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Published in Vein Magazine Spring of 2011
Whether assessing a varicose vein or an ulcer, giving clinical recommendations, or making it easier for primary care physicians (PCP) to refer to you, relationship marketing is fundamentally about delivering value. It might also mean that your staff needs to spend a lot of time in relationship-building activities that don’t seem, at first, to produce revenue.
Physicians often find relationship marketing challenging because of the perception that it is “selling.” To get beyond that, keep in mind that the best marketing tool is what you do in your vein practice, and how well you do it.
As you consider implementing relationship marketing techniques, remember that each referral source is looking for something completely different, but they all want their individual needs met. Build relationships with potential referral sources by meeting their needs as they have defined them, which might take some research. Once you understand their needs, align your services to meet those needs. This demonstrates your practice’s value, how well you listen, and how much you care.
Tailoring your operations to be more time-sensitive and reliable than your competitors’ entrenches the working relationship. Your goal should be to make it easy to do business with you by being more responsive than your competitor. When was the last time you evaluated the effectiveness of your efforts to build a long-lasting referral relationship with primary care physicians in your service area? Think about these proven tips to strengthen rapport and increase referral volume.
Relationship marketing is only one of several approaches you can use to promote your vein practice, but it is unquestionably the most valuable. Relationship Marketing, supported by the right integrated strategy, produces more new patients than any other method. Relationship Marketing can also be one of the least expensive marketing approaches, but it is rare to find practices executing it effectively because it is hard to do well. When most physicians think of relationship marketing, they think of establishing and entrenching their relationships with key referral sources, such as PCPs. That’s only partially right. While PCPs account for a lot of the referrals that vein practices get each year, some practices rely or focus on them too much and miss out on establishing solid relationships with their largest referral source: current patients.
Market research has repeatedly shown that previous patients refer about 40% of all new patients. Interestingly, from a clinical standpoint, former patients are the least qualified to make those referrals. Instead, they base their referrals on how they feel about you as well as their experiences with your staff. Before you spend another dollar on external resources to market your vein practice, devote time to ensuring that the service you deliver to patients doesn’t just produce satisfaction or loyalty, but also creates patient advocacy. True patient advocates are your most valuable marketing assets. They will not only return to you for additional services, but will rave about you to others.David Schmiege is the president and CEO of Vein Specialists of America Ltd., a practice management consulting and advisory firm. Please direct any questions you may have for Schmiege to 630-789-3636 or e-mail him at [email protected].