How to Get More Patient Referrals


It’s an understatement to note that strong customer relationships and referral programs are an essential aspect of any successful business growth strategy. No longer can medical aesthetic clinics rest solely on their credentials. Instead, a proactive strategy that leads to growth via referrals—because referrals don’t just happen—needs to be a part of your clinic’s day-to-day operations. A strong referral program that truly captures the power of patient retention is a game-changer and a necessary aspect of medical aesthetics marketing, particularly as we continue to fight the stigma surrounding the industry. Here, discover our tips on how to strengthen patient retention, increase your referrals, and cut your patient acquisition costs for sustained business growth and higher profits.

Patient Retention and Referrals: Strategies for Greater Business Growth

Cultivate Current Patient Relationships

The first step to increasing patient referrals is to establish strong relationships with your current patients, the referrers. With 92% of consumers saying they trust the recommendations of people they know, it’s important to ensure you’re remembered first when your patients have the opportunity to pass on or recommend a treatment provider. To ensure you’re top of mind, it’s imperative to also keep your patients top of mind. Invest in patient management software that will allow you and your staff to add notes to patient files and remember events or news in each patient’s life. If they mention a promotion at work during an appointment, for instance, consider sending them a congratulatory gift or bouquet following their appointment. If they have a trip coming up, send them away with some skin care samples for packing and ask them how it went during their next appointment. Investing in getting to know your patients is key to cultivating a strong patient retention rate and the better your ongoing relationship, the more likely they are to talk about their positive experiences with interested friends and family.

Educate Your Current Patients

Quite commonly, patients are only aware of the services they’re interested in and only speak to what they know. Unfortunately, this lack of awareness of your clinic’s complete service offerings may lead to a missed referral opportunity. After all, if your patients don’t know you offer a service, how can they suggest it to someone else? To increase your chance at garnering more referrals, keep current patients in the loop of new services and promotions, whether it’s by email, in person, or with brochures and posters in your waiting room. When possible, you may even consider offering loyal patients a discounted or complementary sample treatment to see what it’s all about, making it easier for them to then talk to the treatment from their own experience.  

Alternatively, an event held at your clinic—whether it’s a VIP evening of cocktails and cosmetics or a customer appreciation day with coffee and cookies—may be a perfect way to educate current patients on your other areas of treatment while having them invite an interested friend or family member to come learn more as well. Offering additional benefits for attending, such as discounts, samples, raffle prizes, or even free consultations will entice more current and prospective patients to attend.

Make Yourself a Contact

Bringing your business into the 21st century with new systems and technologies can pay off in boosting patient referrals. Email marketing can keep patients in the loop on new services and promotions and an online booking system can make scheduling appointments a breeze for patients, but what might benefit your patient referral rate more significantly is incorporating text messaging into your clinic’s communications. Consider texting patients regarding appointment reminders and allowing them to follow up to the same number with questions or concerns that may arise during their treatment plan, to rebook an appointment, or to even let you know they’ll be just a few minutes late. In doing this, your clinic will become a contact in their phone. As such, sharing your contact information with new referrals becomes even easier, particularly with phones generally being a device we keep on us at all times. In sum, you’ll increase patient satisfaction and retention by making it easy for patients to communicate with you in a way that’s natural for them, while also ensuring your contact information is at the tip of their finger when a referral opportunity arises.

Address the Bad Reviews

Negative online reviews shouldn’t be seen as a burden—they should be considered an opportunity. It might seem detrimental to your business to have your online review rating decline, but really listening to the feedback, understanding it, addressing it in a response to that review, and offering a resolution to an unhappy past patient can better build your reputation for customer satisfaction. Even if the previous patient does not respond, your willingness to listen to and address their concerns may make a positive impression on prospective patients, and could override a lower rating in their minds. However, this strategy only works if you’re truly open to feedback and improvements. It’s imperative to not get defensive in reviews and always craft a personal response. Inserting the same old script will only come across as lazy and inauthentic, further harming your online reputation.

If you’re able to see the past patient again, resolve their concerns and ensure they’re happy with the outcome this time; you may then have the opportunity to ask that they add an edit to their review online to speak towards their more recent experiences as an extension of that first review. Never ask them to remove a review altogether and only suggest an edit if the interaction feels light and positive. The main point here is to always approach negative reviews with authentic concern, care, and positivity for the best outcome.

Ask for Reviews and Referrals

According to a study out of Stanford University, those asking for a favor often immensely underestimate how many people are willing to fulfill a request if they are directly asked. While making the request simple greatly influenced the number of those willing to comply, researchers found participants often perceived that they would have a much harder time and felt few of the people asked would be willing to comply. The main takeaway: we often feel asking won’t result in a positive response either way, but it turns out we’re much more likely to complete a favor when asked because it makes us feel good to have the power to help. In other words, when it comes to your clinic’s referral program, asking for reviews and referrals can have a significant impact. Interestingly, while one survey notes that only 11% of practices actually ask their patients for reviews and referrals, 83% of patients said they would be willing and happy to refer friends and family.

Happy patients are appreciative and ready to say thanks. Make it easy for them to do so by asking them to review you online, refer their friends and family, or attend a patient appreciation or VIP day with a guest. All of these options can help to strengthen your referral program. One important point to note is that it is best for the treatment provider to request the referral in person, rather than a receptionist or other staff member or even via email. An email reminder won’t hurt, but having the treatment provider ask in person shows the patient how appreciative your clinic is of their loyalty and trust. It’s a matter of respect to which the patient is more likely to positively respond. For best results, ask patients after they offer a compliment about your services or their results and always wait until results are at their peak and the patient is feeling happy and comfortable.

One Final Point

One key point to consider as your clinic works on improving all of these aspects of the patient retention and referral cycle is that you don’t have to go at it alone. For your patient retention and referral strategy to be successful, it must be incorporated at all touchpoints in the patient lifecycle—meaning it’s a team effort. Ensure your staff is always on the same page and delegate tasks where possible. If resources permit, bring on a patient care coordinator who can assist with replying to reviews online and can help cultivate current patient relationships. Have reception staff take care of appointment requests via text message and send out email invitations to events or follow-up requests for reviews and referrals.  

Finally, now may be the time to look into enhancing your business with new devices and treatments to make sure you’re meeting your patients’ needs all around. Consider a partnership with a developer that includes marketing support and assets with each device purchase, so you can ensure you’re giving your undivided attention to your patients. After all, they’re your valuable brand ambassadors and the most valuable aspect to your referral strategy.

Contact an expert today to discover the benefits of a Venus Concept partnership, from outstanding marketing and post-sale support to industry-leading technology, both designed to help boost your ROI and propel your business growth.

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