By Dr. Roger Levin
Endodontic practices with low referrals must ramp up their referral marketing programs now. Consider the following strategies for your practice:
- Networking. Endodontics can benefit tremendously from networking. When we analyze and examine high-end endodontic practices, we typically see doctors who dedicate a portion of their time to networking, communicating and interacting with referring doctors through case reviews, office visits and lunches.
- Taking advantage of the digital world. Being in consistent contact with referring doctors is easier than ever before. Email, texting and social media allow you to conveniently send patient information, respond to questions, or just simply touch base—24/7. The more referring doctors hear from you, the more they think about you.
- Focusing on referring doctor staff. Research indicates that four out of five patients ask a front desk person their opinion about the endodontic practice to which they were referred. This means that the front desk person can influence the patient’s view of that practice before they even walk through the door. We find that endodontic practices that have excellent production and referrals know this and are sure to include the referring office staff as part of their marketing focus.
- Providing five-star customer service. The Levin Group Data Center surveyed endodontic patients in 40 practices, and found that practices with the highest customer service ratings had the highest referrals. Happy patients tell referring doctors how pleased they are with their visit and this influences referring doctors to increase referrals. Conversely, unhappy patients complain to referring doctors. Naturally, this will virtually guarantee that the referring doctor will no longer refer. Practices with five-star customer service and a well-trained endodontic team create better patient experiences that result in positive patient feedback and more referrals.
- Taking care of referring doctors at any time. The level of service that you give to doctors is just as important as the service you give to patients. Endodontic practices looking to increase referrals and attract new referral sources must commit to giving the highest level of service and convenience to referring doctors. Let your referring doctors know that you’re willing help them take care of any situation that arises, whenever it arises.
- Increasing reviews. Many patients will look at reviews before they visit your office, even when they are referred. One of the best ways to increase reviews is one that many doctors don’t often consider: just ask for them. We suggest providing a simple instructional card to every endodontic patient at the completion of treatment. The card should include a simple thank-you with instructions on how to leave a Google review. This can help increase reviews by 200–300%.
- Positioning the endodontist and practice as an educational resource. Today’s general dentists (a.k.a. your referring doctors) are performing more specialty procedures. While this may seem frustrating, endodontic practices that learn to take advantage of this can position themselves as partners not adversaries. Email updates on techniques, bring clinical information to your meetings with the referring doctor, present at local study clubs, and even invite referring doctors to observe new procedures. All of this can go a long way toward creating a high-end image for the endodontic practice. Once you have established yourself as an authority, all specialty cases that are too complex will be referred to you.
- Developing and strategizing gratitude. All too often, an endodontist’s staff is so busy that their referring practices sometimes feel as if they’re more of an interruption than a valued relationship. Telling referring doctors how much you appreciate them goes a long way toward encouraging them to refer to you. Keep in mind that expressing this gratitude cannot be haphazard…it must be strategic. Sending thank-you notes, texting a doctor to thank them for referring great patients and letting referring doctors know that you’re successful because of them is a very powerful approach to creating feelings of reciprocity.
- Creating an annual marketing calendar. Practices that want to increase referrals and keep them at a high level must employ a minimum of 15 different strategies functioning together over the course of a year. We recommend that practices plan out these strategies for their entire year, rather than putting together a bunch of strategies that may or may not synergize with each other. Some plans may have different but related strategies each month. Other plans may include strategies such as an annual event with six months of marketing and 12 contact points. Some plans may even be a single strategy with ongoing monthly contact. For example, one strategy would be the referring doctor receiving a short whitepaper on a practice improvement topic every month.
Referral marketing has always been, and is now even more, an essential part of endodontic practice management. Practices that ignore referral marketing, even if doing well today, may find that referrals begin to flatten out or plateau. As competition expands, referral marketing will be a key factor that will keep endodontic practices strong.