Grow your patient referrals

Donna Hall shares advice on how to increase the referrals you receive from patients to help your business blossom

Recommendations to your practice are one of the best ways of winning new business, especially when they come from a trusted source. A friend or family member telling a potential new patient that they’ve had a great experience with you, or that you’re the best person to perform the treatment they need is often the best kind of ‘advertising’.

It’s just like if you are considering which hotel or restaurant to go to and someone gives you a glowing reference for a particular one, that will likely be the deciding factor that helps you choose. So, how can you tap into such an effective, and cost-efficient, way of attracting new patients and build up the referral side of your business?

Here are some simple tips to help you increase referrals from patients.

Plan ahead

Use your regular daily huddles to discuss the appointments for that day/week and identify who would be good to ask. Patients who are at the furthest point in their journey with you, ie usually at the end of their treatment, are the best option. Also, plan which team member will approach them, when and what they will say.

Choose your language

As mentioned above, before you set about trying to gain more referrals have a team discussion about what you will actually say. This will help to increase your confidence, and the chances of a positive result.

You don’t want to sound too scripted, but saying something along the lines of ‘I’m glad you’ve had such a good experience here, it’s been great treating you and seeing your progress. Could I ask for a small favour? Please could I give you these referral cards and ask that you hand them out to any friends or family who are looking for treatment in the future?’

Think digital

As a bolster to the traditional referral card, consider asking your patients to film a short video testimonial or post a review (and tag your practice in) on their social media platforms and Google (you can adapt the conversation above to do this). It’s a great way for them to refer you to a wider audience – and if you can convince them to do a selfie with you, it has the added extra of showing off your practice’s personality.

You will need to use your judgement as to which patients will be best suited to this.

Have a target

Dentists and their teams can often be reluctant to ask for referrals from patients, for a variety of reasons. However, people who have been referred are often easier to convert to patients, so it can be a ‘quick win’ for the practice. Therefore, staying motivated about gaining referrals is key and setting targets for how many should be asked for/gained can be one way to help the team stay focused.

Plus, the more often you ask for a referral, the more comfortable you become about asking so the process should become more efficient and easier.

Time to blossom

Referrals only require a small investment of time and money but can help to build a steady pipeline of potential new patients.

So, if they are not already part of your marketing mix then perhaps now is a good time to re-evaluate your approach and consider implementing some of the tips above and help to grow your patients and your business.

Practice Plan is a specialist provider of practice-branded patient membership plans in the UK. Its team of experienced professionals has supported more than 1,500 dental practices to transform the profitability of their business through the combination of a well-populated plan and personalised support including marketing, business advice, events and training. For more details, call 01691 684165 or visit

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