Lean Six Sigma on Referral Marketing

Alice Jarvis, PhD, is a lean six sigma management consultant who focuses on change management and continuous improvement for companies large and small here in the United States. (www.alicejarvis.com) Alice was recently working with a large ophthalmology practice in the Mid-Atlantic States when she called to see if we could be of help to her client. As a business consultant Alice believes in the social behavioral concept of building trust and relationships that lead to mutual support in the business world. Alice is accustomed to working with sales and marketing teams and she sees clearly the value we bring as field marketers for the medical practice. Alice offered her unsolicited recommendation of our firm to her client in the following text from her final report for the client

Endorsement by Alice Jarvis,PhD, Six Sigma management consultant:

Services“You do not depend on do-it-yourself web design or have a full time lawyer; you hire specialists in those fields. No one in the practice is trained as a sales person; this job should not be a do-it-yourself activity either. It is the foundation of maintaining and growing your profitability. It is not something that should be done without a strategy, sporadically, with ad-hoc activities, by amateurs.

Having physicians take time away from providing care and spending that time drumming up business is not a wise use of limited resources. Physician’s time is too valuable. They should spend as much time as possible providing care and generating revenue. A sales professional will know when a valuable activity such as presenting at professional meetings will be useful.

Pharmaceutical companies have proven the value of having drug reps call on physicians. Hospitals and other large medical organizations are now using full time practice reps who operate on the drug rep model. You do not have need for a full time sales rep so I strongly recommend using the services of a company that can provide this service.  A practice rep is the only viable route I can see for a dramatic growth in the number of new patients especially while you are putting stress on the relationships in the OD segment.

Practice Reps operates in this geographic area. I called them and Michael Ranson is your contact person:

Michael Ranson
Managing Partner
He would appreciate having an opportunity to present to you.

Practice Reps will charge you per sales call. There is no long-term contract and the service can be stopped or restarted at will. They are confident enough in their work and in the objective evidence of effectiveness that no long-term contract is necessary. Individual in-person calls by your sales rep will cost $__each and you will see a very high return on investment and a short pay-back time.

A sales rep will be assigned to represent you and only you in this catchment area.  They will use your business cards, and the referrers will see them as your representative, not an employee of Practice Reps.

Practice Reps’s claimed experience is that the typical specialty practice sees:

  • within 90 days, a significant increase in referrals from doctors who have already referred some patients. Within 180 days new practices will be sending.
  • within 12 months a 40% increase in referrals

Most Practices ask for 20-60 calls/month.  You can track the referrals you receive and easily monitor the return on your investment.”

Call today for a list of references from our past clients and to learn more about our approach to part time referral marketing for your practice.
Call 610-310-1621

Referrals are alive and well despite healthcare integration

We often hear from practices who are concerned about integration and the pressures being put upon referral sources once they’re purchased by the local health system.  Many physicians are concerned that referral marketing might prove fruitless in the face of this financial pressure.

In theory, this makes sense.  In reality, it’s not entirely true.

  • There are certain markets where integration has become complete and nearly every practice is owned by a health system, but these markets are few and far between.  In truth most competitive markets are still open to a great degree and many practices are still privately owned.  Even in a worst case scenario where 60% of the Primary Care practices are owned, 40% are still open and available to send to you. In markets such as this it’s important to develop a “call strategy” where we focus our time on practices which are open and willing to change their referral patterns. Done right we can have a significant impact with just a portion of that 40%!
  • All Doctors are “splitters”.  Even those whose practices are owned still tend to split their referrals for a variety of reasons.  Some base their choice on geography, insurance, even liability.  In short, most people don’t like to be told what to do and many enjoy sharing with others.

Most specialty practices can grow significantly if they simply get their “fair share” from doctors who split their referrals.

