The 3 Cs for Winning Professional-to-Professional Referrals

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

The three big ideas behind every successful Professional Referral Program.

Number block displaying "1, 2, 3"Referrals are all about relationships. And professional relationships—the source of professional referrals—don’t blossom spontaneously. There’s a well-considered system that fuels a successful Professional Referral Program, based on these three concepts.

Healthcare referrals are the financial lifeblood of many hospitals and practices. And for others, referrals are great, but there’s no deep dependence.

If you’re anywhere on this spectrum, a professional referral program is a must for your healthcare organization’s marketing plan.

Professional referrals are a significant section of well-constructed marketing plans because they harbor big benefits-not only for solo or specialty practitioners, but for hospitals, physician groups, elective and cosmetic care, and dental practices as a few examples.

In our healthcare marketing seminars, and in our work with clients, we talk a lot about how to win referrals. It’s one of our favorite sections and we present hundreds of real-world tactics, tips and techniques.

We don’t have the space here for all of it, but here are the three essential elements for success.


Professionals will refer to people (i.e. professional colleagues) they like and trust. “Like” is important, but “trust” is paramount. It’s a matter of CONFIDENCE that the referral will be appropriate and beneficial to the patient’s care.

In our experience, “confidence” never happens without a solid RELATIONSHIP. Of course there’s an assumption of professional competence…but that alone doesn’t isn’t sufficient to distinguish and differentiate. Professionals will refer with confidence when there is a strong and reliable relationship in place.


First, credentials are a must—your education, training, experience form a foundation for CREDIBILITY. Plus, credibility grows when a referral source truly appreciates you as a valuable resource or extension to their own work. (It’s that RELATIONSHIP thing again.)

Credentials on a professional CV are important, but deep credibility is about experience—delivering what the referral source values most in caring for their patients, and making their life easier.


This one should be a “double-C” — for CONSISTENT COMMUNICATIONS. We consult with many hospitals, practices and organizations where CREDIBILITY is rock solid. But a “failure to communicate” regularly with the sources of referrals is a blind spot.

It’s the usual: “everyone’s busy,” or “we don’t know how,” or whatever the excuse. Mostly, it seems, there is no specific system to regularly communicate—and that’s a two-way street, by the way.

We teach in depth about the ways to take care of the people and practices that make referrals. Some practices use a practice representative, circulate targeted marketing materials, create and use an “elevator speech,” and dozens of other approaches that:

  • find out what’s most important to the referral source (and deliver it);
  • implement a measurable system to grow new and protect existing sources; and
  • regularly inform gatekeepers and decision-makers about what you do and how that is of value to them and the patients they refer.


Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.



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