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Referral Healthcare Marketing: How to Encourage Patients to Refer Family and Friends

Of all the powerful tools that digital marketers can leverage in the healthcare marketing space, even alongside the most complex and developed marketing strategies, referral marketing is still one of the most effective methods for clinics to gain new patients.

Not only does referral marketing act as a strategy built from the testimonials of real patients, if done correctly, it can also be used to empower previous patients to share their knowledge and help get others real information that they can base their healthcare decisions on.

Healthcare decisions are never taken lightly. Often, these are well-researched and well-planned before a patient ever sets foot in your clinic. But with referral healthcare marketing, you can offer prospective patients the information they need to choose your clinic over your competitors.

All of this may raise a few questions. Why are referrals so effective? How do they work? Can you ask for or solicit referrals? And how can you implement an ethical and effective referral marketing program that will assist you in patient acquisition?

In this guide, we’ll walk through the process of referral healthcare marketing and show you how it’s done.

Are you curious about how you can improve referrals for your healthcare clinic? Contact Beacon Media + Marketing today to find out how to leverage patient referrals.

What Exactly are Referrals in Healthcare Marketing?

In the world of marketing, there’s often a bit of confusion regarding leads and referrals. And while both of these can potentially help you bring in new patients, leads are much more challenging to pursue. However, referrals come from a trusted source – usually through friends and family.

Referrals are also likely to become repeat clients because they have first-hand information about an experience at your clinic from someone they know and trust. And this is the foundation of referral healthcare marketing – enticing or encouraging your patients to refer your services to people they know.

The bottom line is, referrals work to enhance your credibility and make it easier for prospective customers to place their trust in you. Referrals also show others that you’re doing something right, that you provided great service, and that you are definitely worth mentioning – a perfect foundation for building strong brand awareness.

Benefits of Referral Healthcare Marketing

6 Primary Benefits for Referral Healthcare Marketing infographic

One great initial benefit of healthcare referral marketing is that you’re using your existing patient base to bring in new patients. However, you can’t just expect this to happen. You have to take an active role in building trust and rapport with your patients so that they will trust you enough to talk about your clinic to their friends and family.

At the most basic level, a few primary benefits of implementing a referral marketing program for your healthcare clinic are:

  • Improved new patient acquisition
  • Enhanced community presence
  • Enhanced customer loyalty
  • Enhanced brand awareness
  • Improved ability to retain your current patient base
  • Higher lifetime value with repeat patients

As you provide your patients with great service – the type of service that they can’t wait to share with their family and friends – the likelihood increases that they’ll recommend you to their peers. But you also have to take steps to identify and engage with your patients each and every time.

For example, do you know who your patients really are, what they do for a living, or what they do in their spare time? Do you know that their aunt Hazel has been complaining about lower back pain, or that their brother just won a major business award? These are the things that you need to know – but you can only know these things by getting to know your patients intimately. And you do this by being inquisitive and taking an honest interest in your patients.

In addition, the more you open up to your patients about your own life and take an interest in theirs, the more they’re going to trust you and this only increases the chances that they’ll talk about you with their peers – maybe even aunt Hazel, too.

Digital Marketing Strategies for Referral Healthcare Marketing

Recent studies have shown that nearly 75 percent of consumers agree that referrals have influenced their purchases and decisions. And it’s also been found that referrals have driven three to five times more positive results than paid ad channels or content marketing.

This is the power of word-of-mouth marketing. But when you combine referrals with digital marketing, you’ll not only improve your patient base, but you can also gain more recognition in your community. This is because referral marketing builds social proof. And we humans rely on others’ opinions much more than we may realize.

The key to enhancing your referral marketing combines several factors. But it all starts with your rapport with your patients.

Know How (and When) To Ask for Referrals

It would be great if referrals just happened organically. And often they do without your knowledge. But you probably don’t want to play this type of random game, and instead, ask for referrals.

