5 Tips for Scoring Patient Referrals

Filed under: Communication, Marketing

Prior to digital marketing and even before newspaper ads, there was word-of-mouth advertising. Regardless of all the tools at hand today for bringing in new business, the prized patient referral remains the most effective way to build a practice. Indeed, more than 60% of new patients are a result of referrals according to American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.

While every dental office should have multiple sources of marketing, the patient referral remains the simplest and most affordable way to compound loyalty and build your patient base, even as natural attrition occurs.

We’ve compiled five top tips to help you score more patient referrals from your existing clients.

1. Positive Patient Experience

The first and best way to receive enthusiastic recommendations from your current patients is to provide them a positive experience at your practice. It may be true that a dentist visit isn’t everyone’s favorite activity, but there are simple ways to turn that perception around.

Start with a competent, friendly front office team who will welcome patients and make sure they have the information they need – from treatment and cost expectations to their next scheduled appointment. Other thoughtful touches to keep patients coming back might include:

  • Personal thank you card following an initial appointment
  • Warm blankets and headphones for lengthy procedures
  • A follow-up call to check on patients after treatment
  • Empathy and sedation options for anxious patients
  • Birthday and holiday wishes via email or postcard

When you go that extra mile, patients are sure to let their friends and family know.

2. It Never Hurts to Ask!

There’s no need to wait for a satisfied patient to take the initiative to refer a friend. And there’s more than one way to ask for referrals, both directly and indirectly.

  • Include an automated request for referrals and reviews in all follow-up contact.
  • Post a sign in the waiting room letting people know you’re accepting new patients: “Tell your friends.”
  • Keep business cards by the front desk and encourage patients to take some.
  • Make requests through social media posts.
  • When adding a new service, tell patients in case they know someone who’d be interested.

3. Community Profile

No matter what size the town your practice is located, elevating your profile will create top-of-mind awareness with your patients. Sponsoring a local youth sports team, hosting a booth at an annual festival, or holding an office open house are all ways to remind patients of your commitment to community.

This is also a great way to garner those patient referrals in the virtual neighborhoods like Facebook or Nextdoor, where newcomers regularly ask for recommendations.

4. Tapping into Your Online Presence

Speaking of online communities, you can’t ignore the digital world when seeking patient referrals. It’s estimated that almost 4 billion users have visited at least one social media platform in the last 10 years. Whether, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok, find the right fit for your practice and engage with your patients – both current and potential.

When your patients do refer their friends and family, make sure your website is ready for visitors – welcoming, easy to navigate, and it should include other personal testimonials to reinforce the recommendation. Of course, you’ll then have website retargeting tools in place to remind them to follow up.

Online reviews are a huge form of passive patient referrals that can’t be ignored. At least 93% of people searching for goods or services for the first time will use sites like Yelp, Google, or 1-800-Dentist. Dedicate a team member to monitoring online feedback and be sure to respond to all reviews professionally – specially to thank the satisfied patients making the referral.

5. Offers and Enticements

Everybody loves free stuff, and many businesses offer incentives for new customer referrals. However, before advertising a discount with every referral or handing out coupons for free services in exchange for new business, check with your state dental board. The American Dental Association has explicit rules about accepting or tendering rebates in their Code of Professional Conduct in exchange for referrals.

When encouraging patient referrals, it’s best to offer swag like pens or mugs, or to follow any or all of the four tips discussed above.

Ultimately, providing the best possible care to your patients will go far in generating new referrals. If you have questions about automating referral systems, social media, or website retargeting to further your practice, RAMP is happy to provide a complimentary consultation.