Referral marketing is a seriously under utilised strategy for generating new patients.

How do I know?

Speaking and working with dentists and dental specialists day in, day out, I know that many of us are just coming to terms with marketing and how it impacts our business success.

At some level, we feel overwhelmed. We wrestle with marketing questions, like:

Will I run another Facebook ad?

Do I need to go with that email campaign I’ve been thinking about for months?

 Should I just run an advertisement in the local magazine?

While all these tactics are part of an overall marketing strategy, referral marketing is one over which you have much greater control.

According to Stacey Randall Brown, there are five steps to follow if you’re hungry for more patient referrals. And the good news? Yes there is work involved, but you don’t need to know a tonne of people to make it happen.

Let’s check out the steps to referral marketing mastery.

Step 1 – Know Who Your Referrers Are

Unless you’ve just opened your practice doors, there’s an excellent chance your patient database has a couple of (or few) thousand people on it. That’s cause for celebration right there. You’re not starting from referral marketing ground zero.

If we assume your practice database has people on it, identify who among those people are referrers.

A referrer is someone who makes a direct link between your business and the need of someone they know – and then connects the two you without you asking.

It’s important to drill down on the make-up of your referrer. Are they male or female? Are they a business owner, tradesman, or corporate executive? What keeps them busy?

In addition to knowing who your referrers are, you also want to know how often they’re referring others to you.

For we dentists, it could be a family member or a patient who’s had a transformative experience through your care and is happy to pass on your details.

Don’t despair if you’ve been through your database and can’t identify any genuine referrers. The task then is to  think who you’d like your referrers to be.

Step 2 – Say Thank You…In a Handwritten Note

Step 2 in the referral marketing process is all about saying thank you, in a particular kind of way.

When you receive a referral, it requires an immediate follow up. It requires a thank you delivered in a note written by you.

Now I can hear the objections already.

I’m so busy, Jesse.

 Couldn’t my staff write it for me?

 My handwriting is bad. No, really.

 Here’s my response. If you want to win at referral marketing, you must write a handwritten thank you.

A handwritten note demonstrates many things.

It shows you cared enough to think about the person and put pen to paper.

It also shows this too: you took time out of your day, that you care, and that your referrer means something to you.

A handwritten is a super powerful way for growing your referrals.

Like a reward for positive behaviour, it encourages your referrer to keep the referrals coming.

Putting all this aside, a handwritten note connects with another person in a meaningful way, and that can only be good for business.

Step 3 – Create A Plan For Strengthening the Referrer Relationship

Be aware that referral marketing is not a silver bullet and you won’t see results overnight. However, with a plan, big things are possible.

Your plan includes details around key activities – or touchpoints – that you’ll implement to strengthen the referrer relationship.

These touchpoints need to say, “Hey, I truly value you. Here’s something that says I understand and appreciate who you are.”

Doing this well means knowing a little about them.

Maybe your referrers are predominantly middle-aged women who take good care of themselves and help others do that too.

An appropriate touchpoint might be a pamper pack sent to them at the start of summer. It could be a handwritten birthday card signed by all the team. And maybe it’s two tickets to the movies. The more impactful these touchpoints are, the fewer you’ll have to do.

These gestures will make your referrer feel valued and important. They will also place you front of mind when they think of a dentist for someone they care about.

Step 4 – Use the Right Language

Referral marketing is also about using the right language.

At all those touchpoints throughout the year, we have the opportunity to plant referral seeds, so we’re effectively communicating what we’re after – more patients – without ever asking for them directly.

When we use the right language, we’re able to plant and nurture relationships that ultimately bloom into quality referrals.

You might think, I’m really not great with words, but that would be missing the point.

The key is to be genuine and show you connect with the referrer in ways that make sense.

Let’s just take the “start of summer pamper pack” idea. The note you include with this might read: Thanks for taking care of you. It’s gives other women like you permission to do the same.

This is all about connecting on a deeper level. And it’s the place from which quality referrals emerge.

Step 5 – Create A Process

Any Savvy Dentist blog reader will know we love a good system and process for mapping how things get done.

No referral marketing will be sustainable unless it’s delivered through a clear, structured process. Be sure you take time to write yours down.

It could include the touchpoint map detailing what you’ll do and when over the course of a year. Perhaps there’s a speedy standard operating procedure or two in there as well, so your team understand what’s involved with caring for the business’ referrers.

Having this structure in place will help identify who does what (and yes, it will be you doing the handwritten notes). However, a team member could organise the “start of summer pamper pack” and movie tickets on your behalf.

Final Words

When you work referral marketing this way, you’ll be surprised how effective it is. You’ll also be impressed with how few referrers are needed before you start seeing the benefits. New patients will just appear.

Referral marketing for a dental practice is a strategy that could easily be overlooked for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness. Make some time to master the steps and you’ll reap the rewards.