One of marketing’s most important rules is: know your audience.
For medical and surgical specialists, it’s important to remember the key role that referring doctors and other specialist health providers play in sending clients to your clinic or centre. In Australia, receiving referrals is no longer guaranteed by status and building a thriving medical business is becoming increasingly competitive. And while building a good reputation and healthy professional relationships remains important, it’s now critical to tailor your marketing material, including marketing done on digital platforms, towards a referrer audience.
There is a range of ways you can successfully talk to your referral audience, all with positive outcomes for your ongoing practice-referrer relationship. We explore some below.
Build your network by knowing who they are and how to find them
An important part of your marketing strategy should include building your referrer network. There are many ways to do this, some of the most effective being reaching out directly over email or phone. However, to build your network of referring practices, you also need to know who they are and where to find them.
Using LinkedIn – an important professional networking tool
While you may reach potential patients via Facebook or Instagram, the social network you are most likely to find referring practitioners on is LinkedIn. In 2020, 46% of physicians participated in social networking for professional purposes such as researching specialists, up from 39% the year before. LinkedIn was the preferred network for this due to the amount of control over profile privacy and discussions it allowed physicians to curate. Having an active and engaging LinkedIn account with which to reach out to industry-focused groups and professionals is an important tool in building your referrer network.
Once you have established your network, you need to tailor the content you post. LinkedIn is an ideal platform to exercise industry thought leadership and share content as an expert source. Your posts on LinkedIn should be attention-grabbing and directly relevant to the referring practitioners who view them, adding value to their search. Some posts to consider sharing for a referrer audience include:
- Posting useful information about your practice, such as booking procedures
- Sharing your own blog posts and long-form LinkedIn posts which contain specialist information for your referrer audience
- Sharing industry-adjacent articles
- Your recent achievements and accolades within your industry
As this content will be coming from either your own practice or your personal LinkedIn page, it also has the benefit of adding a human element to your marketing material.
In addition to creating your own post content, engaging with peer-produced content is an important way to build communities and relationships. Commenting and sharing relevant content is an effective way to build professional relationships with your audience on this platform.
All marketing content you post should be well-researched and trustworthy, and in line with Ahpra’s guidelines for advertising a regulated health service.
Convenience is key
Making life easy for referring practitioners is also important. The best way to do so is to ensure that your referral process is optimised for those who use it.
Maintaining an easily navigable website optimised for mobile, template, as well as desktop use, is paramount. This will ensure the people who visit your website, whether they’re your patients or referring GPs and other health services specialists, can find the information they’re looking for without jumping between dozens of page links. Making sure that your booking process is straightforward and convenient to operate is also important, whether you use an online portal, email, or a phone booking service.
Make sure you are easy to find
It’s also a good idea to invest in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) so that your website is easy for both patients and referrers to find. Guaranteeing the quality of your website landing pages, use of keywords, site speed, mobile-friendliness, and more can impact how optimised your site is within search engines. Nabbing that prime spot on the first page of a Google search increases your visibility and the ease with which referrers and their patients can find you. However, be careful how you source Google reviews so that you do not breach medical advertising legislation (details can be found on the AHPRA website).
In addition to the above, an up to date Google My Business page with opening hours, address, phone and website details as well as the opportunity to leave Google reviews is important and another way for people to validate your business and find you.
Engage in two-way communication
You should also focus on keeping communication channels with referring practitioners open. Keeping referrers in the loop about your services, changes to your practice, and most importantly, on your mutual patients, is integral. GPs are busy individuals seeing potentially 40 patients a day. If you are on top of patient paperwork and keeping the referrer informed after seeing a patient, keeping them from chasing the information, they’ll be more likely to work with you on an ongoing basis.
Educate to elevate
Another strategy to consider is organising educational sessions for GPs and nurses at their practices. This is a streamlined approach to put yourself directly in front of potential referrers while also offering them something of value. Findings from a 2019 paper published in BMC Family Practice saw GPs expressing that internal training had an important impact on their referring practices.
Taking your expertise directly to referrers leads to heightened visibility without them having to seek you out. Making yourself more accessible and listening to their feedback and concerns also shows you respect their role in a patient’s journey. Contact practice managers directly to gauge whether they would like to accommodate a session. You can create a presentation based on a specialisation which the practice will benefit from learning about. You can include useful handouts at these sessions with your logo featured prominently. This way, you can leave behind branding which also benefits your potential referrers.
Once you have established a network of referrers, the aim of your marketing should be to foster a relationship based on trust and ongoing communication. Despite the importance of targeted industry marketing, once this is established, trust remains an integral factor in maintaining referrer relationships.
Findings from the same BMC Family Practice paper found that practitioners cited their own relationship with specialists alongside their availability and professional rationale as integral to the referral process.
Staying in contact about shared patients and sharing patient information increases your quality of patient care and strengthens your relationship with the referrer – plus the patient gets a better outcome so everybody wins. Communicating to your referrers and patients about your next steps helps build trust while being available for quick check-ins and advice and will make it more likely for both patients and referrers to seek you out in the future.
This can also be successfully done in a more general, and less specific, patient-focussed format such as a regular newsletter tailored to your referral partners which share your most recent updates and successes and keeps you at the forefront of referring practitioners’ minds.
Never forget the acknowledgement
Finally, make sure to acknowledge the important role that your referrers play in your practice. Share your referral partners’ posts on LinkedIn to help further their practices’ visibility. Return the referral process where appropriate. Most importantly, say thank you for the business they are sending your way.
The strongest partnerships are built on reciprocity and respect.
If you’re not sure where to begin when it comes to marketing your medical practice, get in touch with the team at Purple Giraffe and we’ll help you get started.