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A More Natural and Effective Referral Strategy for Your Dental Practice

Referrals, like all word-of-mouth marketing, begin at the same place.

A conversation!

Forrester Research estimates that 500 billion word-of-mouth impressions are created daily on social media. And McKinsey and Company reveals that approximately two-thirds of the US economy is now driven by word of mouth.

Let that sink in!

  • 500 billion word-of-mouth impressions every day!
  • Two-thirds of the US economy driven by word of mouth!

Word-of-mouth and referral success

Quality referrals are driven by face-to-face interaction. In your instance, satisfied patients tell family, friends, co-workers, and others how much they like your treatment and services.

Deliver what they want and need. They’ll naturally talk about it.

Also remember that the internet has changed the narrative somewhat. Before the web, a literal conversation was how we described an impression made by a product or service.

Face to face.

Water-cooler conversations.

In the backyard.

Over a beer at the bar.

Those days aren’t gone but the conversation is amplified by social media, online reviews, and chat or texting platforms.

The real reason referrals work

As with most conversations among “friends” – trust plays a huge role!

  • Nielsen research data shows that 92% of consumers believe what friends or family tell them more than they trust advertisers or advertising.
  • 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers equally as much as recommendations shared by family and friends.

Basically, when patients say “nice things” about you the impact can be greater than what is spent on paid advertising.

“Genuine word of mouth builds both awareness and trust.” 1

People talking about their experience with your products or services do not sound like paid advertisements.

Excited, yes!

Persuasive, yes!

And certainly, authentic!

People use everyday language to tell their story about your services. Thus, it’s essential to give your patients motivation to talk about them.

This demands strategic effort because your patients are busy and often distracted. Frankly, until the subject of their smile or most recent dental appointment comes up in a conversation…don’t count on them talking about it.

But when they do have an opportunity they’re more likely to respond based on your level of service encouraged by your request for a referral.

How to ask for referrals from your dental patients without feeling awkward about it

1. Start your referral conversation with the assumption that dentistry isn’t part of their everyday life

Sure, your patients brush and floss. Yet that’s different than talking about you (their dentist).

Perhaps your patients assume that you’re doing quite well and have more than enough customers. For example, how often do you exit a restaurant and give any thought to whether or not they’re looking for more diners? You’re more focused on food quality and your dining experience.

And there-in lies the next principle of more and better referrals…

2. Give your patients an undeniable urge to tell someone about their positive dental experience

There are some patient experiences that you want shared and others…not so much.

This is a red-flag for primarily using templated, push-button, or otherwise automated referral platforms. If your patient gets a ping five minutes out the door…you may (or may not) want them “talking” about their experience.

It might have nothing to do with your service. It could have everything to do with their general attitude toward dentistry, you (the dentist), or life in general.

”Every person on your staff must understand that the service they provide now affects referrals you’ll get later. That means answering inquiries promptly, having an informative and easy-to-use website, making patients feel at ease, and – of course – providing them with the best possible dental treatment you can.” 2

This calls for a more tailored approach to referral requests.

Give the referral “mic” to your “fans” (not your critics).

  • Track your referral-stars. Ask every new patient, “How did you hear about us?” When they’ve been referred by a current patient make a note in theirs and the referring patient’s file.
  • Help them identify something worth talking about. This starts with listening to their comments, requests, and the general response to their appointment (before they leave your office). Ask, “How was your appointment today, etc,” Stay quiet, let them talk, and listen!
  • Prompt them to share their experience. Say, “You just mentioned…that seems to be something a lot of people are interested in…, etc… We’d appreciate you sharing that every opportunity you get.” That’s a subtle yet direct way to ask for a referral.

It’s easy to sound scripted when you ask for referrals too. Make it a natural sounding part of your patient conversations. This puts them more at ease and willing to share their experience.

3. Train a referral mindset into your staff and practice the conversation

Keep the focus on natural and contextual interactions with patients. This requires training your team to recognize the moments that referral requests are appropriate.