It’s also important to note that while it is ethical for you to ask for referrals, asking for patient reviews is looked upon as an unethical practice in the healthcare space and needs to be avoided. But knowing when to ask your patients for a referral is an art in itself.

A few ways you can ask for referrals include:

  • Right after a patient gives you praise or positive feedback, this is a great time to encourage them to refer you to their family or friends
  • If you notice a patient has left a great review or has posted about their positive experience on social media, this is a great time to encourage them to refer your clinic to their peers
  • Take advantage of thank you pages, snail mail, or follow-up emails and encourage a referral after you’ve cared for a patient
  • If you notice a patient is already a repeat customer, go ahead and encourage them to refer you to others they know

The key is to ask your patients to recommend your services when you know they’ve been satisfied and are happy – and when they have your brand on their minds.

Meet and Exceed Patient Expectations

As mentioned, it’s one thing to care for your patients, but it can be a total game changer when you take an active interest in your patients’ lives. For example, many years ago, it was common for a small town to only have one doctor. And these doctors were part of the community. Thus, they knew many intimate details about their patients’ lives. This built trust and the same principle is true today.

To really stand out from your competitors, you have to build trust and keep your brand at the top of your customer’s minds. And this can be done in a few ways, including:

  • Send them a discount for their next visit
  • Send them a birthday card
  • Ask for a follow-up visit free of charge
  • Offer a “reward” for any referral that they send your way

Though these may seem like small actions, they can all bring big results in the way of referrals.

Strategic Referral Incentives

Referral incentives are what get people talking. And this is where digital marketing can be of great assistance. And this is because no matter what incentives you offer, your delivery and messaging are key to getting noticed.

For example, you could offer rewards such as discounts on a visit, a free diagnosis, or even cash rewards for a referral. And you can advertise these incentives through newsletters, social media posts, or in email marketing campaigns. And digital marketing can enhance these deliverables and ensure that you’re using the right kind of language that highlights your values and your business.

Leverage Your Social Media Presence

It should go without saying that just about everyone is on social media these days. In fact, research suggests that over 80 percent of Americans have at least one social media profile. This, combined with the fact that nearly 60 percent of people learn about brands through social networks means that you already have a powerful tool to help drive referrals.

Digital marketing professionals can enhance your social media strategy and set you up for success for when you’re ready to roll out your referral marketing posts. And the simple fact is this – your social posts reach hundreds of people each day. And with great reviews highlighted appropriately, you can showcase referral incentives and potentially get a huge response.

Additionally, you may pique someone’s interest who isn’t even a patient of yours and they may share the post with others – enhancing awareness of your brand in the community.

Make it Easy

Nobody likes a rigorous or complicated process no matter what it facilitates. And this applies to referrals as well. The key is to make it as effortless as possible for your patients to refer their peers to you.

For example, if you have a website, build a referral link on your “thank you” or “about” page. If they pay for your services online – perhaps before or after a telehealth visit – make sure that they can share your brand in just a few clicks. Or if you have a blog, ensure you have a space set up to mention referrals – like a banner, a pop-up, or something similar.

Additionally, you can also send a quick, friendly reminder directly as a text message with your referral incentive. In fact, you can even automate this process using referral software that can easily integrate with any CRM or email program that you may use.

Enhance Your Referral Healthcare Marketing Efforts With Beacon Media + Marketing

Referrals should be an integral part of your overall marketing strategy. After all, your patients are the foundation of your business. And if they have great things to say about you, we think that everyone should know about it.

Here at Beacon Media + Marketing, we understand the power of referrals. And we understand the methods you can use to enhance your referral marketing strategy. With our team of talented marketing professionals, we can take your referral healthcare marketing to the next level while you sit back and watch new patients walk through your doors.

Are you to drive more referrals for your healthcare clinic? Reach out to Beacon Media + Marketing today to find out how you can enhance your patient referrals.

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