Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center
International Eating Disorder Referral Organization
Marketing Ideas for Eating Disorder Professionals
What is the value of ONE Referral? By Dr. Kevin Grold
Referrals make up the bedrock of your private practice (or treatment center development) and therefore should be treated like gold. Unfortunately, many therapists take their referrals for granted and do not handle them with the care they deserve. Often, a referral will be given to a therapist and the referral source is left wondering whether the client information was received by the therapist and whether or not to select another professional in the future. EVERY TIME someone gives you a referral, they are evaluating whether they have made a good decision, and whether to refer to you again. Thus it is well worth your time to let the referral source know that you appreciate the fact that they chose you.
No matter where the referral comes from, be sure to follow up and let the referring party know that you are handling the matter professionally. Also inquire about any information that might be helpful with your treatment plan (after you have obtained your client's approval). Always follow up your referrals with a thank you postcard and a call. Then, after your first session, if appropriate, let the referral source know that the referral was appropriate and that they made a correct selection in choosing your services. These efforts will help the person referring to you to feel involved in the process and he or she will be more likely to continue referring to you in the future.
When a client comes in for the first time, passing through your door is a potential lifetime of business. Consider that one client paying $80 a week for a year can increase your income by $4160. If this client refers 2 new clients to you and they in turn each refer 1 client, then after a year, your income can increase by a total of $20,800 just as a result of that first referral. This won't happen with all clients, but some will show up at your office who CAN afford your fees, who WILL come to see you for many years, and who WILL refer their spouse, children, and friends. In a business sense, each new referral should be viewed as the top of a large pyramid or as a potential gold mine of new business and income.
Each inquiring phone call is an important commodity because it can generate income EVEN IF it does not directly result in a client entering your office. For instance, if you refer the caller to an agency or another professional, you can expect referrals back in the future. Specifically, if you are a psychologist and send 5 referrals to a psychiatrist over a period of time and received no referrals in return, then you should discuss this with the psychiatrist. If this doctor does not want to or cannot refer clients back to you, then give your future referrals to professionals who will refer to you.
If you pass the referral to a local agency, then turn the "loss of a referral" into a networking opportunity. Follow-up with the agency to make sure that the call was received. This will provide you with an opportunity to introduce yourself to the intake person--this can be done without revealing any confidential client information. You can say, "I am Dr. XX and I just want to let you know that I passed along a referral to your agency today." The intake person will likely inquire about you and your specialties. Ask if you can send some business cards and brochures. This can very well turn into significant future referrals.
If you receive a referral that is not covered by insurance, or the client's managed care plan, then this is a perfect opportunity to try and become included on the insurance plan or H.M.O. The company may let you offer service on a temporary basis and subsequently it may turn into a more permanent arrangement.
As you can see, every referral to your office is a potential for networking. Although many therapists are uncomfortable with the marketing aspect of building a successful practice, a person who is referred to your office is much easier to handle than approaching members of the community without any introduction. So realize that calls to your office are openings and invitations for you to build connections. If you cultivate your referrals, then your practice will continue to grow and prosper.
Website Promotion: If you have a website, make sure you have a link to www.edreferral.com and make sure we have a link to your site on your profile. The search engines look for cross-links to popular sites such as EDReferral when determining what order to place each listing in their directory.
The Business Side - the most effective way to turn referral calls into paying clients: Referrals from EDReferral.com can turn out to be very lucrative and often a source of business income for a lifetime. But these referrals all start out differently than the referrals you receive from another professional. Callers to a referral service frequently start out as shoppers. They want to feel secure in their choice of a therapist and they want to feel that they have selected a therapist who will be able to help them with their problems. Understanding the mind-set of the network caller will help you become more successful in turning that caller into a client.
First, talk to the caller as soon as possible. Set aside some time throughout the day that you can speak directly with potential clients, possibly between appointments. After you have made the initial contact with the caller, let him or her know that you would like to allocate some time in order to talk further when you both are free. Taking 5 to 10 minutes out of your schedule per day will make all the difference in building your practice. Remember that it is always a good idea to devote some time to a new potential client no matter if the referral came from a referral service or another professional.
