The Value of Word of Mouth Referrals (and how you can encourage them)

Do you remember that ad in the 80s for Faberge shampoo?

And they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on.”

Well, even if you don’t, the whole concept was the 80s version of social media viral marketing: You tell a friend about a product or service that you really like. She tells two of her friends. They tell two of their friends… and so on. These days, this kind of ‘word of mouth’ referral is more likely to happen on Facebook than over the back fence, but the principle is the same.

Why does word of mouth work?

Advertising, whether social media style or the old fashioned way, is the standard way that your dental practice can reach out to new customers. Some of that advertising will be about establishing trust with the potential patient. Letting them know that you value them as patients, that you don’t do unnecessary procedures, that you want them to have a pain free dental experience and will do your utmost to provide that. Or course, it’s all well and good to say these things but when it comes to personal and medical services, like dentistry, there is nothing more valuable – and inexpensive – than a personal referral.

The person who is referring your dental office to their friend or colleague has already established trust with that person. Your office gets ‘trusted by association’, if you will. And there aren’t enough advertising dollars in all the world to garner that kind of positive attention.

Does it really work?

“Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, often referred to as earned advertising, are still the most influential, as 84 percent of global respondents across 58 countries to the Nielsen online survey said this source was the most trustworthy” (Nielsen)

That number is up from 78% in 2007. So why the increase?

One word: noise. There are print ads, television, radio, online pop ups, banner ads, branded content, Twitter, Facebook… With any number of ways that people are hit daily with marketing and messages, it all starts to sound like noise.

Word of mouth cuts through the noise.

“88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (vs. 79% in 2013)” and “A further 30% say that they will trust a customer review just as much as a personal recommendation if they believe it to be authentic – underlining the fact that authenticity is equally as important as quantity.” (BrightLocal)

A study commissioned by Ogilvy, Google and TNS revealed: “…word of mouth is the most powerful factor when it comes to consumers’ relationships with brands.” (Adweek)

What’s even more interesting about the BrightLocal data is that it refers specifically to local business services and reviews about these. In fact, doctors and dentists were the type of local businesses searched for on the internet 38% of the time (up from 35% in 2013) (BrightLocal).

So if we combine this with the increased trust of personal online recommendations, there should definitely be room for word of mouth in your marketing plan.

How can you get more word of mouth referrals for your dental practice?

Of course, when we say ‘word of mouth’, we’re not referring to people just chatting at a local garden party. Social media, online testimonials and customer reviews are very important to the perceived quality of service that your dental office provides.

  1. Mention word of mouth to every satisfied patient but just don’t leave it up to chance that they will ‘share the word’: set up a system for them to leave positive reviews on your site, with a link that is emailed to them, if they agree to it.
  2. Referral bonuses – what you want to give to your patients is up to you, but remember that it has to be worth their while to refer you.
  3. Make sure you respond to issues or complaints in a timely fashion – engaging with your patients, rather than ignoring any issues, will ensure they feel cared for. That makes them more likely to give you a good review / referral. Every visit should be outstanding, from the moment they arrive in the office to the second that they leave and even with a call after a procedure to make sure they are happy.

By automating your referral system, you can ensure that it becomes as much a part of your what your staff says to a patient as ‘good morning’. After all, if you don’t ask for something, you won’t get it.

You need to do the work that you enjoy and that capitalizes on your skills and education. In other words, do what you do best. You don’t need to be bogged down in marketing plans and management conundrums. Let others do that.

Contact the experts at Dental Management Advisors and we’ll help you get back to doing more of what you love. http://www.dentalmanagementadvisors.com/contact

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