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Referrals are still number one – by Carl burroughs

I have started my year by catching up with as many of my existing clients around the country as physically possible. This is always an extremely enjoyable process, but also an enlightening one as I get to hear first hand what has been working within these practices from a marketing prospective and also some of the challenges faced by the profession.

If you are having any staff issues, then I can report that you are certainly not alone. The constant movement of staff and the reported inability of the “Gen Y” yet to grasp basic functions within a practice were the number one gripes of many of the dentists I have meet with recently. I am currently trialling a new staff retention system with one of the clients I personally consult to. So far the trial is working well and I will share the approach with you later in the year when the trial is complete.

As for marketing, as always personal referrals is still the number one source of new patients for most practices. For the practices I work with that have a formal internet marketing strategy, the internet is coming in as the second most effective way of attracting new patients and all practice have reported a significant drop off in the effectiveness of traditional advertising mediums such as Yellow Pages and the local paper.

So referrals number one and the web number two. For many practices there is little need to look beyond these two marketing methods. If you are a regular reader of this column you will know that I fervently believe that most practices could significantly increase the number of referrals they receive by simply putting in a system whereby patients are “asked” or “reminded” that you would like to treat their family and friends. It is very easy for me tell clients that they should give two practice brochures to a patient as they leave together with words to the effect of, “We would love to see more patients like you, would you mind passing these on”. But the reality is that although I have proven many times that this approach both works and is well received, it is quite hard to get a staff member to implement on a constant basis.

The value of referral is so large to a practice that it is too important to simply give up and just receive what comes your way naturally. So with this in mind the software development team at IDM has developed a way of automating and encouraging referrals in both the waiting lounge and over the internet. We call the programs Influx V0.1 and Influx Touch V0.1

The Influx programs allow patients to refer their family and friends via your website or via a large touch screen strategically placed in your waiting lounge. These programs have been engineered by our leading software developer and his team and provide a simple to use program that can be totally customised to your practice and style. For a conservative practice, the program both in-house and on the net can simply tell people that there is a facility for patients to refer their family and friends. The program will send a series of agreed messages thanking them for doing so, whist placing all their details and the details of the people they refer into a patient contact system (or integrate into your own system if you have one).

For a more aggressive approach, patients could be encouraged to refer by entering them into a prize draw or rewarding them and the referred patient with special offers. The program can be tailored to send out the message and images that is most appropriate for your practice and it does not rely on staff involvement to achieve this. If you would like to know more about the Influx products simply let me know and I will arrange a demo for you.

Check out the IDM stand at ADX10 if you are going. You won’t miss our stand; we are giving away something very special this year (think Stig)!