What is Your New Patient Strategy? Do You Struggle with Patient Referrals?
On a scale from 1 to 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 patient 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, a lot of doctors are completely bungling these opportunities. Let’s dive in and look at some specific strategies that will help stimulate your referrals.
1. Make Your Office Referable
The physical appearance of your office has to be appropriate to justify referrals. This falls under the “Big 5” we’ve written about recently – specifically your Space & Equipment. If your office hasn’t been updated in 10 years, it’s probably not a referable office. The rule of thumb is you need to update its appearance every five years or so. A first impression is made as soon as a patient walks in your door. The parking lot should be clean and well maintained. The exterior of the building needs to be in good shape with visible up-to-date signage. TVs, free Wi-Fi or computers with internet access are a plus and give your waiting area a modern feel. Any magazines need to be relevant to your patient’s interests and you should have water, coffee, or better yet, hot chocolate in the waiting room. Pay attention to safety concerns due to COVID-19 though. You may need to temporarily stop serving refreshments or having magazines available, but when it is safe to bring them back make sure the magazines current. Consider having any refreshments or spoons/stirrers be in individually wrapped packaging. COVID-19 or not, but sure to reduce any unnecessary clutter. 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.
2. 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?” Better yet, have your front desk give them easy instructions on a business card for how to leave an online review. If you’ve provided good service that day, your patients will be more than willing to do that for you.
3. Market Your Referral Program Throughout the Office
In addition to asking, one of the easiest ways to stimulate referrals is to show that referrals are greatly appreciated in your office. Put signs in places you know people will see them—the waiting room, on the check in/check out counter, in the restroom, on the complimentary beverage table… take it another step and tie balloons to the signs to draw more attention.
4. Run Referral Contests with your Patients
You should always have a referral contest running. This contest can be held over a 30-90 day period, depending on what you prefer. We have clients that hold a contest every month and are bringing in 20-40 extra referrals each month. Prizes can stay the same or rotate, just base the prize on your clientele. For kids, prizes like bicycles or gaming systems are popular. TVs, iPads, and laptops work really well for almost everyone.
5. Gift Your Current Patients
The Law of Reciprocity says, “People try to repay what another person has provided to them.” Begin a simple gifting process to acknowledge your patients’ existence so they know who you are and that you appreciate them. The gift can be small—a coffee mug, workout bag, hat, etc. It can even be a branded face mask or hand sanitizer. 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.
Remember… Every time a patient walks into your office, you should visualize a line of people standing behind that person—all of their friends and family. 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 your New Patient experience and – as a result – increase your patient referrals!
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