A Blog for Dentists & Other Healthcare Professionals

10 Proven Strategies to Get Your Dental Patients to Refer Their Friends

Running a successful dental practice is difficult. The competition can be fierce. Dentists who own their own practices are often required to wear many hats in the course of a day. And with patient care a priority, it can be tough to find the time to do the work to attract new patients to your practice.

At Titan Web Agency, we understand because we work closely with dental practices on their marketing strategies. One of the questions we get most often is this:

What are some things I can do to get more patient referrals for my dental practice?

That’s an important question to ask. The truth is that dental referrals are worth their weight in gold. One happy patient has the potential to attract dozens of new patients to your practice thanks to personal referrals and social media recommendations.

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The trick? Knowing how and when to ask your patients for referrals – and what you can do to increase the chances that they’ll recommend your practice to their friends and family. Here are some tips to help you fine-tune your referral marketing and get more dental patients.

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Strategy #1: Ask your Patients for Referrals

The first step is an obvious one – but it’s one that a lot of dental practices skip because it feels uncomfortable. You need to ask your patients for referrals when they come to see you.

Research shows that 83% of consumers are willing to recommend businesses to the people they know – but only 17% of them actually do it.

Why?

Well, one possible explanation is that they haven’t been specifically asked to do so. It makes sense. Very few of us walk around making unsolicited recommendations, right?

There’s a qualitative difference between having a friend ask you for your recommendation for a good dentist and offering that recommendation without being asked.

However, that’s what you want your dental patients to do. You never know who might be in the market for a new dentist or who might be dissatisfied with their current dental treatments. Asking patients to recommend your practice is an essential step.

Who should do the asking? The answer depends on your practice and patients. In some cases, it might be best to have a dental hygienist make the request. In others, your front office staff might be in the best position to do it – or you might want to do it yourself.

Strategy #2: Have a Dedicated Referral System

The only way to know if your dental referral system is bearing fruit is to track your results. We’ve found that one of the most effective ways to do that is to put somebody in charge of your referral program. That person should be responsible for:

  • Deciding when and how to ask patients for referrals
  • Developing methods and scripts to request referrals
  • Tracking referrals on an ongoing basis
  • Acknowledging the patients who provide referrals

It’s important to have someone running your program. If you don’t, you won’t know if your methods of attracting new dental patients are working. Patient referrals can fluctuate and the best way to get a handle on them is to track them meticulously.

Strategy #3: Acknowledge and Thank Your Patients for Dental Referrals

If you want to get more patient referrals, you’ve got to encourage patients who participate in your dental referral program. There are multiple ways to do that. Here are just a few:

  • Put up a board in your waiting area where you list the patients who have provided referrals and thank them for supporting your practice.
  • Whenever a referral makes an appointment, send a thank you card to the patient who referred them. Have everyone on your staff sign it.
  • Call or text patients who refer their friends and family members to your practice. This method provides immediate gratification and can make your patients feel good about referring people to you.

The methods you use to acknowledge patient referrals don’t need to cost much. The key is to let your patients know that you appreciate their recommendations and that you value them.

Strategy #4: Ask for Referrals on Social Media

Social media marketing is a must for every dental practice. Since many of the people who follow you on Facebook or Instagram are likely to be existing patients, these sites can be the perfect place to announce your referral program and attract new dental patients.

Here are some suggestions to use social media to get more referrals:

  • Run a contest where you enter anybody who refers a friend (by tagging them in a comment, for example) into a drawing to a win a free cleaning or whitening treatment.
  • Encourage patients to share a post and mention their favorite thing about your practice. (You can even suggest a few options such as friendly service, innovative treatments, or weekend and evening hours.)
  • Do a series of before and after photos and ask your followers to share them with friends and recommend your services in return for a small gift (say a free tube of toothpaste or a new toothbrush.)

You can even boost one of your posts to friends of your followers or create a lookalike audience in your target area to get your post in front of more people.


Exclusive Content: Download free PDF: "19 Strategies to Grow Your Healthcare Practice Checklist"


Strategy #5: Incentivize Your Patients to Refer Their Friends

We’ve already touched on this strategy, but it’s often a good idea to give your dental patients a concrete reason to refer their friends.

An incentive program gives people a tangible reward in return for a referral. For example, you might offer:

  • A free cleaning or whitening procedure for a referral (make sure to specify the rules – for example, is the freebie good if they recommend your practice to a friend or only if that friend makes an appointment?
  • A branded freebie such as an oral hygiene kit with sample toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, a toothbrush, and a tongue scraper.
  • Branded items such as backpacks, travel mugs, or hats.
  • An invitation to a special event for your most loyal patient, such as a thank you party or lunch.

You get the idea. The key is to let your patients know that you appreciate their referrals and that you’re willing to reward them for helping you grow your dental practice.

