If creating referrals isn’t part of your daily routine, you could be missing out on your best new patient prospects. Referrals are one of the single most cost effective ways to grow your business, often requiring very little extra work on your part. Plus, the referred patients already have an invested interest in your practice since their friends or family already chose you as their dentist.

Components of a Successful Referral Program: Request, Track, Reward, Repeat.

Designate specific team members to talk about the referral program so that your patients aren’t overwhelmed with requests. Consider whether it is better for your hygienists or your front office to ask patients to think about family and friends who haven’t found a great dentist. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Supplement the ask with signs plus statement and promotional giveaways. An overlooked opportunity to ask for referrals is on every recall reminder you send. Simply add a line to the bottom of every card that reads “Ask about our referral reward program” or “We love referrals from great patients like you!” 

Request.  It’s as easy as placing a referral request sign at the reception desk. It’s an easy ice-breaker and helpful reminder for staff to ask for referrals. Many times, patients would love to refer you to their friends and family members, so simply asking is a great way to prompt them to do so. Keep a stack of referral slips at the checkout counter so patients can easily grab a few to share your name with others.

Track.  Track the sources of your new patients. Know how many referrals you’re receiving from internal and external marketing. Quite possibly your practice is being referred by people who aren’t in the dental industry. New patients often come from the least expected sources, such as the manager of the restaurant across the street or an employee who works next door. That’s why asking “who can we thank for referring you to our office” is so important. Equally as important: thanking those who are referring people to you.

Reward.  Keep the referrals coming with reward programs and incentives for your best patients. Credit on account is a natural reward. However, you’ll want to offer an alternative for patients who have healthy mouths and good insurance. These patients aren’t motivated by account credits; they need a tangible reward. Consider gift cards to restaurants, movie tickets, coffee shop cards or let patients choose their own reward from a list of options. You can also renew interest in a long standing referral program by promoting seasonal/in the news rewards like hard-to-get concert tickets and gas cards. You can create big buzz with a drawing for a very attractive prize. Popular prizes are big screen TVs, laptops, tablets, cruises and vacations. For example, patients could receive one entry for every two new patients they refer. All of these efforts give your team new reasons to talk about the referral program. If you don’t have funds for prizes, send a handwritten note or offer a personal thank you the next time they come in for care.

Repeat.  Remember that a referral program is an ongoing process and over time, you will find what works best for your staff and patient base. Keep running reports monthly to encourage your team to stay on track and fine tune your program.

Does your office have a referral program set-up? Let us know what works for you in the comments!