“Who may we thank for referring you to our practice?” I asked in a friendly voice. “I met your doctor at his ice cream social” was the reply. I was the marketing director and I knew we had never participated in an ice cream social. When I asked the doctor, he said he had no idea what the patient was talking about.
About an hour later, another call came in with the same answer. “I met your doctor at his ice cream social.” I asked the doctor again and he still didn’t have any idea what the patients were talking about. There was even a third person that called.
When the patients came in, I wanted to get to the bottom of this ice cream social. As it turns out, the doctor had taken his family out for frozen yogurt. He was feeling extra charitable that day, so while he was there, he told the lady at the counter, “Please allow me to pay for the families who are in the store right now. Here is my business card, and please call me with the total.”
The ice cream store told each family who treated them to ice cream and they all called and scheduled appointments. Of course, our next step was to plan a real ice cream social because the return on investment far exceeded the initial expense.
According to Sikka Software, patient referral numbers across the United States are going up. Take a look at the average number of patients in a practice each month who have been referred to that practice by someone else from more than 13,000 dental practices over a seven-year span.
Patient referrals sources on the rise
2010 – 40.75
2011 – 44.33
2012 – 46.58
2013 – 49.5
2014 – 50.92
2015 – 53.5
2016 – 54.17
Each dental software program has the capability to track your referral sources. If you run a new-patient report and it doesn’t include the referral source, you’ll need to run a couple of reports and compare them to determine if everyone has a referral source. When I say everyone, I mean everyone needs a referral source for your practice to move in a positive direction with its marketing.
There are 10 important steps to using your referral systems with your software that you need to understand.
=&2=& Your team needs to ask them! It may be another dental office, another patient, a marketing campaign, an event, or a family member.
=&3=& The internet is not a workable source. Ask again to determine the actual source. This may mean Google, your Facebook page, your website, or even the person’s insurance company’s website.
=&4=& your referral marketing out as well. You can enter into the software the amount spent on a practice and what it was. This is a valuable tool that is often underutilized.
=&5=&Make sure that if you had 11 new patients in a week that all 11 have a referral source.
=&6=& and be HIPAA-compliant with your patient thank you notes. Make sure to follow state laws for rewards for referring to your office.
=&7=& to thank those patients when they come in next for the referral. People who refer other patients want to know many times that you appreciate their referrals. The actions that get praised and rewarded get repeated.
=&8=& to make educated decisions with your marketing. It’s easy to determine your ROI if you can pinpoint where your patients are coming from.
=&9=& Most people must hear about your office, read about your office, or see your information many times before they decide to call your office. Set up a system for patients to mention multiple referral sources. If your software allows only one referral source, then decide which referrals take precedence over others. For instance, if a patient says he or she heard about your office from a children’s school presentation and his or her friend Jane Doe also said to come to your office, which one should the person mark down?
=&10=&You will want to list each specific school presentation by name. Don’t lump them all together. It would be beneficial to even have the year or month listed.