13 Ways To Help Your Dental Practice Gain New Patient Referrals

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Owning your own dental practice is no easy feat. You have a  never-ending list of responsibilities, including dental marketing.

It can quickly become overwhelming, especially with patient care and satisfaction being a top priority. You may struggle to take care of the patients you already have and attract new ones.

So, what can you do?

In this article, we have put together 14 dental referral program ideas to help you keep your current patients happy and attract loads more.

You can easily grow your dental practice without adding more tasks to that ever-growing to-do list. Find out more below. 

What Is Dental Referral Program?

Before we can get into the different dental referral programs available, we better discuss what they are. 

A dental referral program for patients can be considered a loyalty program. It’s a type of dentistry word-of-mouth advertising that offers incentives to your present patients to recommend your business to their friends, relatives, and acquaintances.

Not convinced that it will work for your business? Here are statics to think about: 

While social media may be a popular form of marketing, word of mouth is still one of the biggest forms of marketing that shows results.

With up to 50% of all sales being generated through word-of-mouth marketing. 

When trying to attract new patients, people are four times more likely to choose a business when referred by a friend.

They trust that the goods or services provided are of high quality and that they will get similar results as their friends and family.

Once a person decides to become a patient or customer of a business that they have been referred to, they are more likely to be loyal.

As they trust their friend’s judgment then they are less likely to look elsewhere for the same services.  

This is the biggest and most important statistic; over 90% of Americans would gladly share an exclusive offer with their loved ones.

Take advantage of this and encourage your patients to refer your dental practice to their friends and family. 

Let’s get into those all-important ways of getting your patients to refer their friends and family. 

1. Ask Your Patients 

This may seem rather straightforward, but it is the only way to start. If you don’t communicate with your patients that you are looking for referrals, how will they know?

It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but once you do it with one patient, it will be a breeze.

You may be surprised to learn that your patients already have friends and family asking who their dentist is! Although, many of your patients will not be recommending your practice. 

This is simply because they haven’t been asked to do so.

There is a distinction between providing a reference for a good dentist when a friend asks you for one and doing it voluntarily. None of us wants to overstep. 

By asking your clients to mention your practice to friends and family, you are opening yourself up to a new market of potential clients. 

You can even work with your staff to create a script for the opportunity. You may be losing out on potential clients due to your staff not knowing when it is appropriate to make the recommendation. 

2. Establish A Patient Referral System 

Not sure if your patient referral system is working? The only way to know is to track it. This can be done by making one staff member responsible for the referral program. 

Their responsibilities would entail the following:

  • Identifying the correct moment to ask patients for a referral. 
  • Producing scripts for other departments to ask for a referral.
  • Consistently tracking referrals to determine the success of the program. 
  • Acknowledge and reward patients who provide referrals. 
  • Greet patients who are a referral.

It’s crucial to have a program administrator. If you don’t, you won’t be able to tell whether your strategies for luring new dental patients are effective.

The easiest method to control patient referrals, which can fluctuate, is to keep detailed records. 

With this data, you can adapt and improve your strategies for gaining more referrals. Making this an essential part of your dental marketing strategy. 

3. Utilize Social Media 

Social media marketing is a crucial part of a marketing campaign for any business, including dental practices.

With many current patients following you on your social media platforms, you can easily market the idea of referrals. 

Need some ideas? Here are a few suggestions: 

Run A Contest

Contests are a great way to make your patients feel involved and appreciated by your practice. 

For example, your contest could be that the person who refers the most amount of people that become new patients then they could win a free teeth whitening treatment.

This is an excellent way to create a community among your followers and expand your patient list. 

Before And After Photos

Post a short series of before and after photos and then ask your followers to share them. Use a random generator to select a winner who will win a small prize.

Get everyone’s competitive juices flowing and watch as your brand awareness expands. 

This is simple yet effective, as posting before and after photos is an enticing way to gain more patients. You can also show off your skills and how amazing your services are. 

What They Like

You can encourage patients to post and mention their favourite aspects of your practice. 

