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Philadelphia Dentist Builds Referrals With Customized Prepaid Visa Debit Cards

Nov. 5, 2010

by David Jones

As most practitioners are already aware, referrals can be one of the most powerful and effective ways to build a practice, grow the patient roster, and improve revenue. Unfortunately for many, referrals are often viewed as a “bonus” and something few dentists are willing to actually ask for, even from patients who have had an overwhelmingly positive experience. While it’s one thing to ask straight out for referrals, it’s another to provide a powerful incentive that encourages patients to refer their friends and family without having to blatantly ask. At Thorndale Dental Associates, a large practice just outside the City of Brotherly Love, Dr. Richard E. DeForno has developed a creative new program that rewards patients for referrals. By distributing prepaid Visa debit cards customized with the practice logo to patients who make referrals, this solo practitioner is building a thriving family dental practice and building brand awareness in the community. Voted the Top Dentist in the Philadelphia area by readers of "Main Line Today," a sophisticated lifestyle publication for the Western suburbs of Philadelphia, Dr. DeForno has been in private practice since 1976. With four hygienists and a crown and bridge lab on site, the practice boasts an active patient base of more than 2,900 and provides a wide range of general dentistry, cosmetic services, implants, and sedation services.Marketing coordinator Adrienne MacKenzie has been using the customized incentive card program at for the past 18 months to purchase branded $25 prepaid Visa debit cards that carry the Thorndale Dental logo and a personalized thank you message. “Each patient who refers someone to the practice automatically receives one of our customized $25 prepaid cards,” MacKenzie said. “CardLab lets us include our logo, and even put the recipient's name right on the card itself. Patients love it.”Cards are sent from the practice directly to the patient's home inside a customized thank you card signed by Dr. DeForno, adding an additional personal touch to the expression of gratitude. can also send the cards directly to recipients with customized thank you cards if other offices want to take advantage of this additional service.The incentive program not only brings in new business, but also allows the practice to track the success of its referral program. Dr. DeForno sent out 18 customized cards last month, a direct result of at least 18 new patients coming in for service. “If our patients aren’t sending referrals our way, we know we’ve got a problem,” MacKenzie said. “This way, we can send an appropriate thank you, and keep track of how many new referrals we’re getting each month.”’s online design system makes it quick and easy to create, purchase, and ship the cards. Users can upload their own logo, or choose from hundreds of design templates to meet just about any need. At Thorndale Dental, each time a new patient calls for an appointment, the front desk personnel ask specifically how they heard about the practice during the intake interview. This information is noted in the patient's chart and MacKenzie orders the customized prepaid card from There’s no limit on the number of cards each existing patient can receive, as long as their referrals turn into actual patients.“It really is worthwhile for us because depending on the need each new patient has, it could turn into a complex case and the return on investment for that $25 card could be pretty substantial,” MacKenzie said.The practice promotes the referral program on its Web site and talks with patients about it when they compliment the staff, asking them to tell friends and family about their experience and discussing the incentive that’s in it for them.“Our patients really appreciate the gesture of us sending out the cards,” MacKenzie said. “They tell us how nice it is to receive them, and most say they would have recommended us even without the referral program. That’s nice to know, too!”In addition to providing a financial incentive for patients to recommend their practice, the customized branded cards also provide a creative way for Thorndale Dental to market its practice beyond existing patients. Each time the cards are used, others see the practice’s logo and may even ask the user how they received the card. And, since the cards can be used anywhere Visa is accepted, the program gives patients greater flexibility in choosing how they want to spend their “reward.”
David S. Jones is CEO of CardLab Corp., the global leader in customized, prepaid Visa incentive cards for employee incentives, customer rewards, and personal gift-giving. The company’s easy-to-use custom card design and distribution services make it simple, fast, and affordable to send FDIC-insured incentive cards in any denomination from $5 to $2,500 to anyone, anywhere, with no minimum order and no setup fee. For more information, visit