Strategy #6: Run a New Patient Special

The flip side of incentivizing your current patients to refer their friends to you is sweetening the pot for their friends. By that, we mean running a new patient special that will:

  • Make your existing patients feel that they’re offering their friends something of value when they recommend your dental practice; and
  • Make it easy for new patients to give you a chance because they’ll get something in return.

We’ve seen a lot of dental practices offer a free cleaning, a free whitening procedure, and/or a free consultation to new patients. Sometimes, people just need a bit of pushing to change to a new dentist and giving them a freebie can be all the incentive they need.

Strategy #7: Create Referral Materials for Your Current Patients to Use

Some of your current patients might be natural extroverts who’ll have no difficulty mentioning your practice to everyone they know. But, some might be introverts who are uncomfortable with the idea of recommending your practice – even if they love you and your staff.

The solution is to remove any obstacles that might prevent them from referring their friends to you. One of our favorite ways to do that is to create some low-key referral materials to give to your patients when you tell them about the referral program.

  • The easiest option – and one that probably won’t cost you anything – is to give patients a supply of your business cards and ask them to hand them out to their friends. You can even put your direct number on the back!
  • If you’re willing to spend a bit of money, you might have some brochures or cards printed with information about your new patient specials and ask your patients to pass those out to people they know.
  • Give your patients free pens with your practice name on them and a few extra to give to their friends.

The key with this method is to ask the patient if they’d be willing to take a few extra business cards or brochures. It’s important not to make it feel like an obligation. Many will say yes, and if even a small percentage of those distribute your cards, your practice will grow.

Strategy #8: Ask Your Current Patients for Online Reviews or Testimonials

While the main point of your referral program is to get your existing patients to make personal recommendations to the people in their lives, indirect referrals are still effective and a great way to grow your practice.

Case in point: online reviews. Research shows that 97% of consumers say that online reviews influence their buying decisions. And, customer reviews can increase conversions by up to 270%.

Here are some pointers to get your existing patients to leave reviews:

  • Train your staff to ask patients to leave Yelp or Facebook reviews when they arrive at your practice.
  • Ask your patients if they’ve reviewed your practice, and if they haven’t, ask if they’d be willing to leave a review.
  • If a patient has left a review or has mentioned a particularly positive experience, ask if they’d be willing to write (or record) a testimonial for your practice.
  • Link to your Yelp, Google My Business, and Facebook pages from the home page of your website.
  • Feature your reviews and testimonials on a special page of your website.
  • Share your testimonials on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Your patients can influence their friends and family with personal referrals, but they can also help influence outsiders by leaving reviews. Make sure that you monitor your review pages and respond to all reviews, positive and negative.

If you need help getting started, we have created a guide to help:

Strategy #9: Go Above and Beyond to Provide a Great Experience for Your Patients

So far, we’ve focused on how to let patients know about your referral programs and incentivize them to tell their friends and families about your dental practice. Now, it’s time to talk about the single most important thing you can do to drive dental referrals.

It’s all about service. What do your patient's experience when they come to your practice? If everybody who walks through your doors feels valued, cared for, and appreciated, they’ll be eager to recommend their friends to you.

If it’s been a while since you looked at the way you treat patients – or if your staff training is out-of-date – then one of the best ways to increase referrals is to optimize your patient experience. Do what you can to improve service and minimize wait times. Provide the best care possible and ensure that every patient feels special. If you combine top-notch patient care with a well-thought-out referral program, your practice will grow.

Strategy #10: Set Concrete Referral Goals

Finally, we highly recommend setting concrete goals for your patient referral program. If you want to get more dental patients, you need to be specific. You should:

  • Decide how many referrals you want to get
  • Set a time frame to track referrals
  • Keep track of referral sources

For example, you might decide that you want to get at least one referral from 50% of your patients in the next six months. To track your progress, you’ll need to meticulously track each of your referrals.

The benefit of setting some concrete goals is that they’ll incentivize your staff to talk about referrals to help you reach those benchmarks. If your goal is vague, it’ll be impossible to measure and easy for your staff to forget about.

Remember that your goals should be measurable, specific, and achievable. You’re not going to get referrals from 100% of your patients. Set a realistic goal, communicate it to your staff, and watch as the referrals roll in!

Conclusion

Attracting new patients with a dental referral program isn’t something that costs a lot of money or even a lot of time. The strategies we’ve outlined here can help you create a robust referral program that’ll help you grow your practice steadily.

Ready to learn how Titan Web Agency can help you grow your dental practice? Take a look at our dental marketing services!

Exclusive Content: Download free PDF: "19 Strategies to Grow Your Healthcare Practice Checklist"

About the Author

Tyson Downs, the owner of Titan Web Agency, has years of experience working with small businesses and helping them meet their revenues goals. Prior to starting Titan Web Agency, he freelanced in SEO and Web Design while working in the corporate world. Tyson is a graduate of Brigham Young University, the father of 5, and a passionate bodybuilder.

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