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What NOT to Say When Marketing to Doctors for Referrals

Posted by Rick Lau on Aug 17, 2020 12:35:00 PM
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Marketing to Doctors for Referrals

Physician Marketing Unleashed – the One Question You Need to Answer

In the continuing search for new patients, many chiropractors, physiotherapists, and massage clinics have steered their marketing to doctors, looking for referrals. 

It’s a smart move, because there is no more trusted source for a patient referral than from their own doctors. A patient referred from their doctor is virtually guaranteed to become your patient, and when you develop a strong relationship with a doctor, you can get a steady stream of business from them.

But if you’ve ever tried to win over a doctor so they start referring their patients to you, you understand where the challenges lie. First, doctors don’t have any time, so even finding the opportunity to win their trust is a great challenge. But beyond that, assuming you do get to talk to them, what do you say? And what should you NOT say?

In a recent episode of New Patient Secrets, I interviewed Jamey Schrier about what to say and what not to say when marketing to doctors for referrals. 

How do you win their trust? How do you become memorable instead of forgettable? How can you position yourself as a guest and not a pest? Jamey helps answer these questions in his interview. 

Who is Jamey Schrier? Jamey founded Practice FreedomU where he works to help clinic owners boost their profits by boosting their productivity and efficiency. How good is he? 

Clinic owner Karen Shuler reports that after working with Jamey, “In about 4 months I went from never being able to achieve 85% productivity to 90-94% productivity.”

Clinic owner Karn Santikul says that working with Jamey is an investment in yourself, your family, and your life, as well as in your clinic, because “Jamey has a great skill and talent. Skip the 10 years of trying and mistakes and fast forward the success.”

You can watch videos of Part 1 and Part 2 of Jamey’s interview, or just keep reading.


The First Goal of Doctor Marketing Is Understanding

Just like any other form of direct marketing you can’t approach physician referral marketing as an effort to merely convince doctors to work with you. This isn’t about begging, or persuading, or manipulating.

Marketing to doctors is about trust, and trust depends on understanding. They need to understand you, yes, but you also need to understand them. 

You need to understand their biggest points of pain and frustration – even ones that have nothing to do with you. In our experience, we identified at least three pain points almost every doctor shares:

  • No time – overworked and stressed with paperwork, patients, and continuing education
  • Low billing and reimbursement rates from governments and insurance
  • Constantly pestered by salespeople, including other clinic owners like you asking them for referrals

Why should they listen to you? What makes you any different than all the rest of what they’re facing every day? 

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To win the trust of a doctor, you must begin by asking yourself the most important question of doctor marketing, from the doctor’s perspective

“What’s in it for me, and why do I care?”

What does a doctor gain by referring their patients to you? Does it reduce their workload? Does it give them a way to offload annoying patients who keep coming back but don’t get better? Does it position them for authority or recognition in the community? Does it make them more money? 

What do they get by referring patients to your clinic? 

If all you can say to that is, “They get the satisfaction of knowing they have helped me make more money,” then you really need to devote some time to answering the above question, again from their perspective.

What do THEY get out of referring patients to you?

Once you’ve got an answer to that question, you are ready to develop a plan for what to say and what not to say. But before we get to that, you need to realize something. As important as marketing to doctors’ offices for referrals and acquiring new patients is, this is actually the hardest way to boost your revenue. And you can’t open a second location until you figure out how to sustain consistent revenue in your first one. 

The easy money is not found in marketing; it is found in converting existing patients and callers who for various reasons aren’t booking appointments. We call these ‘winbacks,’ and you can boost your winback percentage and revenue by massive margins by using these 7 outbound call strategies combined with phone scripts. With that in mind, let’s move on to the doctor referral marketing tips.

Physician Referral Marketing Tips: What to Say & What NOT to Say

Not say: Are you happy with our services? Do you want to hear about our services?

Say: What do your favourite physiotherapists do that makes you like working with them?

