Poking around one of the many discussion groups, I came across a question posed by a small group practice: should they hire a marketing person? How can they pay this person without running afoul of kickback and other laws?
In reading the question, it looks as though the writer is confusing a marketing person with a business development person or salesperson. These are not necessarily the same kinds of jobs, and the type of person, job duties and compensation all differ.
For most practices, a salesperson to call on other physicians to generate referrals will not be welcomed by your target physicians. If you are in a more, well, discretionary type of practice, such as cosmetic surgery, cosmetic dermatology and such, I can see it. Otherwise – it’s enough to deal with drug reps. If you want referrals, you need to get out and meet with the physicians.
Some physicians will prefer to set aside some time in their office, while others would prefer to meet over a meal – breakfast, lunch or dinner. A mid level restaurant is fine – an upscale meal is often not necessary and counterproductive, particularly during the work week. You want a sit down restaurant, and a relatively quiet one – Applebee’s, Friday’s, Panera Bread and their relatives are not good settings, unless it’s the only game in town.
What to talk about? Many people become uncomfortable in this kind of setting, or “networking” type meetings. One book that I found useful early in my career was Susan RoAne’s “How to Work a Room”. Start with the pleasantries. Talk about something positive in the news, or something positive about a colleague. Finally, make the time to tell your guest some specifics about why you invited them to break bread. You’re looking to develop more referrals, you have a new or expanded service. Tell them about what your particular strengths or clinical interests are. You’re not asking for a commitment of referrals, but you can offer to have your staff drop off business cards and brochures, perhaps. Your staff person may even be able to get a few minutes with their counterpart.
Speaking of your practice manager – encourage them to go to their professional association meetings as well. Referral relationships work on two levels: physicians making a specific referral, and staff who will follow-up, and are often asked by patients and neighbors for a referral. Talk to them both.
In most settings, a salesperson is not the best use of your time and marketing dollars. Spending time and dollars on developing personal relationships is a good investment in building and sustaining your practice.