In this episode, Barbara and Steve discuss:  

  • Ways to get referrals 
  • Profiling your ideal client: know who you are marketing for 
  • Paid Media 

Key Takeaways:  

  • If you remove the risk from the person you are asking, then referrals are much more likely to come 
  • Creating a referral pad or a book to hand out to other professionals in your field, gives  them a tool to remember you by and share with patients 
  • Creating a premium experience will allow you to demand premium pricing 


“The offer isn’t just what you deliver and the price you charge, but it’s the experience you create around that. And are you creating an experience that someone might be willing to pay a premium for?” —  Steve Gordon  


021 Steve Gordan 

Barbara Hales:       Welcome to this episode of Marketing Tips for Doctors. Today we have Steve Gordon as a guest.      Steve Gordan is a bestselling author, the founder of the Unstoppable CEO and the host of the Unstoppable CEO podcast. He has written over 400 articles on marketing per service businesses and helped service business entrepreneurs create leveraged marketing systems so they can spend less time on business development and more time on what matters most. After growing his firm’s revenue by 10 times, Steve started his second business consulting with businesses across 30 industries including manufacturing, professional services, and consulting to design sales, marketing, and referral systems for high-ticket, high-trust products and services. He’s here to share what he’s learned throughout his journey to help you attract your ideal clients and achieve the business goals you’ve been dreaming of. Welcome to the show, Steve.

Steve Gordan:             Hey, Barbara. Thanks for having me. This is going to be fun.

Barbara Hales:             I think so, too. Steve, growing your firm’s revenue 10 times is quite impressive. What was the biggest challenge you had, and how did you achieve this monumental growth?

Steve Gordan:             Well, the biggest challenge was that I was young and new in business, and there was an awful lot we didn’t know at that point between me and my team. We were all fairly young, and so it was always a bit of an adventure as we learned how to grow the firm. But back then, we would get referrals from clients, which are great. Everybody gets referrals, but we didn’t really know what made the phone ring one day and what made it not ring the next day. So, our new client flow was really inconsistent, and we really didn’t know what to do at that point to influence it. We were selling a service that people didn’t wake up in the morning wanting to buy with something that very specific people needed to buy at certain times in the life of their business, and that’s a bit of a different animal to sell. It’s not like we had iPhones for sale with people lined up around the corner of the building to get one. So those were all big challenges.

Barbara Hales:             So how did you overcome them?

Steve Gordan:             Well, I became a student of marketing and really began to devour everything that I could get my hands on to learn how to market and to sell. I came from a technical background and really wasn’t trained to sell. I got out into the real world and had all this great technical expertise and then was confronted with the stark reality that that expertise is absolutely useless to the entire planet if I can’t figure out how to persuade someone to pay me for delivering that expertise to them. And I imagine a lot of your listeners can relate to that.

Barbara Hales:             Yes, it really is very tough, especially in these days. It’s very trying times. You mentioned that you have some tactics to get referrals successfully. What are some of those?

Steve Gordan:             Well, I think Barbara, before we dive into the tactics, I think the important thing to understand is the real challenge that you face when you go about referrals in the traditional way. The way that most people will go about referrals is you go to a patient, you’ll go to a client, and you’ll ask them something that sounds to them like, “So, do you know anyone that needs what we do this week?” And their answer of course is, “No.” They can’t think of anyone, and you wonder why you’re not getting referrals.

The fundamental reason that clients and patients hesitate is that you’re asking them to make a connection to someone that is a relationship that they have, that they likely care about, that they value, and you’re asking them to put that relationship on the line in the hopes that the person that they think of has a problem that you can solve and that you don’t mess that relationship up, whether intentionally or unintentionally. So all of the risk, all of the downside of making that referral sits on the shoulders of your patient or your client, and all of the upside is coming to you. So, people hesitate. They think that there’s really more risk there than there is any benefit to them, and so they won’t do it unless they’re absolutely sure that the person that they’re going to send over is a perfect fit for you. That’s the reason most businesses don’t get very many referrals.

