As a dentist you know that bringing in new patients is the key to growing your practice. You may have heard of referral programs, but you might be left with questions such as how best to implement one yourself. Today we’re going to look at these referral programs, and show you how you can bring in new customers by starting your own one at your practice.
The great thing about a referral program is that it utilizes people’s willingness to trust their friends and family. When someone close to you makes a recommendation, it’s much more likely to be acted on then if a stranger or advertisement had done the same. Think about yourself for example, are you more likely to go to a new steakhouse due to a commercial or billboard, or if your close friend raves about the meal they ate there? This is great news for dentists looking for referrals as many of their patients will tell their friends or families about the experience.
In this article we’ll look at how you can set up your own referral program for your practice. We’ll go over some of the pitfalls that can prevent a referral program from succeeding, as well as actionable steps to implement your own. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge you need to implement your own referral program.
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Why Dental Referral Programs Fail
Unfortunately, many patient referral programs are destined to fail. A failed program leads to loss of time, and ultimately profits. Keep these points in mind as you put together your own referral program so that you don’t fall into these pitfalls.
One of the biggest killers of referral programs is inconsistency. Every customer should be told about the program, whether that’s verbally or through some sort of hand out (or both).
Problems arise when you and your staff begin to slack in this regard. It’s easy to let a customer go without telling them, and then another, and another. Before you know it, the majority of your customers are leaving without knowing about your referral program. While many start off with good intentions, it’s far too easy to lose focus. It’s also important to regularly check in with your staff, keeping the whole team on track is essential to maintaining consistency. Don’t fall into this trap, make sure to tell each and every patient.
Another issue is not closing the deal. It’s one thing to ask, but it’s also important to follow up. It’s very likely your patients will forget about your referral program shortly after they leave, unless given some sort of reminder. One way we’ve found to be successful is by using a follow up card. This is a simple card handed to the patient as they leave, and gives them a physical item to remind them of the program even after they’ve left the office.
One of the biggest objections for referral programs is that everyone is too busy. The staff is busy, the patients are busy, and there simply isn’t anytime to put in place and effectively execute a referral program.
This isn’t true, and putting in place a brief script is the easiest way to remove the perceived barrier. It’s important to see this as an investment in your staff and your business. This isn’t just busy work, it has real, measurable results. Make sure your staff understands the importance of the work, and treats it with the same care as any other of their tasks.
How To Make Your Dental Referral Program Succeed
Now that you know some common pitfalls of implementing a referral program, it’s time to look at how you can implement your own. We’ll look at a few characteristics of a successful program, and how you can create your own based on them.
The best way to make things as easy and smooth as possible is to come up with a simple script and stick to it. The script should be simple, and come off not as pushy or salesy but as something that will be genuinely helpful to the person being referred.
During the script, you’ll also want to make sure you mention any special incentives for new patients. This could be some sort of free service, or a unique procedure your practice offers. The key is to make sure your current patient has something exciting to tell their friends or family, and gets them excited to bring you a referral.
The process doesn’t end with simply telling the patient about the program, always follow up! Many offices send follow up and reminder cards for appointments; this is a great time to remind your patients about your referral program.
Every opportunity you get outside of the office is a great one to gently remind the patient about your program. It’s easy to forget once you leave the office, don’t let this happen.
A critically important part of the whole process that is often overlooked is your website. In most cases, the person being referred is going to first check out your website to get more info on you. If it’s not up to par then it’s a good chance you may lose the customer.
Taking this a step further, make sure your website is able to book appointments and encourages visitors to do so. It’s important to make sure that the process for a potential client to learn about your practice and book an appointment is as easy as possible. It’s also important to make sure that you have clear contact information for those who might want to call before booking their first appointment.
Have you thought of adding a blog to your website? Check out this article and find out why you should!
What You Can Do Today
With the above in mind, here are actionable steps you can take today to start your referral program off right.
Start by making a commitment to follow through and create a referral program. While getting referrals should be a team effort, it helps to assign one person in the office to take lead of the initiative. This person should be in charge of organizing the efforts, following up with the staff, and adjusting objectives as necessary. Creating a single leader in charge helps simply the process for everyone giving them a single point for any questions, concerns, and updates.
Another important part to commiting is to set goals. Make sure to not only have a goal of how many referrals you hope to achieve, but also make sure to regularly check in and make sure you’re on track to meet that goal. Having a set target helps keep you and your team on track and striving to the achieve it.
In most cases, you’ll want to provide some sort of referral bonus. This can be extended to both the new patient being referred, as well as the existing patient who referred them.
By providing your patients with some type of incentive for referring new patients you can get the excited to help you. On the other side, providing an incentive for new patients to visit you can help push them that extra bit to make an appointment.
It’s also important to change the referral program, monthly or quarterly are good options. This helps keep things fresh for your patients, and helps reach a larger audience. While a patient might not be interested in last quarters incentive, this time around they’re interested and are happy to refer their friends.
Having some signage in your office is a great way to keep everybody involved in the process. For one, it helps inform your patients of the program. While they’re waiting they can view the signage, and learn more about your program.
It also helps keep your staff on track. In the beginning, it can be difficult to get into the flow of telling each customer, and having some clear signage can help serve as a reminder.
As noted above, a good referral program is part of everyone’s job, and having the whole office onboard is essential to its success. Each person on your team should have a touch point that overall help your patient remember long after the appointment.
These can all be simple things, for example a receptionist can gently remind the patient as they leave. These should all be natural and non-salesy, you want the patient to be comfortable while still being reminded of your program.
Another easy but effective method for getting referrals is create a card or similar item that patients can take home. It’s very easy to forget once they’ve left the office, so give them something to take with them that can remind them.
It also serves as an easy way for them to refer their friends and family. They can simply hand them the referral card, and the new patient can learn all about it from there. A good card is going to have both the incentive to get them to come in, as well as clear contact and booking information.
Lastly, don’t forget about the effect excellent service and a great experience can have on people. Your patients will naturally want to tell others about a positive experience, and this can help bring in new patients. While all the tips above are great for establishing your referral program, always remember that providing an excellent experience should come first on your list!
How To Increase Dental Patient Referrals
Implementing a referral program is a great way to encourage existing patients to help drive new business. As it’s mainly word of mouth, it makes a very cheap yet effective marketing technique that all practices should be using. An effective strategy can do wonders to drive more business!
There are so many ways you can get new patients into your office today! Check out these 11 tips in our article here!