How do you best ask your patients for dental patient referrals? How do you reward them, and how do you create incentives to do so?

Transactional vs. Social Relationships



Podcast Highlights

  • The importance of internal promotions
  • Avoiding the state board
  • Types of relationships
  • Transactional Relationships
  • Social relationships
  • “Predictably Irrational”
  • Why you don’t give your mother in law $300 for cooking dinner
  • Making patient relationships social
  • Receiving a gift when expected vs. when it’s unexpected
  • Incentives
  • When is the best time to offer incentives?
  • The two halves of the dental market
  • Transactional customers vs. social customers

Podcast Transcription:

Hello, and welcome once again to the Dental Marketing Mastery series. This podcast is brought to you by and New Patients Incorporated. I’m Howie Horrocks, the Founder of New Patients Incorporated, along with me once again, as my friend and partner and the President of New Patients Incorporated, Mark Dilatush.

Howie:  Hello, everybody. Welcome to our podcast once again. Hey, Mark, how you doing out there?

Mark: Hey, how are we good. We survived the mega storm. We got like three inches of snow here. It was a

Howie: your fall weather storm.

Mark:  I know. But the place in Maine I for those who don’t know, I have a place in Maine. They’re going to get they’re going on their third foot in the last two and a half days. So

Howie: Different story up there.

Mark: Yeah, it’s a little bit of a different story up there. But they’re used to it, they go to school, they get three feet of snow, they go to school. So

Howie: Here in Vegas, we get snow and you know, everything stops.

Mark: Exactly, exactly. Even the gambling stops.

Howie: Slows down.

Mark: Yeah.

Howie: Anyway, our topic today we were, we were discussing this. I don’t know how long ago but you know, dentists seem to often have questions about how to take care of patients who refer to them.

Mark: Right or, or, or how to? How to ask them

Howie: Oh that too. Exactly. And, you know, there’s questions about illegality, and what your dental boards going to do and what you say an advertising thing, this net, the other thing? So generally, it’s kind of a hot topic. So let’s cover that today. If that’s alright with you,

Mark: No, no, that sounds and we get this. It’s one of those questions. That seems to circle. It seems to come around. It’s like bell bottoms. Right? It comes around every so often. The question comes into discussion comes and the question is, is how do I best ask my patients for dental patient referrals? That’s one of the questions. Another question is how do I best reward my patients who refer? And another question is how do I create an incentive to get my patients to refer?

Howie: Right? Right,

Mark: Let’s, let’s take the third one first. because number one, and number two are pretty much answered, or at least mostly answered if we address number three first. So the question is, is how do I create an incentive based dental referral program to generate more dental patient referrals from my existing patient base, and actually, referrals from your existing patient base is why when we build marketing plans, we allocate X dollars a year out of the budget, usually about 10% of the budget. And we always put it into internal promotion. For this very specific reason.

It never is a bad idea to properly promote the benefits of the dentistry that you provide, or your conveniences or your technologies or whatever other marketable attributes you have to your existing patients. It’s just never about advanced investment. What happens in in in result of that investment is you get really two things, you get additional treatment acceptance from your existing patient base, that’s number one. Number two, you get, you get additional new patients from your existing patient base through their dental patient referrals, their referrals of family, friend, coworkers, almost anyone they run into, if they become happy and become vocal advocates of your dental practice,

Howie: You also get another thing, you get lowered expenses, it’s much cheaper to generate patients from your already existing patient base than it is to go out and generate patients from strangers

Mark:  And that’s what a marketing company does is they try to minimize risk and minimize cost to generate a higher ROI. So that’s part of this whole part of everything that we do is centered around, you know, creating a group of advocates really out of your patient base. So how do we give them an incentive?

Well, I’m going to stop the dentist, right there. And we’re going to talk about a couple of things, I’m going to say that, as of the last time that we look. Asking or openly soliciting dental patient referrals from your existing patient base, especially when creating an incentive to do so is a way against your state board Rex in 32. states. So I don’t know what state you’re from. But if you were on, let’s say, a roulette table, about half the numbers or more, um, you would have more than half.

