When patients have a good experience with a doctor, they’re inclined to pass your name along to others. In fact, the vast majority (83 percent) of Americans have made a word-of-mouth recommendation, according to the 2018 Chatter Matters World of Mouth report.
No doubt, word-of-mouth marketing is valuable, but that alone won’t fill your waiting room with new patients. Read on to learn why this approach should only be part of your healthcare marketing mix.
4 reasons why word-of-mouth marketing is not enough to grow your practice
1. Patients still conduct online research even after being referred
A referral might help you attract new patients, but that alone probably won’t seal the deal. Nearly all patients (91 percent) always or sometimes conducts additional research after receiving a referral from a healthcare provider, according to the 2018 Patient Access Journey Report conducted by Kyruus.
If your online reputation isn’t great — or is non-existent — people probably aren’t going to take the recommendation. With so much information readily available online for other providers, it’s easy for patients to find a doctor who meets their unique needs.
The patient perspective 2019: Online reputation survey
2. There is a limit to how many people word-of-mouth marketing can reach
Online reviews and your practice website can be accessed worldwide on a 24/7 basis. Word-of-mouth marketing has a much smaller reach, as it relies on the discourse between two people.
“There’s a limit to how many people you can access through your existing patients, and even if a patient refers me to a friend, that person will look for me online,” said PatientPop customer Dr. Nicole Mermet. “No matter how good your dentistry is, or how strong your staff is, or how well you run your business, you’re invisible if you don’t have a strong online presence.”
PatientPop review: Dr. Nicole Mermet, Dentistry
3. You’re not in control of the conversation
Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of people make recommendations because of a great experience, according to the Chatter Matters report. This is a good thing, but even when patients rave about your practice, you don’t know what they’re saying.
Just because patients praise your practice, it doesn’t mean they’re speaking to an audience who requires your services. Even if they are, their recommendation might not include the information needed to convince the other person to give your practice a try. If they go online to learn more about your practice but don’t find anything, they might opt for your competition.
4. Growth can take a long time
When trying to figure out how to get new patients, growth is something you’d like to see sooner, rather than later. Unfortunately, you don’t know when referrals will be given or when recipients will need to use them.
Your practice might be referred by a patient today, but it could be months or even years before the other person actually makes an appointment. If you want to grow your practice now, this method might prove to be of little help.
Healthcare marketing assets needed to attract new patients
A steady stream of online reviews
Most (86 percent) consumers read reviews for local businesses, according to BrightLocal. Considering 78 percent trust them as much as personal recommendations, these hold serious weight.
If you’re still not sold, consider this: Consumers need to read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling like they can trust a business. Numbers don’t lie, so the link between new patients and online reviews can’t be denied.
Information on directory websites
Making sure your business profile is complete on popular online directories is key to attracting new patients. As your practice receives more mentions on quality sites, your online authority will strengthen. This will boost your rank on search engines like Google.
Beyond SEO benefits, claiming your profile on these directories is crucial because it allows you to take control of the information available on your practice. This ensures crucial details — like your specialties and contact details — are correct.
An optimized, beautifully designed practice website
Nearly half (45 percent) of small businesses don’t have a website, according to a survey by CNBC and Survey Monkey. However, half of consumers visit the website of a business after reading a positive review, according to BrightLocal.
Clearly, if your practice doesn’t have a website, you’re missing out. New patients are searching for you online, but if they can’t find enough information, they’re choosing your competitors instead.