Second, treat the initial call as a mini therapy session. This mini therapy session has different rules from those of your everyday practice. You want to LISTEN to the caller’s main area of distress and OFFER HOPE that the situation will improve. Ask questions: you do not need to spend 20 minutes talking on the phone to each caller, but you do need to obtain a good overview of the caller’s problem so that you can suggest a mode of therapy that you feel would be helpful. The caller is shopping around and wants to find some professional that will listen and understand the problem and offer some direction to a solution. If you do not offer any hope that he or she will be able to find relief, while some other therapist does, guess where that potential client will end up. Realize that a caller’s self-diagnosis may not be accurate. The caller may have just viewed a program on eating disorders and call you saying, “I am obese.” Remember that whenever a caller gives you a self-made diagnosis over the phone, most of the time they are incorrect. Instead of losing those clients by referring them to someone else, determine for yourself with an initial consultation whether you are able to provide that person with effective therapy.
Third, suggest making an appointment during the initial call. Callers are looking to you for guidance. If you are being very “client-centered” and thus leave the options open, the caller may be at a loss as to what to do. He or she may be waiting for you to suggest a plan. There is no harm in confidently suggesting a beneficial course of action. Remember, the caller is contacting you for help. Be sure and provide an easy path for that caller by suggesting a particular time and date for the first evaluation appointment. Following these suggestions will help you to turn callers who would otherwise be lost into long-term clients.
Professional Email Etiquette: Email is a significant form of communication for personal and business use. Knowing how to use email effectively will help you present yourself in a much more professional manner. If you already use email for business, then you may not be surprised that we at EDReferral often receive emails with no subject, no signature and no reference to the previous communication. Hopefully, this article will help us all to communicate more efficiently.
Email allows fewer context clues to its meaning as compared to face-to-face and telephone conversation. Any written communication must be carefully considered so that it is not misunderstood. The potential for real misunderstanding is significant. For instance, if you email, “Don’t call me on Friday.” When talking in person, this communication may be clear, but when emailing, the recipient may not know whether you mean not to call this Friday or ANY Friday. When you compose an email message, pause and read over it again before you send it. Once it is sent, you can't get it back. Remember that your grammar, spelling, and vocabulary send a message as clear as the words. You want to look polished with your email communication since this reflects on you as a professional.
DO NOT USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!!! By convention, capital letters in an email message are considered shouting. If you write all in caps by habit, all the people you email will think you are shouting at them. It is considered rude.
Be very careful about using humor in email. Without the context cues of other forms of communication, humor can very easily be misconstrued. Often something you think is funny will insult the recipient.
Email is not a secure form of communication. By nature, the Internet is not a very private place. Messages float all over the place. It is hard to know who will see your messages, and where they may be forwarded.
Some people use emotion symbols in order to make email (especially jokes) more readable. Often, people will interject little parenthetic comments in their writing to help you understand the meaning. The following example will illustrate the principle. The boss is a PIG. As compared to…The boss is a (wink) PIG (grin!). Another way people try to interject little emotion hints in email messages is through smileys (sometimes called emoticons). These are special combinations of symbols that are supposed to convey emotion. :-) stands for happy. :-( is sad. People have made entire dictionaries of smiley symbols. The best guideline is to remember who you are writing to, and what your message is supposed to be-- this will help you decide if smileys are appropriate.
It is also important to use an appropriate subject line. While it might be nearly impossible to handle 200 phone calls a day and still get anything else accomplished, many people receive hundreds of email messages a day. To improve the odds of your message being handled correctly (or even read at all) be sure to use a short and appropriate subject line such as 'Regarding EDReferral Membership” or 'Question for Dr. Kevin Grold.' If you don't use a subject line or use an inappropriate one, you run the risk of your mail being discarded as junk mail. Don't put a long list of addresses in the TO: or CC: field These are seen by everyone you send your email to and can offend all of the recipients. Copy the significant part of the email you are responding to back to the person you are emailing. Again, if the recipient is reading hundreds of emails a day, then the details of your personal conversation may not be foremost in his or her mind. If you reference part of your conversation in your email, then the conversation will flow more smoothly.
Ask how EVERY referral found your number. Most members of EDReferral, when they begin to ask clients where they heard about their services, are surprised to learn the high numbers of clients who discovered them on EDReferral.com. You should never be surprised where your clients found you. This is important information you need to build your business. If you were referred by a local professional, then a thank you card stating that you appreciate their trust, will do wonders for future referrals.
