If you offer quality products, great service and fair prices, patients will come. Although this durable formula alone is no guarantee of success, successful practitioners know it’s a prerequisite for attracting patients and maintaining their loyalty. Yet the method for establishing and cultivating a relationship with other eyecare professionals, particularly those who can serve as a potential source of referrals, is anything but clear cut.

As one L&T reader, a veteran optician from Massachusetts writes, “After a lifetime in the optical business, the one mystery I haven’t figured out is the business of referrals. What do non-dispensing MDs look for when they determine which optical dispensary to refer to? What do they expect from the dispensary? And who makes the referrals, the doctor or their staff?”

To get and keep referrals, this optician sends the referring doctor a thank you card with a short note and his business card, even if it was a staff member who actually referred the patient. About once a month he brings the office muffins or bagels along with discount coupon cards to give to their patients as a way of thanking them. Despite these friendly gestures, he still gets few prescriptions. When he inquires if there’s anything else he can do, he’s often told to just “keep up the good work.”

Another reader, an optical retailer in Bronx, New York, points out that getting referrals is a two-way street. For example, he refers patients with certain clinical problems to a local, non-dispensing MD, rather than have one of his staff ODs treat them. “The doctor has to have a reason to refer to you,” he notes. “There’s got to be a quid pro quo.”

What are your strategies for getting referrals? If you have any ideas you’d like to share with other readers, please email me and we’ll keep the discussion going.

—Andrew Karp