a visit, a folder, and chocolate cookies

When a new manager took over the office of a Miami gastroenterology practice, the office had just lost two physicians and needed to increase referrals for the three physicians who remained. So she took on the job of marketing. Her approach was direct and simple, but the results were so good that now, less than two years later, the schedule stays full.

First, she put together a folder of information. It has only seven pages but covers everything a referring office needs – information about the doctors, the procedures, the office hours, the insurances the office accepts, the names and positions of the staff, the number to call for emergency appointments, and a map to the office. Then, she listed the target audience – the current referrers plus offices that had referred in the past but were no longer doing so. And then, she went visiting – carrying a box of chocolate-covered cookies.

She didn’t set appointments but just dropped in and asked to see either the office manager or referral coordinator. It worked well. There was never a problem getting to see someone. At each visit, which lasted 15 or 20 minutes, she presented the folder and explained that it was information that would be helpful for referrals. She also emphasized that if there were ever any problems with the referrals, the office could call her personally.

New referrals started coming in immediately. A big draw was the long list of insurance carriers the office accepts. Most of the managers said they didn’t realize the office had so many options.

The number of visits was staggering – nearly 120 – but planning made it possible. Each day, the manager covered three or four offices located in the same area and often in the same medical building. The best time was first thing in the morning because offices are not crowded with patients at that time. So she put the folders in her car the night before and set out at the time she would ordinarily leave for work.

The visiting lasted about five months. At that point, she had to quit because the schedule was full. However, she now makes two or three follow-up calls per day to see if the referring offices need anything, as well as to keep the office’s name in the forefront. And in December, she made a list of the most frequent physician referrers – there were 45 of those – and visited again, this time to take each doctor a bottle of wine and a holiday card.

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