Make it easy: If you want more referrals, make it easy for people to contact you and then get back to them quickly. Many times we call professionals only to discover that we are put on hold or we reach a terrible answering service or we reach a large organization that has no idea about how to help us. Test out your phone system Monday morning. Make sure the person or machine answering your phone is clear, warm and calming. If you have a hard time leaving a message, then your clients will also. If you have an answering service, then do not call the special "call-in" number, call the number you give to clients. Make sure the first impression is a great one.
Understand the value of each referral. One referral can open the door to referrals from friends and family and can be "the tip of the iceberg," in terms of income. Each individual can lead to many thousands of dollars in income over the life of your treatment. You should understand what each referral can mean to your bottom line which in turn will help you to make decisions about the amount you want to spend for your advertising.
Follow Success. If you see a business repeatedly doing the same advertising, take notice. Nobody likes wasting money and if whatever your competition is doing is working over time, then consider that this advertising may also be a good place for you to advertise.
Understand the value of each referral source. Be sure to make an extra effort to thank the people who refer to you with a follow-up call, email, or a card. Something that says, "there is no compliment better than a referral, and I appreciate the trust you have placed in me." Many times the person doing the referring is left wondering if anything happened. Don't let this take place in your practice. Small gestures can make a big difference in other's view of your treatment. Also sending some flowers during the holidays to your good referral sources can go a long way toward making you stand out in their minds when they are deciding to whom to refer. Even if the referral source is giving out three names, they are always emphasizing one over the others. Make sure it is you.
The 5 Most Common Email Mistakes made by Online Professionals:
1) Not putting a clear, descriptive title in the heading of your email. Remember that today professionals are receiving hundreds of emails and spam a day and need to separate out your important email from the junk.
2) Not having a signature line which is both professional and descriptive including your contact information You put a return address on a piece of mail--why not make it easy for the recipient of your email to contact you?
3) Replying to emails without referencing the previous conversation. It is easy to highlight the conversation before hitting the reply button. This will put your conversation into the email and the reader can be reminded about your previous conversation.
4) Keep the tone in your business emails extra professional and polite. People cannot read your intonation over email and anything that can be taken the wrong way will leave your reader confused.
5) Responding to the whole list of people who were sent the email when you should respond to only one person. If someone sends an email to a group of people and you hit the REPLY button and say something to only one person, then the whole group will read your response.
5 Mistakes made by Eating Disorder Professionals:
1) Assuming that since you receive our newsletter, you have a current membership with EDReferral.com and your information is listed on the site. (Just because you receive this newsletter does not mean your membership is current.)
2) Not updating your profile on EDReferral.com. We have new categories listed on our application and the more you can say about your practice, the more clients can find a good match with you.
3) Not understanding that clients use our site to see if a professional such as yourself is legitimate. Even though there is no way we can personally screen each applicant, some professionals do not feel that they need a listing and do not realize that clients are checking our site to see if they are listed with an internationally respected organization.
4) Not having a professional phone message system. The first contact is by phone. If it is not professional, then clients will move on. Be sure to ask each caller how they heard about you.
5) Not saying anything additional on your profile. Adding a paragraph about yourself, helps to personalize your information and sets you apart from other professionals. When a client is looking for a good match, they want to find someone with whom they can connect before they make the first call.
The 3 Most Common Mistakes made by Professionals Filling out the EDReferral.com Application:
1) Not updating the profile. We have new categories added all the time. The more you can say about the types of clients you work with, the more people who will call you for an appointment.
2) Not personalizing your profile. We ask for a paragraph about you at the end of our application. We want to know what sets you apart from other professionals. Clients look to your profile to try to feel more comfortable with giving you a call.
3) Not asking for feedback. Have another professional take a look at your profile on our site. Ask about impressions and ideas for improvement. You will be surprised what a second opinion can do to improve the impression you make with your profile. Also take a look at the other profiles on our site. You may find some ideas to improve your own listing.
The good news is that you can always update your profile at no additional cost.
Place Business Card in your Waiting Room Your clients WANT to refer their friends and family. Make it easy by placing friendly, warm, business cards in your waiting room. A sign over the cards could say, "The trust you show in me when you refer a friend or family member is appreciated and will be honored."
The importance of setting business goals. Goal setting can help you:
1) focus your efforts.
2) see what you need to do to accomplish your goals.
3) get motivated to reach your goals.
4) focus your mind on the necessary tasks.
5) create a game plan for reaching your goals.
6) obtain a sense of accomplishment when you reach your goals.
