We spend a lot of time talking about the best ways to get new patients. And while there are a lot of digital marketing strategies you can (and should) be implementing to generate new patients, one of the best ways to get quality new patients who turn into loyal returning patients, is through referrals.
Think about it – your existing patients are so happy with your care that they want to tell their friends and family about you. The amount of trust in that recommendation is going to be much higher than in a Yelp review. Plus, they’re likely to be telling like-minded people about you (i.e. if you focus on athletes, your current patients are likely to refer their athlete friends; if you’re a pediatric practice, your satisfied parents will tell their parent friends about you). You’ll be introduced to your ideal audience!
A great way to encourage your happy patients to refer you is by implementing a referral program. Need inspiration? Here are some examples of successful referral programs and other tips from chiropractors generating a steady flow of referral patients.
1. An Incentivized Chiropractic Patient Referral Program
Dr. Katie Helfvogt at Mobile Motion Chiropractic sees roughly 25-30 referral patients per month in her unconventional practice. What makes it unconventional? Her practice is mobile.
Dr. Katie travels to homes, businesses, and factories to adjust her patients on-site. With this setup, she charges an adjustment fee and a travel fee (one travel fee per stop, one adjustment fee per person). This travel fee is what she uses as incentive in her patient referral program.
“If anybody refers a patient to me, and I see them, they always get a complimentary travel fee on their next visit. And then I always just throw in something small – a Starbucks or Dunkin gift card – just as an incentive and my way of saying ‘Thank you.’ It’s a win-win for everybody,” explained Dr. Katie.
You can apply a similar model to your practice, even if it’s a traditional brick-and-mortar operation. Here are some ideas:
- $10 coffee or smoothie bar gift card for each new referral
- Refer 3 friends, get a free 60-minute massage
- An entry into a monthly or quarterly drawing for each referral
And don’t forget to leverage social media. Dr. Katie shares pictures on Instagram of the stack of gift cards she’s sending out for the month’s referrals. It’s an easy way to remind your patients that if they refer a friend, there just might be a fun reward in it for them.
2. Create Raving Fans
Referral programs are great, but how do you turn your patients into “raving fans” who want to shout about your practice from the rooftops and participate in your program? “Through your transformational customer experience,” says Dr. Nathan Unruh, co-founder and Chief Experience Officer of SIDECAR.
Don’t just ask patients for referrals. Provide an exceptional experience that extends beyond the doors of your practice. Send patients hand-written notes. Send them birthday greetings and cards to recognize important events.
Dr. Unruh uses the acronym FORD – Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams. Learn about each patient’s “FORD” and send a card or small gift to celebrate important milestones with them. This shows them that you really care. This transformational customer experience will naturally result in more referral patients.
3. Plant the Seed from Day One
Referrals are the cornerstone of any business. In fact, positive word-of-mouth is the best advertising a business owner can get. So, don’t be afraid to talk about it with your patients. Dr. Unruh suggests,
“Plant the seed early in the process. Tell a new patient, ‘My goal is to make you so happy that you send me five people.’ Memorize and repeat your script often so that you’re comfortable with it.”
Once they experience your exceptional service, your patients will want to refer you to their friends. And they won’t be surprised by the occasional request for referrals.
During their care with you, you can send the occasional email or text asking for referrals. Vary asking directly and indirectly (in person after a big “win,” quarterly email, the occasional social media post about how much you appreciate referrals, etc.). Just be mindful that you’re not being too salesy or pushy. Positivity and graciousness are your friends here.
4. Patient Referral Cards Make Referring Easy
First State Health & Wellness in Delaware implemented an online “referral card” that makes it easy for patients to send the practice’s info to friends and family. They simply enter a name, email address, and a message and the referral card is sent.
Dr. Unruh recommends methods like this. Whether it’s connecting with your patients and their friends via Facebook or a referral card system like First State’s, he says one of the most important things you can do when asking for referrals is to “make it easy for them.”
Yes, your patients are happy and want to help their friends and family, but ultimately, they are doing you a favor by referring. Don’t make them work too hard to do it. Some simple ideas for making it easy for patients to share your info:
- Keep business cards stocked at the front desk
- Make sure your important contact info is in your email signature in every patient email you or a staff member sends
- Share interesting, relevant content that your patients will want to forward to their friends and family
5. Optimized Digital Marketing Supports Chiropractic Patient Referrals
Over 15 years of analyzing chiropractic website data has shown us that even referral patients visit your website before converting. Whether it’s to look up your contact information or confirm what they’ve already heard about your practice, it’s vital that your online experience is as exceptional as the in-practice one.
Your practice branding and personality should shine through on your website and social media channels. When a referral patient researches you before booking their first appointment, you want them to think, “Ah, yes, I can see why Jane likes this place.”
An up-to-date, user-friendly website, an active social media presence, and lots of 5-star online reviews are going to support the work you’re doing in your office to encourage referrals.
Let’s go back to Dr. Katie at Mobile Motion Chiropractic and take a look at her online presence as an example:
- Her website is beautiful, contains compelling content, and her contact information is readily available.
- She is active on Facebook and Instagram, posting relevant, branded content for her patients to interact with.
- Her Facebook reviews tab is filled with glowing testimonials from satisfied patients.
Any referral who researches her practice online is going to be very impressed with what they see and likely proceed with scheduling an appointment.