How to Encourage Patients to Actively Recommend your Clinic's Services?
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"Word of mouth" patients are a valuable asset in dentistry. Every wise leader understands that one satisfied patient will recommend the clinic to ten more. And these ten will bring another hundred. So many clinics live without advertising and any promotion!

However, there is a negative aspect in this case. "Word of mouth" patients come to the clinic and recommend it spontaneously. Today, they will suggest it to someone. Maybe not tomorrow. Later sometime, they will suggest it again. As a result, this leads to the fact that if the clinic reached revenues of a half a million INR a month without advertising and promotion, only at the expense of "word of mouth" patients, then at this figure it freezes for many years,if not forever.

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This won't happen all of a sudden, it happens only with constant 'word of mouth' and the result of ripple effect. Their flow does not become more intense, and the institution does not work on this purposefully. So the owner of the clinic is content with what he has.

The good news is that recommendations can still be managed if desired. For this, it is important to understand the psychology of modern patients and to use certain tools. We will talk about them in this article.

Why incentivize patients to recommend

The other day I was consulting for the owner of a dental clinic from Bangalore. Her question was about today's topic.

It sounded like this:

“Our clinic has been operating for 10 years. During this time, we did not place any advertisements. We worked only at the expense of "word of mouth" patients. But now there are much fewer patients, and we are forced to spend money on advertising, which we still do not quite understand how to do. In this regard, I have a question: please tell me how we existed all these 10 years, absolutely not thinking about where to get patients? Why didn't we close earlier? "

So that you do not find yourself in a similar situation, I published the answer in this article.

I have a friend outside of dentistry. He and his team are involved in vein treatments. There, just like in dentistry, some patients come by word of mouth. But the percentage of such people relative to the total number of patients during the month is much less than in dentistry. And the point is not that the clinic provides services poorly, but that if a woman has solved her vein problem , the maximum whom she can recommend the clinic to is one or two friends.

In addition, an additional disadvantage is that, having solved the problem once, this patient will no longer come to the clinic.

In other words, the “patient life cycle” in phlebology is significantly shorter than in dentistry. Hence, these clinics quickly decline if they either do not learn the skill of active referral, or do not place a lot of advertising.

What goes around comes around?

In dentistry, things are a little different. Once caries has been cured, this same person can then come for a

  • crown
  • implant
  • veneers and
  • orthodontics.

Of course, provided that the clinic knows how to tell its patients about the full range of services. How to do this is a topic for a separate article!

Further, a patient who has used your full range of services can recommend you to

  • friends,
  • acquaintances,
  • relatives.

Which, with the right marketing strategy, theoretically can also use the services of therapy, orthodontics, orthopedics and implantation. This way you get more and more patients. The circle is not closed. And if the clinic does not make mistakes, this flow may not stop. However, there are still exceptions.

Now imagine if you had the same client life cycle as in a clinic where veins are treated … For example, the patient required only one small restoration. The patient is cured once and will not come again. He recommends a clinic to a friend, but the friend chose not to visit there. In this case, 50% of dentists would close within the first year because their management does not give any advertising at all and does not know how to encourage patients to more actively recommend the clinic's services.

This is the answer to the questions:

… How did we survive all these 10 years without thinking about patients? Why didn't we close?

You survived as there was a stream of "word of mouth" patients, but because the clinic did not feed him with additional technologies, he gradually faded away. And now the institution has to spend money on advertising, which the management is not very good at.

So let's talk about how to artificially make the recommendation stream stronger.

How to make sure that your clinic is not forgotten?

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As you understood from the beginning of this article, the main drawback of ‘word of mouth’ is spontaneous recommendations from some people to others. There are several reasons for this.

  • Firstly, after treating his teeth, it is unlikely that your patient will show them to everyone around him and say who did this for him. The exception is family and closest friends. By the way, over time, a person gets used to his transformation and stops telling everyone about your merits altogether.
  • Secondly, recommendations work great when one person asks another about whether he has a good clinic or doctor in mind, and he is happy to talk about his experience of interacting with your clinic. This is an excellent recommendation option, but, unfortunately, in India not everyone understands the importance of regular check-ups.Therefore, they will not ask for recommendations and won't come to the clinic until their teeth hurt.
  • Thirdly, people may ask many friends for such recommendations, and the clinic they decide to visit may not be the one recommended by your patient, i.e not your clinic!

The good news is that we can tell these people that their friends know a good dentist ourselves. Further, if they need to visit a doctor, they will know exactly which clinic they need to go. We will talk about this now.

Over time, the emotions of a satisfied patient become dull, and he stops talking about his new smile even with the closest people. In principle, this is logical: why discuss the same thing over and over again. This raises the question: how to provoke your past patient to remember you as often as possible?

Later in the article, you will find out how Western dentists remind people of themselves. For now, let's look at one example from outside the dental business. But no less curious.

Story of a School Bus!

