While every dentist loves to get referrals, very few have a system in place to consistently generate those referrals. As you probably already know, referrals close at higher rate than most other types of leads, so if you want to take your practice to the next level, you should definitely create a system that generates referrals. Forty percent to sixty percent of your current patients will refer at least one new patient a year, if you give them the right encouragement.
Here is a referral generation plan that will be easy, simple and powerful. However, you should know that there are several key components to creating an effective referral campaign. The first step in creating a powerful referral campaign is to have a product or service that is worth referring. Your product and service must be memorable and perform exactly as it is supposed to, in order for your patients to refer their friends and family to your practice. If you have a crappy product that doesn’t hold up over time or if you have a service that causes more problems that it solves, then it will be very difficult for the few patients you get to refer others to you. In fact, 67% of patients will leave a practice because of indifference and/or how they were treated.
You will want to train your staff to ask for referrals during the patient visit. Asking the patient if they are pleased with the result, and they reply positively, that moment is the perfect time to ask them if they know of anyone who also would want your products and services. Your staff could say something like, “We are glad that you had such a positive experience in our practice. We would love for your friends, family, co-workers, and relatives to have the same positive experience and would welcome them as new patients.”
Ask your best patients to refer you. Tell them that you would love more patients just like them. Use positive reinforcement for those who send new patients your way, such as personal thank you notes for example. You should consider sending a handwritten card to new patients after their initial visit, thanking them for making your practice their choice for dentistry. Include a “P.S.” at the end stating, “We hope you’ll tell your friends and family about our office. We would love to have more patients just like you.”
Another component to a successful referral campaign is to find a way to easily and automatically contact your patients and remind them to send you referrals. The best way to accomplish this is by inserting your patients into a mailing campaign that is designed to generate referrals. This can be in your newsletter, a series of postcards, letters or phone calls that reminds them that you build your practice by getting referrals from patients.
Establishing a cross-referral arrangement with a cosmetic surgeon, chiropractor, upscale hair salon, or talent agency will help you contact the type of patient you’re seeking. With surgeons, call and ask if they would like to talk with you about having your patients referred to them. You could invite the surgeon to your practice to see what teeth whitening or a set of veneers will do for a patient’s appearance. With hair salons and talent agencies, offer to whiten the owners’ teeth in exchange for displaying your photo album in their establishment and having your dental health certificates available.
Chiropractors often are very open to this kind of arrangement. Choose a practice that is doing well. You could send a mailing to your patients endorsing the chiropractor’s practice while the chiropractor does a similar mailing to his or her patient about you. Be sure to include certificates for an exam in each mailing. Establishing these types of relationships inevitably requires that you and your alliance partner become friends. You each need to have a genuine interest in helping the other.
Approach other business owners in the area close to your practice and offer your services. Since you are near where they are employed, if you have extended hours they could come in before or after work. It’s a great convenience for them. Point this out in a short letter or invitation, and have one of your staff hand-deliver it (including an offer for a reduced-fee exam, complimentary smile evaluation, or free teeth whitening) to each of the businesses surrounding your practice.
These days, even someone who’s already received a strong referral from a trusted friend will check out your website. The website had better be good or the prospective patient might think twice about visiting your practice. Social media can also help, turning casual interest generated by a friend into a strong desire to get an appointment.
Make sure you have social media icons around the operatories and waiting room as well, so when the patient is sitting down they are also reminded to follow you on other social media platforms such as your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. If by now you haven’t guessed it, social media platforms are great ways to generate interest in new patients.