Last updated on July 2nd, 2020 at 02:58 pm

We all know new patient referrals tend to be the best patients. They are not only “sold” on you prior to coming in, there is virtually no marketing cost associated with getting them. Sort of the best of both worlds.

So, you might wonder: how can you consistently get more new patient referrals?

And for this week’s post, I wanted to discuss just that!

As an aside, I did a video version of this information (and more) on our online platform, DDS Success. You’ll find in the Practice Jumpstart Course, which covers essential actions that quickly increase productivity and profitability and organization in a dental practice. You can watch the lesson on Internal Marketing here.

Reinforce Your External Marketing with Internal Marketing

External marketing (Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Mailers, Newsletters, etc), while needful, can be expensive. Recent estimates have the national average at around $350 cost per patient for a new patient mailer, and $422/cost per patient for Google Ads. Now, the more you know, the better (lower) the cost.  But it’s never going to be free or almost free.

A referral on the other hand is. And anything that’s low or no-cost that can help with growing your practice is something you should jump on!

And to be clear – when I use the term “Internal Marketing,” throughout this article, I’m talking about what you do inside the office to encourage patient referrals.

And to that end, you’re wasting money if you don’t consistently do Internal Marketing. You’ve already spent the money on external marketing to get a new patient. When that patient refers someone else – you’ve effectively cut that cost in half (you spent money to attract one new patient and now you have two)!

And especially now, in the post COVID-19 world, you’re going to need more new patients – between patients that are still concerned about seeing the dentist and others that might have been affected economically, you might need as much as 30% more new patients just to reach prior levels of productivity.

You should put just as much effort and attention on internal marketing as you’d put on external marketing. Do both, and do both WELL.

(Related: Comparing the Cost of 9 Dental Marketing Options)

Get More Referrals! Implementing an effective internal marketing program.

The first order of business, when implementing an internal marketing program is you have to put someone in charge of it!

Other team members, including the doctor and hygienists, can—and should—contribute by executing tasks on the program, but you want one person ultimately accountable and in charge of making sure all the various internal marketing steps you’ve implemented are done on a consistent basis.

Keep track of the number of new patient referrals you get each week and set a goal for this team member to achieve. They will be responsible for making sure that the office pulls that goal off each week.

And obviously, the more referrals you want, and actions your office is engaged in, the more hours this person would need to dedicate. That’s not to say it can’t be done part time. Maybe you have a dental assistant who wants to take this on – or your receptionist – it doesn’t matter who. What does matter is that they make sure that the office consistently does the actions required.  Even if it’s just a few hours per week, if you have an employee in the office who shows interest in dedicating a few hours per week to internal marketing, it’s a start!

If you have a large practice and are looking for a BIG internal marketing rollout, it could be a full-time job. An effective team member trained and dedicated to pulling this off could be getting AT LEAST 10 new patients a week into the practice – just through internal marketing efforts. And considering that you might spend over ten thousand a month to get that many through external marketing, you can see the potential!

(Related: Non-Traditional Marketing Idea: Market Your Dental Practice with Community Events)

Pick a team member that likes talking to people and wants more new patients. If someone hates the idea of striking up a conversation or is swamped with work on their current position, then this isn’t going to work.

Now, internal marketing actions break down into two categories:

  1. Passive actions and
  2. Proactive actions.

You need to do both. That said, I’m a big fan of the proactive actions – and you can see immediate, controllable results from them! I explain both below.

Internal Marketing – Passive Actions

Programs like the Care Enough to Share Program, where you hand out cards to patients with a new patient special on them, and they in turn give these cards to their friends are inexpensive and extremely effective. We discuss this at length in the MGE New Patient Workshop in the “internal marketing” section of the seminar.

As long as you hand out a high enough volume of cards, these will come back as new patients down the road, and the response rate from the cards will typically be higher than postcards or most other forms of marketing.

Other “passive” methods would include calls to action in your office newsletter, and signage in the office. In many cases, patients may not realize your office is accepting new patients! I know it sounds silly; this is true more often than you might think.  So, make the fact that you are accepting new patients known to your existing patient base. It does pay off.

Which brings us to the “proactive” methods of getting more referrals.

Internal Marketing – Let’s Get Proactive!

You’ve probably heard about the idea of “asking” for referrals. You might have even seen scripts on HOW to do it.  Despite all this, I rarely see offices that actually do this.

Why? Probably any number of reasons. It seems awkward, you might feel like you’re “begging” for a new patient and so on.

But that said – it does work if you do it the right way and at the right time.

