May 21, 2021

5 Ways to Build a Successful Patient Referral Program

Lisa Bowen

Referrals are nothing to toss aside in any industry, but for healthcare organizations, where products are similar and services are need-based, patient referrals can be your lifeline. Don’t just wait for referrals to come rolling in, make them a key element in your healthcare marketing strategy with five easy tips. 

Create an Exceptional Experience

Exceptional experiences are central to gaining referrals. Negative patient experiences kill any hope of patients referring their family and friends so take time to map their experience from the start of their customer journey to the end. What can you do that goes above and beyond to support your patient’s health care needs? How can you support patients even after their service? From unique services to refined hospitality or even fantastic give-aways, your buttoned up experiences provide the groundwork to consistent patient referrals. 

Empower Your Employees

Empower your employees by building a culture where it’s okay, welcomed and encouraged to ask for referrals. Your employees should be an extension of your marketing and sales teams, so give them a hand! From scripts to materials to training, provide your team with the tools to be successful. They’re your biggest cheerleaders and will have the most impact in reaching patients.

Build an On-Point and On-Brand Process

Develop your process for effective patient referrals and make sure it fits your brand perfectly. The look and feel of your referral program must work in synergy with your organization’s marketing strategies. If it doesn’t, it will work against you, confusing your patients with a brand that’s unfamiliar. If you send them to a platform or provide materials that don’t look, feel and sound like your brand, you’ll be taking steps backwards. 

Work in synergy to connect the pieces together and promote the referral program through multiple touchpoints. A few ideas include: 

  • In office signage
  • Social media reminders/asks
  • Follow-up emails
  • Newsletters
  • Website banner ads
  • Front desk script
  • Training for providers
  • Statement inserts
  • Promotional cards
  • Advertising campaign add-ons
  • Incentives*
  • Thank yous!

*Keep in mind that what you can offer for incentives may be highly regulated by state laws and the services you provide. Research your options ahead of time to ensure you’re in compliance. 

Make it Easy

Your patient referral program should be easy for your practice to manage and easy for your patients to engage and make a referral. Try to integrate the program into your existing workflow and systems to make the process seamless for staff and patients. Here are some dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t make your patients enter an ID or account number to make a referral. 
  • Don’t require your patients to share lots of information. You already know them and they just won’t take the time. 
  • Do give them all the information they need in one place. 
  • Do make it easy for patients to hand off your information to a friend or family member. 

Don’t Set it and Forget it

Great referral programs need constant care and attention. Yes, they’re like those finicky houseplants you have to water every day. If you neglect the program, it will wither away. Take time to nurture your referral program by making it part of ongoing operations. Map out every touchpoint and seamlessly wrap it into existing processes. 

And don’t forget to measure your success! Some tactics will be more effective than others, but look to the data for confirmation on what’s working and what’s not. Don’t be afraid to tweak and adjust touchpoints or messaging. 

In the world of healthcare marketing, your patients are in the driver’s seat of your success. Give them a hand by creating easy ways they can share your praises with friends and family. Your referral stats will thank you!

And if you need a hand creating an effective referral program or healthcare marketing strategy, we’ve got you covered. Teaming up with caring people is our specialty and our healthcare marketing experts can help you build an effective, results-driven brand strategy. Give us a call to learn more!

KidGlov is a boutique, full-service, advertising, branding and content marketing agency and certified B Corp, with offices in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, specializing in nonprofit marketinghealthcare marketingfinancial services marketingsocial impact marketing, and purpose-driven businesses.