Innovative Referral Strategies

 In Practice Building

Three Ways to Get More Referrals
James Maskell

Without a doubt, referrals are the quickest and most effective way to grow your practice and, in fact, this strategy probably holds for any business. Have you noticed how much more at ease, compliant, and excited referred patients are than ones who came to you via other types of marketing?

The two traditional types of referrals for a modern naturopathic clinic are patient referrals or professional referrals. Another type of referral we will look at will be “network” referrals—a concept that although we didn’t invent it, it doesn’t seem to be used very much but is producing great results for those practitioners who do.

Patient Referrals

Your current patient base is a perfect source of referrals. The first prerequisite to gathering referrals from patients is adding value to the patient. An unhappy patient is unlikely to be keen to refer, but on the other hand, you don’t necessarily need to have an incredible clinical effect to gain a patient referral. Don’t underestimate the power of a naturopathic approach! Some patients will be ready to refer just because you were the first doctor who spent more than six minutes with them, who actually listened to them, or actually identified a causative factor in their health that had not been clear to them until then.

The second prerequisite is to actually ask for the referral. This doesn’t need to be pushy or “salesy,” but is as simple as asking if they know anyone else in their friendship circle or family who might benefit from naturopathic care.

We have seen some practitioners copy some of the classic chiropractic techniques of incentivizing referrals (either by offering a gift, holding a referral competition, or putting a sign in reception) and these can work well, especially when you have therapeutic services in house.

Professional Referrals

Getting other professionals to refer patients to you is much more effective than patient referrals; in fact, it is the bedrock of the modern medical system. One significant referral source could keep you busy forever, and it is a smart practitioner who looks to cultivate these relationships.

When considering what type of practitioners to develop relationships with, consider the following questions.

  • Which other practitioners/doctors are my patients also seeing?
  • With what type of professions do I provide synergy?
  •  Why would they refer to me?

With the answers to the question in mind, you can start to take conscious action to find these practitioners. The first step, as with any effective step in business, is to plan. My recommendation is to look at a wide pool of professionals initially, as you never know who might be looking for someone like you.

Here is an initial list of likely candidates, although this list is far from exhaustive:

  • MDs (Primary Care and Specialties)
  • Physical Health Providers (OT, PT, DO, DC, etc.)
  • Personal Trainers
  • Mental Health Professionals
  • Holistic and Biological Dentists
  • Other Holistic Practitioners

The most powerful of the above potential sources are MDs, and I am sure some of you readers would feel like this might be barking up the wrong tree. But listen, 2012 is not 2005 or even 1998. Attitudes are changing in this country towards holistic medicine, and that is in part due to the fine work of you and your colleagues in showing what is possible with a holistic approach.

  • Do today’s MDs have the tools to deal with today’s epidemics?
  • Do they have patients whose conditions were brought on or exacerbated by lifestyle choices?
  • Can these lifestyle choices be shifted in a six-minute office visit?


Hopefully, you can see the point I am getting at.

The next step is to actually prospect these practitioners. Whether you use a letter, a calling campaign, or an email, my recommendation is lay out your interaction in the following order.

  1. Credibility: Keep it brief – Introduce yourself, you practice and your passion.
  2. Needs – Identify their patients’ needs through asking them questions.
  3. Features and Benefits – How the end user will benefit from your care.
  4. Next Steps – Make agreements and man the phones!

This is a topic that requires a lot more depth to really understand fully, but I would highly encourage you to go and track down some of the these referrals. One significant source could keep your practice busy forever! If you can generate more new patient leads than you can fill, that is the first step to expanding your influence and practice.  I was asked to give a webinar on this exact subject very recently by a professional supplement company, and you can find an archive of the lecture here.

Network Referrals

Last year we started working with an ND from New York who had come up with a new type of referral strategy that was working really well for them, and I thought I would share. This strategy revolved around identifying key people within the community, people with influence over large networks of people, and then offering to treat them for free. Once exposed to this practitioner’s care, these “community linchpins” were then really excited to spread the word about their services.

Some examples of community linchpins include:

  • Head of the PTA for local schools (Parents and teachers talk!)
  • Influential local business owners (Corporate wellness?)
  • Professionals (Realtors, accountants, etc.)
  • Chambers of Commerce

One of the beauties of this strategy was that the practitioner was able to choose those people they actually wanted to work with, rather than just choosing those with the most power.

If nothing else, I hope this article inspires you to get out there and network with people in your community. The demand for holistic healthcare is rising, and it is your choice if that upswing is delivered through your business!

James Maskell is CEO of Revive NYC, a Brooklyn-based digital media, practice development, and branding company that helps holistic practitioners bring their message to life. To connect with Revive, please visit our website at

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