Getting Referrals from Physicians by Creating a Marketing Strategy

One of the most productive groups to focus your marketing efforts on are primary care physicians. PCP’s see a lot of patients and a majority of them need or could benefit from your services. The trick is to develop a strategy to reach out to family practitioners on a regular basis. A good goal to shoot for is to have some kind of marketing message reach PCP’s once every three months. What I am referring to here is direct marketing, which for example, could be sending a letter about your practice, business cards, a practice brochure, etc. Indirect marketing, on the other hand, should occur more frequently. This involves calling or sending a letter about a new client that you just started seeing to consult about the case. Although this requires extra time to do so, the benefits for you and your client far outweigh the time involved in doing so. This also helps to create what marketers refer to as “top of mind awareness”. In essence, it is the idea that you will be fresh in the mind of a potential referral source by maintaining regular ongoing contact. 

To achieve this goal, you need a strategy to help you reach your target audience. The first step is to compile a list of PCP’s in your area.  To create your list, contact the local hospitals in your area and ask if they could send you a physician’s directory. These are free and are usually found in the hospitals themselves, however, most likely the marketing department will send you one.  Keep in mind that these directories do not include all of the physicians in your area, but they are a great start. Once you have directories from your local hospitals, bookmark the family practice and internal medicine sections. You could also include other specialists that you want to target as well. You may also want to go through the phone book or check online directories to see if there are other physicians not included in the directories.

Once completed, identify how many total physicians you want to include in your marketing database and divide them into four equal groups.  You could group by location, for example, within your zip code and neighboring towns.  This may also help you determine which areas or practices generate the most referrals. These groupings of physicians should be targeted with some kind of marketing message at least once every three months or quarterly, hence the four groups. To achieve this, I created a database using Microsoft Access (which is part of Microsoft Office) showing each of my four groups which I refer to as Area 1, 2, 3 and 4. Using a database allows me to easily print out mailing labels or merge the addresses into a document. I also use a project management program called GQueues that I use to set reminders to send mailings to each of my four groups. These reminders are set up as recurring, so once I complete the task a new task is created automatically three months later. You can do the same thing in Microsoft Outlook or other task management programs. This is a great way of not forgetting who to target and when. All you need to do now is craft your marketing message (e.g, letter, brochure, etc.) and start sending them out as scheduled.  Having a systematic approach such as this will definitely help create top of mind awareness with the physicians in your area and the referrals will start pouring in.

Recommended Reading

Marketing for the Mental Health Professional: An Innovative Guide for Practitioners

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Dennis Given, Psy.D.

Licensed psychologist & owner of Psychology Associates of Chester County, Inc.

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6 Responses

  1. Hi, Dennis! Thanks for dropping in to chat on my blog this evening. You offer some really useful suggestions in this post. Thank you.

    I also want to say that many of my therapist-clients get really stuck i.e. not making any progress when marketing to physicians. Often this is about their own histories / beliefs about the medical profession, in general, and physicians, in particular. If any of your readers find that they can’t seem to make any headway in getting referrals from this profession, I would encourage them to dig a little into their own beliefs that may be getting in their way.

    • You raise a good point. I also think our views on marketing and self-promotion can get in the way of creating inroads within the medical community. We have to learn to accept that this is a part of our overall business model because we are, after all, selling ourselves.

  2. Gerda Muller says:

    Hi Dennis, thanks for the great article above (and the others – i just came across your website today). I’m a Clinical Psychologist with a group private practice in Brisbane, Australia. I know our medical system here works different to yours in the US, but the Primary Care Physician (or General Practitioner as they are called here) is also our biggest referrer. At my practice, The Psych Professionals, we send our GP’s a one page News Fax at least monthly. This has been very well-received and keeps us front of mind with the doctors. We always ensure that it addresses a need of the GP and or their patient. We pay extra attention (in terms of targeted marketing) towards our ‘Practice Angels’ – the term we use to describe our top referring doctors. Feel free to visit our website at We also have a Facebook page:

  3. Heidi J. Dalzell, PsyD says:

    Hi Dennis. Thanks for these great tips. I recently started sending letters to the PCPs of new therapy clients, and think it will definitely be a big help marketing-wise. I haven’t found it onerous at all as I simply write a brief summary the same way I would for an intake note, and send it along to the PCP. One document suffices for both. I like your ideas for more dedicated marketing and keeping a referral database. Thanks again!

    • I often just send my initial evaluation to the PCP. I have the ability to fax from my PC so with the click of a few buttons it is sent without me having to leave my seat. Having the ability to do this so easily makes it hard not to, particularly when the benefit is far greater than the effort involved.

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