Your Marketing Shortcut

My doctor broke up with me.

I got a letter in the mail yesterday in which she explained she has decided to leave private practice and will no longer be treating patients.

I assume it had nothing to do with me, although you never know. My standard doctor’s office jokes (Doctor: “Which arm should I use to take blood? Me: “How about one of yours?”) are enough to drive anyone out of the profession.

But I don’t mind telling you, this has thrown me for a bit of a loop. I deliberately chose a doctor who is much younger than I, in the hope she would outlive me and I’d never need to find another.

So, how do I go about choosing a replacement?

Well, here’s what I don’t do:

Identify possible doctors using Google, Yelp, AI, billboards, ads in the paper, or any broad-based search tactic.

No, I do the same thing you would do: I ask friends and neighbors who they use and might recommend.

Is it an exhaustive list based on capability and experience?

Not even close. But it’s way simpler, faster, and easier than starting from zero with any of the other approaches. Plus, a personal referral from someone I trust is always a good starting point and filter.

I can’t see you from way over here, but I’m willing to bet your clients come to you in pretty much the same way. If you are a small professional service firm or independent, it’s nearly all referral and word of mouth.

So, if that’s true, doesn’t it make sense to focus your marketing on things that enhance this, your primary source of clients?

I hope you said yes. But it’s not magic.

You need to do things – regularly and deliberately – to ensure that when somebody asks a friend or colleague for a recommendation to a financial planner, freelance writer, fundraising specialist, management consultant … or whatever it is you do … your name pops happily out of their mouth.

Some suggestions in that regard…

Publishing a newsletter, attending networking events, staying active on social media, sending “hello” emails to people in your network, giving away free kittens … these are just a few things you might do.

What matters most in all this is that whatever you choose (I recommend three or four tactics), you do them regularly and systematically. Your goal is to stay visible to your network – all the time and forever.

Because if you are not top of mind – regardless of how much I like you and how qualified and capable you may be – I’m not going to think of you when a friend or colleague asks for a suggestion.

People forget about other people very quickly. (Who are you again?)

The goal of marketing is to get hired. Obviously.

But if every time I interact with you or read something you wrote, it’s just a thinly disguised sales pitch, request for a referral, or recounting of your gosh darn wonderfulness, I’m going to tune you out pretty fast.

Instead, try to do things that make me want to hear from you.

That means focusing your attention on maintaining the relationship and connection, rather than trying to close a sale today. Ask people what they are up to, inquire about their recent vacation, complain about the Red Sox. It really doesn’t matter.

I know, it sounds too simple. But relationship marketing includes the word “relationship” for a reason. It’s the foundation of word of mouth.

Everyone you know is a possible referral source. Not just everyone who is in your industry and/or is influential.

Every human you know.

For example, maybe you’re a leadership coach and the guy who lives across the street teaches third grade. How could he possibly help you? Well, in addition to improving your coloring skills, maybe his sister is managing partner of a 200-person law firm in need of team building workshops.

You don’t know who knows who (or whom, if the guy across the street teaches English). Just keep connecting and let the power of relationship sort it all out.

Word of mouth is random, but it’s not luck.

And while it’s true there is no way of knowing which of your hundreds (thousands?) of connections is going to bring your next client, it doesn’t matter – you don’t need to know.

Stay in touch, build relationships, and watch what happens.

In the meantime, let me know if you can recommend a good doctor.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How long have you been with your current doctor?
  2. Rate your coloring skills on a scale of 1 – 10.
  3. What percent of your clients come from referral or word of mouth?

Share your answers below…

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8 thoughts on “Your Marketing Shortcut

  1. Bart Foreman

    As usual, great stuff. BTW. I got your book and it has made it all the way to the coffee table. To be read after March Madness.

    Got a great doctor. I fired my old male doctor and got another one in the same clinic. Much younger, better looking, too. Very responsive.

    Coloring skills: ZERO. I am color blind.

    % WOM: Probably all of them in one way or another.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Thanks on the book, Bart! I can’t say I blame you on waiting for march madness to end!

  2. Vickie Harding-Wakeen

    Got a great MD referral for you (if he’s accepting new patients)- Matthew Bean at Southborough Medical. I’m in FL now. I think you’d like him. Kudos for choosing a younger doctor. I’ve tried to do the same but down here, there are too many “old” people. LOL.

  3. Andy Rowe

    I too have just retired from my clinical practice….. after 35 yrs of looking after my patients. Of the 20k or so patients that I saw in that time, we only managed to get about 1500 onto our email marketing list….. people have to ‘opt in’ these days. Anyway I kept in touch with the 1500 using your ‘I saw something the other day, which reminded me of…’ technique. One of my patients said to me: ‘I’ll miss your emails’ when I told him I was retiring….. That’s thanks to you, Michael!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      That’s a great example, Andy. I love how that person didn’t say, “I’ll miss your medical skills,” but instead called out the emails. The medical skills are the price of admission; the nice communications are what make the difference.
      And congrats to you on retirement.

  4. Sri Srikrishna

    More than ten years – and that’s saying something as she lives 10,000 miles away from Boston. It’s 10 if it involves only blue but without red/green cones my coloring sucks.
    Most in my present avatar. Still early days!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I look forward to watching you in your new adventure! (And when it comes to colors, blue is really the only one that matters….)


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