What we discovered and what we’ve been teaching our clients since 2012 is that if you can remove that risk and make it easy for the patient or for the client to refer, then all of a sudden you can unlock all of this goodwill that you’ve got with the people who are doing business with you. They want to help you. They just need a really low-risk way to do that. And what we’ve discovered is that the easiest way to make that happen is to use an information piece, something we call a referral kit. Sometimes the referral kit might take the form of a short book on a particular problem that you solve. Sometimes it might take the form of a presentation. Maybe that’s a live presentation, a seminar. Maybe it’s a virtual presentation where you do it over the web.

We find that those sorts of places to refer people to work much better. You’ll get access to not just the one or two people that that patient might happen to know that need help, but you’ll get access to many people in their network. And then because getting access to them, because you’re getting contact information, because you’re using that to send out a book or send out an invitation to an event, you now have the ability to communicate with that person independently, and now it’s your job to take over and add value in that prospect’s life and begin the sales process.

Barbara Hales:             Yes, that’s a good idea. Another idea that I recommend is, since people recommend those that they know and trust,  to actually make an appointment and meet your specialists in the area that are complimentary to you. For instance, if you’re a family physician, contact the local ultrasound office or the cardiologist, the pediatrician, all of the specialties that your patients will also be going to besides you. Ask to take them out for a cup of coffee. Sit down and get to know them. Talk to them. Tell them not only how you can help their patients, but also how they can help your patients to make it a good team approach.

Steve Gordan:             Yeah, I think that works well. The challenge you have and one of the things that we’ve observed over the years is that when you leave it to another professional just to remember to refer you, we find that it doesn’t happen as frequently as it could. And that’s where having … combining the two ideas. Go and meet with them, but have a short book. And it doesn’t have to be an elaborate 150 page book. We’ve done these for clients where they were as short as 12 typed pages in Microsoft Word and it got formatted as a 25 or 30 page book.

But because it’s a book, now you’ve got another professional who can confidently hand that out, because we all know the value of a book that has a pretty commonly held perceived value and it’s a high perceived value. And if it’s on a specific problem that you address that would be important to the patients of those specialists, then it’s very easy for them to say, anytime they hear someone talk about that problem, “Hey, I’ve got this book from my colleague, you should read it. Here’s a copy. He gave me a bunch of copies that I can give out to patients. Here’s a copy.”

And of course, in that book, you want to have pointers back to you. You want to have not just pointers back to make an appointment, but how can they get additional information? How can they learn more about the challenge that they’re facing and the potential solutions?

Barbara Hales:             Yes, that’s a great idea. Another idea that tags along with that is to actually give referral pads back to your office so that it’s easy for the specialist to just sign his name and give it to the patient. And all the information is already on it, so it saves the specialist’s time. He could just give it out and keep a record of it on his chart.

Steve Gordan:             Sure, sure. I will tell you, the medical profession has done a lot of things right when it comes to marketing. Intentionally or unintentionally, as a whole, the profession has done a number of things well, and the prescription pad is a great example of that. The fact that I can go to a doctor, and they can write a prescription for me to go do things and pay to do things that sound, frankly, a little bit ridiculous. When you think about some of the tests and some of the things that people are put through, without the magic of the prescription pad, without the magic of that kind of referral, then you really wouldn’t be able to make a lot of those things work.

I think the medical profession has some unique advantages that a lot of businesses don’t have. For example, an accountant could not easily pull off the same sort of thing. Much of that has to do with the history of the medical profession and how those services have been marketed and sold over the years.

Barbara Hales:             What are four ways you recommend to attract patients or clients?

Steve Gordan:             Well, I think first and foremost you need to understand who you’re trying to attract and who is an ideal patient. In a lot of practices, you may not have that flexibility because you’re simply dealing with patients that are delivered by an insurance company. But in higher-end practices, and particularly in specialties where you’re doing things that aren’t being reimbursed through insurance and people are paying out of pocket, I think it makes a great deal of sense to identify who would be an ideal candidate for that, who has the ability to buy that, who has the means to buy it, and come up with that profile.