WRITE YOUR GOALS DOWN NOW!
Your professional email Make sure your email looks as professional as possible. Have a signature line at the bottom of your email with all your contact information. Your email program has a way to automatically add this signature at the bottom of your emails. The information will make it easier for your clients and potential clients to contact you.
Improve your website placement with links: If you link to popular sites such as www.edreferral.com and we have links to your web page on our site, then it will help both of us to place higher in the Internet search engines.
Need More Clients? Consider opening a second office. Look for a location where there are not many professionals treating eating disorders. Then partner with a busy therapist who can rent out their office on an hourly basis. Next, contact EDReferral and sign up for a complete second listing (at a reduced rate). Once your hours pick up, you can get your own office!
NOTICE: GET PUBLISHED! Members--Send us an article you have written which would be of interest to our readers and we will publish it on our site. We can accept one article per month. Indicate whether it is directed towards professionals or clients. Email the article to firstname.lastname@example.org. For examples see: Latest Developments, bulimia, eating disorders, binge eating
Increase Referrals with a Second Office Listing on EDReferral.com: If you have 2 offices, you can list the second office for only $55 for the entire year--that works out to less than $3 a month. Many therapists have commented that this has worked out well for them in terms of increased referrals. Also make sure that your listing is up-to-date and covers all areas of the eating disorder field where you provide treatment. This will help when people are searching for you on our site. For more information visit www.EDReferral.com or email email@example.com.
What is nearby? Is your office near a college campus? If so, let us know and we will add it to your listing. Anything that will help people find you is beneficial to have included in your listing with EDReferral.com. We will add useful information at no additional cost.
Need More Clients? Improve your profile on EDReferral.com. Look at what other professionals have done on our site. Add details to your profile that explain more about you and your specialties. List more areas in the "additional communities served" section. Select additional populations served. Create more payment options for your clients. -- We update our application with new categories -- make sure your information is up-to-date. Updating your profile is fast and easy. Just input your name and any changes on our update page at Membership.
Take a referral source to lunch. Let the people who refer to you often get to know you better. This will solidify your referral connection. Also seek out those people in your community who are the one who are connected to everyone. There are always "central hub" people who are well connected not just in the mental health field but in everything. Seek these people out and ask if you can take them to lunch to introduce yourself and your services.
Expansion--Private Practice and Treatment Center both have immediate availability for new clients! Considering announcing your practice or treatment center in this newsletter. We can help you write a paragraph about your services if you like. Many professionals are shy about announcing their services, but if you don't tell others about your unique abilities and treatment skills, then not as many people will be able to benefit from your service.
Answering your Phone. It is so important that your potential client's first contact with your office is a positive experience. I am always surprised at what a poor job professionals do of making this first contact as pleasant as possible. The worst way you could have your phone answered is with an answering service. Just recently I was actually put on hold for over 2 minutes waiting for the operator to answer. These services give the professionals a special number to call for messages so they never experience what poor service they are actually receiving. The next worse way to answer your phone is to have a busy staff member who has no clinical experience answering the phone. If this person is rushed and cold, the caller will not have a positive experience. I recommend having a high-quality answering system that projects your voice in a crystal clear manner. Then you can be calm and quiet and record a peaceful sounding outgoing message that is going to put the stressed-out caller at ease. Say on your outgoing message that the call is important to you and then make sure you call back promptly.
Leaving a voice message: You leave your message so many times on answering machines that you can forget that it may be the listener's first time hearing the information. You have repeated your phone number so many times that begins to sound like a mantra. Many people end up saying their phone number so fast that it can be difficult to comprehend. Remember to take a breath when you leave your information. Say it very slowly and do repeat your phone number again slowly. You would not think that we need to mention this, but you would be surprised how many professionals say their phone number like an auctioneer.
Making Referrals: Finding eating disorder treatment in other parts of the world. We constantly see therapists on the Internet asking for help with referrals in areas where we have many treatment providers. Remember that our website is not only for receiving referrals, but can also be used by professionals to find eating disorder treatment options throughout the US and the world.
Research your referral sources. Make a point of spending a few minutes with each new client finding out exactly how they found out about you. Try to dig a bit deeper than the initial response. If they say they found you on the Internet, then ask a bit more. What search engine did you use? Did you find my name on a particular website? Unfortunately, most therapists do not ask these questions. This research time is important to your business. This is vital information that will help you make future advertising decisions.