Whether it’s your friendly service, expansive opening hours, or even the environment your office provides, it can help you with more referrals. 

As more people see their friends and family share these compliments about your practice, their friends and family will be more inclined to become patient. 

To reach a larger audience, you may also boost a post to friends of your followers or build a lookalike audience in your desired location. 

By utilizing the power of social media, you will see an influx of followers and establish a stronger relationship with your patients. You can even post your content, inviting more people to try your services. 

4. Reward Your Patients For Dental Referrals 

Once your patients have done the hard work of referring their friends and family to your practice, it is important to thank them.

Over 85% of patients claim to be thanked for referring their friends and family. 

You can do a range of things to show your patients how much you appreciate their referrals. Including:

  • Display a list of their names in your waiting area. Whether framed or on a sheet of paper pinned to a board you can showcase a list of patients who have supported your practice by providing referrals and giving them the thanks they deserve. 
  • Thank you cards are also excellent ways to add a personal touch to your referral system. Send a simple thank you card to the client who referred their friend or family member who is now a patient of your practice. Have a few staff members sign the card, ensuring your signature is on there too. 
  • Patients who recommend their friends and family to your practice can be contacted by phone or text. This approach offers quick satisfaction and may encourage your patients to recommend you to others.

There are plenty of ways to show your gratification for patients that make referrals to your practice and they don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Make sure your patients know that you appreciate their referrals and value their time and effort. 

5. Patient Specials 

Looking to encourage your patients to make referrals without directly incentivizing them? Running a new patient special is a great method.

You offer new patients an extra treatment or procedure if referred by an existing patient. 

Your special should make your patients feel that referring your dental office to their friends will benefit them. It should also make it more enticing for new patients to try your services.

Whether it’s free teeth cleaning or something as small as a free electric toothbrush, even the smallest push can drive more patients to try your services. 

Running a new patient special allows potential clients to give them a small incentive to try your services while the current patient has no guilt over being incentivized. 

6. Incentivize Your Patients For Referrals 

This may not be your preferred form of encouraging patients to refer their friends and family but it is highly effective. 

This strategy gives your patients a tangible reward in return for their referrals. Examples of rewards are:

  • Free cleaning or whitening services in exchange for a reference. be careful to include the conditions; for instance, would the offer be valid whether or not the referral makes an appointment at your practice?
  • A branded product such as a complete oral hygiene kit with all the products you need to keep your mouth in top condition. 
  • An invitation to a special occasion, such as a luncheon or a thank-you party, for your most devoted patient.

The goal of incentivizing your patients is to give them a reason to refer to your practice while also making sure they know they are appreciated.

You will even go as far as rewarding them for supporting your business. 

7. Produce Referral Materials 

You may notice that some of your patients easily make referrals to your practice while others are having difficulty sharing their experiences with their friends and family.

Even though they have a high patient satisfaction rate. 

A solution to this issue is to provide them with materials they can use to start the conversation with their friends and family.

You don’t want these materials to be flashy and in the referral’s face. You want to make sure they are subtle yet strong enough to allow the patient to refer their friends or family. 

A simple yet effective option is to give your patient a stack of business cards.

Your business cards should have all your contact information and give the referral the ability to make the decision on their own with a small push from their friend. 

If you have some funds to invest, you want to research creating brochures and cards. On these small pamphlets, you share more information about the practice, the staff, and the services you provide.

All your patients would have to do is hand them out to people they know. 

Another option that may need some more investment but is more effective than you think is giving out free pens.

This may not appear effective in gaining more referrals, but gifting your patients with a free pen with your name or practice name on the side works!

Gift them with a few extra to give to their friends when the time for a referral presents itself. 

8. Current Patient Reviews 

Online reviews from your current patients are a great way to gain indirect referrals. While you may prefer to go straight to the source in order to gain more patients, this is still highly effective. 

With over 95% of consumers stating that online reviews highly influence their purchasing decisions, there’s no reason you shouldn’t encourage your patients to write positive reviews.

Customer reviews can even support conversions by an incredible 270%.

