Marketing Your Diabetes Program

Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (CDCES) and registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) offer diabetes education in a variety of settings. Hospital-based diabetes centers often come to mind, but diabetes education is also provided at county health departments, physician offices, private practice settings, on-site at employer groups, through diabetes related companies, and more. Marketing your program to reach more people can help keep your practice thriving while helping people with diabetes live healthier.

Hospitals often have marketing teams that support their diabetes programs, but you might find your department isn’t a priority in their marketing strategy. No matter where you are practicing, it’s a good idea to be involved with the marketing of your services to ensure a steady stream of new business. Put your feet on the ground, and call on customers that can send business your way!


Take time to create a marketing plan. Involve a few other staff members. If you are in private practice, consider your business goals. Grab a pen and paper: these questions will help you get started:

Who is your target customer? Do they have type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes? Do you see children with diabetes? Are you limited to certain payors, or does your program accept all insurance plans?

What services do you want to promote? Are you marketing a wide variety of services, such as diabetes classes, insulin pump and CGM training, meal planning instruction, and/or medication management, for example? Or are your services specific such as meal planning instruction only?

Where do you want to provide your services? Are you limited to your office, or are you able to provide services in physician offices, employer group locations, or even the supermarket? Do you offer telehealth?

Who is going to pay for the service? Do you accept insurance? Can you get a diabetes company to pay you to teach classes in a physician office to help build their brand awareness while helping the physician and their patients? Do you have contacts with food or beverage companies that might pay you to do supermarket tours for people with diabetes while giving a mention on how their product can fit into a meal plan for diabetes? Consider grants available through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and the food companies that partner with AND’s Dietetic Practice Groups (DPGs) if you have a RDN on your team.

Create a sell sheet. This can be one page that lists your services, including details on individual visits, classes and programs, and more. Put together a packet that includes a referral form and/or instructions on how to send a referral, your sell sheet, and business cards. If you are in private practice, this can be as simple as creating a Word document that lists information about you and your location, services that you provide, and payors that you work with. If you are hospital or corporate based, your marketing team may have to be involved and materials approved. 

Make sure to list benefits to the patient on your sell sheet, including statistics that demonstrate how medical nutrition therapy has been shown to lower A1C.


Physician offices: Identify 5-10 large physician practices in the area that see a high volume of people with diabetes. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask a rep who is selling diabetes products for suggestions. If you are targeting children with diabetes, call on the pediatric endocrinologists. If you treat gestational diabetes, include OB/GYN offices and perinatology offices.

Employer Groups: Contact the wellness coordinator in the human resource (HR) department at local employer groups offering an insurance plan with which you can work. Employer groups will often let you come on-site to provide diabetes classes or to meet individually with employees; the insurance company representatives love this because it helps keep their customer happy. If you can identify a local representative for an insurance plan that you work with, they may be willing to introduce you to some employer group contacts.

Local Dietitians and Diabetes Educators: Yes, this makes sense! Another center or educator might get a referral for a patient with an issue or need they don’t work with. Some hospital-based centers are short staffed post-COVID, and the system physicians are referring patients to private practice educators due to an otherwise long wait for an appointment. Let other local diabetes centers and private practice educators know that you are open for business and you might pick up some overflow business and/or form some partnerships to better serve the community.

Managed Care: Most managed care companies have a Diabetes Program Manager. You can use LinkedIn to identify who that person is at the state level for an insurance plan that you accept. Contact that person and let them know what you are offering. They will be excited and contact with them may facilitate some new opportunities. Their role is to help manage diabetes costs by creating programs to help members better manage their diabetes. They will be excited to hear from you. If you are a sole provider in private practice, they want to hear from you, too.

Look around your community and identify other types of accounts that you would like to target such as wound care centers, retail pharmacies, durable medical equipment stores, churches, physical therapy clinics, retina specialists, and more. Think outside the box!


