A word of mouth referral is the absolute best advertisement you can incorporate into your cosmetic practice. It’s also the cheapest form of advertising that you can invest in and it takes minimal time and effort.
Word-of-mouth referrals will increase your closing ratios, decrease your external marketing costs and grow your practice.
So, how do you get them?
The Word-of-mouth Practice
A word of mouth referral is the absolute best advertisement you can incorporate into your cosmetic practice.
It’s also the cheapest form of advertising that you can invest in and it takes minimal time and effort.
We all know the best patient is a referred patient. When a friend tells another friend, family member or colleague about you, that’s golden.
They are already pre-sold on you, they are not as price sensitive and they are more likely to stay loyal to you.
Word-of-mouth referrals will increase your closing ratios, decrease your external marketing costs and grow your practice. So, how do you get them?
Word-of-mouth referrals don’t just happen. Or, they don’t happen enough on their own.
They must be deserved, encouraged and sought after using creative, subtle methods. Sure, you will get some referrals from your core group of fans in your practice, every practice has them, but you want them from every patient – not just the chosen few.
You grow your word-of-mouth referrals by focusing on them. Make word of mouth referrals a priority in your office, set up processes and incorporate these strategies:
Referrals Start with 5-Star Customer Service
The easiest way to get patients talking about you is to give them something great to talk about.
Offer extraordinary customer service to stand out. Of course, you need commitment from your staff to make patient satisfaction your #1 priority.
Nothing is more important than patients relations if you want to build a referral practice, so meet with your staff regularly to ensure they understand the importance of treating each patient with a warm and friendly attitude every time they call or visit.
Also, be sure your telephone is answered by the third ring by a human being, call back when you say you will and don’t keep patients waiting! Respect your patients’ time and concerns and they will brag about you to their friends.
You can’t really know who your advocates are unless you can track them accurately. It’s vital you have a process and computer system that automatically tracks referral sources so you know who is really referring people and who just says they will but never gets around to it.
You also want to track who actually books procedures from these referrals. Good computer systems will outline, in detail, who referred whom and the outcome in terms of revenues generated.
Talk to Your Patients
Referrals come from connecting with your patients so they feel cared about as a person first, then as a patient.
So, before you jump right into the clinical reason they are there to see you, spend a couple of minutes on them as a person. Ask them about their family, their occupation or anything else that strikes you as interesting from their patient in-take form.
Use their name and make eye contact with them. Ask them questions and then let them talk. The point is to bond with them personally first so they know you care about them.
They will relax, open up to you, and talk more about themselves. You can learn so much about a patient if you show you are interested in them.
And, you will be surprised what you learn. Perhaps they are a member of the media or they are part of a large company who could use your services as an employee perk. Who knows until you ask.
Think of it this way. Each of us has an average inner circle of approximately 250 people. That includes friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, gym buddies, etc.
If each of your patients told only one person from their inner circle about you, that would DOUBLE your practice growth. How does that sound?
Remember, like-minded people hang around with other like-minded people so you want your “preferred patient” to bring their friends to you.
But don’t take that for granted. Be sure to tell your patients that you want more patients just like them and if they send you their friends, family and colleagues, you promise to take great care of them.
I have watched surgeons grow their practices quickly with networking. Remember the adage, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. If you are good at networking, you can tap into groups of people who can become your preferred patients.
Every person you meet should know who you are, what you do and the services you offer. If nothing else, be sure your business card says it so you can at least introduce yourself and hand them a card listing your cosmetic services.
Look at who you know in your community and the service providers you personally use. Perhaps you are friendly with the cosmetic dentist down the hall or other non-competing specialties who would be happy to refer their patients to you and visa versa.
Or perhaps your staff regularly visits a certain hair salon, works out at the popular gym nearby or your office manager goes to a yoga class down the block.
You can turn those casual alliances into viable word-of-mouth referral outlets by having your staff hand out their own busines cards listing your services.
They can also introduce you to the owners. If you hit it off, you can give them business cards or customized signage to display in their place of business and, in return, you can give them a special offer to offer their clients, customers or patients.
Get Involved in Your Community
Giving back to your community shows you care and you are a 2-way street. Getting involved in a worthy cause makes you feel good and its good for the community. If you don’t have a cause close to your heart and need to find something, think strategically.
For example, if you want to be known as the “Body Doc” in your community, perhaps you can offer your services to mommy groups.
