By Gyl A. Kasewurm, AuD
Word of mouth marketing is one of the most effective ways to gain new patients. I recently did some research in my practice and found that referrals from existing patients account for 66% of my new business and yet those referrals cost only 10% when compared to bringing in a new patient from our other marketing efforts.
It’s been my experience that you have to have an organized and intentional plan in place to make the referral program a success.
When patients are satisfied, they will be happy to encourage their friends and relatives to come to you for their hearing healthcare.
The first step is to have cards printed that you can give to patients and I would suggest that the cards are an odd size – slightly larger than a business card – so the patient can’t just stick them away in their pocket and forget them. Then it’s important to have an organized way of handing out the cards. For instance, I put five referral cards in my pocket every morning with an expiration date one month out and I make myself hand those cards out every day and I ask my employees to do the same. They hand them out to patients who stop in for batteries or repairs.
We also include two referral cards with the coffee mug and chocolate ears when a patient purchases something and ask them to give better hearing to someone they know. The person that receives the card will receive a free screening and the patient gets our sincere appreciation.
It’s not enough to tell your staff to “ask for referrals”. That’s like commenting to a friend that you have to get together sometime but sometime never comes.
Your referral plan must have specific goals and outcomes that you track in order to be successful. For instance, we know exactly how many appointments we need every week to reach our goal for the number of aids we sell a month from the program. We review the number of appointments we have each week and compare to the number we need to achieve our goals.
Spread the Word
Once the program is in place, make sure to get the word out! Mention your new referral program in all future marketing pieces.
We feature a paragraph on the program in every newsletter we send and we include a testimonial by a patient who came to our office because one of our patients encouraged him or her to come. The testimonials don’t have to be lengthy to be effective – about 250 words is plenty and we also videotape them and put them on our website.
Another unique marketing approach is to include the patient testimonial video in one of your email marketing blasts and include a special incentive to someone in the next week (ex: being entered to win a free iPad mini for every patient that was referred before a certain date).
Have a couple of small signs in your practice that say something like, “Ask How You Can Pay it Forward”. Consider adding a Patient Referral button on your website in a prominent place. Direct your website manager to have an email form pop up once the button is clicked to allow your visitor to send an email right from your site to a friend, referring them to visit your website.
Finally, don’t forget to follow up and let your patients know how much you truly appreciate their referrals. Send hand-written notes, make personal calls and give special gifts to patients who refer frequently.
Gyl Kasewurm, AuD is the owner/founder of Professional Hearing Services in St. Joseph, Michigan. She recently launched a new blog www.drgyl.com to inspire audiologists and entrepreneurs to achieve professional success. Dr. Kasewurm is a frequent speaker on topics relating to audiology practice management, is a past president of the Michigan Academy of Audiology and has served on the Executive Board of the American Academy of Audiology .