Say: What types of services do you typically refer out to specialists?

Do you see the difference? The bad questions are about you, and the good questions are about them. It’s that simple. Trust is built through understanding, and understanding is built by asking good questions and caring about the answers. You’re trying to understand their needs, their preferences, their frustrations, and then figure out how to align yourself with those needs. 

Imagine coming in to a doctor’s office to talk marketing, and you bring along a super-awesome brochure that’s all about the amazing and revolutionary joint rehabilitation work you do with knees and elbows. But then you ask question 2 above about the services this doctor typically refers out, and they say they primarily refer patients suffering with lingering back pain. 

So much for the brochure. At least it was pretty.

It does little good to expect to show up and brag about your great services. Meet the doctor where they are. Build trust. Then offer. 

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Always ask open ended questions to get them talking.

Not say: Is there anything from your patients you feel I should know?

Say: What feedback have patients given you after you referred them to a specialist that drives you crazy?

Say: Describe your ‘train wreck’ patients that you wish you didn’t have to see

Say: What is your greatest challenge when you can’t help one of your patients?

Say: What can we do to make your life easier?  

The above question is no good because it’s too vague, and it is again about you and not them. Why should you need to know anything about their patients? Why should they tell you?

And to be clear, the three good questions listed here are not meant to be variations of the same question. They touch on different pain points. And note also that some of their answers to these will have little or nothing to do with you. 

Doesn’t matter.

Because the point of this is to build trust. Empathize with their frustration. Understand what they’re going through. If you see an opening where they describe a problem you can solve, like a patient with chronic pain, then offer your help. But if this conversation just turns into a verbal disembowelment where the doctor unloads all their frustrations on you, and you spend 90% of the time going, “yeah,” and “uh huh,” and “oh, that sucks,” then you have had a GOOD meeting!

Because they will leave feeling heard, like someone finally listened to them and knows all the nonsense they have to put up with.  


Not say: We treat one patient every hour. We can treat anyone.

Say: We specialize in chronic lower back pain. Do you have any patients you could help by referring them out?

Say: I know it's risky to try a new specialist  as each referral is a direct reflection of you and your office. However, you have quite a few lower back pain patients that would benefit from our program. All I ask is for you to send us 5 referrals in the next month and give us an opportunity to show you how good we are. The results will speak for themselves. How does that sound?

Do you treat one patient per hour? Good for you. The doctor doesn’t care. 

But if you have a specialty of some sort that you think this doctor’s patients would benefit from, focus on that specialized service alone and leave out all the rest.


Because the doctor is more likely to remember you. You might get just one conversation when marketing to a physician because they are so busy. In that one conversation, you need to be memorable enough so that if you do any phone or mail follow-up, they will know who you are. 

Doctors won’t remember a clinic owner who says they can treat anything, or who lists out 15 different services they offer. But they will remember someone who has helped hundreds or thousands in the community with one particular type of treatment. 

Be the “knee replacement” guy, and you’ll be remembered. Be the “9th" physiotherapist who called me this month and I’m sick of it,” and you won’t be.

How Well Is Your Marketing to Doctors Working?

Direct marketing, unlike brand marketing, is about tracking data so you know how well it’s working. Marketing to doctors for referrals is no different. When you get a phone call from a patient or lead, you need to know which of your referral relationships brought them to you. 

You can do this using CallHero’s call tracking technology, which helps you find out which of your marketing campaigns are working, and how well.

You want to know exactly how many phone calls you got from each doctor and you can easily do that by putting a call tracking phone number on each referral pad. 

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Rick built three $10 million healthcare businesses over the past fifteen years, including a network of 127 clinics with over 1400 employees. He is one of the most sought-after mentors for clinic owners in Canada and the US, where he has helped owners double, triple, and quadruple their profits by optimizing their clinic operations using proven systems and leadership strategies. He has spent millions on Google and Facebook ads during his career. 

You can follow him on Instagram 

Topics: Doctor Marketing


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