Fear of Marketing: Why are many therapists so adverse to the idea of marketing? Understanding the fearful mentality of many therapists will help you deal with therapists who have this avoidant mindset and may help to clarify some issues for yourself. Consider the factors that create the fear of marketing.
1) TRADITIONALLY THERAPISTS DON'T MARKET THEMSELVES. Tradition states that once you become a competent therapist, your reputation alone will bring clients flocking to your door. Unfortunately, the therapy field is saturated with therapists and those who cause themselves to rise above the crowd will be successful.
2) MARKETING IS not professional--Again, following the same fallacy that "the competent therapist gets the client," is the opposite. If you have to market yourself, it means you are needy, incompetent, and not well-regarded. Again, this is not true. No one taught you about the business end of being a therapist and now as a therapist you are thrust into the world of business which is based on "survival of the fittest." Since clients do not automatically flock to your office, you have to adapt in a professional way to survive in the business world.
3) marketers are irritating--Most people believe that marketing has to be annoying to be successful. A common notion is that you have to turn into an persistent telemarketer in order to be successful. In fact, with the Internet and such organizations as EDReferral.com, you do not have to annoy other therapists. Instead, you can respectfully get your message out without having to be a pest. Then interested clients will call you for more information.
4) Fear of rejection--Marketing means I will have to put myself out there and be turned down and laughed at. Rejection is only an issue if you are expecting a particular positive response. It is NOT true that your great marketing plan will be right for everyone. This does not mean that your idea is not great--only that it does not fit with the circumstances of each particular therapist and his or her situation. If your goal is to disseminate useful information that will "click" with some people and not be right for others, then rejection is no longer a problem. Marketing becomes only a matter of connecting with the therapists who are "the right fit."
EDReferral.com has a great group of eating disorder professionals across the world who want to create a highly professional place to find treatment options. As we all grow in a professional manner, marketing your practice will begin to feel more and more effortless.
Continually update your profile on our site: EDReferral.com is always improving the application page so that you can include more useful information with your profile. For instance, we are now asking if providers help with Bariatric Surgery. To make changes to your profile, all you need to do is input your name and anything you would like to add on the update page by clicking here.
Be Professional: Your phone line is your connection with the outside world and it needs to be answered in the most professional way possible. We were taken in by all the advertising for "MagicJack" that states you only have to pay $20 a year for phone service. While I am sure that it works well for some, it was not professional enough for us to provide the best service and we will be using the same phone number we have had for years 858-792-7463.
A.B.R. Always be Reducing - your costs that is. You can examine every aspect of your business and reduce costs in each area. Many companies, especially now, will reduce your charges just for the asking. For instance, we contacted AT&T and had our phone bill cut in half. Check every aspect of your business and personal life to find ways to reduce your costs--often just by asking. FYI, we feel that EDReferral.com has some of the best value and lowest costs possible already, but if you would be willing to sign up for 2 years at a time, then we will work you at a reduced rate.
Make it easy to create your own website. We have noticed that many of our EDReferral.com members do not have websites. Websites can be an easy, cheap and an effective marketing tool. If you get stuck with the wrong people, they can also be overwhelming and very expensive. That's why we are partnering with TherapySites. TherapySites specializes in creating websites designed for therapists that are professional, affordable, and effective. All you pay is a monthly hosting fee--and there are no long-term contracts. They provide credit card processing, appointment requests, search engine optimization, and more - it's all included! You can have all the detail you want to present about yourself, you can have forms for clients to bring to their first session and you can even provide an interactive map to your office. Then you can link your site to EDReferral and we can link back to you which will help both of us in the search engines. Sign up using promo code: PromoEDR and receive your first month FREE at http://www.therapysites.com/?a_aid=16&a_bid=3dd8338e.
Take out banners on our site. Promote yourself in our newsletter. Don't be shy...get your message out...click here.
To begin your search for help and referrals CLICK HERE
*We cannot diagnose or treat eating disorders by email, but we can send you information and assist you in finding resources. Information provided by the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center is not a substitute for medical treatment or psychological care. It is vital that you talk with your physician and a qualified mental health professional regarding eating disorder symptoms and treatment.
*While EDRIC includes articles and links to sites which provide additional information on eating disorders and related topics, the EDRIC does not endorse or recommend any site, product or service provided on these links.
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