Or, if you want to get into the “in” social crowd in your community, work with the socialites in your area that give considerable time and money to fundraising efforts and get to know them.
Become part of their crowd to build trust and they will loyally go to you and send their like-minded friends to you as well.
Use Content to Spread the Word
Content is king on the Internet so produce lots of it for different media channels so your patients can share it with their friends.
For example, you can videotape a consultation with a prospective patient talking about liposuction (with their permission, of course) and then upload it to YouTube and Vimeo. Break it down into small pieces and upload to Instragram video to IGTV. Use the video screen shot in your Facebook banner ads that click to the full video with a “Click Here to Schedule a Complimentary Consultation”.
And there’s more. Transcribe the patient consultation and use it for your blog posts, articles and press releases. Send an email announcing it to your current patient list and add “Share this with a Friend”.
The point is to cross-purpose one piece of content to many different media channels to increase your precense online and then encourage each audience to pass it along to their friends.
Social Media Booth
Make it fun and easy for your patients to share you with their friends on social media. Order a customized popup backdrop with your logo printed on it.
Have it standing in a corner of your office near check-out. The patient can take pictures with you and your staff and videotape a testimonial and then upload it to their Facebook and Instagram pages.
Educational Digital Events Worth Talking About
Prospective patients may have researched breast aug online but they haven’t heard you personally describe a breast aug procedure, so grab your ipad and shoot a couple informal videos explaining in your own words the benefits of the procedure as well as the process and answer the FAQs that come up regularly.
You can also do an online presentation using Zoom.us or GoToWebinar.com with power point slides explaining procedures and include a call to action at the end such as a complimentary consultation to encourage them to take the next step.
The beauty of this digital event is you record and now repurpose it by adding it your Website, email it to your patient list and use it for social media posts.
Here’s another tip for growing your cosmetic practice through referrals. YOU ASK!
In my book, Your Aesthetic practice/What your patients are saying, I ask them why they didn’t refer you to their friends and I kept hearing, “I didn’t even think of it”.
So any written communications coming from you should remind your patients how much you appreciate referrals.
Add the phrase, “Bring a Friend” to your invitations, and “Send This To a Friend” on your website and internet messages. Add a special note in your blog posts and ads and have an eye-catching reminder sign in your reception area.
Also, have your checkout staff pass a couple of referral cards, along with the receipt, they hand to the patient for that day’s visit.
The more your patients are reminded, the more they will remember you when they are talking with their friends about cosmetic rejuvenation.
Thank Your Patients
Don’t take referrals for granted. You want to thank your patients; however, a boring computer-generated form doesn’t cut it.
Patients want to be appreciated for their trust and acknowledged for their support so show them thanks.
o Have your staff call them immediately to thank them
o Send a personal note from you to thank them
o Call them yourself to thank them
o Send a gift of appreciation
Behavior that is rewarded is repeated so make a big deal out of how much you appreciate their referral and more will follow.
Frequent Referral Program
Reward, encourage and acknowledge those special patients who offer multiple referrals.
Every practice has those patients who just love them! They visit often, they know the names of the staff’s children and what schools they go to.
They may live in the same neighborhood, their kids go to the same school your kids go to, they go to your health club and so on.
You have a special group of loyal patients who sing your praises all over town. Whenever the subject of cosmetic rejuvenation comes up, they are the first to jump in and tell everyone what you have done for them and how happy they are.
We call them your rapid fans.
But it’s the 80-20 rule. Like everything else in life, 80% of the referrals will come from 20% of your patients.
The goal is to get a whole lot more of your patients sharing you with who they know. Implement a referral program but do it with caution to stay out of trouble with the medial societies and their fee-splitting rules.
Just so you know, the medical boards say you cannot pay someone that encourages antoher person to have a medical procedure. So there cannot be a tit-for-tat exchange of money for referrals.
That’s a big reason I came up with the KiSS Rewards Club. Your patients get KiSSes, not money, when they refer, review and return so it keeps you out of trouble while growing your practice in a fun, organic way.
You can visit www.kissrewardsclub.com to learn more.
So the wrap this up, here’s the The Golden Rule reminder
Patients have to be truly happy and satisfied with their result as well as the service they receive from you to brag about you to their friends and family.
Be sure every single patient has a “WOW” experience every time they are in contact with you, your staff and your office and watch your referrals grow.
Catherine is a business/marketing consultant to plastic surgeons. She speaks at medical conferences all over the world on practice building, marketing and the business side of plastic surgery.