Referral business is the bomb

“I was referred to you by a friend. How do we get started?” she said enthusiastically.

These words are music to the professional’s ears! The sales cycle just got reduced to a nanosecond. New business is coming through the door effortlessly. Yahoo!

Was it really that easy? Can you sit back and just enjoy the referral business walking through your door day in and day out?

Yes…and no. In the past year, I’ve watched at least two businesses thrive on the referrals they’ve exchanged. I sat down with both recently to learn how they developed their referral business and how they keep it working so successfully.

Dr. Robert W. Adams, of Adams Chiropractic Neurology Group, and Bobbie Jonas, a massage therapist who also provides medical, osteopathic, somatic, therapeutic and intuitive bodywork, both provide health care services in Sonoma. “How did you meet and begin referring patients to one another?” I inquired.

“First, it’s important to note that we follow HIPAA ethical standards and regulations. Respecting patient confidentiality is our first concern. So I never share any information with Bobbie or another health care professional about a patient without their express consent,” stated Dr. Adams.

“And I’m the same way,” Ms. Jonas added. “So the exchange of referrals in our businesses required several discussions and meetings to establish trust and procedures for what we can or can’t say when referring to the other.”

I inquired about the key elements to launching a successful referral program:

“Our businesses are very complimentary,” explained Ms. Jonas. “We both work to heal the body, in different ways, using different medical and health disciplines. So it’s much easier to instigate a referral program when the businesses work in similar areas. I’m sure it’s the same for plumbers and electricians, or real estate agents and mortgage brokers.”

“Another thing that was very important to us was building a relationship with trust,” Dr. Adams stated. “I’ve met hundreds, maybe thousands, of massage therapists, physical therapists and other health professionals in my career. But that doesn’t mean that I’d be comfortable referring my patients to all of them. I refer patients to Bobbie because we took the time to get to know each other, and we ensured our own high quality and integrity standards were met. Those are key elements to success.”

“We also regularly meet,” offered Ms. Jonas. “BNI gave us the impetus to meet, connect and build a relationship,” she explained. “But you can’t continue sending referrals to someone else on a steady basis unless you also continue to nurture that strong relationship.”

“This has been one my most successful business relationships as a health care practitioner,” emphasized Dr. Adams. “I have participated in other networking groups in the past, but they didn’t necessarily produce new business. Here I’ve learned to actively make time for relationship-building because it pays dividends in success for my patients and my business.” He added, “Now the next step for me is to build more relationships with professionals in other industries one step away from health care to generate referrals for them and hopefully, in return, for my practice as well.”

“Trust and systems are the key,” concluded Ms. Jonas. “I always loved getting referral business. But getting consistent referrals didn’t happen for me until Dr. Adams and I sat down to work out a system of how we’d do it. That keeps it top of mind. Anyone can do this with regular effort to grow their business.”

As seen in the July 25, 2019, print edition of The Sonoma Sun.  |  Marcia Macomber is Creator-in-Chief at Cornucopia Creations, a Sonoma-based design and marketing firm, co-founder of WINE WOMEN, a local non-profit championing women in the wine industry, a host on KSVY radio shows, and a member of, a network of business owners focused on referral marketing.