5 Ways to Grow Your Practice by Building an A-list Professional Network :
Optimize Emotional Involvement Marketing with the Right Relationships
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Google “dental practice marketing” and you’ll see pages and pages of ideas on creating patient referral programs, social media strategies, technologies, and more. To succeed in today’s market and improve your Return on Involvement, it’s more important than ever to focus on relationships as you implement Emotional Involvement Marketing techniques. One strategy that often gets shortchanged is building and nurturing a professional network. This is all about peer-to-peer, practice-to-practice networking…getting in front of, collaborating and partnering with other dentists and healthcare professionals who can refer patients to you.
We’ve compiled five tactics you can use to build that network, from fostering relationships with medical professionals and their staffs, to speaking at industry conferences, to connecting with other professionals using social media.
1. Build relationships with other medical professionals in your area
Next to patient referrals, the most obvious sources for new business are other dentists and medical professionals in your local and regional area.
- Always meet new physicians who start up a practice in your area. Refer patients to them to help build their practice.
- Give your cards to associated physicians so they can hand them out to their patients if a referral opportunity occurs.
- Look for referrals from within your own specialty. For example, you may have a 3D imaging machine that can help a fellow practitioner diagnose a difficult case.
- Recognize colleagues for their accomplishments, personally or professionally – write a note or drop an email etc.
- Look for overflow patients from multispecialty practices.
- Look for cross-referrals from non-traditional sources such as alternative and allied health professionals.
2. Develop a solid relationship with referring dentists’ staff
Establish good rapport with other dentists’ and physicians’ gatekeepers—the office receptionist, nurses, assistants, and office and insurance/billing managers. These are often the people who are handing your business card or calling your office to set up appointments for referred patients. Learn their names (and how to pronounce them!) and ALWAYS thank them for the referrals.
3. Make sure your practice is ‘referral ready’
Is your office staff trained on how to handle incoming referrals? Lack of responsiveness is the single biggest complaint we hear from dentists and doctors who refer patients to their peers. Un-returned phone calls, emails, texts or other communication can cause you to miss referrals and destroy a relationship with a peer.
- Have a policy for handling incoming referrals, including a specific response interval.
- Train your staff on how to welcome and process a referred patient.
- Compliment the referring doctor during the patient’s visit, if appropriate.
- Make referrals an ongoing business process. Generating incoming referrals should be an embedded part of your practice operation, not only when patient volume decreases.
4. Increase your visibility in the broader dental/medical profession
If you’re serious about developing linkages at a much wider level, however, you cannot limit yourself to networking with local peers in dentistry and other healthcare fields.
- Make sure you’re active in professional associations that cover your discipline(s) and don’t overlook non-dental organizations. DentistryIQ has a listing of dental and related associations by US state. There are dozens of national professional associations that cover the spectrum of dentistry and related disciplines. Here are a few examples:
- Write bylined articles for industry trade pubs. There are hundreds of publications that address news, research, treatments, technology and other topics across dentistry and related/collaborative disciplines. One of the best ways to grow your professional network is to contribute to these publications. Here are some examples:
- Become an expert witness but proceed with caution, as this can be time-consuming and controversial. Check out The American College of Legal Medicine (ACLM) for more information.
5. Be active in professional social media
Traditional social media platforms such as Facebook are valuable but if you want to grow your professional network, you’ll need to be visible on LinkedIn and (as appropriate), Twitter. While 80 percent of dentists use social media to promote their practice, most use Facebook. However, while Facebook has more than a million active users, LinkedIn has more than 100 million active monthly users who post 160,000 long-form posts each week. Twitter has nearly 320 million active monthly users who send 6,000 tweets PER SECOND according to a survey by the Levin Group Data Center.
- Start your own professional blog for other professionals – most blogs are aimed at consumers.
- Guest write for your peers’ web sites.
- Share the accomplishments of other professionals.
- Be a resource, not an adversary.
- Join a LinkedIn group – there are hundreds of possible groups you can tap into to build a solid professional network. Examine each potential group carefully—what is their purpose? Who are some of their members? Don’t go by membership numbers alone. And broaden your search for groups using different search terms such as dental, dental referrals, dental practice management, orthodontics, oral health,
The bottom line
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed after reading this, don’t worry. Focus on what you can accomplish consistently. Pick what works for you and then be the best in whatever strategy you choose, and hold yourself accountable. Assess your efforts—and your network—at least once a year.
Who’s in your network?
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