Ian Eslick looks at how to increase and make the most of your patients’ referrals…
We all know that a practice’s existing patients offer a great opportunity for growth, in terms of referrals and recommendations. But, how can you tap into that resource and really maximise the potential they offer in terms of spreading awareness of your practice and reaching new patients?
I believe the best approach is multi-pronged – using a mix of traditional methods and newer ones to reach as many people as possible…
Referral cards and conversation
Otherwise known as the traditional approach, there is still plenty to be said in favour of handing out something tangible and asking the patient to pass them on. The key to making this approach a success is all in the detail.
For example, are you handing it out at the right time, i.e. at the end of the treatment when they are happy with the outcome? Who is handing out the card? Perhaps it is something that will form part of their visits with the Treatment Coordinator (TCO), or would carry more weight if it came from the dentist directly. Do you offer an incentive to the referrer, e.g. discount on a specific treatment if someone they referred visits the practice?
Often, referral cards are left to languish in a cupboard, or placed on the front desk with patients expected to just pick them up spontaneously. In order for them to be effective, someone needs to be responsible for driving your referrals forwards. Consider having a target for how many you want to achieve each week, reporting back at team meetings on how you’re faring and having a structured approach as to when cards will be given out and by whom.
As a bolster to the above, you can ask patients to recommend you to their connections on social media. This is a great way of reaching a lot of potential new patients quickly and, while you might be posting on social platforms about your great services, this has added credibility as it comes from the patients themselves.
You can do this by asking your patients if they have a Facebook account and whether they wouldn’t mind checking-in to your practice and leaving you a nice review. Perhaps, if you feel confident enough and have a strong relationship with the patient, you could even ask them if they’d post a selfie with your team and their new smile!
Again, the key to this is setting out the way you are going to do it and appointing someone to lead the way. You could have posters in the waiting room asking people to check-in and review you, perhaps offering an incentive again e.g. putting all patients that do so in one month into a draw to win a prize. This could then be followed up post-treatment by the TCO or dentist. Online reviews and recommendations are simply another way for patients to refer your services, but rather than to just one person it is to their entire social network.
Taking these two lines of attack, and committing to increasing your referrals and recommendations will give you the best chance of success in harnessing your patients’ power to help you grow your business.