There are a few things you can do to get your patients to leave reviews of your practice, such as: 

  • Staff Training. Train your staff to identify the opportunities to ask patients to leave a review. Whether on Yelp, Facebook, or Instagram, your staff should feel comfortable asking patients to write a review when they arrive or leave the practice.
  • Ask Directly. You can politely ask your patients if they have written a review of your practice. If they have not, you can gently encourage them to do so.  
  • Have a Review Page. Having a specific place where customers can leave their reviews. It is extremely beneficial to have a review page on your practice website. 
  • Share Reviews. Share positive reviews of your practice on your social media platforms to show how much you appreciate your patient’s kind words. 

As well as having the power to influence their close friends and family, patients can also influence unknown potential patients.

All by leaving a positive review. Just monitor the review page for negative reviews that may impact your referral ratings. 

9. Establish Goals 

You may already be gaining referrals from your patients, but you don’t have any goals or parameters set for success. This can cause things to derail and get out of control. 

Goals include working to gain one referral from 60% of your patient list within the next year. You will need to track each referral from your patient to ensure you are reaching your goals. 

Spread your goals throughout your staff body and allow them to help you get there. Make sure they follow the SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, and Timely.

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This gives your goals a defined concept and helps your staff stay on track. 

10. Be Involved in the Community

 While it’s true that your present patients are a great source of recommendations, they’re not the only ones.

You can develop a referral network to enhance your dental marketing by being an important and active member of your neighbourhood.

You may already know most of your community members, but that may not be the case. Take the time to get to know everyone and watch as your patient list increases.

Be involved in local events, offer free treatments to those in need, and/or teach the importance of oral health at local schools.

This can all help spread the word about your practice and allow you to give back to the community. 

There is also the ability to create relationships with other businesses in the area. You can present a referral scheme where both businesses benefit.

A system as simple as a local doctor’s practice displaying brochures from your practice and vice versa. This can work wonders for gaining more patients without asking your patients to do any more leg work. 

11. Utilize Your Website 

Have you set up a website for your practice yet have little to no content? You could be losing out on a significant amount of referrals.

Once a potential lead has been referred by a friend, social media post, or even a pen, they still need that extra push to be convinced. 

That’s where your website comes in. When potential patients visit your website, they are looking for specific things.

They want to be able to inform themselves about the services you provide and the employees you work with and even gain a sense of the working environment.

Your practice website has an integral role in turning leads into patients. 

Now you may want to update your website to include the following:

  • A professional look. Playing with themes, colours and layouts is all fun, but when it comes to patients gaining a first impression of your practice, your website’s appearance matters. It should be professional, welcoming, and straight to the point. 
  • A subscribe function. Allow potential patients to subscribe to your website for a monthly newsletter or schedule an appointment. 

Your website is the first impression a potential lead will get of your practice. Make it count and help increase your patient list. You may want to give it a makeover if you feel it is lacking. 

12. Promote Your Services 

While many think it is simple to talk about your services, it can be difficult. When a patient is being treated in your practice, let them know about other services you provide. 

Even if a service does not apply to the patient at the time, simply mentioning it may perk their interest. Or they may know someone who would be interested.

You can even involve all of your staff to spread the word about the services you provide. 

Avoiding overdoing things is important here. Patients shouldn’t be inundated with information.

However, it is a smart business practice to look for occasions to bring up services that motivate them to recommend someone.

13. Organize A Mixer 

New to the community or sharing a building with other medical providers? Organizing a low-key gathering with others in your field can effectively gain more patients. 

You can host a simple gathering with drinks and appetizers as an informal way to get to know the others in your community.

You can slowly introduce your practice and services while having a casual conversation. 

Encourage your new friends to refer their patients. This is also a great way to establish a referral system with another medical practice we discussed earlier. 

Final Thoughts 

At first, asking your patients to refer their friends and family can seem daunting. However, with a few tips and tricks, it becomes simple. 

With social media, small incentives, and even social gatherings, you can help expand your practice by gaining referrals. 

Start today by encouraging your patients to leave a positive review or work with your colleagues to ensure everyone is on board with gaining new patients.