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How do I get my staff doctors to establish better relationships with referring vets?

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.

RESOURCES

Publications

Adamson, Allen P. Brand Simple: How the Best Brands Keep It Simple and Succeed

(Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), with foreword by Sir Martin Sorrell. American Animal Hospital Association, AAHA Referral Guidelines. Available at

aahanet.org/PublicDocuments/AAHAReferralGuidelines.pdf. Boss, Nan, DVM. Educating Your Clients from A to Z: What to Say and How to Say It,

Second Edition (AAHA Press, 2011). Chamblee, Justin, CPA, MAcc, and Max Reiboldt, CPA, Financial Management of

the Veterinary Practice (AAHA Press, 2010). Dilenschneider, Robert, and Maria Bartiromo. The AMA Handbook of Public

Relations (American Management Association, 2010). Drucker, Peter F. All books by this author, educator, leader, and strategist, known

as the father of modern management and marketing. Edelman, Richard, Christopher P.A. Komisarjevsky, Rich Jernstedt, et al. The Art of

Public Relations: CEOs from Edelman, Ruder Finn, Burson Marsteller & More on

the Secrets to Landing New Clients, Developing Breakthrough... and Your Firm to

Clients (Inside the Minds) (Aspatore Books, 2001). Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

(Little, Brown, 2000). Gostick, Adrian, and Chester Elton, The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers

Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate

Performance (Free Press, 2007). Heinke, Marsha L., CPA, and John B. McCarthy. Practice Made PerfectA Guide to

Veterinary Practice Management (AAHA Press, 2001). Humphries, Jim, DVM. "Using the Power of the Press to Grow Your Practice," in

Veterinary Practice News, 2005. Available at veterinarypracticenews.

com/web-exclusives/press-grow-practice.aspx. LeBlanc, Mark. Growing Your Business, Second Edition (Expert Publishing, 2003). Smith, Carin, DVM. Client Satisfaction PaysQuality Service for Practice Success,

Second Edition (AAHA Press, 2009). Tumblin, Denise, CPA. "Growing a Veterinary Practice in a Bad Economy," in

Veterinary Economics, September 1, 2009. Available at veterinary

business.dvm360.com/.

Websites

4act.com. Video library at Animal Care Technologies.

about.com. A great search source, especially advertising.about.com/

od/smallbusinesscampaigns/u/smallbusiness.com Allaboutbranding.com.

DVM360.com. DVM 360, published by Advanstar Communications. magazine.com. Trends Magazine, published monthly by Audio-Tech, Inc. marketingpower.com. American Marketing Association. robfrankel.com. Rob Frankel, noted branding expert. sethgodin.com. Seth Godin, noted author, brand strategist, and marketing pillar.

veterinarypracticenews.com. Veterinary Practice News, published monthly

by BowTie News. vetmedteam.com. Entire practice curriculum of VetMedTeam. VetPartners.org.

vspn.org. Veterinary Support Personnel Network.

 
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