If their request is part of a templated check-out script, it’s more likely to sound insincere and come-off that way.

  • Stoke the value of referrals during each team meeting.
  • Give the mic to those skilled at referral conversations during your meetings. Have a “five minute referral training,” give them the opportunity to showcase their skills.
  • Encourage shadowing at the front desk. Pair a team member with one of your “stars” to eavesdrop on conversational referral requests during check-outs.

Not all team members will be effective at asking for referrals. But everyone can improve.

Also make sure that you’re tracking referral data. A tracking mindset is equally as important as the the asking mindset.

There are a variety of referral management and tracking software solutions. The following are top rated and have application for your dental practice.

Also, an article from compares 30 platforms and includes an insightful infographic.

However you manage or track your referral strategy remember…

Every referral starts with an “ask.” And that “ask” will produce results when it’s part of a natural, well-timed, and authentic patient conversation.


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Key Pros and Cons of Private and Corporate Dentistry Models

by Dr. Patrick Cassidy & Eddie Stephens

Seth Godin talks perspective in his book, Linchpin. And in principle perspective can help you navigate the ever evolving narrative about Private solo or group dentistry, and Corporate solo or group dentistry.

Godin shares the story of a first-class train passenger traveling through Spain. He has the good fortune of being seated next to the famous artist, Pablo Picasso.

The traveler takes advantage of his fortunate moment with the great Picasso. He asks, “Señor Picasso, you are a great artist, but why is all your art, all modern art, so screwed up? Why don’t you paint reality instead of these distortions?”

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How to get more online reviews…

How to get more online reviews and use them to build and improve dental patient relationships

It’s what every producer or publisher waits to hear – “The reviews are in…” What viewer comments are to producers, online reviews are to a business, including your dental practice.

A review via Google or Yelp, for instance, can tip patients in the direction of your services. They can have the opposite effect too.

But positive or negative, reviews are beneficial for connecting with patients.

Why patient reviews have so much power

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Fund Doctors without Borders with Net32: Help us reach our $100,000 goal!

Donate today »

Net32 will match the amount that you donate. The team at Net32 strongly believe in the mission and the work that Doctors Without Borders do. Every day we see heartbreaking, tragic occurrences around the world and we want to do our part in helping those that need it the most. That’s why Net32 has decided to start this campaign and raise money for the doctors that are saving lives around the world.

By making a one-time donation you can help Doctors Without Borders provide life-saving humanitarian relief where it’s most necessary.

Doctors Without Borders helps people worldwide where the need is greatest, delivering emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from health care. In more than 60 countries around the world, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) saves lives by providing medical aid where it is needed most—in armed conflicts, epidemics, natural disasters, and other crisis situations. Many contexts call for a rapid response employing specialized medical and logistical help, but we also run longer-term projects designed to tackle health crises and support people who cannot otherwise access health care.

Learn more about the impact of Doctors Without Borders here.

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Eliminate Dental Insurance Complications

Eliminate Dental Insurance Complications and Become Your Patient’s Hero

Dental insurance can be a win for your patients. Help them reduce or eliminate the confusion about their dental benefits and you’ll be a “hero.”

It’s unfortunate that the insurance conversation can come with hassles. Consider those aggravations an opportunity for you to be your patient’s advocate.

Are you opting out of patient insurance management?

It might be tempting to opt-out and consider dental insurance details to be your patient’s full responsibility. Depending on the nature of your practice, it may be advantageous in some circumstances for you to transfer responsibility for submitting insurance claims to your patients.

To make this happen let’s simplify the process:  

  • Collect payment in full for services up front
  • Prepare insurance claims on behalf of your patients such that they are the payees and hand the patients the completed forms after treatment.

You will then enjoy the great advantages to your practice by freeing your team from the responsibility for insurance receivables management. However, be prepared for a possible substantial reduction in retention of existing patients who may not want to take on insurance responsibility themselves.   

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