Word of mouth marketing can be one of the most effective ways to attract new patients. In my practice, referrals from existing patients now account for almost two-thirds of new business. This data is especially significant in light of the fact that the cost of gaining a new patient from patient referrals was only 10% of that compared to the cost of bringing in a new patient from other marketing efforts.
To be successful, a patient referral program has to be well organized and very intentional. The first step in developing a successful Patient Referral Program is to have cards printed that can be distributed to patients. We have learned that it is helpful to have cards that are an odd size – slightly larger than a business card – so patients can’t just stick them away in their pocket and forget them. The next step is to have an organized way of handing out the cards. For instance, we instruct each member of the staff to place five referral cards in their pockets every morning with an expiration date one month out and then we encourage each staff member to hand those cards out every day. We also include two referral cards in each of the PHS coffee mugs that we give to patients who have purchased new hearing aids and ask them to share the gift of better hearing with someone they know.
Once the program is in place, it’s important to have a method to get the word out! We mention the program in all correspondence with our patients and feature a paragraph on the program in every newsletter. In addition, we include a testimonial from a patient who came to us because another patient encouraged him or her to make an appointment.
You may want to consider having a few small signs in your practice that explain and promote the program. For example, a plague that extols, “Ask How You Can Pay it Forward” could cause patients to inquire about the program. You also may want to consider adding a Patient Referral button to your website.
Finally, don’t forget to follow up and let your patients know how much you truly appreciate their referrals. Send hand-written notes, make personal calls and possibly even send special gifts to patients who refer frequently.
Word of mouth referrals can make or break a business and seems to be even more relevant considering people’s ability to post an online review of a practice.
Marketing to your existing patient base for referrals can be a very cost-effective way to attract new patients. If you are interested in starting your own Patient Referral Program, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and we will make certain to send you copies of the materials we use.