Finding a good doctor is like finding a good nail technician – people want a personal referral from someone they trust. If you’re still looking for Dr. Right, here are some suggestions from physicians and nail techs who’ve made referral relationships work.
Of course, you may have other questions, and your best bet is to write them all down. “I’d also want to know what they tell clients who come to them because of peeling nails, because I think that many people with that problem visit a doctor first. So I’d want to know if they are willing to put those patients on a home-care program or refer them to a manicurist,” says Michelle Conies, owner of The Nail Spa in Silverdale, Wash. “I’d also want to know their pricing structure because I think that’s one of the first questions a client would ask. And what kinds of tests do they run to diagnose disorders? Clients want to know those things, too.”
While many of these questions can be answered over the phone, Dr. Roth and others recommend a face-to-face interview so that you can get a better sense of the person. “For example, is he or she presentable? How clean is the office? How professional is the office staff?” Dr. Roth asks. Next, Warfield recommends inviting the physician to your salon to tour your facilities and discuss your disinfection and sanitation practices.
When all else fails, though, and you just can’t find a doctor who’s interested, don’t give up. Dr. Mix recommends trying again when you have a real client with a definite need, as some doctors then might be more responsive.
“Have the information you need to talk to the doctor, then call and tell the receptionist that you have a client who needs to see the doctor but that you’d like to talk to him about the particular case,” Dr. Mix advises. “The main thing is that if you have a patient you think needs to be referred, be knowledgeable about her problem and nail diseases and disorders in general so the doctor knows you know what you’re talking about.”
By following up with another call or letter, you may well be able to build a relationship with the physician. Of course, you should also follow-up with the patient alter her first visit to get feedback on the doctor, his recommended course of treatment, and when he thinks she will be able to return for her regular services.
Consider the Possibilities
Even as you work to cover your bases by establishing relationships with specialists to whom you can refer clients for their nail- and skin-related concerns, keep your mind open to the possibilities as some physicians may be open to a more give-and-take relationship. Cross-promotional opportunities abound. For example, Dr. Roth once purchased 10 gift certificates for pedicures that he gave to patients after they recovered from foot surgery. “After a patient recovers and has the bandages removed, the feet can look pretty rough,” he notes. “I think it’s just a nice thing to do for them, and I’m not sure why I haven’t done it in a while.” Perhaps because no one’s reminded him?
“I get patients who ask about seeing a pedicurist for in-between foot care,” he continues, “and I’m happy to give out names and cards. I think there’s a huge potential that’s untapped. And there’s no question that when a pedicurist sends me patients that she’s on my mind.”
Vaughn, too, discusses the symbiotic relationship between podiatrists and pedicurists. “I have a few clients who see the chiropodist every four months, and he’s told me what will help him out in-between their visits to him,” she says. “We’re on the save wavelength and know that our interests are purely in the client’s health. When I see one of his clients, we talk and he’ll tell me things like, ‘Please encourage her to continue using her topical sprays, and keep her nail plate thinned.’ She comes in regularly and I give her encouragement to continue her at-home treatment and the results have been good. Our mutual clients see that we care and want to work with them.”
Footworks takes this partnership to the cutting edge with its location of podiatrist and pedicurist, but Dr. Mix and his wife, while perhaps the only husband-and-wife team, are certainly not the only partners bridging beauty and health.
At Perfect 10, for example, Walker saw her original one-way referral relationship with a plastic surgeon (one of the five doctors she cultivated) become a partnership that eventually led her business in an entirely new direction.
“The plastic surgeon now comes and does seminars and a slide show, answering clients’ questions as he goes through the different procedures,” she notes. “These are services they wouldn’t make an appointment for to learn about but they’ll come to a seminar and we’ll do a free service.” Just the customer appreciation alone was enough for Walker, but she also appreciated it when the plastic surgeon began referring his patients to her salon for body treatments. And when he built a surgical center he invited her to become a part of it.
“It’s a great link, and it all evolved from a nail salon,” says Walker, who is also a licensed esthetician. “I never forget that my client base comes from nails, but with the way the industry has changed ... we just couldn’t survive on $15 manicures. I don’t hard-sell any of my clients on services, but if I’m waxing a client who mentions she hates her cellulite, I’ll share the solutions that I know about.”
Similarly, Weiner noticed a spike in demand for herbal wraps and seaweed body masks several months ago, only to learn that a local chiropractor was referring her patients to the spa for these services. “The chiropractor explained that these detoxifying services are part of her holistic approach,” Weiner explains. “She also sends clients here when her massage therapist is booked, particularly since she found out we’re doing La Stone therapy and Reiki.” She’s found that a few oncologists have referred their cancer patients to her spa for massage therapy, as well. And at least one dermatologist is sending them for facials.
Weiner plans to nurture these referral relationships further by developing a more formal follow-up from her staff to the referring physician in addition to establishing more cross-referral opportunities.
“I think the relationship between salons and doctors will continue to grow closer,” Dr. Mix says. “You’re already seeing it with plastic surgeons and dermatologists seeking out spas. Doctors have to get more people through their medical practice just to maintain the same income they had before, and the more people they can get to help them, the better off they are.” While that perhaps sounds mercenary, Dr. Mix assures us it’s not. “I was in Footworks just yesterday and one of Laura’s clients had a small corn between her toes. I trimmed it out and the client walked out feeling more comfortable than she had in a while. We’re not pushing clients from one side of the aisle to the other. I see this as an alternative to the usual way of practice, and there are more and more doctors out there who are starting to feel this way.”
“Even if I make just one referral a month it’s worth it,” Walker says. “Mine isn’t a big salon, but we’re very personal in what we do. What we have developed may sound quite grandiose, but it’s not. Even if you’re a small salon in a small area (which we are), it’s just a matter of asking your clients who they see and then calling that doctor. For me it really was that simple.”