Some healthcare professionals love to sell, and work in the pharmaceutical or medical device industry in roles that utilize both their clinical knowledge and sales skills. Others say they hate to sell. No matter how you feel about selling your services, you can do it! Your services are highly valuable. Many people living with diabetes never receive diabetes education, and may not know they have insurance coverage for the service. 

Follow-up with your initial target list of potential customers weekly, whether in person or virtual, until an agreement is reached for starting a program or receiving referrals. If you call on a decision maker several times and feel that there is little potential, wait and follow-up in a month while adding a new account to your call list. Personnel can change, and a new referral nurse or HR coordinator may be interested in your services even though the previous person in the role was not. It is better to start with a short list and work that list until you get referrals, than to do a mass one-time mailing or email blasts.

Your goal is to identify the decision maker, which is often the referral nurse. The physician enters the referral, and it is the job of the referral nurse to identify someone who can take it. Although your long-term goal may be to get in front 

of the physician, the referral nurse should be your first point of contact. If you already have a strong relationship with the physician, meet with them and ask for an introduction to the referral nurse. At an employer group, the decision maker might be the HR director, the wellness coordinator, the on-site nurse, or a general employee that is involved with a wellness initiative. Many companies have staff directories on their websites, which will provide the contact information for the HR department. It may take a few phone calls or on-site visits before you identify who the decision maker is. 

Whether you are calling on a physician’s office or another type of potential referral source, the following steps will help you to get started. For this example, I will use calling on a physician’s office.

Step One: Approach the front desk in a friendly manner. Plan your introduction. When I approach the check-in desk, I hand the clerk my card and say, “Hello, my name is Melissa Herrmann Dierks, and I am a dietitian and diabetes educator that can help your patients with diabetes who have Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS). Would you please ask the referral nurse if they have a few minutes so that I can give them some information?” 

  • Sales Pro tip: If the front desk tells you the referral nurse is unable to meet, ask nicely if the office manager is available. If you talk to the office manager, they may see your value and get you in front of the referral nurse.
  • Sales Pro tip: If nobody will talk to you, smile and thank whoever you can. Ask if there is a better day and time to return. Leave your referral packet and/or sell sheet with the front desk to give to the referral nurse. This is normal! You will return in a week and try again.
  • Sales Pro Tip: The best time to call on physician offices is in the morning before they start putting patients back into rooms. Try to avoid Mondays and Fridays which are the busiest days.

Step Two: Ask the referral nurse or office manager where they refer patients to for diabetes education. If they have a diabetes educator in the office, the office may not be a high priority for you, but you may be able to get overflow business, or patients that have needs beyond their offerings. Gather information using a conversational approach and remember to plan your questions before you get to the office. Questions to ask might include:

Do they have a specific RDN or CDCES they refer to? How often do they refer patients for diabetes education or nutrition counseling? Where do they send patients who need insulin pump/CGM training? What kind of insurance do most of their patients have? (If, for example, they have Medicaid, and Medicaid in your state does not cover your services, that office may not be a good target for you.) Have they ever offered diabetes classes in the office? Do they have a conference room or break room where on-site diabetes classes could take place? What is the easiest way for them to send a referral?

  • Sales Pro Tip: Don’t get discouraged if they have someone they already refer to. You can still try to get part of the business, as you may offer services they don’t. For example, private practice educators often offer individual supermarket tours, while outpatient hospital-based dietitians don’t. You can set yourself apart. If you are in private practice, you may be able to see a patient sooner since many hospital-based education centers are short staffed post-COVID.
  • Sales Pro Tip: Tailor your questions to the type of referral that you are looking for. If you don’t offer insulin pump/CGM training, don’t ask about that.
  • Sales Pro Tip: Set yourself up as a resource for the referral nurse. Let them know that if you can’t help a patient due to payor issues, etc., that you will help find someone who can.

