THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

The 100% Growth System – Part 8

Getting serious about recommendations Everyone agrees that recommendations from existing patients are simply the best way for your business to grow. The benchmark test here is whether at least a third of your new patients are coming from recommendations? Historically, the terminology was “word of mouth”, implying that people were talking to each other about you. Let’s get real. People talk to each other in the wine bar on a Friday night, at school or sport events over the weekend and at family and social gatherings. But what are people doing when they aren’t working or watching the television? They are hunched over a smartphone and reading, posting and sharing. SHARING IS THE NEW WORD OF MOUTH. We’ve talked already about encouraging those patient “selfies” at the end of treatment and about the active maintenance of your social media channels. If you can generate your quota of good news stories about patients whose life you have changed – they will get shared. To grow your business by 100%, you and your team will have to start taking the subject of recommendations seriously. In a recent marketing workshop I challenged a very successful client on the number of business cards he was handing out and the requests he was making for recommendations. He and I have worked on his referral communication skills, he has suffered the torments of role play sessions with me in his surgery. His own production has grown by 100% in the 18 months we have worked together – and there is plenty of room for more. Given that so many of our ideas have borne fruit, you would think that this would be a natural game changer? “I just keep forgetting.” Was the response to my challenge. If he says that – what hope is there for the rest of his team? In the 100% growth practice, the request for recommendations begins right at the start of the new patient experience and carries on throughout the lifetime of your relationship. The 12-Point Recommendation Checklist in the 100% Growth Practice Go through this list with your team and measure how many points you have fully covered. 1. Your website includes reference (to the fact that many of your patients arrive via recommendation) on your home page and on your most frequently visited pages; 2. Reference is made on your Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+ and any other social channels; 3. When you ask a patient for a written, audio or video testimonial, you always ask them to begin by referencing how they first found you; 4. Your paid media programme (advertising on Google and Facebook) references recommendations; 5. If you invest in print media advertising and promotion, A-boards, signage, banners, pop-ups and adverts, you reference recommendations; 6. Any B2B or B2C activity in your community allows you the opportunity to describe yourself as a practice that grows via recommendation; 7. You collect “selfies” and stories from happy patients at the end of treatment and you ask for them to be shared; 8. You collect data (email addresses and permission) as we have laboured in this series – and when you send White Papers, short-term e-mail nurture sequences and monthly e-mail newsletters, you repeatedly make reference to your status as a highly referrable practice; 9. At the start of any new patient journey, the TCO or clinician reminds a prospective new patient that, when and if treatment is completed to their satisfaction, recommendations will be requested. Yes – at their first consultation. It is known as “the sale before the sale”. “Chris, having listened carefully, what I would like do next is put together some thoughts and ideas on how we can help you to achieve your desired outcome. In so doing I will be mindful of the history and current status that you have explained and I will endeavour to create a treatment plan for you that is appropriate and affordable. One thing I would like to mention is that our practice enjoys a high level of recommendations from existing happy patients. If you do proceed to treatment with us and if we are able to deliver the clinical outcome you desire and look after you well, we will ask you to recommend us after your treatment is completed. Would that be OK?” 10. Your printed treatment plans contain narrative that makes reference to recommendations being welcome; 11. The all important end of treatment meeting contains a specific face to face request: “Chris, now that we have come to the end of your treatment I want to ask firstly whether you are happy with the clinical outcome that we have delivered and, secondly, whether you are happy with the customer service experience? If so, I wonder of I might ask a couple of favours? First, we have mentioned throughout your journey with us that a significant number of our patients come to us through recommendation. I would like give you three of my business cards, would you be happy to pass them forward to any family, friends or colleagues who you think might benefit from a visit to a practice like ours? Second, we are very keen to build a collection of video testimonials from patients. We find that 90% of our patients would never be happy in front of a camera but 10% are quite relaxed and happy to help. Could I ask which of those groups you belong to? If you are in the 10% we would love to capture your thoughts in a brief video. If you are in the 90% group we were wondering if a still photograph and some quotes or a simple written testimonial from you would be possible?” This is the conversation that my client was “forgetting”. 12. At every dental health review a reminder is made that recommendations are welcome, business cards are handed out by dentists, therapists and hygienists. That means in every recall cycle you might be handing out thousands of business cards – nothing wrong with that. Also, you ask your patients at recall to “like” your Facebook page and share the page on their newsfeed. This can achieve a much greater “reach” the simply handing out cards. Do both! How do you measure up to this list? Tactic #10 – Implement The 12-Point Recommendation Checklist Should an inducement should be offered for recommendations. The “if you send us patients you will get a £25.00 M&S voucher” approach? This is tacky and runs the risk of interpretation as desperation. Far better an unsolicited “thank you” – a personal note from the dentist, thanking the referring patient with some gesture – good ideas include a lottery ticket (with a note to say “thanks a million”), a voucher for a movie night for two or a dinner voucher. In the 100% Growth practice, your recommendation systems are paramount. You recognise that a third of your growth (if not more) can come from implementing the successful habits I have listed above and at a fraction of your marketing budget. Why, then, is the implementation and consistency of these recommendation steps so elusive? Summary so far of The 100% Growth System Tactic #1 – hold accountability meetings face to face with your SEO, Digital and Direct Marketing providers EVERY MONTH AND PREFERABLY FACE TO FACE and ask them the golden question. Tactic #2 – lead your team in actively asking for emails, social connections, testimonials, referrals and networking invitations Tactic #3 – The Lifecycle Marketing Workflow Tactic #4- Create White Paper downloads on your web site for all of the major treatment modalities that you wish to broadcast Tactic #5 – Embed White Paper offers into your existing email newsletters Tactic #6 – complete internal web forms for all new patient enquiries and up-sales to existing patients Tactic #7 – Create reactivation sequences for dormant treatment plans. Tactic #8 – create a CRM software-based recall system that encourages up-sales and referrals Tactic #9 – get trained and adept with Digital Treatment Planning Tactic #10 – Implement The 12-Point Recommendation Checklist

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