6 Mistakes Healthcare Practices Make with Referrals

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The Connect the Doc Team

Marketing for healthcare practitioners have become increasingly competitive over the past few years. Gone are the days of paying for targeted keywords such as “Vancouver Dentist” or “Calgary Physiotherapist” at fifty cents a click.

Now those same clicks cost in excess of $5. At the same time, prospective patients are more cautious and do their homework by reading clinic reviews before booking appointments.

With competition and marketing costs rising, it is important for clinics to implement a solid referral strategy that offsets more expensive lead acquisition strategies. However, many clinics make simple referral mistakes that limit the amount of financial success they can achieve from this highly valuable strategy. Here are the top six:

1. Not including referrals as part of marketing and growth strategy

Most practitioners will agree with me that referrals from existing patients are the number one source of new business for most private healthcare clinics. However, many of them have not yet adopted referral generation as part of their formal growth strategy.

As popular business author Seth Godin mentions in his book Purple Cow, businesses should find a group of ambassadors or “sneezers” who truly care about what they offer and need very little incentive to recommend the business to friends and family.

It’s your job to provide your existing patients with an incredible experience every time they walk through the door of your clinic so that they become sneezers. The small gestures that set you apart from your competition don’t require a big marketing budget.

2. Not checking association guidelines on referral marketing

Many healthcare practitioners automatically assume they are not allowed to offer any incentives for referrals. In reality, every college has drastically different rules and regulations when it comes to advertising guidelines. In general, colleges in British Columbia seem to be much more lenient than colleges in Ontario. Analogously, massage therapy colleges tend to be more lenient than dental colleges.

You should try to understand the advertising rules and regulations of the college that governs you and create your strategy accordingly. Here are a few questions you should ask:

a)   Are you allowed to give gift cards to patients for referrals?

b)   Are you allowed to give a charitable donation for referrals received?

c)   Are you allowed to give your patients loyalty points (Aeroplan, AirMiles, or Custom) that can be redeemed for various gift cards, services, products, etc.?

Knowing the answers to these questions may help you come up with a strategy that gives you a huge boost in referrals. For example, if you are allowed provide your patients with a $20 gift card for every patient that they refer, that would be a MUCH better business decision than paying $5 for every click off Google. Most clinics that spend money on marketing have a $90 per client acquisition cost. It’s a no brainer to include referrals in your strategy.

3. Not having a formal process

Many clinics stop asking for referrals because they have tried a few times but felt awkward about it. Others do it inconsistently because there’s no formal process.

To generate referral opportunities consistently, you should implement a simple system that addresses:

a)   Who should be responsible (Example: Receptionist)

b)   When to ask patients for referrals (Example: 1 week after a patient has paid for their treatment)

c)    How it should be done (Example: A postcard stapled to the patient’s invoice along with a quick verbal explanation)

d)   Why the patient should refer (Example: Incentives that are in line with the rules and regulations of your college)

Train your staff on this simple system and make it part of their everyday processes. Keep in mind that you can also automate some of these workflows with Connect the Doc’s new referral features. To sign up and get a sneak preview of these beta features, email us at: info@connectthedoc.com

4. Not building up a strong referral network

Referrals from other practitioners are some of the most qualified and highest converting opportunities a clinic can get. Unfortunately, many healthcare practitioners – especially new ones – lack an extensive referral network that translates into a real dollar value.

Take the time to network with other healthcare practitioners in your area, and make it easy for them to send you referrals.

Connect the Doc’s new referral features allow you to identify the right practitioners, endorse one another, and send, receive, and track referrals. You can visit www.connectthedoc.com/tour to learn more about these new features and to sign up for a free beta account.

5. Not thanking patients and practitioners for referring patients

You’d be amazed at the number of clinic owners who don’t bother thanking referrals formally. Be courteous and surprise them with a simple hand-written thank-you card. If you are allowed incentives to encourage referrals, do it. For example, you can send a small charitable donation through Chimp.net, a Vancouver-based startup that allows you to gift a charitable donation. The receiving party will receive the funds via email and can donate that amount to any registered charity in Canada.

6. Not making it easy for referred patients to book appointments

Your referral strategy becomes less effective if the referred patients have to jump through hoops in order to book an appointment with you. With Connect the Doc’s online booking widget, your referred patients can book or request an appointment on your website in less than a minute, 24/7. The easier you make it for your referred patients to book appointments, the more appointments you will get.

If you wish to learn more about how you can use Connect the Doc’s platform to automate some of your referral workflows, please send us an email at info@connectthedoc.com and book a tutorial with one of our referral experts. We will be glad to introduce you to other practitioners in your area or help you customize your account so you can more referrals.