Trust is a powerful word. You’ll experience the power when you leverage trust to get more referrals from your dental patients.
Why start with trust?
Because it’s what drives word-of-mouth referrals. Your patients are more likely to talk to family, friends, and colleagues when they trust you and your services.
That raises the all-important question of how? Before we explore some innovative dental patient referral strategies, let’s seek to understand why they work.
The Power of Patient Referrals
Survey data is clear about the power of referrals.
- ”Forty percent to 60% of your current patients will refer at least one new patient a year, if you give them the right encouragement.”
- According to a survey by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, 63% of new patients are attracted by referral marketing.
- Nielsen’s annual “Trust in Advertising” survey covers consumer attitudes about advertising. “83% of the respondents stated they ‘completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family.’
- “…66% said they trust the opinions of other consumers that are posted online.”
- A Harris Poll survey across several industries found that “92% of adult consumers aged 18 to 34 seek recommendations from friends and family when considering purchasing any product or service.”
- And the following statistic summarizes why its vital to invest your resources in a referral strategy:“83% of satisfied patients are willing to refer their friends and family, but only 29% do because the rest are never asked for referrals.” Consider that a high percentage of your patients are “willing to refer their friends and family.” Let that motivate you to leverage referrals to build your dental practice or DSO.
Five innovative strategies to get more referrals from your dental patients
1-Create a compelling and “sharable” patient experience
Remember the “trust factor” we mentioned earlier? Everything you do from a patient phone contact to an email or text conversation to how they’re greeted upon arrival to department hand-offs to treatment to financials and insurance – it all helps establish trust.
The patient experience is the sum of all those individual patient interactions working together in a way that’s compelling and “shareable.”
About the “sharable” part. These days, your patients have more than one avenue to share their positive experiences.
- On social media platforms
- Through online reviews
- Via useful content shared from your practice(s) blog and social media posts
And of course…
- In casual one-on-one or group conversations
Strategic point: create a patient experience that’s worth talking about wherever your patients are comfortable communicating. Encourage them to share their experiences with your practice there.
2-Create and publish patient-centric content
Patient-centric content is relevant to the oral health questions, concerns, and problems your patients are facing. It’s content designed to answer their questions and provide solutions to their problem, issue, or challenge.
Your patients, like you, search the internet for answers and solutions daily. The same applies to their dental health.
Content ideas are as plentiful as the questions you hear them ask on phone calls, in the chair during an exam or procedure, via an email or text message, as you’re presenting a treatment plan, or discussing insurance and payment options.
- Create content around common patient questions and problems.
- Use a variety of content sources to provide solutions – blog posts, videos, podcasts, monthly newsletters, email and text messages, etc.
- Publish your content on your dental practice website, on your dental practice social media channels, in newsletters, and via links in email and text messages, etc.
Strategic point: useful, informative, relevant dental content is a shareable asset. Patients will want to share content with their “network” when it answers a question and/or solves a problem.
3-Build your professional network
Referrals also come through other dental or medical professionals. Here are some ways to nurture those relationships.
- Build relationships with local and regional specialists.
- Refer to them when patient care or a specialty procedure requires their services.
- Thank them for their referrals within a day of their contact with your office.
- Send them a holiday basket or treats
- Share a congratulatory message if they achieve a milestone either professionally or personally, comment on their professional social media posts, and share their achievements on your social media platforms with a message referencing your trust in them and their expertise.
Strategic point: value your professional connections. See them as extensions of your patient experience.
4-Attach value to your patient referrals
Patients who are loyal to your practice and who trust your care will be happy to refer you to their “circle.” You can “sweeten” the process by honoring their referrals.
Referral incentives are an effective way to show your gratitude. An incentive strategy also helps motivate patients to increase their referrals. Just be aware of the laws and ethics before you launch a program. Many insurance carriers, including government programs, have specific rules about incentives.
- The American Dental Association (ADA) Principle of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct states, “The dentist’s primary obligations include dealing with people justly and delivering dental care without prejudice.” Thus, referral incentives cannot impact the dental care you provide.
- Know your patients well enough to know what type of incentive or “reward” has value to them (e.g. discounts, vouchers or coupons for local businesses/vendors, etc.)
Strategic point: Always thank a patient when they refer someone to you. A handwritten note from their dentist and/or hygienist says you noticed.
5-Simplify the referral process
It’s easier to ask for a referral and for your patients to provide referrals when your process is simple. Make it clear that there are a variety of referral options suited to a patient’s personality and experience with your dental practice.
- Talk up your social media channels. Encourage patients to “like” and share their experience and your posted content.
- Ask them to post about their great experience with you on their own social media channels.
- Encourage patients to provide an online review following their appointment. Make it easy by sending them a text or email with the link to do so, or even better, show them how to leave a Google review from the cell phone while they’re in the practice.
- Ask patients to share your blog or newsletter content when a family or friend has a relevant question or problem the content answers/solves.
Strategic point: keep the referral process simple and in front of your patients.
The following AI-themed resources provide insight into how the technology can enhance your patient experience: