Clients prefer to receive treatments by someone they know. The second best option is working with professionals who come highly recommended from someone they know. Many people claim that health care is a word-of-mouth industry, but they are unaware of how to foster referrals.

Directly asking for referrals is a common and accepted form of building any service business. If you don??t tell your clients you would like their assistance, they might assume you are fully booked and aren??t accepting new clients. The referral process consists of four major stages: request the referral, repeat the request, reward the referral and reciprocate the referral.

The Direct Referral Process

Request The Referral
Talk with your most satisfied clients and enlist their support. Ask them to tell their colleagues and friends about you. Supply them with business cards, brochures, and perhaps even some discount coupons for a percentage off an initial session.

Repeat The Request
The next time you talk with them, repeat the request. People don??t always hear things the first time. They may have been preoccupied (or if it was right after a session, they may have been too relaxed for the request to sink in). Find out if they need more promotional materials and ask them how you can make it easier for them to promote your practice. Also, send them a thank-you note even if you haven??t received any referrals.

Recognize them for their intentions and support. They could be sharing information about you and passing out your cards, but you might never know it. They don??t have control over whether or not the people they talk to call you to set up an appointment. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and knowing that you appreciate their efforts can inspire them to continue referring people to you.

Reward The Referral
When you do get a referral, immediately send a thank-you note. Reward the referral with something tangible such as a free session, a plant, flowers or take the client to lunch.

Reciprocate The Referral
The last stage in the referral process is reciprocation. Whenever someone refers a client to you, go out of your way to either refer another client back, use his/her services and products yourself, or supply the person with some type of desired information.

Indirect Referrals
Another option to cultivate referrals is to compile a list of all former and current clients, colleagues, friends and family members who value your work. Ask them to write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of people whom they think could benefit from your services. Send those prospects a personalized letter of introduction, your brochure and include a discount coupon/referral card. Keep track of which people respond to your letter. Call the rest within a month. Inquire if they received the letter and ask if they would like additional information (such as articles or pamphlets), invite them to an open house or workshop, offer a free consultation or perhaps even book a session.

Developing a solid referral process is great for augmenting your practice as long as you don??t depend on it as your major source for new clients. Ultimately, when it comes to establishing a thriving practice, you are the only one who can do it. The key is to design and implement a sound customer service plan. When it comes to word-of-mouth promotion, the most important mouth is your own; you are the best advertisement for your business!

[i]Cherie Sohnen-Moe is an author, workshop facilitator, healing arts practitioner and business coach. She has written more than 100 articles which have appeared in 15 publications. The author of several titles, her book, Business Mastery, recently was released in its third edition.

To contact her call at 520-743-3936 or 800-786-4774, e-mail her at or visit her website at: for more information.[/i]