That’s the first and most important step. I see people skip over it all the time because the assumption is, “Well, everybody could use that.” And that may be true, but that doesn’t mean that everybody is your ideal client. I think that’s probably the first and most fundamental thing.

The second is to focus on referrals. With our clients, we’ve got this concept of the attention ladder. And if you want to envision a ladder where you’re climbing up the different rungs of the ladder to get the attention of the people in your market, at the bottom of that ladder, the place to start is with referrals because they’re the easiest. They’re the most forgiving to being off on your messaging, or off on your offer, or off on your targeting because they bring with them trust from the person making the referrals. You get a lot of the work done for you just through the simple act of referral, which is why everybody knows that they close so much easier. I think the stat is that they, from Nielsen, is that the referred prospects close something like at the rate of four times that of cold prospects.

Once you’ve kind of mastered your message and your targeting and your offer, it’s your ideal client and proved it through referral, then you now have everything that you need to sort of climb that ladder and move up into paid media. And paid media is great because you can scale your reach fairly easily and fairly quickly. But if you don’t have your targeting and your messaging and your offer worked out, you can also go broke very quickly. So, we always advise folks to climb that ladder and do it sequentially, because that’s going to get you the best results and actually get you there quicker than any other way. So that would be the second, I think, key to attracting new clients.

The third is looking at the offer itself and making sure that what you’re offering is actually attractive to people. And the offer isn’t just what you deliver and the price you charge, but it’s the experience that you create around that. Are you creating an experience that someone might be willing to pay a premium for? I’m a big believer in commanding premium pricing against the market, because low pricing is a strategy that always fails. It’s a race to zero. Sooner or later the market gets to zero, and nobody wins that game.

Being in the middle makes you a commodity, and the only way to stand out and really be successful is to have premium pricing and create an experience that people are willing to pay for. I think that’s the third big key, because that will attract people by itself. We’ve worked with some physicians in the past. We’ve worked with an orthodontist in the past that did the same. Just he was wildly successful in his market because he created this great premium experience.

And then the final, I think, is just to fix your follow-up. I will tell you, this is one area where most of the medical profession, I think, falls down. You have the perfect reason for somebody to come back on a regular basis. And in most practices, they don’t do a good job of locking in patients for the next visit.

Barbara Hales:             So how would you recommend they do that?

Steve Gordan:             I would do it right at the point of checkout. I mean, when I get my haircut, the person doing the haircut always books the next appointment right then and there. Actually, I’ve had this conversation with my wife. She runs an ophthalmology practice. I think it’s their biggest opportunity to increase revenue is just a simple book the next checkup effort. And if they don’t book right then and there, make sure that there’s a call list to book them in.

There’s a dentist here in our town that we’ve been going to for a number of years, and they are aggressive about it. I mean, they’re super polite. But they are aggressive about getting you in, and they keep a list of who’s missed. I missed my last checkup because I was traveling, and our family tends go all on the same day. Well, I’ve had four calls in the last month with them trying to fit me into cancellations and open appointments. The woman that they have call is just polite and kind, and I’m always happy to take her call because she couldn’t be any nicer. And she’ll ask, “So what are your schedule preferences?” And she takes note of that, what days are best, so now she only calls me with the days of the week and the times of day that I tend to be free.

So thinking about those things and taking up the lost revenue that’s already walking through the door, I think, are key things to be doing.

Barbara Hales:             Another service that I really appreciate, which we could piggyback on what you’ve said, is I love getting a call two days out to remind me that I do have that appointment, in case it has slipped my mind or I didn’t see it in my appointment book, to remind me that I do have that appointment and the date and the time to refresh in my mind that I will be going there. They also make it easy to reschedule at that point if the appointment time is no longer convenient for me.

