A family of happy patients that can generate referrals for your dental practice

Word-of-mouth plays an extremely important role in growing your dental practice and gaining more quality new patients. People tend to turn to their friends and loved ones when looking for a new dental practice – even more so, when a prospective patient is looking for specialized dental services or niche treatments. In fact, according to a Nielsen global survey, word-of-mouth is not only what consumers trust the most, but also it’s what makes them most likely to act.

50% Of Your New Patients Should Be From Referrals

If they’re not, you have a bigger issue at hand! A recommendation from a trusted friend or confidante carries significant weight and convinces prospective new patients to try out a practice solely on the strength of a referral. However, getting referrals requires more than just sitting back and hoping that your impeccable service and dedication to your patients is good enough to encourage patients-of-record to refer your practice. Patients – people in general – are busy with their demanding lives and simply may not think about supporting your business when you're not top of mind. Additionally, your patients-of-record may not even know you accept and welcome new patients. Proactively asking for patient referrals, either at your practice itself or through marketing materials like patient newsletters can make a world of difference in driving up referral rates. In fact, the very act of sending a patient newsletter can create a buzz about your dental practice, increase referrals, and put more money in your pocket.

Here are 3 tips to help you increase new-patient referrals at your dental practice:

1) Patients don’t know what they don’t know, and need you to teach them 
Often, patients feel that the service at a dental practice is worthy of referral to their peers, but might not know exactly how to go about doing so. According to Forbes Magazine, teaching your customers precisely how to refer you could ease the process for them and make them more liable to do so. For instance, Yelp has emerged as one of the most powerful tools for exchanging word-of-mouth. Yet, many patients, especially older ones, might be unfamiliar with them. Consider taking screenshots of the website –and your practice's page on it – and putting them on your next batch of patient newsletters, directing patients' attention to it, and explaining to them how to go about leaving a review. Patient News has great content available to help you show patients systematically how easy it is to post a review.

Similarly, providing patients with as many avenues as possible for making referrals will help facilitate the process for them. On your website, put easy links for all the review sites on which you appear, including Google, Yelp, and Angie's List. Be sure to describe clearly and succinctly all of your services so that nothing gets lost in translation when a patient is attempting to explain them to a potential patient. A patient is doing you a tremendous favor in spreading positive word-of-mouth, so be sure that the process for him to do so is uncomplicated.

2) Follow up and follow through – and remember show appreciation 
A patient that leaves a dental practice satisfied with their experience might be excited to tell a friend about the experience they just had. Help spur your patients on in this area by subtly reminding them after the fact that they did have a pleasant visit and they should help spread the word about your practice's services. Sidekick Magazine recommends sending personal handwritten cards after a patient's initial appointment, thanking them for visiting. A gentle reminder in the form of a postscript urging them to tell their friends and family about the pleasant experience they had at your dental practice can go a long way.

People love to feel appreciated, and when a patient refers someone with a great lifetime value, it’s in your best interest to let them know how much you appreciate it. Referral cards sent with your patient newsletter and also containing a small article showing appreciation, is a great way to encourage your patients to refer their friends and loved ones to your dental practice.

3) Incentivize referrals – a great way to show thanks 
While some of your patients will gladly refer to you their friends and family without an incentive, others are more likely to take part in something when they know that a reward is coming their way. To this end, help incentivize the referral process by offering patients a discount on future services for every patient they refer. For instance, giving regular patients a referral card, complete with their details and signature, so they can hand out to family and friends, will ensure that your referral reward goes to the right patient, and assures your patient that they will receive their reward at their next visit. This may snowball the referral process and a newly referred patient that helped another get a discount will want to get one him or herself … and will refer their own friends and family.

Big-ticket items, such as a big screen TV, or other electronics device, are a relatively small investment these days, and can get a handful of patients referring. You may spend less than $500 for an HDTV and generate 4 new patients. At an average patient lifetime value of $5,000, this is a great ROI.

You still need a vehicle to promote your referral incentives, so talk to the experts at Patient News for more advice on how to launch an effective referral campaign.