When trying to develop a pipeline of new patients, dental practice owners often hear about the importance of utilizing various marketing techniques that range from boosted Facebook posts to pay-per-click advertising to local search engine optimization. While each of these strategies have their individual strengths and merits, you don’t want to make the mistake of focusing on current marketing trends while forgetting what’s worked in the past.
Referrals still rank as the best and most cost-effective way for any dental practice to acquire new patients. Ideally, every dental practice should strive to have referrals make up between 40 to 60 percent of their new patients each year.
After all, getting a referral should be fairly easy. You provide an outstanding service and excellent value to your patients, and they, in exchange, happily refer you to family, friends, and coworkers in search of an exceptional dentist. Unfortunately, too many dentists fail to take advantage of this incredibly powerful dental practice marketing tool that’s just sitting in their office on a day-to-day basis.
Whether a matter of pride, not wanting to impose on the patient, or simply a product of neglect on the part of you and your staff, failing to push for patient referrals guarantees your practice will never reach its full growth and revenue potential.
Getting Comfortable Asking for Referrals
It’s easy for those running a dental practice to convince themselves that asking for patient referrals can cast a negative reflection on the practice and staff. Will asking for a referral seem desperate? Will it offend the patient to ask? Are you overreaching to ask a patient if they’d be willing to refer a friend or family member? When is the right time to ask?
First, let’s start by saying that you’ll never offend a patient by asking for a referral. Additionally, not only will you miss a golden opportunity to market yourself to those friends and family members of satisfied patients, you’re doing so even though your patient would be happy to assist. If you provide exceptional service and care, many grateful patients will be happy to recommend you simply out of wanting to say “thank you” for all that you do in protecting their oral health.
Here are a few examples on how and when you can ask for a patient referral by utilizing patient appreciation to continue to build your practice.
In the Beginning:
If you’ve ever participated in a raffle, purchased a lottery ticket, or even placed your name into a hat you know that people love the chance to win something at little to no cost. A great way to encourage patients to refer someone they know is to create a contest that rewards their engagement. You can enter patients into your contest through referrals or even through social media participation. A tweet, check in, or like on Facebook could all count as an entry into the contest.
How you structure the contest will depend on the state in which you practice. Some states have very strict anti-gambling laws that can run contrary to even the simplest raffles and giveaways. To make sure you stay on the right side of the law, it’s important that you fully understand any limitations local and state laws may have on the type of contest you decide to run.
With that being said, make sure whatever prize you tie to your contest is one worth talking about. You can tie the prize to a seasonal event, concert, or promotion, or it can be an evergreen option that your patients can use year round.
Whatever the type of prize you select, make sure to have it prominently displayed in your office’s reception area. While you don’t necessarily need to have the prize on hand, especially if it’s something large or ties into an event like a concert, you should have posters or signs informing your patients of what they can win if entered.
When you display your prize, it will prompt patients to ask questions. This creates a great opportunity for you to talk up the contest and engage your patients about what a referral would mean for your practice.
In the Middle:
Another perfect opportunity to utilize your contest is when patients are sitting in the dental chair. Let’s say, for example, you’ve set your contest to include patients who tweet or like your office while at their appointment. You can gently ask them if they’ve checked in or tweeted while waiting in reception and give them the opportunity to do so before starting their treatment.
Before you finish their treatment and send them back up front, you can take the opportunity to present them with literature about your contest and even with business cards they can give away.
At the End:
Finally, you can also ask for a patient referral during checkout, perhaps the best time to ask throughout the entire process. If a patient seems happy and satisfied by the treatment and care they have just received, now is a great time to ask them if they’d be willing to refer a friend or relative.
Unfortunately, these conversations and opportunities won’t come naturally if your front office staff isn’t trained and prepared for getting patient referrals. This important task shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of just one individual; every member of staff should buy into the process from the moment a patient walks in to the moment they leave. Everyone needs to buy into and feel comfortable with advancing new patient acquisition through referrals.
Different Methods, a Singular Goal
While your method of encouraging patient referrals doesn’t need to be based around a promotion or a giveaway, it’s important that no matter what strategy you choose to adopt you make it the primary focus of you and every member of your staff.
Patient referrals offer a great opportunity for you to organically grow your patient base through those whose trust and respect you’ve already won. You take pride in providing the best care possible, and your patients will be happy to reward those efforts if only you’d be willing to ask.