The following is a guest post by Millennium Dental. If you are interested in guest posting for Dental Heroes, please sign up here.
For medical and dental professionals, new patients are the lifeblood that keeps their practice running smoothly. Returning patients are, of course, a tremendous asset as well, but without a steady flow of new patients, most practices can’t afford to stay afloat – especially in today’s competitive and frequently oversaturated marketplace. The solution lies in generating referrals.
But what are the best practices for generating effective referrals without compromising your marketing budget? For most dental professionals, the best way to generate referrals and bolster business for any practice is through positive word of mouth. The hope is that if your patients are happy with your services, they will recommend you to their friends, loved ones, coworkers and acquaintances – but it’s not always that simple. You can’t afford to just sit back and wait for word of mouth recommendations to pick up! Here are a few simple techniques for generating referrals that really work:
1. Send Handwritten postcards, greeting cards or thank you notes
Show patients you care by sending handwritten postcards, greeting cards or thank you notes. Coming from their dental professional, this level of personal commitment may take many people by surprise – and that’s a good thing! Try sending these personalized notes to new patients after their first visit, as well as patients who have just started or finished a significant treatment or procedure. You may also want to get into the habit of reaching out to all of your patients during the holidays, to thank them for their loyalty. Keep your notes short, and always send them as quickly as possible after an appointment or meeting.
2. Establish a referral program
Establish a referral program for your practice. Print small flyers or brochures and display them in your waiting area, and be sure to mention specific incentives that patients could stand to receive if they send referrals your way. These incentives could take the form of anything from a discount on dental services to an unrelated “fun” item, like a gift certificate to a local restaurant.
3. Ask for referrals
Ask for referrals. Even if you follow the previous tips to a T, many of your patients may not “take the hint” and start referring people to your practice. Be proactive and train your staff to ask every patient if they have anyone they would like to refer to your practice. Make sure they leave with one of the aforementioned flyers or brochures, and give them the option of filling out a referral card in the office. Emphasize that their referrals won’t be required to buy anything or make an appointment – you’ll simply be reaching out.
4. Include referral cards with all mailings
Always include referral cards with any direct mail marketing materials you do send out. For example, if you mail a brochure or a newsletter to patients or area residents, include several tear-out referral cards inside.
5. Give away freebies
Give away freebies, such as pens, toothbrushes or magnets, with the name, street address, phone number and web address of your practice printed on them. These items can usually be printed in bulk at an affordable rate, and they can be a surprisingly effective way to generate new interest in your services.
6. Include a referral link on your website
Include a referral link on your website, where visitors can simply type in the names and contact information of individuals who may be interested in your services. Remember, the easier you make the referral process, the more likely your patients are to participate! Don’t forget to mention any incentives you may offer via your referral program.
7. Respond to inquiries quickly
Finally, respond to any inquiries you receive from interested parties as quickly as possible. People will appreciate the personal care and attention, and it may make them inclined to start referring their friends and family immediately – perhaps even before their first appointment has been scheduled!
With these tips in mind, generating referrals can be one of the easiest ways to revitalize your practice without spending a fortune on advertising.
Are you utilizing some of these ideas in your practice? Which do you find to be particularly successful? Do you have any tips to add to this list?