The new TWIST on getting referrals that works!
It's almost like a mantra I have heard over and over again...
"word-of-mouth advertising is the best form of advertising, word-of-mouth advertising is the best way to get new patients."
Well, I suppose it is! I have to agree with this little practice-building mantra.
When was the last time you asked a friend for a referral, or quickly handed one out when a question of "help" was posed to you?
I remember when I was looking for a dentist and asked a good friend who they went to. The first person I asked told me about their horror stories and the way the dentist tried to wrangle him into getting a tooth pulled. That immediately got me thinking, "NEXT!"
I kept up my inquiry. Another friend had nothing but glowing praise for her dentist. Well, you probably know what I did. Without hesitation I called and set an appointment.
She was right! He was a great dentist! And just for the record, I really don't like going to the dentist, very stressful for me, but this dentist eased me in such a way that soothed my psyche.
It goes to show how word-of-mouth does affect what we do and who we choose to visit for care. I'm sure you will agree with me.
I remember when I began my private acupuncture practice. I dreaded asking my clients to tell a friend to come in to see me so I could help them. I rarely asked, and my practice grew slowly, but steadily.
It took me awhile to figure out just how exactly to ask correctly, but I still never felt comfortable doing it. I always felt like I was being too pushy and trying to "sell" myself, which never felt good.
You probably know where this is heading.
Yes, ask for referrals, but here's the twist, instead of asking for them, question them.
Over the years I have learned to do this in an effective and fun way. Questions "draw" them out. At the beginning of the treatment, just before the needles are in, I ask a question and wait for their response. This sparks their thought process. It also allows me to understand what their perception of acupuncture is, and where I may have fallen short in getting across the "big" picture of what it is I do, and don't do.
Here are some questions I ask, and you can too.
- What do you think Qi is?
- Why do you think I feel your pulses?
- How do you think acupuncture can help you?
- If we are all exposed to the same germs, why do you think some people get sick and others do not?
- What do you think the cause of (pain, disease, illness, fatigue, etc..) is?
- Why do you think (name of person or family member here) is (sick, in pain, etc..)? Do you think (his/her) Qi may be out of balance?
These questions generate free thinking, allowing patients to come up with their own answers. It also lets them know you value what they say and as a practitioner is willing to listen to patients.
They may have the wrong answer. If they do, it lets you know what you need to emphasize in order for them to understand the process they are going through. Once they have the knowledge, they have the power to effectively tell other people about you, in a thoughtful, well-educated way.
That's when word-of-mouth becomes a powerful practice advertising tool! When patients have a clear understanding and awareness of why they are coming to see you, they become “acupuncture ambassadors”. Meaning, they become people who speak out for you, your practice and how you have helped them and can help others.
It's funny, I was in line at the market and overheard a woman talking to her male friend, it went something like this...
"I just had my treatment, and man do I feel good! She just knew exactlyhow to make me feel better.
I feel transformed!!"
I don't know if she was referring to acupuncture, massage or chiropractic, but her friend turned to her and said...
"I want to feel transformed!
My back pain is starting up again, every time I get stressed!"
At that moment!... I hoped she would give him a business or promo card and talk about her great experience receiving treatment. Anything that would give her friend the information he needed to take the next step to also feeling transformed by seeking treatment.
Remember, a well-educated patient is an excellent first step, but a well-educated and armed patient is even better!
Armed with what, you may ask?
Be sure patients, the ones you know would truly talk and refer prospects, are armed with any of your:
- Business cards
- Referral cards
- Call-to-action cards
(Click here to view call-to-action cards)
- Referral stimulators
- Health passes
Give patients who would speak and refer access to your marketing materials so they can hand them out to friends, family and people they meet. Choose from the marketing materials listed above and begin handing them out by asking patients if they have friends, family or coworkers who can benefit from acupuncture transformative effects.
The bottom line is, don't let patients leave empty handed, and be sure they are educated.
Asking for referrals has never been easy for me, and I know many colleagues share the same sentiment. Even though we bring a wonderful healing art to this world, some of us still find it difficult to ask patients for a referral. It's only natural to feel a little uneasy about asking for them, but they can only result in one thing - and that's helping grow your practice.
Our Call-to-action cards for Acupuncturists are designed to generate more referrals and attract more new patients. . Call-to-action cards are a low cost way to attract new patients. Our cards will help you become a leader in converting prospective patients into paying patients. Call-to-Action cards give patients and potential patients a reason to come in to your clinic to learn about and experience acupuncture. Providing a free mini-stress reduction or similar treatment is a low-cost way to attract new patients.
Here are a few simple ways to ask for and get referrals.
When your patients tell you they are feeling great, it's an opportunity to seize on those positive words and share them with other patients. The next time your patient tells you he or she is feeling better, ask if they would be willing to share their positive experience with others. If they agree, have them fill out a testimonial form and pin it to the testimonial board you have placed in a prominent spot in your office.
When a patient calls to make an appointment, be sure to ask them who referred them. This begins to plant the referral seed from the very beginning.
Make Their Referral Stand Out
If your new patient was referred to you, let them know you take extra special care of the family and friends who are referred to your clinic. It not only makes them feel special, but it also makes it clear that you welcome family and friend referrals.
In your paperwork, there should be a question for "Who referred you to our clinic." When you review their intake paperwork, acknowledge you appreciate that "so and so" referred them to you and assure them they are in the right place.
Send a Note
Draft a letter to your active patients and let them know you appreciate patients like them, and would love to work with their friends and family members.
Hand Them a Card
Send patients out of your clinic with a card they can distribute to the people they know and love. Check out our latest, Referral Stimulator, a ready-made card designed for just this purpose. Click here for more information on the Referral Stimulator.
I hope this helps you to get started. Remember, word-of-mouth advertising is the BEST form of advertising, AND it's virtually free!
So, get out there and stir up a little referral Qi!
We’ll Talk Soon,
Jeffrey Grossman, EAMP
“Here's to practice growth, more patients and more sunshine!”