Physician referrals to your massage practice will help you fill your appointment book with clients who need your touch.

Physician referrals to your massage practice will help you fill your appointment book with clients who need your touch.

Whether you choose to accept insurance reimbursement or operate a cash-only massage practice, one thing is true for all therapists who provide highly skilled, clinically based massage: Networking with physicians can help you build a steady stream of referrals that will allow you to continually grow your practice with much less marketing effort.

If you have considered working with physicians or other health care professionals but need a little help getting started, there are several important aspects to consider.

Many therapists are excited about the possibility of partnering with physicians and other medical professionals and want to jump right in and request a desk-side brief. Depending on the level of physician you are hoping to work with, this method is not always feasible, as they are typically busy attending to patients.

When you are able to schedule an in-person meeting, you will want to keep these things in mind:

• Arrive promptly. Ten to 15 minutes early is an excellent standard for “on time.” Those extra few minutes can make a significant difference in the physician seeing you without an appointment, especially if you arrive right before the first patient of the day.

• Dress for success. Because we tend to dress in more casual work attire as compared with physicians, it can be challenging to know what clothing choices to make in order to deliver the best first impression. It is always a great idea to remember this number-one rule: Dress in a way that mimics the attire of the person you are networking with.

If you are meeting a physician in his or her office or over a business dinner, you will want to wear more formal business attire. Choose neatly pressed slacks, a collared shirt, and a sports coat or cardigan—or go all out and wear a business suit. If your networking meeting is in a more casual situation, such as at a coffee house or over lunch, you can simplify your attire down to slacks and a collared shirt.

Remembering this one rule will help you easily choose the most appropriate attire, no matter where your networking meeting happens to be.

• Exude confidence. Present yourself with proper posture and a genuine smile. Remember to be relaxed but not too casual, and check your ego with the garage attendant.

• Shake hands. Initiate and execute a solid handshake whenever possible. This shows assertiveness, professionalism and respect. Quick tip: three shakes or less.

• Communicate professionally. Understand “physician language” and speak it to the best of your ability. Speaking in proper anatomical language will help you appear more knowledgeable and professional to the physician. Be careful to use only terminology that you thoroughly understand to avoid any misunderstanding and prevent embarrassment.

• Communicate thoroughly. Know exactly what type of treatments you provide, how you approach treatment for different client needs and the results you provide. Understand the benefits of your work and how it can increase clinical outcomes for the physician’s patients.

Remember, the physician needs to know how this referral partnership will positively impact the health of their patients. Provide written examples of case studies for two or three significant treatment results you have achieved, whenever possible.

• Be concise. Physicians are extremely busy, so keeping your conversation short, yet complete and professional, will be appreciated. This will help you keep the physician’s full attention.

• Say thank you. Show appreciation for the physician’s time by thanking them at the end of the meeting. Don’t forget the rest of the staff you’ve come in contact with. A handwritten thank-you card sent several days after your meeting is an excellent way to show your appreciation and will plant yet another seed in the physician’s mind.

Alternate Methods

If your request for a desk-side brief is unsuccessful, try not to be discouraged. The physician likely is not saying no to you personally; they may simply be too pressed for time. Instead, try an alternate method.

Most frequently, networking with physicians begins by providing an informational marketing packet via mail or hand delivery (always the preferred option). This is a great way to introduce yourself and to maximize your efforts by sending out multiple packets at one time. It is a good practice to have packets always at the ready to avoid scrambling to create one when it is needed.

In addition to following the steps above when networking in person, you will want to follow these steps as well:

• Send two. Sending one packet addressed to the physician and one addressed to the front desk staff or nurses will easily allow you to introduce yourself and your business to everyone who may interact with the physician’s patients.

• Presentation matters. When networking with high-level medical professionals, your materials should always be top quality. Your cost will likely be significantly higher per packet, but your potential for high-quality referrals is worth the added cost. Use a custom folder and premium paper. Remember, first impressions matter.

• Show yourself. Professional headshots are essential for providing a visual connection. They are budget-friendly and can make an excellent professional impression. Dress your best, style your hair and makeup neatly and conservatively, and offer a friendly, genuine smile. You will want to use this photo on all of your marketing pieces.

• Highlight advanced education. Physicians are no stranger to higher education and nearly always place a great emphasis on it. Show them you are serious about your career by providing proof of the advanced education you’ve completed in topics that are in harmony with the needs of their patients.

• Speak and spell properly. Every item you place in your packet should be carefully edited for spelling and grammar. While a simple typo can usually be overlooked in most situations, a simple spelling mistake could be fatal in the medical world. Physicians will pick up on mistakes much more quickly than will an average person.

Grow Your Business

Because physicians are typically overloaded with patients and other duties, it is extremely important to keep your informational packets as minimal as possible to have the best chance of them getting reviewed.

While keeping it concise, you will want to be sure to include: a one-page media sheet that introduces yourself and the focus of your practice; case studies presented with bullet points as often as applicable; an aesthetically pleasing and concise rack card; and two business cards. If you have articles that support your case studies, simply citing them at the bottom will help keep your packet to a minimum.

If you are networking with multiple physicians, it is easy to customize your packets to each of them.

Networking with physicians is a powerful marketing tool that can bring you a steady stream of business for the long haul—but do not make the mistake of thinking all networking is the same.

Many massage therapists regularly network with their peers and other small-business owners to cultivate a referral network. This type of peer-to-peer networking is typically more casual, usually does not require much that is outlined in the above bullets, and usually does not include a full informational packet.

Peer-to-peer networking can be a great benefit to your practice and should be a consistent part of your marketing; however, networking with physicians demands a higher level of professionalism, attention to detail, excellent communication skills, and a solid foundation of education and results.

Mastering each of these elements and following the guidelines outlined above will ensure you make an excellent first impression. If you are looking for a networking opportunity to grow your new massage therapy business, connecting with physicians should be a strategic part of your marketing.

About the Author

Melinda Hastings, LMT, BCTMB, MTI, has practiced massage therapy since 1996. She holds active licenses in Washington and Texas, and is also a Texas Massage Therapy Instructor. She is a Nationally Approved Continuing Education Provider through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. Her CE classes are offered through her seminar business, Inspired Therapist Seminars.