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What Groundhog Day and Doctor Referral Marketing Have in Common

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

groundhog day

[EDITOR'S NOTE: In honor of Groundhog Day, we are re-posting this item from last year just for fun. The advice applies to all referral-reliant provider practices. Enjoy...and hope for an early Spring this year.]

It doesn’t seem like 18 19 years since the release of the movie Groundhog Day. There’s an important lesson here for any healthcare specialty that relies on referrals. After working with thousands of clients some themes come up time and again, periodontal practices especially. This theme is so common that they remind us of Groundhog Day.

In the movie, the Bill Murray character finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. Something like that happens all too often in periodontal marketing and other specialty medical and dental providers and hospitals that are dependent on professional referrals--they ignore their top referring base.

It’s a mistake that can be a near-fatal healthcare marketing mistake. In fact we just got off the phone with a mighty worried periodontist. He said he had 20 doctors referring to him for years, and he took them for granted. He never did anything to protect his most valuable asset.

But then, within a few months, one retired, one moved to another state, one died and worst of all, an aggressive competitor appeared on the scene, whispering in the ears of his best referral sources.

At first he did nothing—he assumed his referring docs would loyal. But then his revenues dropped through the floor.  When he finally paid attention to his referring doctors, his efforts seemed insincere. "Oh, NOW you want to make me happy..."

We recommended that he act as though his practices' life depends on rebuilding a referral base—because it does. As a first step, we build a professional referral plan. In writing, with actions, assignments, timetable and measurable goals.

Today it happened to be a periodontist calling. But at the risk of repeating ourselves, dental and medical specialists can’t take professional referrals for granted or assume they’ll always be there. This well goes dry without regular care and attention.

Your professional referral base will not be the same tomorrow if it's neglected. In periodontal marketing there’s more competition, and thus more options to refer elsewhere. Plus, many general dentists are not referring cases as often as in the past. (The same dynamics are at work in other professions, specialties and referral-driven practices, so everyone take note.)

We’ve heard all the explanations; everyone’s busy, the profession is more interesting than marketing, if you do a good job, that’s all that’s needed. Well, if you neglect your primary revenue sources for any reason, the referrals will dry up, market share will erode, and worst of all, it’s a battle royal to make a come back.

Groundhog Day is a fun film. But repeating the same mistake of ignoring your referral stream is no fun at all. And you’ll find yourself facing a long winter, underground. Or, you could connect with us about a systematic professional referral program that’s highly rewarding.

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