  • Many referrals are heavily influenced by the staff of the referral office.  They often have their own agenda to the benefit of the patient and ease of practice management and they can sway a large number of referrals to your office if you can prove the value of your practice to them and their patients.
  • Lastly, very few health systems can legally force their employees to refer to one provider over another.  At the end of the day it’s your license and your patients and you, as a provider, need to make the best choice for the benefit of your patient.

Field marketing works for the medical specialist, if it didn’t you would not see entire teams of physician liaisons from the local hospital calling on your referral sources.

We’ve been providing referral marketing for many years now and despite all the ACO’s and healthcare integration we still average a 40% increase in referrals for our clients.  It’s not as easy as it used to be but we’ve sharpened our tools and refined our strategy to the benefit of our clients.  Like you we’re working harder and smarter to provide you with the best ROI on your marketing dollars.

Give us a call at 610-310-1621

Is your marketing rep productive? How can you tell?

We have clients call us regularly who complain that they can’t tell if their rep is productive or not. Obviously new referrals would indicate productivity but what do you do in the meantime, before referrals begin to come in, to determine your reps effectiveness? After all, you could waste six months of income and benefits on someone who’s not really cut out for this job.
As a seasoned sales manager I regularly hired, trained, and managed new remote personnel so I became accustomed to looking for certain “guide posts” in assessing a new reps activity and effectiveness in the early days of employment. Unlike home office personnel that you see and interact with every day, a remote employee can be difficult to assess without knowing what to look for.

I won’t get into the recruiting and hiring process as that’s a topic for another day. I will however state that “motivation” is the key factor when hiring remote personnel. You can’t be there with them every day so you are dependent on their personal motivation to get them out the door and producing for you. In looking for motivated people I look for “those who come after me”, not those I have to chase and convince to take the job. Look for those who call you, write you, email, stop by…In short, look for folks who need the money or any other type of reward that excites them. Folks who don’t really need your money, or reward, can be very difficult to manage!

Once your rep is hired and trained, they should go into the field with a plan or strategy of how they will approach the target market. Reps who go out and call on everyone without a plan are simply looking to throw “mud against the wall with hopes that some will stick”. Ask them why they are planning to visit each office before they go out on a weekly basis. In other words, what is their strategy? Do they even have one?

Once your rep is in the field they should be sending you a weekly report which shows: 1) Practice name and location 2) Who they spoke with, including titles 3) A summary of what was discussed 4) Any results or action items as a result of the call.
You should review this report with your rep every week.

The weekly report is your only real communication tool with your rep and it helps you to assess them while demonstrating to them your commitment and involvement in their activities. If they think you’re not involved, they may lose the motivation and drive necessary to “knock down doors” for you!

In reviewing the report be sure to look for verbs and dialogue where they ask the tough questions that uncover opportunity for you. For instance; I asked why they send to practice X….. What do they like about practice Y….. What can we do to earn some of your referrals? Reps who are going through the motions will usually tell you that everyone knows your practice and everything is fine. They will tell you that the client said they will send….without much dialogue leading up to such a proclamation.

Below is actual dialogue from one of our reps reports:

“I asked how we can earn their referral business”

“I asked that they consider sending to us as well”

“I asked her to please help encourage referrals our way”

“We discussed growing referrals beyond Dr. X. How can we earn referrals from the rest of the practice?”

“When I dug for why she said…”

“The staff said that they do send to us. I looked at our referral sheet and saw nothing from them so I pressed for the real reason they do not send”

The truth is you want your rep to be uncovering problems, misconceptions, and concerns about your practice. This is how you “earn” more referrals by fixing these perceived problems. The last thing you want is to hear that everyone knows you and everyone loves you. That means your rep is not digging hard enough to uncover growth opportunities for your practice.

Digging deep and asking the tough questions can take courage. This is why this job is not for the inexperienced or young friendly member of your staff. You need a seasoned rep that is able to stand their ground while uncovering opportunities for you and your practice.

We can help. We’re experts in managing field marketing reps. Give us a call at 610-310-1621.

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