The term “marketing” is often associated with external advertising, or activities designed to attract new patients to the practice. While this is certainly an important part of the marketing process, it doesn’t paint the entire picture. In fact, to start growing your practice, you may not have to look any further than your current patient base. When working with my Pride clients, I share a common piece of advice – don’t forget about internal marketing! At Pride we call it “the good ol’ AFRs” – asking for referrals.
I sometimes hear from my Pride doctors that asking their patients for referrals can be intimidating or uncomfortable. But when you have the right mindset – what I call the “marketing mindset” – asking for referrals becomes an easy and natural part of the day. And remember that while internal marketing isn’t difficult, it does require training on the parts of the doctors and staff. Remember that verbal skills like asking patients for referrals do not necessarily come naturally, but need to be taught, and that just as with clinical skills, practice makes perfect! With some practice, asking for referrals will not feel awkward or sales-y, but will become habit, and a good habit at that.
The importance of internal marketing is magnified by the dominance of what I call public word of mouth, otherwise known as online reviews. In today’s digital world, word of mouth has grown from a purely one-on-one communication to a one-to-many model, where any of your patients can become a virtual billboard for your practice by writing a glowing review online. So remember, when a patient gives positive feedback verbally, it is the perfect opportunity to engage the person and ask for an online review.
Encourage patients to post a positive review on your practice’s profile on sites such as Yelp, Google+ Local, and Healthgrades, so that when potential patients research your practice online, they will see the satisfied experiences of your patients.
To make internal marketing most effective, here are a few must-do’s
• Everyone in the practice should ideally be asking for referrals and online reviews every day. Pride offers terrific training on internal marketing verbal skills for the entire team.
• Have a staff meeting to launch the internal marketing initiative and get everyone on board and committed to the plan.
• Implement a system to acknowledge and reward patients who refer new patients. The Viva Referral System is one solution that automates a referral acknowledgement system, making the internal marketing process easy to track.
Perhaps the most important element of any internal marketing program is consistency. Committing to growing the practice through word of mouth is the best way to build momentum for your practice, and creating patient ambassadors will drive new patients through the front door for years to come.
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