How to encourage patient referrals

Ideally, word-of-mouth referrals are the ‘aim of the game’ for any business, particularly a dental practice. Together with a good online marketing presence, word-of-mouth referrals should be the main source of new patients to your practice.

Are you actively encouraging patients to refer their friends and family to you? Here are some tips and recommendations to help you encourage more referrals to your practice:

1: Become patient-focused

Any form of marketing shouldn't be seen as a 'band-aid' temporary fix to any problems in your practice. You need to get your practice 'healthy' from the inside out; are you truly patient-focused? Are your team happy and motivated? Do you receive positive affirmations from your patients that the service you provide is well received?

If your practice is truly patient-focused and you are doing the right things well, then people will naturally recommend you.

2: Ask

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Let patients know that you are always happy to accept new patients, particularly those who are referred from existing patients.

Even if you are a fully-private practice, people often have a misconception that you are not taking on any new patients so make it clear that you are.

3:Communicate regularly with patients

In order to build loyalty with your existing patients and for them to want to recommend you, there needs to be trust and for there to be trust there needs to be consistency and familiarity. Make sure that you communicate to your patients regularly and not just to remind them that their appointment is due.

Regular patient newsletters (either printed and/or via email) and updated social media posts help you engage with and maintain relationships with your patients and ensure that you are at the forefront of their mind when anyone mentions ‘dentist’.

4: Have referral cards printed

A simple business card sized referral card, listing your services and contact details is an excellent, tangible tool to help you encourage patients to recommend you. Have them on the reception desk for patients to pick up, and always have them on your person.

You may choose to incentivise both parties for the referral, for example, a reduced fee for a new patient examination and then something like a discount voucher to a local restaurant for the existing patient.

5: Make use of testimonials and patient reviews

If you have good patient testimonials and reviews then make use of them in your marketing communications (always ensuring you seek permission first though). Real people singing the praises of your practice is far more valuable, genuine and sincere than any marketing speil that you create yourself.

Don't focus on attracting new patients to the practice. Focus on serving and treating your existing patients well and the rest will follow.