Steve Gordan:             Absolutely. I think all of those things are great. And going back to what we talked about with creating that premium experience, those little touches, as simple as they are, will really differentiate you because most practices aren’t doing that.

Barbara Hales:             That’s true. I also love getting a call to say happy birthday or a card. So for all of you doctor offices that are not doing it, you’re really missing a golden opportunity. Patients really do enjoy getting them.

Steve Gordan:             Yeah, and I think all of those things are great. Now, I think you can go wrong with that sort of stuff, too. The orthodontist where our kids go, who I know personally … I mean, she’s a friend. They have gone to sending out emails and text messages on birthdays. Maybe for the kids, that’s a great thing. But I get them for our kids’ birthdays. To me, it is the most impersonal thing. So I think if you’re going to try to create a personal touch and do that at scale, it’s got to still retain some personal interaction with it. There’s got to be that effort put in.

Barbara Hales:             Yeah, that’s why I love getting a birthday card in the snail mail.

Steve Gordan:             Yeah, and I think that’s a great idea.

Barbara Hales:             So, what are you referring to when you say paid media?

Steve Gordan:             Well, so that’s anything you pay for to get in front of people. So, it might be print. It might be TV, radio. It could be Facebook ads. It could be Google Ads, direct mail. All of those sorts of things I would categorize as paid media.

Barbara Hales:             Okay. So listeners, in case you’re starting to get a little bit nervous regarding the amount of money that you would have to put aside in your budget, I also just want to point out that there are a lot of free experiences that you could do. You can schedule a talk at the library for the community to see you and hear what you have to say in terms of conditions that you treat or conditions that patients have a lot of questions for. When you go, make sure to have a lot of business cards to give out to those who request them. You could also go to the local community health fair and also give a talk there. Again, on social media, in the chat rooms, in the forums, you could be there to supply the solutions to questions and problems that people are struggling with. So, paid opportunities are great. But if you don’t have the budget, there are plenty of unpaid, free opportunities for you, as well.

Steve Gordan:             Absolutely. I’m a big advocate of getting in front of a room of people, and doing that in a way where you’re talking about a specific enough problem that people with that problem will identify that event as being for them. If you go and are really general with the topic, it’s not going to work very effectively. But if you’re very specific and if you treat multiple types of conditions, you may segment by condition and put a talk on, and then have someone there from your office at the back of the room book appointments. That way, you’re not having to chase people down, or relying on them remembering, or hoping that they’ll get up the nerve to book an appointment.

Because let’s face it, booking an appointment with a doctor to deal with a mild, or even a serious medical condition, is a scary thing. We know people will hesitate and delay and procrastinate in doing it. So if you can give them the opportunity to take action right then and there, that’s not only good for you, it’s better for the patient because you’ve simplified the process of getting into your office, and you’ve given them an opportunity to take action right away and improve their lives.

Barbara Hales:             That’s absolutely true. Also, if you have a portal, what you can do is have a cheery little handout that has the URL of the portal available so that the patient could just go in and schedule their own appointment right then and there without having to speak to anyone if they’re shy.

Steve Gordan:             Absolutely. You always want to give them multiple ways to get in and not limit yourself just to one.

Barbara Hales:             Well, Steve, I really enjoyed this episode, and I’m sure that our listeners have learned a lot. Thank you so much for joining us.

Steve Gordan:             Thanks, Barbara. It’s been fun.

Barbara Hales:             This is another episode of Marketing Tips for Doctors. I’m glad you were able to spend time with us today. We’ll see you again soon.


Connect with Steve Gordon:    

Facebook: theunstoppableceo   


Book: product/B00LG96EHC 


YouTube: channel/UCzzP69vc9O-VvuTb8J5xfGw 

LinkedIn: gordonsteve/ 


Connect with Barbara Hales:    

Twitter:   @DrBarbaraHales   



Show website:  



YouTube: TheMedicalStrategist