Since the beginning of marketing, word of mouth (WoM) has been the undisputed best generator of new business. It plays to several psychological triggers that humans have, and traditionally… has not cost anything. Savvy marketers picked up on the effectiveness of a person recommending to a neighbor or friend a specific product or service. Then they started incentivizing that behavior.
In this article we will explore three easy-to-implement word of mouth marketing tactics that work wonderfully in the dental industry. Though word of mouth marketing alone may be enough to achieve your practice goals, it is worth it to understand how it should fit into a robust dental marketing plan.
Benefits of Word of Mouth Marketing in a Dental Practice
Increase Case Acceptance
New potential patients referred to you by current patients are more likely to accept treatment. One Nielsen study showed that, when consumers are referred to a business by a friend, they are four times more likely to buy. (https://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/us/en/insights/article/uploads/2009/07/pr_global-study_07709.pdf)
Higher Lifetime Value
Referred patients are worth more to your practice long-term. The Wharton School published a study in which the habits of approximately 10,000 consumers were tracked for about three years. They found over that period of time that referred customers generate up to 25% more value than others. (https://faculty.wharton.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Schmitt-Skiera-vandenBulte-2011-Referral-Programs-Customer-Value.pdf)
Patients who have been referred to you by friends are more likely to refer their friends to your practice. If you enjoy the patients who were referred to you, most likely you will also enjoy the patients they refer.
Word of Mouth is one of the least expensive forms of marketing. Some expense is involved because a great WoM plan incentivizes referrals and therefore does incur some costs — though unpaid for and unsolicited new patient referrals do happen and are always welcome.
Why Does Word of Mouth Marketing Work So Well?
Referred patients are more likely to buy, spend more, refer their friends, AND it’s one of the least expensive ways to get new patients. But why? Why does WoM produce such positive results?
The power and essence of WoM marketing boils down to a single word- TRUST. Interestingly enough, studies show that sales professionals rank trust as the number one factor in closing deals. So put those two pieces together. 1) WoM is the most highly trusted form of marketing, and 2) trust is the #1 factor in closing sales. That makes for a pretty compelling case for Word of Mouth being part of your dental marketing strategy.
Three Proven Word of Mouth Tactics
Reputation management used to be handled primarily through PR. Then along came this pesky fad called “the internet.” Favorable press releases can no longer protect a business’s reputation. The comfortable, opaque shower curtain that used to shield an organization from scrutiny was unceremoniously ripped down, leaving businesses (like yours) indecently exposed to the public. Nowadays a nimble-thumbed consumer can torch or burnish your practice’s reputation from their phone within 15 seconds.
Here are a great tips to boost your reputation management game:
- Give patients an amazing experience that they are excited to leave reviews about.
- Make asking for favorable reviews part of your protocol.
- Parade your successes constantly to give the impression of a consistently great experience delivered to your patients.
Patient Referral Program
A referral program is all about enabling and incentivizing more referrals.Can this be done comfortably? Yes. Regular people talking in normal conversations bring up specific businesses and brands naturally and often. In fact, consumers casually discuss specific brands 90 times per week. (https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30239/71-More-Likely-to-Purchase-Based-on-Social-Media-Referrals-Infographic) When you think about it, it’s not that shocking. “I love that new restaurant, Angler’s!” “My Toyota has been so reliable.” “We’re looking into that new gym,Thic, across the street.”
But what patients really want to go around talking about their dentist? Quite a lot actually. Especially for the right incentive. Patients are already used to talking about other businesses with their friends. If your practice is truly mention-worthy, you just need to grease the skids with a slick referral program to be included in that batch of 90.
Here are a free tips to build a successful referral program in your practice:
- Deliver a great patient experience that actually is shareworthy.
- Pick incentives that actually make people want to participate.
- Have an internal competition that gives a special prize to the highest-referring team member.
What percentage of cases do you start for patients referred to you by other professionals (the pediatric dentist, orthodontist, family care doctor, etc)? Probably at least half, right? Then why not put a little intention behind this effort and develop a polished referral program making it even easier and more desirable to refer to you? Once you grow your referral streams
Here are the best steps for generating referrals from other businesses:
- Identify businesses that cater to your target market, then start coordinating.
- Get those strategic partners’ teams to love you (so they refer to you).
- When a partner gives several referral options to their customers, make sure your marketing material stands out! Check out DentalCMO’s print marketing examples.
These are not the only Word of Mouth Marketing options available to a dental practice. But they are a great place to start for most. Don’t feel limited though. Any effort that encourages or incentivizes referrals tucks neatly under the WoM umbrella.