3 Ways To Get More Referrals From Your Patients

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The Connect the Doc Team

Why referrals can be your most powerful marketing tool.

Your dental practice can have beautifully-produced video ads, a fantastic content marketing program that delivers real value to patients, a sophisticated SEO strategy that has you at the top of all the relevant searches in your area, and a honed email marketing plan that engages users—and all of those tools still won’t be as valuable to your practice as an effective patient referral initiative. That’s the power of referral marketing when done correctly.

People trust recommendations from friends, family, and even acquaintances more than they’ll trust your marketing campaigns. This idea isn’t just limited to dental and medical practices, it’s true for most types of industries. A landmark study conducted by Nielsen found that 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know.

Now that we’ve established that it’s important to acquire new patients and that existing patient referrals are among the best tools for practice growth, we need to ask the following question: how does your office get more patient referrals?

Thankfully, you can secure more patient referrals by sticking to some sound strategies and nurturing a transparent and value-added referral program. We’ll provide you some basic strategies and best practices as well as three templates that you can employ to kickstart your ability to get high-quality referrals from your valuable patients.

Basic referral strategies utilized by most practices

If you have a referral program in place right now, it’s probably an informal one. Maybe you casually ask your patients at the front desk before they leave. Or perhaps you send cards in the mail that ask them if they’d like to share your info with anyone they know. Or, maybe you don’t ask at all because you’re worried about bothering them. Don’t be.

When patients receive a treatment or service they like, they’re happy to tell others about it. Sometimes they just need a little nudge or an incentive to do so. If you’re open, honest, and direct with your patients when asking, and if you have already established a level of trust through outstanding quality of care, then you’ll likely find that many of them will be happy to share their experiences with others.

Referral program best practices

There are many different elements that you can incorporate into your referral initiative, but in general the simpler you keep it the more effective it will be. Here are some of the elements you absolutely need to include as you build your ultimate referral program.

Incentivize participation

The great thing about incentives is that there is a wide range of what will motivate people. You can offer patients a small discount on service or even something like an upgraded toothbrush for securing one new referral. You can also go “all-out” and hold a contest where the winner who refers the most patients gets something big like a free cleaning or a night in a local hotel for a staycation. Even incentives that seem insignificant can be important motivators. With all of this said, it’s important to remember that patients aren’t going to refer you unless they are pleased with your service.

Train your staff

This is a big one: you have to get your staff coordinated and on board with the referral program if you want it to succeed. They are the caretakers of the initiative on the front lines, and that means that they have to have the correct information, be trained properly, and execute the scripts accurately and reliably.

Prioritize simplicity

Even when your patients are crazy about your practice, you still need to make it as easy as possible for them to refer people. Keep your forms, whether analog or digital, as simple and short as possible, and respect the time they are taking to help you secure new patients.

Make the most of your digital tools

With the help of digital tools such as online website forms, social media platforms, and email marketing templates, it’s never been easier for your practice to connect with patients for referrals. You know your patient base, so make sure you are utilizing everything you need in order to effectively get the message to them.

Set goals and track results

It’s tempting to say that any referrals you get are icing on the cake, but you have to track your results in order to get the most out of your effort. Set specific goals for referrals and track your performance across all areas. Then you’ll be able to assess what needs to be improved upon and what is working well.

Three scenarios where you can shine in securing patient referrals:

There are many different times when you can ask for patient referrals, but some of the most common include:

  • Verbally as the patient is leaving the office
  • In an follow-up email after their appointment
  • In an email newsletter

If you’re ready to increase your number of referrals, download our PDF template scripts for these three scenarios and get ready to transform your referral initiative.

Scenario 1 — In the office

Thank you so much for visiting us, (insert name)! Are you happy with the care you received today?

If yes: That’s great to hear! As a family run practice, we rely on the support and feedback of our patients. Do you currently know anyone who is looking for a new dental practice?

If yes: Well I’ll send you an introductory email that you can forward to them and let them know about our practice. Once they complete their first appointment you’ll receive (insert incentive) from us as a thank you.

If no: If you ever do find anyone you think would be a good fit for us, keep in mind that we offer our patients (insert incentive) for each new patient they refer.

Thank you so much for being a valued patient, and have a nice day.

Scenario 2 — Post appointment email

Hi (insert name),

As a small practice, we rely on the support of patients like you to spread the word about our services. The biggest compliment we can receive is a referral to your friends and family, so we’ve made it really easy for you to make referrals.

If you’re ready to tell someone about our practice, just click this link and we’ll send you an introductory email with information about our office and services that you can forward to a friend or family member. As soon as they complete their first appointment, you’ll receive (insert incentive). Let us know here if you have any questions about referring someone to us.

Thank you again for being a part of the (insert practice name) family, and we look forward to seeing you again on (insert date of next appointment if applicable).

Scenario 3 — Email newsletter

As a valued member of the (insert practice name) family, we wanted to let you know about an exciting contest we’re running! We’re giving our patients the opportunity to win (insert incentive) just by telling their friends and family about the great care and service you receive at (insert practice name).
Whoever refers the most new patients within (insert timeframe) will win (insert incentive). You can head over to our Facebook page for more information about the contest, and for a full list of rules. If you already know someone who would be a good fit for our practice, just click here to get started.

Dealing with legality issues surrounding referrals

One of the most common questions that practice owners have is whether or not it is legal to ask for referrals, and especially whether or not it is legal to provide incentives for them to do so. In general, the answer is yes, but there are a few important caveats that need to be addressed.

First, the specific laws governing these questions differ state by state, so you should always consult an attorney who is licensed in your practice’s home state before implementing a referral incentive or contest.

For many practices, running a patient referral contest through their social media channels is a great way to encourage current patients to participate. However, you should keep in mind that the FTC draws distinctions between sponsored “contests,” which involve choosing a winner on some sort of merit (such as who refers the most new patients), and “giveaways” or “sweepstakes,” which feature winners chosen at random. For dental practices it’s probably best to stick to “contests,” and always remember to add disclaimers and official rules to posts about referral incentives. In every case, being more upfront with your patients is never a bad thing.