You know what’s really hard about getting referrals?

Keeping track of everyone you’ve helped or talked to about your practice.

Most of us have helped thousands of people and have written meticulous notes in clinical records.

But therapists typically do a poor job of staying connected with satisfied clients and managing our networks. Future referrals and incomes are lost because we don’t maintain strong connections with our most precious resource–our loyal clients.

It’s not like we’re just plain stupid but we’ve never really had to lose sleep about it before. Physicians and networks force fed us all the referrals we ever needed, sometimes too many. Well times have changed and now therapists must compete like crazy for good quality referrals.

And the truth is most therapists don’t have a clue how to!

My six-part Word of Mouth Referral Series will help you solve this problem. I’ll show you how to build strong connections with your patients and referral sources through sending great emails. Most of us already have fantastic relationships with our patients and email is the most effective way to keep in touch with them.  

My goal is to help you set up a simple system that automatically sends personalized emails to your patients before, during and after their time with you. Strong connections and strategic communications are necesary to enhance client experiences, client retention and word of mouth referrals.

The good news is that technology has made this type of gentle marketing possible. Even if you’re a marketing novice or if you need to keep in touch with thousands of patients. A simple email system won’t cost you an arm and isn’t difficult to set up. 

In the Word of Mouth Referral series, I’m sharing my step-by-step system to increase referrals by sending great emails. In case you missed the first two blog posts, you can read them by clicking on the links below:

               Intro: Word of Mouth Referrals Vs. Traditional Referrals
Step 1: Why a CRM is THE Secret Weapon for Getting Referrals
Step 2: How To Organize And Segment Your Connections Lists
Step 3: How To Automatically Send Group Emails
Step 4: How To Write Great Emails That Get Results
               Round Up Post By Experts in Email Marketing

Now let’s learn how to increase word of mouth referrals by organizing your connections.

What are Connection Lists?

In order for your practice to be vibrant and grow you must make a profit. Connection lists are composed of people who have the ability to generate income for your business. Connection lists are a way of organizing information about your contacts to build strong long-term business connections.   

Making new friends is much easier than making new business connections. If want to be friends with someone you offer to go out for coffee or lunch with no strings attached. If all goes well you might share phone numbers or email addresses.

Business relationships, on the other hand, can be friendly but there aren’t just about friendships. It’s about business and trust.  Someone is trusting you with their money or referral in the context of a business relationship. Lists allow you to manage your business relationships in an organized way to generate recurring income. 

Building the size of your client base is vital if you want your practice to grow. Most therapists work a lot harder at treating patients than getting new referrals. But the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Your number one priority is to build loyalty with patients who already know and trust you. Loyal patients will spread the word about you and generate warm referrals to your practice. 

It’s essential to keep your system simple as possible while you strengthen connections with your previous and current clients. It’s important to treat clients like people even when you are trying to pay the bills and achieve your personal goals. You don’t want the receiver to feel like you’re sending them impersonal information or advertising. Creating different lists allows you to send the right message to the right person at the right time.  


Email Markeint Cheatsheet

What are the different lists you should have?

The type of lists you should have depends on what stage of business you’re in. In a previous blog post I discussed 3 different phases of practice growth.

   1. Practice Startup
   2. Practice Growth
   3. Practice Scale

Your practice stage dictates the lists you create. Segmenting your contacts into lists allows you to send emails that are personal and relevant to the people with similiar interests. Here are the lists I recommend creating for each business phase.

1. Practice Startup Phase
   a. Friends and family
   b. Previous and current clients
   c. Key influencers

2. Practice Growth Phase
   a. Previous and current clients
   b. Prospective patients
   c. Key influencers

3. Practice Scale Phase
   a. Previous and current clients
   b. Prospective patients
   c. Key Influencers
   d. Internet marketing

Keep Your Connection System Simple


More Referrals Through Email

Before client lists systems were computerized professional sales people kept their client list on index cards or in a rolodex. I find the visualization of a classic rolodex card helpful when organizing contact information.

For our purposes, each ‘card’ is an individual you want to connect with. On each card you’ll record their contact information and converstion notes that you want to remember.

