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Generating Patient Referrals

Patient referrals are among the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to increase the patient flow and, ultimately, the size of your future practice. However, the concept of “training” your patients to become walking, talking billboards for your practice can be a foreign concept to new dental professionals. 70 to 80% of your patient base should come from patient referrals, but many dentists do not take full advantage of this invaluable resource. This article will give some advice that will help prepare you to use patient referrals in your future practice.

Start Small

You’ve spent years in dental school learning to tend to your patients’ oral health; not necessarily learning business and marketing strategies. In your future practice, it would be wise to begin by tempering your expectations for referrals. Just think, if you can get each patient to give one referral, you will have doubled the size of your practice!

Don’t be afraid to ask

Remember, many patients don’t know that you are looking for new patients; they came to your office to have some dentistry done and get on with their day as quickly as possible. Simply reminding a patient after their initial visit with a phrase such as “We are always looking for new patients, tell your friends or family to come by for a check up” can do wonders.

Make it personal

Your initial impression with a patient could be the most important factor that determines his or her future with your practice. Focus on getting to know your new patients during their first visit. Ask them something personal and pay attention to their response. Make a script and use the same one for every new patient if it helps you feel more comfortable. Some good questions for new patients might include:

  • Did you grow up in this area?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • What is one thing I should know about you?
  • What did you not like about your last dentist?
  • How did you hear about our practice?

You should try to do something that sets you apart from other dentists and makes your patient feel special. A hand-written note after an initial visit or a follow-up phone call will remind your patient about the good experience they had at your office. Remember to encourage them to spread the word about your practice!

Out with the old, in with the new

The days of print marketing are quickly coming to an end. Websites are becoming easier and easier to build and maintain. Your practice should havea strong web presence including patient testimonials and appointment forms. Learn a little bit about search engine optimization to take advantage of everything the web has to offer, or simply make a one-time payment to have a great website designed by a professional.

Having an active presence on Social Media platforms are an easy (and potentially free) way to generate publicity for your practice. Set up social media accounts for your practice on all the major outlets (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc). Encourage your patients to “Like” your practice on Facebook or to “Follow” your practice or personal Twitter feed for helpful tips and reminders about oral health. Leave materials in your waiting room reminding patients about these platforms, and give them a reason to check them out like 10% off their first visit, or a free tooth brush!


These are just a few quick tips to help you take advantage of patient referrals. Some of these things may come more naturally to some of you than others, but referral marketing is a skill that every dentist should work on during their years in practice.

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