When it comes to how to ask for referrals, some of your best marketing sources are already in your office
I speak on stages all over the nation about retention and have built a very successful business around the concept and skill of building a high-retention practice. It is not very often that you will hear me speak about seeking new patients. This is because, to me, one of the biggest benefits of having a high-retention practice is that you know how to ask for referrals and you’re not dependent on new patients.
Referrals go hand-in-hand with retention. There are two ways I was able to consistently generate new patients within my own office.
Generating new patients
Let’s start with the most important, the ultimate goal that will set you up for success. Not only will it lead to referrals, but it will help you have a high-retention practice.
A practice that has high retention is built on loyal patients. Loyal patients do several things to help your practice. And you probably guessed that one of those things they do really well is refer.
Your best marketing source is those loyal individuals who have been or will continue to see you for years. It is a practice full of loyal patients who are singing your praises to their family and friends. And best of all, it’s free and highly effective, which means it easily fits into any marketing plan.
Building a rapport
So how do you get these loyal patients to generate referrals? To start, you need to make sure that you and your team are building rapport and connection with your patients at each and every interaction. Having a good relationship with your patients will make asking for referrals come from a natural place instead of feeling awkward or forced.
I have always made it a point to train my team on building rapport with the patients from day one. It’s important we have the right team members in place who are fostering meaningful relationships with the patients.
A team member who greets patients with a warm, friendly smile at each visit, and demonstrates compassion and empathy throughout the patient’s journey in your practice, will have a much easier time asking for referrals. A team member who displays opposite traits will see asking for referrals as a bothersome chore that they’re no good at. So be sure you have the right team members in place.
How to ask for referrals: business cards and ‘The Ask’
You’ll also want to make sure your team members have their own business cards. I have had lots of team members who are passionate about chiropractic who will hand out their business cards and generate referrals at their child’s soccer games, the grocery store, family get-togethers and more. Having a business card on hand makes the referral so much easier.
Next, you must ask for referrals. Whether it be at re-exam time, celebrating a milestone (50th visit, off medications, etc.), or while running a promotion, find opportunities and don’t be afraid to ask. For example, in my practice, we regularly had weekly themed patient education articles printed (and emailed) that we would hand out to every patient during their visit.
We would make small talk about the topic and then ask, “Do you know anyone who could benefit from this information?” We were consistent in asking this question, and some patients would come in the following week letting us know who they shared the information with or were proud to share the name of their referral.
When operating a business, we are constantly looking for ways to reward the behavior we want from our patients and our employees. This is no different.
Make the person who is doing the referral the hero and reward them for referring. I know when I refer someone to something, I get so excited when I see that they listened, and I need to know more about the experience. This is no different. A phone call or a mailed, handwritten card goes a long way.
You can even give your loyal patients gift cards with your logo and branding on them. Put a promotional value on them and ask them to hand them out to their family and friends. They get to feel like the hero here by giving a recommendation to their loved one and making it affordable for them too. Studies also show that when people are given gift cards, they are likely to spend more than the value of the card.
Leverage massage for referrals
What if I told you there was an automated way of generating new patients that didn’t require you to really do too much, and it didn’t cost you a dime? In fact, just the act of generating the new patients might be profitable. Would you be interested in that?
Here’s exactly how to do it. It takes some effort to get it going, but once you do, it can pretty much run on autopilot as long as you have an office manager staying on top of it.
Have a team of massage therapists working seven days a week to see new massage clients in your practice — with the intent that many of these people will end up being referred to you for chiropractic.
A lot of people who are seeking massage therapy want it in a professional/clinical environment instead of a spa. Remember that when it comes to marketing massage in the practice. If you make it like a spa, then you’re no different from all the other massage places around.
This is by far one of the most effective new-patient generators. Oh, and it’ll generate a profit even if you don’t get a new patient from it. Here’s how it works:
You will have a team of massage therapists as employees who are managed by your office manager. They work part-time, about 15 hours per week, seven days a week. They work different shifts in one massage room within your practice. There are two shifts a day offering massage, with the intention of always having a few open slots so that there’s availability when someone calls in wanting to schedule a same-day appointment. For example, have massage therapy available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the shift split between two therapists who are booked for 30-, 60- and 90-minute massages.
Be sure to market yourself correctly with this. People are looking for a massage in a clinical setting like your practice, so be sure to capitalize on that rather than the “spa”-like experience.
Now comes the referral part. You will train your massage therapists to better recognize the need for chiropractic in the clients they see. When appropriate, their job is to recommend a complimentary chiropractic consultation with the doctor. When the patient completes their massage, the therapist walks the patient to the front desk and lets the assistant know to book the patient for their complimentary consultation with the doctor.
The results in my practice were this:
- The revenue generated from the massage covered all the costs of running the massage department.
- We received calls nearly every day from new people wanting massage.
- 15-20% of the massage clients got referred for chiropractic.
- Every 30 new massage clients resulted in 5-6 new patients.
- Existing chiropractic patients also loved the benefit of being able to get adjusted and have a massage all in the same place and visit.
- Our existing patients loved to buy massage gift cards for their family and friends.
- Those who did not come in for chiropractic at least got exposed to the practice for any future chiropractic needs.
Maximize your best referral source
As you can see, there are a number of resources within your practice already that you can utilize without even leaving your office. Find ways to maximize your best referral source — your raving fans who love you.
This, coupled with a revenue-generating and new-patient source like massage, are sure to allow you to help more and more people in your community without spending on marketing for new patients.
MILES BODZIN, DC, is the founder and CEO of Cash Practice Systems, “Chiropractic’s #1 Technology Platform for Creating Loyal Patients.” He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-343-8950 x200.