It’s less than 60 days until the busy holiday season begins. Many doctors will send referrers a gift for the holidays as part of their annual marketing strategy, but they fail to make the most of the marketing opportunity. Here are some key questions and recommendations.
Are gifts necessary or recommended?
It depends on your current marketing strategies. If you have a great marketing coordinator with a systematic approach to visiting all your referring practices throughout the year, your referrers are probably fairly well informed all year long that your practice appreciates them. It’s really a personal choice for you as part of your doctor-to-doctor relationship with the GP.
If you don’t have a marketing coordinator following a systematic approach, then your marketing activities throughout the year are probably quite minimal or sporadic. In that case, a year-end gift could be very important and probably advisable.
How much should you spend?
There are two camps of opinion on how much to spend. The first camp says that if you have a good marketing system where you are investing in marketing activities, including doctor-to-doctor activities (such as taking a referrer to a sports game or other activities), then a flashy gift at the end of the year is probably overkill. A personalized message along with a thoughtful gift like a nice bottle of wine or gift basket is completely suitable.
The other camp says that the gift should be obviously meaningful in the context of how much an individual GP referred during the year. A GP who refers 50 cases to you deserves some special recognition (and extra spending) versus a GP who refers 6 cases to you. It is a slippery slope though because once you set a precedent with a high value gift, it’s hard to back down from that in the future.
Overall, we lean toward having a great year-round marketing systems and then, if you do send a year-end gift, that it be modest without being extravagant.
When is the best time?
The whole point of a gift is to communicate a message to the referring doctor that you appreciate and value your relationship with them. If you wait until the second or third week of December (or later), your gift is going to get lost in the mix. It’s the busiest time of the year with their family. Everyone else (from their accountant to other specialists they refer to) are also sending gifts at the same time. Yours will be one more on the pile.
The best time to send this kind of gift is right around Thanksgiving or just before, which is well ahead of the masses of cards and presents from others. It gives you a head start, and your gift could very well be the first one they receive of the season. So, it will get noticed, which is what you want. Also, a gift of appreciation and gratitude ties in very nicely with the theme of Thanksgiving. That means the best time to start budgeting and planning your gifts is now, especially if you are going to try to give personalized gifts for your key referrers. It takes time for those ideas to percolate.
How should it be delivered?
If you don’t have a marketing coordinator, then you will probably need to mail gifts to your more distant referrers or have them delivered from where you ordered the gift (such as for a basket). If you have a marketing coordinator, it’s best that they hand-deliver gifts for those referrers that are a distance away.
For referrers that are closer to you, it is recommended that you personally visit those doctors, which is something you should do at a minimum at least once a year. It gives you a chance to connect with the GP’s front desk team, have a few minutes of face time with the doctor to generate goodwill. This is especially important if you are not face-to-face with them any other time during the year. In one day, you can probably drop in on 15 or so practices without too much effort.
Remember that 90% of marketing is teamwork
Year-end gifts can be a nice touch in a marketing system, but no gift is as influential as your practice team. What they do throughout the year by communicating with referrers and taking care of patients effortlessly guides the entire referral relationship. And a great marketing coordinator makes sure that practice-wide effort by you and your team is noticed throughout the year.