Being an expert in your niche and having strong clinical skills are not enough to grow your practice and increase profits. Mental health specialists must know how to build effective relationships with patients and partners and promote their healthcare services.
Even if you’re not a marketing guru, you can arm yourself with practical tips to reach and retain more patients. A strong referral network can help. This article provides tips on how to draw quality referrals and expand your business.
What is referral marketing?
Referral marketing encourages existing clients to recommend that their friends, family members, and peers try out your products or services.
With all the website banners and social media advertising we see, it can be hard to determine which brands and products are worth trying. Thus, we seek advice from people who have already tried the products or services we’re considering. Here’s where referral marketing comes in.
Thanks to their unique and authentic way of getting referrals, referral marketing programs help equip psychologists with relevant tools and strategies to scale their business and grow their patient base.
Referral marketing can be confused with word of mouth. Let’s clarify the difference. Word of mouth occurs when people tell their friends or someone else about your brand or suggest trying your services. It doesn’t require marketing efforts, so measuring and evaluating the results is challenging. On the other side, professional marketers run referral marketing programs with the help of specific tools to check people’s recommendations and reward people for sharing them.
Take a look at some types of referral marketing that can help therapists achieve the best possible results:
- Email campaigns. Email is one of the easiest ways to reach patients. Psychologists can send emails to potential or existing patients, informing them of ongoing promotions, discounts, coupons, and referral offerings.
- Social media. We use social media daily for various purposes, and we tend to follow those whose opinions we trust. Psychologists can take advantage of this opportunity — for example, a psychologist can collaborate with a social media influencer to promote their services. This is a powerful technique, since both psychologists and influencers get rewards, such as financial gains or more referrals.
- Client reviews. Psychologists can encourage their patients to leave reviews on relevant websites or online forums where people search for information about other people’s experiences with your product or services. According to Oberlo, 79% of customers equally trust online reviews and personal recommendations.
Did you know that 70% of the US population has a social media account? Read our in-depth guide on how to use social media marketing to promote your therapy practice, gain patients’ trust, and increase referral traffic.
Benefits of referral marketing
People have more trust in brands and experts that their peers or close friends recommend. Look at some other benefits of referral programs:
- Detailed targeting. Since existing patients know your services, they will recommend you to others who are interested in what you provide.
- Higher patient satisfaction. Effective referral programs with a vast number of referrals demonstrate high levels of patient satisfaction.
- Increased loyalty from the start. People rely more on other people’s feedback, experiences, and recommendations than they do on pure advertising.
- Improved brand awareness. Patients who already use your services can tell others about your brand the most naturally and authentically, creating a positive reputation in the eyes of your potential referrals.
- Higher conversion rate. People who have heard about your brand’s story from their close friends are more likely to seek out your services straight away, such as by booking an appointment when they visit your social network page or website for the first time.
Best referral sources for therapists
Now that you know the benefits and value of referral methods, consider these eight easy steps to gain more referrals for your private practice.
#1 Ask your patients for referrals
Ask your existing patients to spread the word about your therapy practice. Patients with whom you’ve developed long-term relationships are the best candidates to become your practice’s advocates. Politely ask your loyal patients to recommend your practice to those who need help so that you can provide exceptional mental health services to more people.
#2 Partner with other specialists
Combine your efforts with those of other specialists who provide complementary services. Partnerships will give you more cross-promotion opportunities and can help you get referrals.
Consider specialists who have similar types of patients as you do. For example, you can partner with primary care physicians, cardiologists, and endocrinologists.
You can reach healthcare providers in your community (if you work in a facility), visit specific online forums and websites, or meet colleagues offline during conferences and events in your local area.
#3 Participate in online events
The online environment is a perfect place to find and maintain professional connections. You can participate in various online industry events, conferences, webinars, etc. The more new people you meet at such activities, the higher the chance you’ll get more potential patients and, as a result, more new referrals.
#4 Meet personally
Offline networking is no less effective than online communication. It’s a unique way to build connections and make your brand noticeable.
For example, you can introduce yourself and your healthcare services during lectures, seminars, and other events and attract potential patients to your practice. Networking allows you to present yourself and your values to a large audience and grow your own professional network.
