According to Forester Research, patients trust word of mouth from friends and family more than any other form of advertising.  Why then, do so few practices focus on encouraging patients to be advocates?

In the Web 2.0 world, the old saying, “It’s who you know!” is driving patient growth and marketing.  That makes current patients terrific resources for cultivating prospective new patients.

Referrals are the backbone for many and can boost the client of any small practice.  Whether you’re a one-person operation or a practice with many doctors and healthcare providers, encouraging your current patients and employees for referrals (providing incentives for them) s a smart marketing move.

Brand Advocates

One of the most persuasive and cost-effective ways to promote your services is to encourage loyal patients to act as brand advocates and drive new business to you.

4 Benefits of Referral Programs

The advantages of these programs are tangible and many.  They:

1.Increase revenue from a targeted audience

Many referral programs pay for themselves several times over annually, which makes them one of the most cost effective ways to market your services.  With results like that, can your business afford to not have a referral program?

2.Attract new high-value customers though ongoing dialogue with existing high-value clients

While it’s true that many clients or patients will refer new patients to your brand naturally, building a marketing program that promote and rewards referrals from your best patients can increase new acquisitions several times over.

3.Give existing clients “bragging rights”

Also known as the advocacy boost, an interesting phenomenon occurs when patients make recommendations.  They not only attract new lies, they also increase their own attachment to you, increasing their overall value.

4.Deliver measurable results

Unlike many marketing programs, you can closely and continually measure your ROI. (return of investment).

Never Underestimate the Power of Recognition

When asked for a favor, many of us enjoy being recognized and appreciate a pat on the back.  Patients are no different.  They like to be recognized and thanked.  I know I do.

How about when employees send in referrals?  Consider recognition as in Employee of the Month with a plaque on the wall or discounts on products or services.  Even more appreciated are the bonuses in the paycheck.

Keep in mind that it is the referrals and increase in sources for them that will help build a practice, boost a reputation in the community and enhance the atmosphere between doctors, patients and employees.

Plan of Attack- 7 Action Steps

1.Ask for referrals from EVERY patient, systematically

2.Contact new patients after their first practice encounter to thank them for coming and ask them to “tell a friend or family member”.

3.Send announcements and newsletters in the mail or via email AT LEAST once a month and aways include a mechanism that allows the reader to “tell someone you know”.

4.Consistently remind patients about your services and new techniques or procedures that you do, urging them to “share the news with a friend”.

5.Promote special in-house events like lectures and referral opportunities at least once a quarter.

6.Send postcards to your list and offer referral “perks”

7.Get personal once a month.  Commit to the all-in-important once-a-month contact that creates a regularly scheduled opportunity for your patients to communicate with you.  Depending on your budget, you can use email, any of the direct mail options (letter or postcard) a robot-call (pre-recorded message) or a personal call.

What Do You Do?

Do you have a referral program in your practice?  How do you reward your sources?  Share this with us in the comment box below.