Dental referrals have been a critical element of dental marketing strategies for decades. While other patient acquisition methods, like online advertising, have taken center stage over the past decade, word-of-mouth referrals are still essential to growing a profitable dental practice. Referrals don’t cost you anything and convert patients to patients more consistently than any other lead source.

In this article, we’ll look at five ways to utilize your patients, technology, and your network to get more dentist referrals.

1) Set Up A Patient Referral System

An existing patient is the most valuable advocate for your practice. According to a study published in The University of Pennsylvania Journal of Marketing, “the average value of a referred customer is at least 16% higher than that of a non-referred customer.”

A dental referral program can help you multiply one happy patient into several new patients, almost magically. A well-implemented referral system creates a ripple effect that dramatically impacts your patient base and bottom line.

The most crucial step in getting patient referrals is to ask for them! Yet, many practices either forget to ask for referrals or simply feel uncomfortable asking.

That’s why automating the patient referral process as much as possible is critical to avoid letting referral requests slide through the tracks. The easier your referral program is for your team to manage, the better results you’ll see.

Here are some tips to make it easy for patients to refer people to you:

  • Integrate streamlined referral processes with user-friendly online forms and automated reminders integrated into automated email or text messages. Some dental practice management software systems, like RevenueWell, have built-in referral modules that allow you to track patient referrals easily and offer incentives.
  • Personalize your referral request outreach with emails, text messages, and letters explaining the benefits of your program. Offer clear but valuable incentives, such as a $50 credit toward services or a free teeth whitening session. (see legal note below)
  • Ensure all your communication has clear calls-to-action guiding visitors to share their love for your practice.
  • Encourage patients to leave online reviews on Google and post about their experiences on social media platforms, leading to passive referrals.

2) Train Your Team To Recruit Referrals

Your dental team must understand the pivotal role patient referrals play in the growth and success of your practice. Assign a referral point person within your team to head up organization and communication and publish clear goals for monthly and quarterly referrals.

Remember to provide your dental team with straightforward promotional materials, such as business cards and brochures. Create a dedicated webpage with all the details of your program so it’s easy to understand. Integrate the process of asking for referrals into your everyday patient interactions, making it part of your practice’s culture.

Equip your entire team with the training and tools to confidently encourage patients to join your referral program. If you ask consistently and positively, you’ll immediately see growth in patient referrals. Most of your patients want to help you they just need a little nudge.

PRO TIP: Understand The Legal & Ethical Implications Of Incentives

While most dentists seem to agree that offering small incentives or contests to promote referrals is ethical, not all dentists agree. Plus, some state laws may explicitly prohibit these kinds of incentives in certain areas. So, check with your legal team before rolling out an incentive program. Referral programs can still be effective without incentives, so push forward either way!

3) Prioritize Happy Patients

Patients are more likely to refer new patients to your practice if they have had positive experiences, particularly at their first appointment. Patients must feel comfortable with you before referring your practice to their friends and family. The magic ingredient to growing referrals is a focus on patient satisfaction.

If your patient had a bad experience, feels that they waited too long, or thinks you weren’t sensitive enough to their concerns, they’re unlikely to send others your way. The recipe for a steady stream of referrals is simple: create exceptional patient experiences. Here are a few ways to do that:

Personalize Patient Care

Your patients want to feel like you treat them as a person, not a case number. If you want them to feel comfortable and welcome, you need to listen to their story, understand their needs, and create an environment where they feel valued and cared for. Casual conversations and active listening will help build trust and rapport, leading to satisfied patients and more referrals.

Communicate Between Appointments

Your dialogue with existing patients should continue even after they leave your office. They don’t want to think you’ve forgotten about them! Keeping in touch through newsletters, email updates, cleaning reminders, and social media posts can keep your practice in their thoughts, keeping you at the top of their minds when someone asks if they know a dentist.

Listen To Your Patients

Engage your current patients with surveys and encourage them to leave a review on Google. They’ll feel that you care when you ask them about their experience. The data you gather from these interactions can help you improve your practice and make future patients happier, too.

4) Build Relationships With Healthcare Professionals

Building a network of solid relationships with local healthcare professionals inside and outside the dental field can bring in more patient referrals from colleagues who trust your expertise.

Build Relationships With Other Dental Professionals

Every orthodontist knows the power of referrals from general dentists, as it has been the driving force behind new business in the industry for decades. It’s not just orthodontists most dental specialists benefit significantly from referrals from general dentists, but they can also flow in both directions.

For instance, if a patient wants to start orthodontic treatment but has to have some dental work done first, that orthodontist can send the patient your way for the necessary work.

Try building at least one preferred referral relationship with someone in each dental specialty to trade patients back and forth when something is outside your scope.

Build Relationships With Other Doctors

Medical referrals don’t just come from dentists, however. For example, a general dentist can establish a consistent flow of new patients through a relationship with a pediatrician.

An increasingly holistic view of medicine means many doctors are tuned to the relationship between dental health and overall well-being. Patients trust their doctors, so if their doctor sends them to you, your chances of gaining a new patient are very good.

A robust referral network enhances your patient care. It can lead to a more efficient distribution of caseloads, making it a win-win for everyone involved, including the patients.

5) Build Relationships With Local Businesses

Creating relationships with local businesses is a strategic move that can bring more dental patients through your doors. You can collaborate with local retailers, gyms, spas, restaurants, and more to build a network of community partners happy to recommend your services to their customers.

Here are some ways to build and maintain these valuable local business relationships:

Participate In Community Events & Sponsorships

Engaging in community events, such as local fairs, school sports, and charity fundraisers, can put your practice in front of influencers in your local business community. Sponsorship opportunities, like a Little League team, allow you to get your name and logo in front of families needing a new dentist, enhancing brand recognition and demonstrating your commitment to the community.

Offer Cross-Promotional Deals

Work with local businesses to offer cross-promotional deals. For example, you could provide a discount on dental services to members of a local gym or include a coupon for a nearby coffee shop in your patient’s post-appointment goodie bag. Cross-promotion adds value for your patients while helping promote a local business, knowing they’ll return the favor.

Host Joint Educational Workshops

Partner with other businesses to host workshops focusing on health and wellness. For instance, collaborate with a nutritionist to discuss the importance of diet for oral health. Sharing your knowledge with the public positions you as a health leader in the community and encourages other businesses to refer clients to you for specialized dental care.

Create A Local Business Referral Network

Establish a formal referral network with non-medical local businesses. This network can meet periodically to discuss community outreach and support each other’s services. Doing so creates a system where each business benefits from mutual referrals.

Boost Your New Patient Referrals To Grow Your Business

Referrals are vital in bringing more patients and profits to your dental practice. If you’re ready to start generating more referral traffic for your office, create a simple referral system for your patients and train your team to execute it. Rely on technology to help simplify the process.

Then, work on developing your relationships in the community with other doctors and small businesses. Set up arrangements to trade patients or customers, where possible. And work on raising the profile of your practice within the area.

Getting more referrals is that easy. So don’t wait start executing these simple steps today!