10 Apr Cultivating Word-of-Mouth Advertising to Attract New Patients
While your company website is an absolutely critical component of your marketing strategy, referrals from existing patients can be one of the most effective means of attracting new patients.
Word-of-Mouth Advertising: Unpaid Promotion by a Current Patient
Social media is everywhere: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. However, many marketing plans don’t focus on the original “social media”—word-of-mouth advertising. A recent post on Forbes.com states: “According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.”
92%! So how do you go about getting those valuable referrals? The first step is to truly connect with your patients, and to provide services that exceed their expectations. You need to give them a reason to talk about you. It’s also important to remember that while patients truly appreciate competent, friendly staff members, they go to see you—their doctor.
Persons who have recently changed locations, jobs, or medical insurance companies may find that their trusted physician is now geographically inaccessible, or is not a provider in their new insurance network.
When these potential new patients are looking for a medical specialist, they frequently ask for a referral from a friend, a neighbor, a family member or coworker. It’s one of the most credible forms of advertising because it’s an unpaid form of promotion, and the person offering the recommendation has nothing to gain other than the appreciation of the person asking for a referral.
Following are some simple steps for cultivating new patient referrals.
Letting existing patients know you are accepting new patients
Your patients may think you’re a stellar physician, but it may not actually occur to them that you are accepting new patients. Simple, professionally produced signage in lobbies or waiting rooms can get this point across gracefully, with “We are currently accepting referrals at this time, and appreciate your recommendations.”
It’s important that signage be created and produced by a qualified organization or individual so that your practice retains its professional appearance. A handwritten note on printer paper is not likely to produce the desired results.
Referrals from a primary care provider
As many patients have medical insurance plans that require them to obtain a referral to see a particular specialist, networking among medical professionals is vital to the growth of a specialty practice. A primary care physician (PCP) will have a list of specialists they can refer to, and they are more likely to refer to a medical specialist they have met and trust.
You may also want to consider providing referring PCPs with your bio and photograph, (again, professionally produced), to hand out to your new patient when they are receiving a referral to your practice. This can provide a sense of familiarity as well as offering information about your specific skill sets, experience and education.
Adding patient testimonials to your website
Utilizing testimonials from happy patients may be an untapped asset that can boost your online marketing. It’s an expensive means of providing word-of-mouth evidence that you and your practice are trustworthy and reliable.
For a more compelling message, let your patients speak in their own words. Their sincerity will be immediately evident, and their testimonials will be believable. Testimonials can be compiled be through emails or phone calls following a visit, and most patients who are pleased with your services are willing to oblige, and may also allow the use of a photo.
Take advantage of existing mailings
If you’re already sending a billing statement, or other form of mail, it’s easy to include what’s called a “buck slip,” a piece of paper about the size of a dollar that conveys information about the practice in general, specific services or speaking engagements, as well as requests for new patient referrals.
Adding pens or magnets to an existing mailing (or having them readily available during a visit) is another inexpensive option for cultivating word-of-mouth advertising. For example, when a current patient is asked for a recommendation, they can simply hand your potential new patient a pen embellished with the name, phone number and website of your practice.
Use public speaking opportunities to promote your practice
Offering to speak at local health expos, PTA meetings or other organizations can provide an excellent opportunity for physicians to share their knowledge while gaining valuable public exposure. Potential new patients will be able hear about your professional experience and/or area of expertise firsthand, thereby creating a positive connection. (It’s also another great place to have those customized pens easy to reach.)
Making the final connection with your potential new patient
Once potential new patients receive a referral, they are quite likely to view your online branding presence via your website or Facebook page, making it important to have a clear, concise and impactful message that resonates with your audience. The experienced marketing professionals at Healthcare Marketing Group can help you keep your message on target and grow your practice!