Patient relationships are the lifeblood of every medical practice, with patient referrals being the most effective form of healthcare marketing. In this age of social media, online reviews are the new word of mouth. But how does one increase patient referrals? How do you pump some of this lifeblood into a business of your own?
Know Your Clients
First, take a good hard look at your own practice, at the demographics of your patients. It’s advice that bears repeating: find your target group. If you can narrow down your target to a specific demographic, that’s all and good. If your patients are scattered, look at your most frequent patients and find even one thing they have in common.
If your patients don’t fit into any one box, then that means a lot more leeway with your marketing plans and more leeway to word-of-mouth referrals.
Catching fish is one thing, but keeping them from jumping out of the net and swimming away is another. Even the most skilled of doctors and medical practices will lose patients if patient experiences are unpleasant.
Therefore, putting in the extra money, training, and time to make your team suit you and your medical practice is a must! It will pay in the long run. And yet another very important tip is the patient follow-up. There’s already the usual emailing or leaving voicemails for patients with upcoming appointments, regular checkups, or updates for whatever, but there is also reaching out to patients you haven’t seen in some time. Feeling cared for goes a long way for patients.
Build Your Online Presence
Building an online presence is so important when part of new referrals rests heavily on review sites. Open up and maintain social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email capabilities, etc.), and respond quickly to negative reviews.
70% of complaining patients will come back to your practice if you resolve the issue in their favor and it’s an excellent marketing strategy that costs nothing to you. In addition, making a blog is also a good idea if you have the resources to maintain it.
Above all else, go the extra mile to ensure every accessible part of your landing page, homepage, or website is mobile friendly.
Ask For Referrals
Drumming up the energy to ask one patient per week for a testimonial takes a lot, but it turns out that even asking gets results. While not every single ask will result in a referral, merely asking relieves you of the unspoken expectation to read a patient’s mind. But you’ll find patients are more than willing to provide a testimonial given they are completely happy with their results.
Go Into the Community
This is an integral step, but also where you can have the most fun and be the most creative with marketing efforts.
Contests. Seminars. Taking part by putting up a booth at healthcare-related fairs and events. Finding a volunteer to run a marathon for your medical practice. Contributing an article to a local newspaper, magazine, or blog, or even on social media. Hold interviews with local associations, maybe even high school or college student groups. There’s always something!
Embrace the New
From search engines to social media and all the shiny new tech in between, embracing the new technology will play into your favor. Perhaps getting a patient portal where all their information can be downloaded? Definitely find someone experienced with email marketing, local SEO, including local directories, and online advertising. It will be worth the extra money to hire experts that can help you with steady, long-term gains
Media, Media, Media
For those that love them, media is the best thing ever, and gives an emotional, a human element to your practice.
Those on social media love pictures, particularly selfies and candids. With the permission of all people involved, put up appropriate, family-friendly pictures of what happens behind the scenes. Same with videos; many people watch videos without sound, so consider closed captioning for all videos your practice releases to the Internet.
Also, maintain your social media accounts and stay active on them. If there’s a way to like a comment on a picture, or a question someone asks, click ‘thumbs up’ for that person or briefly answer their question. Even just one picture every other day with a witty caption will give your online presence some life.
Hope (and Prepare) for the Best
Hope for the best, respond quickly if the best happens. Ideally, there will be a large yet steady influx of clients, and your practice should be staffed, backup staffed, and well-equipped to deal with patients should business suddenly pick up.
Provide excellent service and always err to the way of pleasing the patient without compromising the health and safety of both yourself and the patient(s). And take every case seriously, as there are too many horror stories of medical professionals being neglectful or lax because of how menial a situation first appears, causing some real damage.
Flexible Yet Realistic
Be flexible yet realistic. First, the referral process should be easy. There’s been an odd trend of missing information, especially when asking for a contact, or the doctor outright forgets to ask for contact important when able to get a patient to refer. If you are confused, find a simple referral template or contact information request on Google, tweak what needs tweaking, and present that.
One should also note it that office hours for the business should be times that the average working person can come in with little trouble on their parts, not having to negotiate with an irate manager or boss. Morning hours may work, but the afternoon and evening hours work better. Be flexible with the hours, and encourage patients to take advantage of setting up appointments, perhaps even on weekends.
Lead By Example
Become a referrer to other doctors and medical professionals. A simple name, contact, and reason for contacting on a note or a short email are more than enough. Email marketing is not effective, so don’t rely on it. Emails are specifically for reminders, updates, and inquiries regarding the health of a patient. No marketing.
Above all else, do whatever research you can. Do all of it. It is for the sake of your patients and your practice. This cannot be stressed enough.