What happens to your patients when there are gaps and inconsistencies in their treatment? What happens when they don’t follow a sound plan and allow important treatments, and even maintenance, to fall through the proverbial cracks?
You see the answer to these questions all the time. These patients compromise their health and make way for even bigger problems to occur in the distant—or not so distant—future.
The same can happen to you when it comes to generating referrals. Without a sustained, supported, repeatable, and measurable process to generate new patient referrals, you set the stage for near- and long-term conditions that can jeopardize the health of your practice. But by putting proven methods, tools, and disciplines in place, you’ll capture more and better referrals. Here are 3 ways to close those gaps and generate new referrals.
Build a Solid Referral Marketing Plan
You can’t build a referral-minded dental practice without an executable plan. Referral marketing must be ongoing, not something you do here and there when you notice a decline in new patients. Dentists who get the most sustained, high-value referrals use repeatable processes and measure their impact.
What might that look like for you?
The fundamentals are straightforward. Determine from whom you want to receive referrals and build a program that influences them. If it’s patients, your program should be threefold:
- Communicate on an ongoing basis.
- Answer “What’s in it for me?”
- Show that you value referrals.
For referring physicians, such as pediatricians, the formula is similar. Communicate on an ongoing basis, make it clear why they should refer patients to you, and show that you welcome those referrals. But you must also demonstrate clinical and professional reasons to send patients to you. To influence dentists and physicians, emphasize education and a professional approach.
Ask For Referrals
This suggestion is very basic, but many dentists don’t make asking an intentional part of their referral marketing efforts. It’s not enough to mention a referral program once or twice. You have to remind your patients and referring dentists and physicians how much you appreciate their referrals.
Take advantage of the opportunities you have to generate referrals. Our favorite way is through a patient newsletter. In each newsletter, include mention of your appreciation for referrals and any incentives you offer. These are ideal ways to maintain meaningful contact with your patients and remind them that you value their referrals—month after month.
Also, include details about your referral program when you send out invoices or announcements. Prominently feature signs in your office, promoting incentives for sending referrals. And remember that the perfect time to remind patients that you’d love to help their friends or family members is when they are in your office and pleased with treatment.
As for other dentists, don’t make the mistake of assuming they know how good your office is or the many ways you can help their patients. You have to ask for referrals, and you have to educate your colleagues about why you are the best choice to treat their patients. Face-to-face meetings are powerful, but getting on dentists’ schedules can be very difficult, just as it can be challenging for you to find time in your own schedule to visit them.
This is why it’s critical to maintain contact with referring providers on a regular basis and make them aware of your practice. Newsletters for dentists educate your colleagues about your practice in an ethical and professional way. This keeps you top of mind, which is essential to generate new referrals.
Ask, Even When It’s Difficult
This point is crucial for dentists who seek referrals. The harsh reality is that not all dentists who once sent referrals to you will continue to do so. When you experience a decline or a complete cessation of referrals from a colleague, your practice will benefit if you ask why.
To answer this question, dentists often make assumptions, but they rarely ask referring healthcare professionals about the reasons for the decrease. Rather than rely on assumptions, ask the referring dentist why he or she is referring fewer patients. You may find areas for improvement, such as communications with dental offices, or perhaps a back-office issue that needs attention. By asking the difficult questions, you have an opportunity to take corrective action—or simply change a perception about your practice.
If you want to increase the quality and quantity of your referrals, a fully supported and sustained program that enables you to close the gaps is a must.