Creating and maintaining rock-solid relationships with referral sources should be an integral part of any home care agency’s marketing strategy. Physicians, hospital discharge planners, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, pharmacists, nurse case managers, and trust officers are some of the best referral targets for home care agencies, but how do you build successful connections with key contacts at these organizations? Hint: it’s all about trust.
Form a Firm Foundation
Like you, the majority of your referral partners are busier than ever. Consider a day in the life of a physician, for example. Many doctors see a new patient every 11 to 15 minutes, leaving them little time to discuss important behavioral changes with their older patients, let alone how your agency can be of service to them. When an in-road with a referral source presents itself, your main goal should be to show how your agency can make their job easier by solving their clients’ problems and addressing their needs in a timely, professional manner.
Additionally, the way in which you present your agency goes a long way toward building a sense of trust with referral sources. A black and white flyer printed on your office copier sends the message that your agency doesn’t pay attention to detail and quality, and therefore, isn’t professional. Always bringing the same thing – like your brochure or business card – doesn’t help anyone either, and can leave the impression that you care more about selling than advocating for referral partners and their clients.
Conversely, when you bring informational materials that are expertly designed, concisely well-written, and that provide educational information of value to the referral partner’s clients or patients, you position yourself as an expert resource who they will grow to trust and welcome. The materials you present should also contain all of your pertinent contact information so that when they are ready to refer to you, it’s a simple, convenient, and professional process.
Become a Trusted Advisor
Once you’ve begun a budding relationship with a referral source, it’s time to start building the trust between them and your agency. How can you become a trusted advisor to your referral partners and the clients they send your way?
- Be excellent at what you do. This sounds like a no-brainer, but an exceptional service delivery system is the key to establishing trust with potential referrals, and keeping them coming back. As the competition increases, your service level will continue to be more and more important.
- Be available and reachable. If your referral partners can’t reach you, they won’t send you business. Consider having a separate phone line just for your caregivers, and another one for applicants. Then, your main line becomes a hot line, if you will, that referral sources can use to call you at any time with questions or with referrals to send your way.
- Have a client-/patient-centered inquiry and intake process. Make the intake process simple, structured, and repeatable so that the clients that your referral partners send to you are welcomed in a professional, friendly, and efficient manner. Focus on the individual and on the specific reason that individual needs care, and how you can best help him or her..
- Have a follow-up and follow-through system in place. It is surprising how many agencies do not follow up with inquiries after the first call or send relevant information after the call. The level of attentiveness you show at the inquiry stage reflects the level of attentiveness your agency is likely to show at the care stage. Be attentive. Ask them how they would best like you to communicate and either call them back and/or send them information about your agency. And do this more than once; we suggest at least every two weeks for several months.
- Be an expert. Learn all there is to know about issues related to older adults and their care needs, and show that expertise as often as possible, in as many channels as possible.
Communicate regularly with referral partners, not just about what your business does, but about helpful resources that can help both them and their clients. Offer advice, advocacy, assistance and education, and foster your referral relationships from introduction and beyond. These tactics will help establish your agency as a trusted advisor to your referral base. When referral sources start to see your agency as a resource (and you as an advisor), you benefit from:
- Their established relationships with your potential clients
- Their ability to help you reach a much wider audience than you would alone
- Instant credibility
For a more in-depth look at how to build a stable referral network, watch a recording of our recent webcast, Sales and Marketing for Home Care: Becoming a Trusted Advisor for Referral Sources.
Need assistance getting your marketing and communications strategy and materials up to the trusted advisor level? corecubed has several ways to help. Home care is our sweet spot, so we know how to best go to market. If your agency is eligible, our award-winning MOST marketing program is one way we can help, and we create professional marketing materials that target the top referral sources and establish your agency as a trusted resource each and every day. Contact us today to learn more how we can help your agency get the attention of those highly coveted referral sources.