On a scale from 1-10 (1 being not eager at all, 10 being extremely eager) rate how eager you think your patients are about recommending you and your practice to their closest friends and family members. Does coming to your office leave a great impression on your patients or is it just another “office visit?” Be honest.
There are things you can do to significantly increase their eagerness and make them WANT to refer you. Get serious about referrals, take the time to understand how lucrative they are to your practice and be diligent about adding new referral strategies to your marketing plan on a regular basis.
Referrals come to you in the most optimal situation and they are typically the best kind of patient to get. They require the least amount of persuasion and often come “presold.” However, I see a lot of doctors who are completely bungling these opportunities.
Now, let’s dive in and look at some specific strategies that will help stimulate your referrals.
Make your office REFERABLE
The physical appearance of your office has to be appropriate to justify referrals. If your office hasn’t been updated in 10 years it’s probably not a referable office. My rule of thumb is you need to do updates every three to five years. A first impression is made as soon as a patient walks in your door. The parking lot should be clean & well maintained. The exterior of the building needs to be in good shape with visible up-to-date signage. The magazines need to be current and you should have water, coffee or better yet hot chocolate in the waiting room. TVs, free Wi-Fi or computers with Internet access are a plus. And of course, make sure your office is ALWAYS clean and tidy. Your staff is a huge part of this. If they are warm, inviting, personable and helpful they’re more likely to make a good impression than if they are cold, grumpy and unhappy with their jobs.
COMMUNICATE to your patients that you want referrals
Don’t assume they know. Make it a point to communicate to your patients that you want their referrals. Many doctors are doing all the right things – they have a referable office and service is supreme, but they’re not letting their patients know that they actually want their referrals. Don’t make it complicated, just ASK! For example, as you leave the room say, “Mrs. Jones, we look forward to working with you as a patient. We would love more patients just like you. Would you commit to me that you will reach out and tell two or three of your friends or family members about your experience with us?” If you’ve provided good service that day, your patients will be more than willing to do that for you.
Send out a PATIENT NEWSLETTER regularly
If you’re not already sending out a patient newsletter, start immediately! Don’t let creating it be the reason you don’t do it. There are lots of companies who will put a newsletter together for you. The magic of a patient newsletter is that it gives you a way to leverage yourself and spread your reach. When you mail out a newsletter to a thousand people with a picture of you and your office on it, you’ll be showing up in front of a thousand people that day without having to physically see them. In every single newsletter you send out there should be several things that ask for referrals and promote your referral program. At minimum do a newsletter every other month.
MARKET YOUR REFERRAL PROGRAM throughout your office
In addition to asking, one of the easiest ways to stimulate referrals is to show that referrals are greatly appreciated in your practice. Advertise it throughout your office. Put signs in places you know people will see them – the waiting room, on the check-in/check-out counter, by the magazines, in the restroom, on the complimentary beverage table. Take it another step and tie balloons to the signs to draw more attention.
Run REFERRAL CONTESTS with your patients
You should always have a referral contest running. This contest can be held over a 30-90 day time period depending on what you prefer. We have clients that do one every month and are bringing in 20-40 referrals extra each month. Prizes can stay the same or rotate, just base the prize on your clientele. For kids, prizes like a bicycle or gaming system are popular. TVs, iPads and laptops work really well for almost everyone.
GIFT your current patients
The Law of Reciprocity says that “people try to repay what another person has provided to them.” Begin a simple gifting process to acknowledge your patient’s existence so they know who you are and that you appreciate them. The gift can be small – a coffee mug, workout bag, hat, etc. Don’t get wrapped up in the item or the cost. Just a small token of appreciation will have a bigger impact than you think. Whatever gift you give, the patients will give back to you tenfold. So never, ever hesitate to gift your patients.
Present every new patient with a WELCOME LETTER & GIFT
The welcome letter & gift is to be handed to the new patient when they physically come in for the first appointment. Don’t hand it over the counter, walk around to the front of the counter or walk it over to them if they are sitting in the waiting room and say, “Mrs. Jones, on behalf of Dr. Smith and our team we want you to know how glad we are that you chose us. Make yourself at home and let me know if you need anything.” The letter inside should say something similar, briefly explain the referral program and ASK for a referral. The letter should actually be signed by the doctor – this will take a few extra minutes but make a huge impression. Again, the gift can be small. It’s not the gift but the act of giving the gift that creates the WOW factor.
REMEMBER Every time a patient walks into your office, you should visualize a line of people standing behind that person – all their friends and family. And realize that chances are your patient has some level of influence over those people. So as a strategy, you should be doing everything within your power to get them to refer at least three or four of those people. And don’t forget to both implement these solutions and track their success rates so you can improve you patient experience and, as a result, increase your patient referrals.
Looking for more ways to boost your referrals? We have TONS of trainings designed to build the kind of patient experience that elicits referrals from anyone who walks through your doors. Just give us a call and we can set you up with several different available options —866-917-2808… call today!