There is one not quite ordinary school in the USA. The students are taught to live in extreme conditions: to climb mountains, build houses in the forest and escape from the rain in them, make a fire without matches and get food in the forest. Students are trained in it as follows: teenagers come to school during the summer holidays and live there for one month, learning all the wisdom in order to survive in the forest for a long time.

The children really liked studying, or rather the rest in such a place in the summer, and upon arriving home, the students emotionally told their peers about their adventures. But the school's organizers faced the same problem as dentists and clinic leaders. After a certain amount of time, the stories of people about their experience of interacting with the school subsided. The more time passed from the moment of interaction, the less people talked about the organization.

When marketing kicks in!

To kickstart word of mouth, the school management began to think about how to activate conversations with satisfied customers so that they can communicate their experiences and bring new students.

Many ways have been tried to "wake up" children who were in school. In the end, in-house marketers offered one interesting version of an unusual school bus that runs on special oil instead of gasoline, and on the right side of its body there are special climbing steps, which are usually seen in extreme amusement parks.

The bus travelled to schools and youth organizations and reminded former students of their experiences of surviving in the forest. It really worked! Noticing an unusual bus from afar, everyone who was on the street at that moment paid attention to it. Children who went to that school recalled what they experienced and what skills they mastered, staying for a month on training. Of course, they immediately told their friends what kind of bus it was, what organization it came from and what they teach in this institution. All these stories were intertwined with emotions and impressions. As you can imagine, it served as a better advertisement for the school than just advertisements in youth magazines and school newspapers.

How does the smart dentist remind people of himself?

How to apply the bus strategy in a dental practice?

In America, they love to photograph patients. Photos are taken of two types: "BEFORE" and "AFTER" the treatment. Then these photographs, with the permission of the patients, are used in various places. This is how a resourceful doctor uses these images. Two photographs are placed on one sheet so that you can see the initial and final results at the same time. Then the images are packed in an envelope and sent to the patient to his actual address of residence.

Do you think these pictures are addressed to the patient personally? No! It is assumed that the mail will be taken out of the box by one of the patient's closest relatives: his wife, parents or children. The envelope has no final addressee, so any family member can open it. A good result is considered when the envelope is opened by anyone, but not the patient himself.

Imagine the surprise of your patient's wife if she receives a picture of her husband “BEFORE” and “AFTER” the visit to the dentist. Please note that photographs with large aesthetic works work best – so that the effect of the work you have done does not need to be viewed under a microscope, as, for example, if you put a filling.

A Walk to Remember!

Do you think such pictures motivate this woman to make a complete restoration at your place after her husband? In addition, feedback on the doctor's work can be obtained from the primary source, which has experienced all your manipulations on yourself.

Suppose that this photo is put away in the closet and it will rarely catch your eye, but every time a person stumbles upon it or moves it from one place to another, he will remember you. At the same time, he will show and talk about how it was.

This is how a patient can react when he finds such a photo after a long time: “Look, Irina, do you remember what smile I used to have? Make an appointment with the doctor who did this job for me – he is a good specialist! "

Recommendations for sending emails

You should not send photos "BEFORE" and "AFTER" if your work is barely visible. The best option is to send in large aesthetic works, so that the result, as they say, was “on the face”.

How long after treatment should I send a photo? Not earlier than in a month, so that the patient has time to forget about the treatment with you and the impulse of his recommendations began to fade completely.

Transferring a sushi bar model to dentistry

Any dentist is interested in the question: how to make sure that people do not forget about the clinic and come for examinations as expected, every six months? Here's how one sushi bar deals with this issue. Simulate this example and you won't be afraid of any competitors!

After the first visit to the restaurant, the client is given a special calendar in the form of a magnet on the refrigerator. It is small in size and quite compact. When a new month comes, the client tears off an old leaf, and, in addition to the numbers of a new month, he sees a special coupon below, which gives the right to a free portion of sushi. Thus, the client looks at this coupon for a whole month, and when he comes to the restaurant with it, it's only a matter of time.

When a new month comes, the situation repeats itself. Only the dish is changed, which can be obtained for free with a coupon.

What worked for sushi bar, will work in dentistry?

It's simple. The client of the sushi bar has a monthly reason to come to the restaurant and get a free portion of sushi; besides that, he, of course, will order something else to eat and something else to drink.

If you transfer this model to dentistry and slightly change it to fit the context of the situation, so that the patient himself aspires to see you every six months, he should have some kind of "reminder" about you.

It could be the same calendar magnet. Your administrator distributes them to everyone who walks out of your door and makes a note on the calendar for the month. For example, if a person was treated with you in January, the administrator opens July in the calendar and beautifully marks: "Hey, this month we are waiting for you to visit us for an examination" – and a phone number for making an appointment for a consultation.

Thus, the first conclusion can be drawn!

Conclusion #1:

Your clinic must have some element that encourages you to remember it again and again and talk about it with others.

Make your patients happy, and they'll be happy to talk about you

Paradoxical as it sounds, but often patients begin to talk about the clinic, while not remembering the dental services themselves. What is the reason for this?

