By Kathy Roy Gaughran
Senior Marketing Strategist
I didn’t mean for this to sneak up—but surprise—it’s that time of year! Right now—meaning today—is the best time to take care of the holiday gift-giving and doctor-recognition-marketing routine. There’s got to be a shorter name, but traditionally, it’s when everyone wants to thank the various referral sources among doctors.
The most common referral channels are between and/or among generalists and specialists. You know the drill. This is where doctors or practices refer patients to another practice or practitioner for expert care. (And often, the specialty practice is reliant on inbound referrals for new business.)
But although recognizing referral sources is a common practice, it loses its effectiveness when it’s done wrong. Here are some helpful tips and secrets that deliver greater effectiveness in holiday/recognition gift giving:
Be a Thanksgiving week standout. The first three days of Thanksgiving week—Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday—are ideal for delivering recognition gifts. It’s associated with the holiday gift season, but your gift will not get lost in the crowd. It’s important to make it memorable.
Don’t exceed $100. Over the years, we’ve seen some awesome gift ideas. But there is a significant dividing line between gifts that are “creative and clever,” and those that are “over the top” expensive. The value of $100 is a practical threshold for good taste and respectable good judgment. Combine this reasonable allowance with some inventive thinking, and a highly memorable gift idea will emerge.
Check all the rulebooks. Some professional service situations may be prohibited from accepting gifts of any value. Guidelines could be by regulation or by the policy established by the organization. Know these rules – including the Stark Law as it pertains to our hospital readers – in advance. However, sending a donation to a local charity might be an acceptable alternative, for example.
Spread the recognition. In addition to doctors and practices, you may want to recognize individual staff people, referring patients and any other referral sources. When possible, recognize referring patients immediately. (To reinforce and encourage the behavior.) And mindful of HIPAA guidelines, send a small recognition and a simple thank you letter.
Recognizing doctor marketing referral sources is a common practice. When it’s done properly, and with good taste, it can be a memorable experience within the referral system. One of the keys to having a year-end payoff is to have and use a referral tracking system. Throughout the year, carefully identify the individuals responsible for each and every referral track.