A short post this month to reinforce the simplicity and power of internal marketing for referrals...
If you've been at a Dental Practice, as an Owner or Associate, for 2-3 years or more, you have probably formed bonds with some of your patients. You know which people really like you and the work that you do. There are people at your office that would happily refer friends and family members to you if asked. If you haven't thought about this before, get thinking about it! You cannot assume that your patients think of your office as a growing entity that is actively looking for new patients. The best way to get them thinking about referring friends and family to you is to ask them directly.
If you feel awkward just thinking about asking for referrals, or if you think that asking your patients to refer friends is taboo, you will end up missing out on a great source of new patient flow and increased productivity. Here are some suggestions that will make the process easier and less awkward for you:
1. Write out what you would like to say and practice saying it! I tell my patients that we are a small office committed to old fashioned, small-town care. We are conservative and transparent and like to give back to our community. I tell them that new patients allow us to grow modestly and to offset patient attrition when people move away and when teenagers go off to College. Let them know you believe in what your office does, that it is unique, and that you will take excellent care of their loved ones. Believe me, I do this daily and it is never an awkward interaction. Personalize the interaction by inviting them into your side office. Have a few business cards to give to them.
2. Have a referral reward system in place. You have 2 options: 1) disclose that you offer rewards/incentives for patient referrals or; 2) reward patients for their referrals after the fact and without advanced promise. Both work well. In my experience, you will receive far more referrals by posting details surrounding your referral reward system. It all depends on what you are comfortable with doing. You will win with both approaches. I also offer a large prize/incentive (i.e. iPAD) at the end of each year to the patient whom referred the most new patients. Gift cards work nicely for individual referrals as well. You will probably want to include details such as the referee having to book a cleaning and new patient exam. If you have a high conversion percentage on consults, then simple consults will be valuable to you as well and you can choose to reward for referred patients booking consults.
3. Make special business cards specifically for referrals. If your patient looks at these cards, they will more readily recall that they have a purpose and they will be more likely to hold on to them over time. Providing your generic business card can work too but will likely have a lower success rate at garnering referrals. People will be more likely to discard these before passing them along to friends and family. Feel free to include an enticing offer on the card like a deal on new patient exam and radiographs, or free whitening!
I have found great success with online marketing including SEO and PPC campaigns. Before I started with those extremely costly marketing strategies, I started from within my practice leveraging the power of goodwill to gain new patient referrals. This is a cost-effective way of increasing your new patient flow and it doesn't have to be awkward. Think about what you'd find sincere in someone asking you to refer to them. Be genuine. Show that you care about providing your brand of thorough care to others.