Referrals offer a connection a little more solid than a new patient who finds you via Google search or in the Yellow Pages. When you get a word-of-mouth referral, your existing patient is acting as a "salesperson," and it costs you very little compared to the cost of advertising your practice. Increasing the number of referrals from patients can help fill your schedule and in turn grow your practice.
Referrals from existing patients have other benefits besides just being a cheaper route than advertising your clinic on say a billboard or on the radio. Building and maintaining a doctor/patient relationship can sometimes be challenging and overtime, naturally happens.
What if a patient walked into your clinic already familiar with the way you treat certain conditions and maybe even your payment policies? Wouldn't that make life a little bit easier?
Benefits of Patient Referrals
Physicians can benefit from patient referrals because that doctor/patient relationship has already been somewhat built by the referring patient. The patient feels like they already know you because their friend, family member, and/or coworker is your biggest advocate.
How do you find these advocates and get patient referrals? If you wait for them, they probably won't "just happen". Instead, here are 5 ways you can increase new patient referrals.
1) Just Ask for Them
A simple sign in your office, whether printed and laminated or made by your local office supply store, can make a real difference. All it has to say is something like, "We Appreciate You Referring Friends and Family to Us," or even "We Are Accepting New Referrals." That could be enough to stick in the mind of someone with a new friend in town, for example.
2) Your Website and Content Marketing
If you don't already have a website, you need one. If you do have a website, is a content marketing strategy in place?
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
An effective content marketing strategy would include a blog on your website. A blog filled with helpful information like why vaccines are important, who needs to get a flu shot, what the pain in your right knee might be telling you, and whatever other questions you seem to get from patients. The content should be relevant, helpful, and irresistible to your patients.
What happens next? Your patients will subscribe and find your information so helpful that they want to share it on Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media channel you can think of.
How to Make Your Content Marketing Attract New Patients
There are a few things to consider in order to make your content marketing attract new patients.
First of all, your site must be optimized so that it can be easily found via search engines. Bring in an SEO freelancer or partner with an SEO agency that can help optimize your website for search. Second, publish helpful content and don't be afraid to show some personality too. Third, your blogs need to have social sharing buttons to make sharing the content easier for desktop and mobile.
3) Consider Holding an Event
Host an event at your practice to bring in patient referrals. Here are a few event ideas to get your wheels turning:
- Patient appreciation day
- Open house
- Seminar/discussion on a hot topic (vaccines, weight loss, skin care, new service, etc.)
- Introducing a new health care provider to the community
Don't forget to advertise the event well in advance. Take fliers to local businesses, contact your chamber to see if they can help, and share the event (with a really great graphic of course) on social media.
Offer food, drinks, prizes, discounts, whatever you can think of to get people to show up and bring a friend, coworker, or family member. You could even have promotional items like pens and tee-shirts available. Don't forget a pen or tee shirt is also a form of advertising. Make it enjoyable, and you can bring in dozens of referrals with little work and a lot of fun.
4) Consider Cross-Promoting With a Local Nonprofit
Working with a nonprofit organization on a fundraiser can not only be a great source of referrals but also help build your brand. Offer nonprofit members a special exam rate, for example, or you could designate a percentage of proceeds from new referrals to the nonprofit.
You'll take a small hit up front, but when nonprofit members know you support their organization, you can build up tremendous good will.
5) Learn to Use Email Marketing
Email marketing with existing patients is an inexpensive way to keep your practice in the forefront of patients' minds. And you can include a statement in your email newsletters that you appreciate new referrals.
Perhaps you can offer an incentive for patients who refer new people - a discount on a common exam, or a pair of movie tickets.
Email service providers like MailChimp are popular for creating email marketing newsletters because they're easy to use and are relatively cheap
(Free up to 2000 subscribers).
Multiple Strategies are Best for Increasing Referrals
Of course you'll get better results if you use multiple techniques for increasing referrals but also consider who your patients are today and what would resonate with them. Some of the strategies listed above come with more than just patient referrals too. Hosting an event, blogging, and email marketing can all contribute to building upon your existing patient relationships.
Have you tried any of these 5 ways to increase patient referrals? If so, let us know in the comments below. We'd love to know what worked for your practice.