Referral Development and Instant Pudding

Why Network Development Requires Patience...

Your healthcare practice likely has a perceived expectation of a successful management consultant…clever and adaptable…dogged without being aggressive, persuasive without being smarmy. Fast-paced, energetic, and skilled at spotting the right angle.

All good qualities, most of us can agree.

But there’s one quality most healthcare organizations don’t often use when vetting prospective consultant engagements: patience. By their very nature, healthcare principals want referrals now!!! The sales and marketing process, however, often involves slowly but assuredly coaxing an ambivalent prospect along that long winding road to the close and you can bet the client has got their eye on that prize.

So what’s wrong with that?

Not a thing, until it comes to referral network development. A successful, productive network development campaign is like preparing a sumptuous meal – many ingredients, an experienced chef who understands the appetites they’re catering to, the right tools – and time. Time for thoughtful strategies to “bake” and work their magic.

Note that patience is not a synonym for stagnation.

Effective consultants are never just sitting around, hoping for new referrals. But to maximize potential referral opportunities requires a calculated approach and careful strategies. Short-sighted and impatient actions can run initiatives off course and straight into oblivion – but establishing benchmarks up front will illuminate problem areas and rich opportunities, and ultimately guide your network development programs to success.

Consider the following:

Your internal organization and consultants must be tightly aligned, with agreements on priorities and expectations. There’s no room for individual team agendas or separate systems; everyone must use the same data, the same systems. Also important: everyone must use the same definitions, whether they’re talking about scoring models, nurture programs or referrer personas. Any confusion or discrepancies in this area can ultimately lead to fragmented initiatives.

Measure the Right Metrics.

Not all benchmarks are created equal. To truly assess performance, your consultant must identify what to measure. Ideally you want metrics that paint a detailed picture of referrer triggers and motivations, at every stage of the funnel, providing insight to feed your strategies. Whether you decide to measure metrics like Referral Volume and Convert to Treatment, Time to Treat, Cost Per Treatment and Revenue per New Patient, be sure you understand what to measure, how you’ll measure it and a very firm starting point.

Set Goals.

Nothing stalls network development initiatives faster than mismatched goals. Make sure you and your consultant establish the same REALISTIC goals, which should be attainable and measurable!!! Understand short-term, practical goals and long-range visions, branding to revenue to referrer engagement to product lines.

Benchmark your strategies.

Obviously every consultant will use different tactics to work their magic – but the underlying strategies should be the same or at least work synergistically. Map out what you want your network development to achieve and how. Refine your messaging and be sure it’s consistent through your social media presence, your mobile initiatives and your brand management. If you develop funnel strategies to nurture leads or provide better scoring capabilities, be sure your organization’s staff are on board!!! Your brand story should permeate your sales practices, digital marketing and your offline presence. You should also make decisions on standards like the split between referral creation and treatment enablement.

Remember that many strategies will not deliver an immediate impact!!!

Cultivating a stronger brand profile and digital presence over time yields more amorphous benefits. (But I promise that they will manifest in a better bottom line – eventually!!!) The right strategies can educate, attract and inspire and eventually motivate referrals, but some will take a while to bear fruit. The important thing is to align on strategy and permeate them through network development, so you will have a solid foundation that reveals whether they’re working or not.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that results won’t happen out of the gate…you won’t boil the ocean overnight!!! The most effective strategies require a deft touch and incorporate thoughtfulness, creativity and patience. Only then will consultants have the knowledge they need to craft truly powerful initiatives that deliver the best results. Sometimes, this is tough for the action-oriented healthcare principal to accept. But by taking the time to create the strategic benchmarks, your consultant can lay the groundwork for intelligent referral development that outperforms your old results and takes your organization to the next level. #weshouldtalk