Ask and you will receive (referrals)

Referrals in a chiropractic practiceIt’s an undisputed business law that word-of-mouth marketing is the most important ‘sales’ tool there is. Nothing convinces a potential customer, client, patient, or consumer to say “YES” to an offer better than a personal recommendation.

That’s why online review services like Angie’s List and social media sites like Facebook have become key marketing tools. It’s all about people telling other people how great (or crummy) a product or service is.

In health care private practices, word-of-mouth marketing most often takes the form of referrals from current patients. One patient gets good results and tells a friend, neighbor, co-worker or colleague. That person comes in, loves what you do, and tells others.

But referrals don’t just “happen.”

How many of your current patients are happy with the care they receive from you? Hopefully, all of them (or at least 80-90%).

How many have sent referrals to your office? Five percent? Ten percent?

If they’re pleased with you, why aren’t the rest sending referrals? It isn’t because they don’t know other people who could use some help with health and wellness issues. We’re all surrounded by people living at less that optimal wellness levels. If they’re not referring others to you, it’s probably because you haven’t asked them or made it easy for them to do it.

Instead of waiting around hoping your patients will send referrals your way, there are steps you can (and should) take to increase the referral rate.

Start out by being aware of statements patients make that offer you the perfect opportunity to ask for referrals. Respond positively, invite them to refer others, and give them the tools they need to take action.

Some examples:

Patient: “I wish I’d started getting adjustments years ago!”

Response: Many people tell me that. They’re always so thankful that somebody recommended chiropractic. It’d be great if people came in before their health problems reached the critical stage. I’ll bet you know a few people who should be coming in now, before things get really bad for them. Let me give you two gift certificates for a free evaluation. They expire in 30 days, so tell them to call for an appointment and I’ll get them in right away.

Patient: “It’s amazing how much healthier my kids have been since coming to you.”

Response: It’s such a shame how many parents still don’t realize chiropractic’s great for children. You probably know a few who never thought about bringing their kids in for adjustments. Tell you what, here are two gift certificates for a free evaluation. They expire in 30 days, so give them to a couple of your friends and tell them to call for an appointment. I’ll get their kids in right away.

Patient: “I don’t understand why my MD didn’t want me to see a chiropractor.”

Response: It’s hard to believe, I know, but many medical doctors still don’t understand what chiropractors do, and they don’t like to refer patients to us. People have to depend on their friends to learn about the benefits of regular adjustments. If you know anybody who might be in the same situation you were in, would you do them a favor and tell them about me? Here are two gift certificates for a free evaluation. They expire in 30 days, so have them call for an appointment and I’ll get them in right away.

It’s particularly important, when asking patients to refer others, that you provide them with the tools to make it easy for them to do so. A “gift certificate” or referral card offering a free evaluation is the standard tool, but don’t feel you have to limit it to that. Find other “incentives” for patients to refer friends, and for those friends to make an appointment.

For instance, subscribe to Integrative Outcome Measurements and make sure all patients receive IOM referral cards that contain your unique referral code. Using that code, people can go online and take a comprehensive wellness survey for free. They can find out their “IOM Wellness Score” and compare it to others who take the survey. People love taking tests and quizzes and matching their results to others. When they do, they are directed to your office for more information, detailed results, and (if you wish) a free evaluation. In this way, your patients are able to give their friends something fun and valuable rather than simply make a referral.

For more tips on how to increase referrals, be sure to read Dr. Noel Lloyd’s excellent article “7 tips for building a referral practice.”


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