(Related: A Tip for Getting the Most Out of Your Dental Marketing)

To make this easier, I’d recommend that you have some type of “new patient special.” You probably already have one that you use for your external marketing.  You know, something like a discounted cleaning, initial exam and full mouth X-ray. Take that new patient special and use it in your internal marketing efforts as well.

Let me give you a few examples:

1. Patient of record calls in to make an appointment.

At some point in the conversation, whoever is making the appointment asks:

“Is there anyone in  your household who isn’t currently seeing a dentist or doesn’t have a dentist right now?”

The average household has three or more people in it. Now with a patient of record you may have some idea of who’s in the household based on their intake forms, or you may not. In any event ask the question.

If they say “yes,” tell them:

We have a new patient special right now, and we could use it for your (husband, wife, parents, child, roommate – whichever applies).

Depending on the relation to the other person, the patient you’re speaking with might even be able to work out getting that other person scheduled – i.e. with a spouse or child. I schedule many of my husband’s doctors’ appointments and tell him about it afterward! And I scheduled all of my kid’s appointments when they were younger. It all depends, and every family has their own way about these things. But you get the idea.

(Related: Are You Spending Too Much or Too Little on Marketing?)

At worst, you could email the person the special to give to their husband, wife, parents,  roommate, etc., so they can forward it on.

You’d be shocked how often this works.  If there’s a patient in the office, do this drill in person!

2. The reception area.

Now, this method has changed a bit post COVID-19.  We used to have our reception areas packed up with patients and people who came with the patient (i.e. these are spouses, family members, friends, etc., that are accompanying the patient to their appointment).

A great Receptionist or New Patient Coordinator could strike up a conversation with these people. Again, don’t be pushy—if the person doesn’t want to talk, don’t make it awkward. But do at least greet them with something like:

“Hi Mr. Smith! While you’re waiting for your wife, is there anything I can get you to make you more comfortable?”

Mr. Smith: “A water would be great. Thanks!”

You: “Perfect! And while I’m here, I was wondering, do you have a dentist?”

Mr. Smith: “Yeah, I used to, but the dentist I was going to retired.”

You: “Oh, I see, well how would you feel about giving our office a try? We have a new patient special going on right now that you can take advantage of.”

Mr. Smith: “Yeah, okay, I probably should get my teeth cleaned. It’s been a while.”

And then… make the appointment!

I’ve even known receptionists that schedule the UPS delivery person, mail carrier,  or local vendors that come in.

(Related: 4 Ways to Get More New Patients… Without Marketing)

3. When scheduling a new patient over the phone, ask if it’s just for them or any family as well.

Just like you’d do with a patient of record, you could turn that new patient phone call into more referrals. Oftentimes it hadn’t occurred to this new patient that they could also schedule their spouse or children at the same time—gee, how convenient!

And just asking is all it takes to get an extra new patient or two—and double your return-on-investment from whichever form of marketing brought you the initial new patient call.

So make sure that your receptionist (or whoever schedules new patients over the phone) doesn’t forget to ask.  Again, point up that the rest of their family could also take advantage of the new patient special!

4. Get creative, and make it a game!

How far can you go with this? Well, one of our clients’ front desk staff started playing “The Wrong Number Game.” Essentially the front desk had a competition as to who could schedule the most “wrong numbers” (i.e. people that accidentally dialed the practice’s phone number when they were trying to reach someone else), as a new patient!

When someone said, “Oops! Wrong number…” the receptionist would say, “Oh wait! Do you have a dentist?” And then they’d schedule that person!

I’m not saying your team should or shouldn’t do this, but it goes to show you that if you want more new patients that they are not all that hard to get if you and your team are willing to be proactive about it!

Internal marketing can be fun. Make prizes for the team member that gives out the most cards or schedules the most referrals. Reward them when new patients come in. Have a party, a team outing, or some type of bonus associated with it when you make your goal that month.

The Bottom Line!

Again, while referral programs are the most cost-efficient source of new patients—it’s also essential to do external marketing and make your practice known in the community.

For consistent practice growth, you again, do both, and do them well!

If you really want to master this area of your practice, do the MGE New Patient Workshop. It’s now available as a live virtual event, so you can attend online. We cover every step of acquiring high-quality new patients—including external marketing, referrals, answering the phones, getting new patients to arrive, the initial exam, patient experience, and retaining these patients long-term.

To sign up call us at (800) 640-1140 or fill out the form here.

I hope this helps!

And as always, if you have any questions you can call us at (800) 640-1140 or you can email me at sabrib@mgeonline.com. Until next time!


One Response to “6 Ways to Get More New Patient Referrals”

  1. Allison Osborne

    This is very helpful! I will definitely be using these techniques! Thank you so much.


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