Whenever you want to continue the conversation you’re having with this person the card will help you contact them to pick up the conversation where you left off.

It’s very important you understand that this is a 2-way connection between your clients and yourself. It’s not a conversation where you do all the talking. No one likes being in a relationship like that.

There is no one right way to connect with clients that works for everyone. The important thing is that you connect in a personal way on a consistent basis.

How to get started with a CRM?


1. Choose a CRM you can live with and start adding contacts
2. Group your contacts into lists
3. Create your first client card
    a. Record each clients basic information such as name, email address, phone,diagnosis, job title, website etc
    b. Record any high-level relationship information that provides you a quick view of your connection with this person.                  
    c. Here are three questions to help you develop your connection with this person:

           1. How have I added value to this person’s life?- Notes to jog your memory on how you’ve made this    person’s life better.
        2. Does this person know my name/face?- Define the relationship. Would this person know you if they passed you by on the street or would the recognize your name? If not, you’ll need more impressions with them.
        3. Have I asked this person for anything? You want to be on the giving side of most relationships. I generally aim for  atleast a 2-to-1 ratio of asks to favors.

4. Identify the key touch points- Touchpoints refer to the when and how you want to have meaningful client interactions
5. Reach out in a mix of methods and types of messages i.e. emails, phone calls, postcards, live events and track client response
6. Develop a workflow of recording helpful notes on cards This habit will help keep track of multiple relationships. Here are some suggestions on what notes to jot down.
      1. Who introduced me to this person?
      2. What does this person really get excited about?
      3. What did we talk about last time? Is there any followup?



More Referrals Through Email


Here’s what a touchpoint schedule might look like:
   First message:       Patient schedules appointment
   Second message:  Day before the appointment
   Third message:      2 Days after the first appointment
   Fourth message:   Once a week during treatment
   Fifth message:       Day after last treatment
   Sixth message:      One week after last treatment
   Seventh message: One month after treatment
   Eighth message:    Recheck invitation six months after treatment

The client experience will be enhanced through scheduled personal communication. Successful patient outcomes will be reinforced after treatment and referrals will be asked for throughout the experience.


Email Markeint Cheatsheet

How to set up a connection list?


1. Choose a CRM that is right sized for you. Here are my recommendations based upon the size of your contact list.

2. Group your contacts into separate lists
    a. Previous and current clients
    b. Prospective patients
    c. Key influencers

3. Enter contact information into CRM

4. Write great email templates

5. Set up email sequence

6. Send great emails

Practice Startup (Less than 500 Emails)
1. Database Spreadsheet Program– Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets
2. Word processor to write emails– Microsoft Word or Google Docs
3. Merge spreadsheets and email– Microsoft Mail Merge or Google Mailmerge App
4. Send Group Emails–Microsoft Outlook, GMail

Practice Growth (500-1,000 Emails)
1. CRM that combines database, segmentation, email automation.
2. Examples: Hubspot, Drip, MailChimp

Practice Scale (1,000 Emails or more)
1. CRM created for health and wellness professionals
    a. Integrates with websites and EMR if possible
    b. Example: StriveHubHubspot

Get started now


Even if you don’t haven’t developed a way to communicate with your clients get started on collecting client information. The sooner you enter client information into a spreadsheet or CMS the sooner you’ll decrease your backlog.

Even if all you have is a spreadsheet program get started with it. Most CRM systems are capable of importing excel or CSV files. If you have large lists delegate to a staff person or recruit a high schooler to input your data into the system.

In the next blog post we will cover the next step in setting up your Word of Mouth Referral system: How To Automatically Send Group Emails.

If you have an questions about segmenting your lists or how to get started with a CRM, leave your question or comment in the form below.


Email Marketing Guide


Paul Potter is a physical therapist and mentor who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, who is also a therapist. They have four daughters. For more than 35 years he successfully managed his own private practice. He now shares his knowledge and experience through teaching and mentoring therapists who want to have their own practice. 

He has authored On Fire: Ignite Your Passion with a Cash Therapy Practice and the Cash Practice From Scratch Course. His website is dedicated to helping therapists achieve professional and financial freedom. Connect with Paul on his website or on LinkedIn paulpotterpt. You can also get more free resources at