|Industry Referrals Are Valuable to Your Business
by Michael Dorausch, DC
There is no denying that the Internet provides many new opportunities for small businesses to better reach their customer base. Significant growth is being seen online in areas such as pay per click advertising and search engine marketing, just to name two. While it's easy to get excited about these new forms of spreading the word, it's important for small-business owners not to forget a simple and valuable tool in garnering new client relationships, the internal industry referral.
Chances are if you own a small business you have at sometime created business cards. Have you created any lately and do you have any specifically created to hand out to other professionals within your own industry? Do you hand your cards out to your colleagues when attending business gatherings? Here are some examples of why it is important to do so.
There's no questioning the importance of internetworking with others in your industry, it's good for the growth of the industry as a whole, and it can be good for your business as well. But how do you become the person that others refer to when seeking an 'expert' in your line of business?
I'll use the example of attending chiropractic conferences since that is where my primary experience is. However, the process of handing out cards works in other industries as well. Dental conventions, events for cosmetic surgeons, retreats for yoga centers, and marketing seminars for life coaches, are just some examples where having business cards available to hand out to others, can come in quite handy.
First of all, always bring plenty of business cards to professional conferences you're attending, even when they are focused exclusively in your industry. We often times are so busy looking outward that we sometimes falsely assume that others in our own industries don't offer any value towards growing our businesses.
Local conferences are great, but if you are traveling to a chiropractic convention in Las Vegas that will be attended by thousands of others from across the globe, you have great opportunities to network with others, and develop a reputation of being the 'go to' individual in your part of the world. I can tell you from experience, thanks to attending numerous conferences, I've received hundreds of referrals from all over the planet, by becoming known as the chiropractor that serves Los Angeles. I am always thankful for that referral and if someone calls, e-mails, or faxes for information, and I can't help them, I'll go to my list of trusted chiropractors in the Los Angeles County area, and will work to locate the best possible chiropractor for the particular situation.
I've witnessed savvy chiropractors create unique and exciting business cards that created buzz at conferences, resulting in everyone wanting to have one, even if the initial intent was to copy the design and use it in their own business. Those cards spread like seeds and end up in chiropractic offices in all corners of the world, just waiting to germinate as a new client referral.
I contacted some chiropractors in the field to ask what their thoughts were on referring to others within the industry, I had received referrals from each of the three doctors on the same day, something I am very grateful for.
Dr. Suzanne Frye writes... When patients ask us about doctors for their friends in other communities, we are hesitant to refer to people we don't know. However when we know of a great chiropractor nearby, we find that patients want the best doctors. So we only refer our patients to Doctors we trust and know to be the best. The only way we can refer a patient to a doctor is to get to know them. We know some amazing doctors, really amazing doctors, like Dr. Michael Moore in Redding, California or Dr. Fred Schofield in Phoenix, Arizona. Patients will drive a long distance if they know they are seeing the best.
Why refer to others?
Dr. David Klein writes... As a chiropractor our main responsibility is to take as good care of our patients as possible. We really try to get them back into their optimum health, and then keep them there over their life time. Sometimes they move out of town. It is tough when you don't know chiropractors in every town, but you also don't want to leave it to your patients to try to find a new chiropractor themselves. I will usually go out of my way to find a chiropractor in a town where one of my patients is moving, or I will ask chiropractors I know if they know someone in that town.
I will give the patient the name and phone number of the chiropractor, and I will also call the chiropractor to help the chiropractor understand the patient I am sending. As a chiropractor I get some of my best patients as referrals from doctors in other cities. It makes sense to maintain your relationships with other doctors in towns in your state, and even across the country.
This also comes into play when you have patients who travel a lot, whether they are actors or truck drivers. For some of our patients we have made arrangements for them to see other chiropractors while they were on the road, or even on vacation.
Dr. Patrick Bennett writes... Part of a successful practice is having a strong network of Chiropractors to be able to refer out to, when needed. Primarily I refer patients to my colleagues when they live to far away to keep on track with their prescribed care plan. The Chiropractor needs to be within close enough of a proximity in which the patient can maximize their care. Patricks response turned into an article, Referring Patients To Other Chiropractors.
Sometimes, you don't know what someone's going to do with that business card you just handed them. They may use it to send you a referral, or even take your card and use it to expose a little marketing secret.
Freshen up your business cards, and don't forget to bring a stack to share with your colleagues at the next conference you're attending. Be sure to ask for their cards as well so you can make a referral to them, when the opportunity arises.