Building an Effective

Referral Marketing Program

Here's what works (and what doesn't!)

Is Referral Marketing Worth My Time?

Referral programs are a highly effective way to grow your practice by leveraging your best assets: your happy customers. Referrals generate highly-qualified leads that are more likely to result in sales.

But as with all marketing, a winning referral program is only worthwhile if it reaches the right customers. You’re great at providing excellent service, but motivating someone to spend their time, energy, and social capital to help you gain more customers takes more than that.

The keys to a successful program are to know your audience, create a streamlined system that’s easy to use and track, and implement realistic incentives that your customers will get excited about. Referral marketing is only effective if it reaches the right customers– and if the process is as easy as possible on every person participating.

How do you create a strong referral program?

Know Your Target Audience

Your goal is to market to a potential patient that’s already made the decision that they want braces or Invisalign. Now, they’re choosing a provider– in a potential patient’s buying journey, this is where the referral comes in.

It’s not realistic to expect a brand advocate to be able to spark an interest in someone who has never expressed an intention of exploring your offerings… instead, referrals serve to help guide a potential patients to interact with you, rather than your competitor.

Identify Your Brand’s Best Advocates 

Your most effective referrals will come from Parents, not Patients– while the 13 year old may be the one who ultimately ends up in your office, they aren’t the ones making buying decisions. You’re looking for someone who understands the total value of your service and who can speak authentically about their experience.

Referrals come from people who know you, trust you, and feel comfortable recommending you because they’re happy with your service. That said, that alone is often not enough to inspire someone to want to lend you their social capital. That’s where incentives come in.

So what does a good referral program look like?

Incentivize their Time Like You Mean It

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer for a moment– What kind of incentive would make you feel compelled to recommend a service to a friend?

You’ll have to determine what incentives work for your budget and your goals. In referral marketing, you must give in order to get– when your customer feels like they have a realistic chance of winning something, they’re far more likely to feel motivated to share. People are motivated by different price points and values– developing a range of incentives will help you capture more people willing to make referrals to qualified buyers.

What’s affordable for you, and valuable enough to motivate them to take action?

Providing multiple prizes consistently will increase the success of your referral program.

A great way to do this is to offer a smaller prize (something $50 or less) for any person who refers someone using Virtual Consult, and enter each person who referred someone into a quarterly drawing for a bigger ticket item.

This also allows you to train your families to expect quarterly prize giveaways, and look for news about what they could possibly win.

Simplify and Streamline the Process

While it’s tempting to want to wait to award an incentive when the new patient begins treatment, that is not a realistic path to success for the person making the referral. Incentivizing referrals through Virtual Consult is the easiest to track and simplest point of conversion for potential patients.

Creating a program isn’t enough– you also have to promote it, follow through with awarding incentives, and track new patient activity. Simplifying all of those processes determines how successful your referral program will be. The harder a process is, the less likely that it will work. If your referral process is easy and people have a proper incentive to do it, they’ll be exponentially more likely to refer you to a friend.

We want to present the path of least resistance at every point throughout the process– for your brand advocates and your potential patients. For this reason, we recommend minimizing the number of steps each have to take.
For example: Simply ask for the name of who referred you, instead of expecting a potential patient to remember a code or bring in a card.

Ease of use is essential– simplifying the path to purchase and removing obstacles allows for a better conversion rate and simpler, more reliable tracking in your office.

Virtual Consult makes referrals simple and easy to track.

Virtual Consult is simple to use– for everyone. It is one of the highest converting opportunities your practice has to capture new patients– for every 10 people who fill out a Virtual Consult, 6 start treatment.

How do we integrate this into our practice?

We’re here to help you through every step of the process– here are some answers to common questions.

  • Social campaigns and targeted advertising centered around Mom that are simple, straightforward, and easy to share
  • Each time a family visits your office, they should be physically reminded about your referral program. The simplest, most effective way to spread the word about this is to empower your staff with talking points and resources to promote this program in person.

Note: As offices reopen following the coronavirus pandemic, you have a rare second chance to reconnect with families just as if they were new patients. Mom has time on her hands while she’s sitting in your parking lot. Give her a compelling reason to market your services to her social circle while she waits.

Absolutely. Within your local community, the success of this program will be discussed– and that could lead to even more qualified advocates referring you to their friends, but only if the people doing this truly feel like they get what they expected from it.

Specifically with Virtual Consult, it’s extremely easy to find out if the person referred followed through. If a person finds out their friend did a consult and they weren’t awarded the incentive they expected, they will be disappointed– and they will also share that with their friends.

As long as it’s working! The best thing about referral programs is how scalable they are–

Building a strong program from the start makes it much easier to manage over time. When your families see this as something they can consistently benefit from, you can expect see more buy-in over time.

Of course– but realistically, let’s consider what it would take.

If one person makes a social media post and tags 50 friends with the hopes of winning multiple prizes and better their chances of winning an even larger prize, the likelihood of those 50 friends feeling compelled to actually complete the Virtual Consult is low. That person hasn’t really shown that much of a social expense.

Whereas, if one person is motivated to refer a friend with whom they are close with, they’re going to think of which people they know that are already in the market for what you’re selling. They’ll select friends more carefully, and their personal appeal to that friend is much more likely to convert to a Virtual Consult.

Exposure is always a great thing– but the goal of referrals is to incentivize the initiation of a connection. 

Building an efficient, successful program isn’t rocket science, but it is essential to offer simple, streamlined processes and incentives that will motivate your customers.

If you’re interested in exploring your referral program options, reach out. Our team is excited to help guide you through creating a program that works for your practice.

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