This month, we’ve focused on marketing your home care agency to professional referral sources. We’re concluding our discussion this week by offering some final advice about referral sources. As we mentioned in last week’s blog, your clients should be your top focus for referrals, but home care business owners are also finding success with other referral sources throughout the communities they serve. Participants in the “Annual Home Care Benchmarking Study” listed the following as their top referral sources: hospital discharge planners, home health agencies, hospices, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, state Medicaid waiver programs, Area Agency on Aging, case managers, and rehabilitation hospitals.
There are many professionals you can turn to for referrals. Erik Madsen, COO of Home Care Pulse, says, “When it comes to referrals, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket! We need to be focused on a variety of different referral sources, so we have potential referrals coming in from each source.” Yes, focus on client referrals, but also spend time developing professional relationships with others.
So how do you begin this process?
1. Create a list of professionals who are potential referral sources.
The first step is to brainstorm. Who, in your area, would be able and willing to send you referrals? Think of those on the list above, but also think of unique sources within your community, like senior centers, the Chamber of Commerce, clubs, churches, and organizations that work with the elderly. Consider networking with care managers, financial planners, long-term care agents and others.
Madsen has created helpful referral source tools that Home Care Pulse Satisfaction Management Program members can use to assist them with brainstorming, listing, and tracking referral sources.
2. Reach out to professional referral sources and educate them about your business.
Once you’ve listed the possibilities, you don’t need to reach out to everyone at once. In fact, if you try to reach out to too many sources at once, you may end up not impressing anyone. David Frey, CEO of Marking Best Practices, Inc. and author of “How to Make It Rain Referrals,” cautions, “It’s better to choose only one local family physician and become close friends with him than trying to be friends with ten physicians haphazardly.” Cultivating a good working relationship takes time, so to begin with, give yourself time to focus closely on just a few promising referral sources.
You can contact businesses via letters or emails, but that is impersonal—and not the best way to ask for referrals. It’s better to work face-to-face with someone. Let them get to know you and your business. Provide them with brochures that describe your expertise and the services you provide. Make sure they know why you are the best at what you do. Always keep them supplied with plenty of your business cards to hand out.
Frey recommends you “arm them with tools to help their customers (and your prospects).” Help your referral sources know how to help their customers. These professionals want to remain the trusted expert in the eyes of their customers, so if they are armed with specific information about your company, they can pass that on and possibly even resolve concerns and answer questions about your services. In the end, this all leads to a stronger referral for your company.
To get some great ideas on what to take with you when you visit your referral sources, download our Referral Source Portfolio Checklist.
3. Make it a two-way street—benefit each other.
Frey points out that most of these referral sources are businesses that would appreciate your referrals in return. Professionals are much more likely to work with you if their business is gaining from it. Frey explains, “To be a great networker you must become ‘you’ centered rather than ‘me’ centered. Zig Ziglar, the famous sales trainer once said, ‘You can get everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want.’” What problems can you help your potential referral sources solve? Make it all about taking care of their customers and the services you will provide them. And in return, you can also refer clients to their services when the need arises.
Work together to benefit all businesses involved. This works on a small scale, by doing things like passing out each other’s business cards or occasionally referring customers. Or it can be done on a larger scale, sharing booths at industry events or sharing advertising space. If the situation calls for it, work together to create a referral plan that benefits both businesses.
4. Update and communicate!
Working with a referral source is not a one-time occasion. This is a relationship that requires dedication and persistence. Check back with your referral sources on a regular basis. Make sure they have a steady supply of your business cards and brochures. Answer any questions or concerns they may have.
And once you start receiving referrals, always contact the referral source and thank them. Update them when a referral becomes a new client. Focus on the problems you are solving for your new client. This shows referral sources that you are reliable, trustworthy and dedicated—and they will be more likely to continue to send you referrals.
Working with referral sources is an ongoing process that takes time, but with the right amount of effort, you will begin to network with other professionals who can send you referrals for new clients, helping your business to grow.
With all the statistics contained in the “2014 Private Duty Benchmarking Study”, Erik Madsen points out, “The most statistically significant factor in growing annual revenue is the number of new clients who started service. The number of new clients added was more significant than billing rates, billable hours, number of inquiry calls and assessments, and payer sources used. Though these other factors are important to growing annual revenue, this analysis shows that more focus should be put on acquiring new clients.”
This is accomplished through your company’s reputation, the services you provide and through your marketing efforts. Analyze your current consumer and referral marketing methods. Create a plan today to refocus your marketing efforts on the strategies that work for home care businesses. Turn to the “2014 Private Duty Benchmarking Study” to see more of what is working for others in this industry and to continue to benchmark your results against others.