Step Three: Detail the features and benefits of your services and explain what you can offer. Plan key points to discuss before you visit the office, since your time will be limited. Examples include:

  • I’m an RDN and CDCES who can help your patients who have diabetes and BCBS. I provide meal planning instruction, teach blood glucose monitoring and diabetes technology, and even take patients to the supermarket to teach them how to shop healthy for diabetes. My office is right down the street, only two stop lights away! I also provide virtual visits which most patients find very convenient. I don’t require a physician’s referral; you can just call me with the patients contact information and I will call them and schedule their visit.
  • Our diabetes center is staffed with RDNs, RNs, and CDCESs and we work with people of all ages living with diabetes. We accept most insurance plans, and can save your office time by teaching your patients insulin administration so that your staff doesn’t have to. We are highly experienced in insulin pump and CGM training, and can help your patients find the best technology for them. We also offer a series of diabetes classes: they are a great way to learn! Our dietitian even does cooking demonstration classes. It’s easy to send a referral: just fax this referral form along with the patient’s demographic sheet to us, and we will contact them within 24 hours. Our office is easy to find: it’s on the first floor of the outpatient building at the hospital.
  • We have a diabetes education center right inside Joe’s Pharmacy. We teach diabetes self-management training for adult patients, and can provide patients with the diabetes medications and supplies they need. Our education services are cash-based, but very affordable, and often less than the co-pay that patients would have to pay at other centers. We also offer a service to check the prices that patients are currently paying for their prescriptions, and can often save them money on their prescription costs. What makes us different is that we can often see the patient the same day, so you can send them on over with this referral form and their medication list, and we’ll give them information to get them started right away, which can save your staff time. We are downtown next to the medical plaza and easy to find.

  • Sales Pro Tip: When detailing your service, make sure to emphasize the type of patients that you are looking for, where you are located, what insurance you take, and how to send a referral.

Step Four: Validate that your services would meet the needs of their patients. This might sound like: 

  • “Do you agree that my office is close to where many of your patients live, making meeting with a dietitian easier than going downtown?”
  • “It sounds like being able to attend diabetes class right at their doctor’s office would be helpful to your patients, do you agree?”
  • “It sounds like the local hospital-based diabetes center has a long wait for an appointment and that being able to be seen by us the same day could be helpful to your patients starting insulin, do you agree?”

  • Sales Pro Tip: Don’t feel bad if you get pushback during this step. If there is a hesitation, take a step back and gather more information. Don’t push ahead. Perhaps there was a need that you did not yet uncover.

Step Five: Negotiate to meet your customer’s needs. An example could be, “I understand that you are required to send your patients with diabetes to the hospital-based diabetes center. Would you consider sending those who are interested in a home pantry make-over or supermarket tour to me since the hospital doesn’t offer those services?”

  • Sales Pro Tip: During negotiation you are trying to present a win-win scenario that helps the customer realize how and when they can use your services.

Step Six: Ask for the business. This is the part that many people hate the most. Closing your sales call might sound like, “Here is my referral form. Will you please send the next patient that needs diabetes education my way?” Always thank the customer for their time.

  • Sales Pro Tip: If you don’t ask for the business, somebody else will. With managed care paying for telehealth, many diabetes educators are entering private practice, and there is more competition for business now more than ever.


  • Ask patients to refer their friends and family members who live with diabetes.
  • Offer a free lunch and learn or supermarket tour for physician office staff. Build that relationship and they will be loyal in referring patients to you. You don’t have to provide lunch if it’s not in your budget, have them bring a bag lunch.
  • Partner with diabetes companies that can sponsor diabetes classes or supermarket tours: they pay you, and in turn, you feature their product during your class.
  • Market your services to group homes, adult and child day care facilities,
  • and adolescent residential facilities. They often need menu adjustments, carb counting information, and training for their staff on how to manage hypoglycemia and care for diabetes. Hospital-based centers may not have a way to bill for hourly services, but those in private practice can.