#5 Reward your patients
Remember that you can get a sufficient number of referrals only if you have firm work relationships with your existing patients.
Ensure you stay in contact with your trusted patients and reward those who bring you a referral. Patients will be more motivated to help you grow your patient base if they can participate in a rewards program.
We’ve gathered a few practical tips for developing a referral program:
- First, determine who will tell patients about the referral program. You can do this yourself or delegate it to front-desk staff.
- Consider how you will notify your patients about referral opportunities. You could use referral program forms you send your patients via email, or you could use a patient portal if you use practice management software such as ExpertBox. Also, you can develop leaflets with referral offers and leave them in your office’s waiting area.
- Remember to put a notice on your website and social media accounts to let your patients learn about your referral programs.
- To keep track of referral sources, add questions like Where did you hear about our practice? to your intake forms and get the answer before starting therapy.
- Determine the most appropriate gifts and incentives for your patients, such as discounts on future sessions or offering some services for free.
- Also, consider whether your new referral gets some sort of incentive, such as a free first consultation.
#6 Accept medical insurance
Patients often rely on their insurance provider’s list of healthcare specialists. That’s why you should consider accepting health insurance to boost your therapy practice’s brand credibility, reach more patients, and get new referrals.
#7 Design a professional website
Your website is where your patients become familiar with you and your practice before actually meeting you. Ensure the details, duration, and prices of your services are clearly displayed. Also, include properly designed links, calls to action (CTAs), buttons, and text.
Your website is where patients decide if you can help them. Examine in detail how to create a private therapy practice website that sells.
Up-to-date and relevant content can help nurture relationships with your patients, turn them into your advocates, and bring in new referrals faster. Your expert articles can be decisive in a potential client’s decision-making. Also, people like to share useful content with their followers, friends, and family, which also increases the volume of organic referrals. Moreover, a quality blog contributes to higher rankings on Google.
You can also leave comments on other professional blogs and add links to your practice resources if allowed. That’s a great way to increase brand transparency and gain valuable website traffic.
Tip: Make sure that your comments are relevant, to the point, and evidence-based.
Tips on how to get therapy referrals
Check out some practical tips on how to get more referrals:
1. Set metrics to track referrals across multiple channels and analyze your referral program’s ROI. These metrics may be:
- your website traffic
- new referral enrollments
- new patients referred to your therapy practice
- patient acquisition costs
- your income growth
You can do this manually or use automated marketing tools and software such as Google Analytics, embedded website forms to collect information, or a dedicated referral tracking platform.
2. Evaluate what communication channels are the most converting and focus on them.
3. Create referral campaigns for high and low seasons. For example, holidays are the most suitable time to launch your referral program. Also, plan your low-season referral campaigns in advance.
4. Optimize your therapy practice’s website to let patients easily find you in Google search results. Invest in search engine optimization (SEO) to improve your website’s efficiency.
5. Encourage your patients to leave positive reviews on your website or on social media to improve your credibility.
6. Define who your ultimate referral sources are and tighten communication with them.
The most effective way to get new referrals is to provide top-notch, quality therapy services to your existing patients and build successful relationships with satisfied clients. Advanced psychology practice management software can help you provide patients with the experience they deserve and gain more loyal patients. ExpertBox psychologist practice management software is designed specifically to meet mental health specialists’ needs. It contains everything you need for seamlessly running your therapy practice — online scheduling, automated online booking, paperless documents and intake forms, secure video calls, and other practical solutions.
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With all the website banners and social media advertising we see, it’s difficult to determine which brands and products are worthwhile. So we seek advice from people who have tried the services or products we’re considering. This is where referral marketing comes in. Referral marketing is when existing clients encourage friends and family members to try your services for the first time.
In addition to increased credibility and patient loyalty, look at what other benefits referral programs provide:
- Detailed targeting
- Higher patient satisfaction
- Increased loyalty
- Improved brand awareness
- Higher conversion rate
- Better patient retention
Here are eight easy steps to get more referrals for your private practice.
- Ask your patients for referrals
- Partner with other specialists
- Participate in online events
- Meet personally
- Reward your patients
- Accept medical insurance
- Design a professional website
- Start a blog