When it comes to dental practice marketing and increasing patient volume, nothing beats referral marketing.
While you can use popular and effective marketing strategies, a significant part of attracting new patients includes getting them through referrals from existing patients. Getting referrals from existing patients is one of the most successful marketing activities that you can put in place. This is primarily because new patients referred by existing patients are more likely to be happy and satisfied than patients who find your practice on their own. Patient referrals are a much easier and cost-effective way to gain new patients than finding them through traditional marketing tactics.
Importance of Patient Referrals
The success and profitability of your dental practice depend on ensuring a continued stream of patient referrals. Gone are the days when you would succeed in increasing the number of patient referrals just by offering a free consultation during the holiday season. For your dental practice to grow, you should see 25 to 50 new patients every month. Moreover, a majority of your new patients should come from patient referrals. At times your staff may seem reluctant to ask for referrals from existing patients, but you should not shy away from this practice if you wish to gain new patients. It is important to make conscious efforts to keep your name at the top of your patients’ minds and encourage them to refer your services to their family and friends.
While the main benefit of referrals is the number of new patients that it can deliver to your dental practice, there is a secondary benefit you might have overlooked: the quality of patients who are delivered.
Some marketing channels tend to attract discount hunters who are not the ideal patients in your target demographic and are likely to visit only once. In contrast, referred patients are the friends of your existing patients, so they are a great match for your target audience and tend to become loyal, longstanding patients. They are also predisposed to liking your offerings before they even try your products or services because their friends have been spreading the good word about you to them.
Are Referrals Right for Your Practice?
While there are no hard-and-fast rules as to what type of dental practices can benefit from patient referrals, there are some key factors to consider:
Underlying patient satisfaction
The happier your patients are with your services, the more likely they are to recommend your practice to their family and friends. A high Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a good indication that referral might work well.
Referrals can work for any demographic, but some tend to be more effective. Women are said to recommend more than men. In addition, while the older demographic tends to recommend less, their recommendations tend to convert better.
Impulse or thought-after decisions
Since dental procedures require consideration, it may take longer to get a referral program off the ground as potential patients who receive a recommendation may not yet be ready for your services. However, the seeds of consideration are sown.
Does your practice discount heavily? Lack of discounts and freebies might make it difficult for the referral offer to stand out. If your discounts are less generous than other offers in your local area, then referrers are unlikely to share them within their circles.
Take the first step to protect your online reputation and request your Online Reputation Assessment.
It is important to have sufficient gross margin for the referrers’ and the referees’ incentives to fit within your Cost Per Acquisition. If you cannot offer a compelling incentive, then incentivized referral may not work.
Knowing that your dental practice has the right attributes for happy patients to share with their friends is a great first step. However, the right combination of messaging, discounts and psychological triggers can take your referral campaigns to a whole new level.
Strategies for Generating New Referrals
The most challenging part about generating referrals is gathering the courage to ask. Some dental marketers think they will offend their patients by asking for more business in the form of referrals and recommendations. In reality, your patients will be more than happy to send people your way if they are satisfied with your services. It is important to have a good relationship with your existing patients and develop a plan to seek referrals from each one of them.
If you are not yet convinced about asking for referrals, here are a few facts that will convince you:
- Referrals do not cost anything.
- Most of your existing patients know someone who can benefit from your services.
- Your patients are better at marketing your services than you are.
- Referrals often lead to more referrals.
It is clear that referrals should be a significant focus for your dental practice. So, how can you get more and better-quality referrals? Here are five dental marketing strategies to increase the number and quality of referrals for your practice:
- Go the extra mile for your patients
When a patient visits your practice, he or she should have a good experience. When you provide exceptional service, people take notice. And when people take notice, they tend to spread the good word about your services. These conversations cause referrals. So if you are able to fulfill a patient’s needs, that is great. But if you are able to go above and beyond, that is what will eventually be noticed. By going above and beyond, you will position yourself apart from all the noise that surrounds your brand.
- Improve your patient experience
Patient service plays a significant role in every dental practice. Your patients like to be heard, and they like their pains to be take care of. One of the best ways you can encourage referrals is by providing the best patient experience. Never let your patients’ comments and questions go unanswered for too long. As long as you show a little sympathy and flexibility, your patients will be more understanding when there are errors or slipups.
- Build relationships
Your patients are referring your services, not your brand. That is why it is essential to build relationships with your patients. You must make sure you are doing a good job of listening to patients and making them feel comfortable. You can consider sending personalized emails that are relevant to a patient’s interests or treatment options, reminding him or her that you care about their oral health.
- Personalize your interactions with patients
The more you personalize the experience for patients, the happier they will be. Whether you want to personalize your interactions by remembering information about them, or reminding them of their upcoming appointments, or sending them promotions, personalization will show that you care. Personalization will result in a more engaged patient base, one that is likely to refer your practice to friends and family.
- Do not be afraid to ask
Even though referrals happen naturally, it can be difficult to get patients to think about your practice after they leave. This is the reason you should always ask for a referral while they are still at your office. In general, patients are the happiest post-appointment, so this is a good time to ask for referrals. You can offer incentives to make referring easier.
The world of dental practice marketing is constantly evolving, and it is normal to feel overwhelmed and unsure of what the future looks like. Tried-and-tested marketing methods may not produce the same results, but that does not mean we should ignore them completely. Word-of-mouth referrals are just as effective today as they were a decade ago. However, today word-of-mouth referrals are being used in a way that can spread the good word about your dental practice faster. You can use them to generate new patients for your dental practice and build a thriving practice in this age of healthcare marketing.
For a free dental practice marketing consultation and to make sure your practice is taking the right steps to attract new patient referrals, contact us today.