In order for the patient to remember your clinic and tell others about you, he needs to be surprised. Please note: it is difficult to surprise a person with high-quality medical services, because he came for this! This is what he expected from you – high-quality dental care!

It is also difficult to surprise a person with treatment without pain, because this is exactly what he wanted to get. It follows that even if you did everything perfectly, the number of active recommendations will be less than if you could surprise him by contact with the patient!

By "surprise" I mean to do something for the patient that he never expected from you. You can read an example below.

One of my friend, the owner of a successful premium clinic, once told me how the toilet was arranged in his institution.

One basket contains five varieties of scented soaps and several options for hand lotion. In the other – small, like samplers, bottles of fragrant perfume so that each patient can take with him as much as he wants. And instead of paper towels – clean, neatly folded towels made of good fabric, which are washed every night.

When I told my friends circle, some people immediately start to object to me: “Five brands of soap? How much will it cost? I'm not going to waste money and go broke on soaps. Who has time to wash, dry and fold towels every day? "

That is why the doctor who told me this story has a practice worth millions of smiles.

The main secret of human rumor

The trick is that rumor is insidious! She is more concerned with five types of soaps, towels and cosmetic small things as a gift than the level of the main thing – for example, dental care. The patient certainly counts on the excellent help of the doctor. And he will talk about what he did not expect.

What else can you surprise patients with?

Pay attention to the clinics of your colleagues and think about what they would never offer their patients? These are the things you add to your clinic!

What if ?

  1. Others think it is delusional to offer fresh juice to patients while waiting for an appointment, use a juicer.
  2. No one among your doctor friends will make milkshakes, be sure to buy a blender and the necessary ingredients for this.
  3. Your clinic's budget allows.
  • Place a massage chair in the lobby,
  • Offer a free taxi,
  • Give toothbrushes,
  • Make a play area for children etc.

The more unusual and fun your service is, the more actively your patients will recommend you to their friends, acquaintances and family.

Conclusion #2:

You must constantly surprise your patients!

What do you think is the difference between advertising for a clinic, for example, on the Internet, and a recommendation from a friend? In the source trust index! After all, placing an advertisement, any dentist can invent anything if he wants to get as many hits as possible from potential patients.

People are well aware of this and therefore less willing to believe in advertising and react to it. And they trust word of mouth more, since the narrator in this case is not interested in distorting the information.

By the way, this is why smart advertisers only post customer reviews on the Internet and nothing else. Thus, it turns out that the information comes from the person who used the service and shares his opinion. And this is no longer the same as storytelling on behalf of the company.

How to launch word of mouth with advertising?

The best option in this case would be to advertise not on behalf of the clinic, but from a disinterested person. Can this be achieved in practice?

Let's say we want to attract new patients from the Internet. Which site to choose for placement? Where can an advertisement be perceived as a recommendation? Blogs could be one of those places.

Blog – a web diary of one or more authors, consisting of entries in reverse chronological order. A personal blog is an ordinary internet diary. Such a blog usually writes about personal events.

Let's look at such a placement with a specific example. Where can you start?

You contact a famous blogger in your area, invite him to visit your clinic and then ask him to write a short summary in your journal. This can be for a fee or barter for free treatment – as agreed.

As a rule, people who subscribe to his news have a certain index of trust in this person, and if his review is flattering, then you may well get many calls to the clinic from his readers.

The second way to advertise without ads

Another way to publish recommendations on the Internet is to ask a satisfied patient at the exit from the clinic to write about his impressions on his profile on social networks. His friends have a certain level of trust in him, and therefore his story will not be perceived as an advertisement and someone may well be interested in where exactly he treated his teeth.

Of course, not everyone will agree to write about a visit to the dentist on their profile, but there will be those who will not refuse you. Imagine if a person has 500 friends and acquaintances, and he posts information that not so long ago he visited dentistry, and writes his comments on this matter. This means that 500 people will immediately receive a recommendation from your clinic, completely free of charge.

To encourage such posts from your patients, offer some kind of bonuses for it. For example, if a person posts information about a clinic visit and then sends you a screen shot by e-mail as proof, then you give him a 50% discount on occupational hygiene , whitening or something else. I think you will agree that if a person has a certain motivation, he will gladly fulfill your request.

Conclusion #3:

Ask satisfied customers to write about you on the Internet. Give discounts or gifts for this! Their words will inspire more credibility than your ad.

At the end of the article, I will say right away that these are not all the ways to encourage patients to more actively recommend the services of your clinic.

Checkout my article on selling without selling to get different perspective of marketing.

However, even if you only use what you have learned from this article, the flow of patients on referral will grow exponentially. Good luck in the implementation process!

Disclaimer – The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author’s own experience and it may or maynot work for you. Don't lose hope keep trying.

Avatar of Dr. Rockson Samuel
Dr. Rockson Samuel
Dr Rockson BDS, PGDM, DBM (Germany) & Awarded Content Marketeer of the year 2020 🦄 Unicorn Marketer 🌈 Artist 🦷 Dentist & Love telling story for brands.

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