Regional Support Manager, Amy Hansford, shares her top 10 tips for increasing referrals from existing patients.
Frequently, when I’m in practice discussing overall business plans, the subject of marketing comes up on how to attract the right patient into the practice. Often, we start by looking at what’s happening with internal marketing. Are we making best use of the patients already on our list and seeking word of mouth referrals from them?
Tip one: if you want to increase the number of referrals you get from your existing patients, then the first place to start is by providing a truly remarkable experience for them. So, ensure when your patients walk through your door that each small part of their journey within the practice has been well thought through. This includes the visual and sensory impact as well as the warm welcome they receive from the front desk.
A practice of mine recently hit the landmark of 2,000 patients on plan. When I was chatting with the principal and owner about their success, I asked what the magic formula was with patient numbers. The principal dentist summed it up by saying: “Right people in the practice. Now, from the moment the patient walks in they experience a buzz and a great atmosphere. Our team have protocols that they follow and hopefully the patient leaves not only satisfied, but with a great story to tell in terms of a positive experience.”
So, think about your patient journey and the small changes you could make to offer an exceptional experience for your patients. This will then lead to those all-important referrals for your existing patients’ family and friends.
Tip two: this might sound obvious but it’s something a lot of practices fail to do and that’s ask your patients for referrals. One way to do this is to include your referral cards and wording within your ‘Thank you for choosing us’ cards or post treatment packs. Another method is to send letters or emails to your patients to say, ‘We are welcoming patients just like you. Please refer us to your friends and family.’ As RSMs, we have templates we can share with practices which have worked well in the past.
Tip three: consider creating ‘spread the word’ cards. I’ve seen some great cards of this type that our in-house Design Team have produced for our practices in the past. They can also produce fabulous posters and slide shows that can be loaded onto your waiting room screens. These are great ways to let patients know you’d like a referral.
Tip four: consider offering a referral incentive. So, a thank you to those loyal patients referring into the practice. Have a chat to your patients and ask them what they would find appealing as an incentive. Ensure you react in a timely way so that when the patient’s friend or family member comes in, they receive an acknowledgement from you. You could send a warm thank you from one of the team in the form of an email, a card or a phone call to let them know that you really appreciate that recommendation. That may encourage them to consider other people they’d like to refer.
Tip five: make use of your social media to tell your patients’ stories. This is obviously a great place to showcase what you do at the practice. You can show the great patient journey and the experience they’ll have if they become one of your patients. We all know some treatments can be life-changing for patients, so, tap into the emotional side of what you do for people and show how you can affect people’s confidence and their overall wellbeing.
If you want some ideas of how to go about this, follow other practices on social media. There are some that do this really well, so it’s worth following some of them to see how they’re doing it.
You might also look at feedback services. I’ve seen Working Feedback work very well in terms of sharing reviews from patients. Things are done in a timely way so reviews on your website are fresh and not from three years ago, as is sometimes the case! Prospective patients can see a review from someone who’s been to the practice recently. The company moderates the reviews and then uploads them onto your website, optimising your Google reviews. Also, I have spoken to people from Working Feedback and they have evidence that shows if you ask for a review the closer to the event (appointment), the higher the success rate.
Tip six: build relationships with influencers. Can you identify influencers in your community and build relationships with them so they can promote your business to their followers and provide those valuable word of mouth referrals?
Tip seven: make use of your staff. Who better to promote your practice than the people who work there? Make sure you have referral cards for all staff. When I worked in practice, I was always amazed at the number of people who would chat to me about teeth when they found out I worked in dentistry. As I was a raving fan of our practice I often sent in referrals. So, use your raving fans and thank them when a referral books in.
Tip eight: network in your local area. You might attend a local group to give a talk. This gives something back to your local community and at the same time, builds relationships and an awareness of who you are and your practice culture.
When I was in practice I used to love visiting schools. It was a lovely way to do something good, educate and hopefully leave your imprint for future. It’s also something you can share in your newsletter or on your social media platforms.
Tip nine: dentists from other practices referring patients to you for services such as straightening or implants. This is a strategy I enjoy exploring with practices as it’s another great way to attract patients and spread the word.
Finally, tip 10: wherever your referrals come from, always remember to say thank you. Be imaginative and creative in the way you do this. I had a practice that sent flowers to people’s workplace to say thank you. What a great way to create a buzz and a conversation about why they’ve received those flowers!
So hopefully you’re now brimming with ideas about how you can get word of mouth referrals to build your business. Good luck!