Well, two thirds of the numbers would take you out. So be very careful when trying to create an incentive based dental referral program, and certainly communicate it and certainly communicate in communicating in an open manner. Let’s say through written word, emails, social media, what have you. Because if that gets picked up on by a dentist in your state, and they see that they report you will get a nasty gram from your state board.

Howie: Right.

Mark: So now, there’s a secondary reason besides a state board letter. And this falls, and we didn’t even know this while we were testing this that many years ago, we sought out to test what works and what doesn’t work, just like we always do with everything. Right. And, and when it comes to internal promotion, or through dental patient referrals, obviously, you’re going to try to test everything.

What we found was that we couldn’t really nail down why instead, apps didn’t work, because we did them. We did them during our testing. Yeah, they just they didn’t work as well as not using them. And we always wonder why. And then we came to the realization of the two really different types of relationships that your patients want or are seeking from you. It’s very similar to the different types of relationships that consumers want or seek out through other health care providers and even other businesses doesn’t even have to be in healthcare. And those two relationship types are transactional relationship types and social relationship types.

Howie: Right, right. Two different things.

Mark: So who was the guy that brought that? We stumbled upon this actually, how we after we did our testing, it was one of those aha moments where

Howie: Right, right,

Mark: where somebody actually writes down the reason why all the stuff you’ve spent all that money trying didn’t work?

Howie: Yeah, we figured it out, you know, on the spreadsheet, but then, you know, a fellow by the name of Dan Ariely came along in and really, you know, put it put it down in words. So, basically, it was Dan Ariely is a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University and wrote a book years ago called predictably, predictably irrational, the hidden forces that shape our decisions. And in it, he gives this really funny story, this this example, but it perfectly illustrates the difference between, say, a market norm or a transactional norm versus a social norm, or a source social transaction.

It goes like this cigarette, you’re at your in laws for Thanksgiving dinner, and your mother in law has prepared this fantastic meal. And it’s just, you know, wonderful, everybody just loves it. And you decide that, you know, your mother in law deserves some sort of reward for this, and you pull out three $100 bills, and you hand it to her, what, what happens next? Well, she’s probably insulted that you would offer her money for doing something that she was, you know, doing anyway, and from her heart, and you’re trying to turn that into some sort of transaction, a monetary kind of transaction, and it just doesn’t fit. It’s like the proverbial dead cat at a wedding, it just doesn’t work. And you’re very likely not going to be invited back next year

Mark: yeah.

Howie: That’s, that’s the difference in Dentists can stumble into that mistake, by confusing the two transactions. And they can do that by getting mixed up in rewarding their patients for doing something that they’re probably perfectly willing to do anyway, if you just ask,

Mark: right and this this in this is very years 20 some years, you know, I’ve been talking to Dentists about how they ask their patients for you know, dental patient referrals of friends and family and co workers and most of them feel weird asking. Right?

Howie: Yeah.

Mark: And, and that’s the end and too, so I want to just reflect back to how weird that feels to ask and you feel kind of salesy, right. You feel kind of smarmy, right doing it.

Howie: It’s not it’s not a doctorly thing to do.

Mark: It’s not a doctorly, thing to do, right? This is what you’re feeling when you feel weird asking is exactly what this guy was writing. You have a social relationship with a human being, it’s no longer transaction based.

Howie: Right

Mark:  You sat there and you worked with them, talk to them, got to know them, ask them how their daughter was doing in camp or whatever, whatever stories talked about the sports lab, last game, the Super Bowl, the weather, the snow, whatever, whatever you were talking to them about. This is now a social engagement. This is no longer a transactional engagement. So what this gentleman was talking about was, when the end of that social engagement happens, and you ask for an additional transact, it just feels odd.

Howie: Right it confuses those

Mark: Odd, it confuses them. It feels odd to you. Now, you can take this further. And you can say, well, we have this can out front and we put your name in it. We’re going to put your name in it every time you send us dental patient referrals, we’re going to do a drawing for an iPad. Okay. Well, now you just changed a wonderful cert social relationship that your patient actually does feel. And you made it transactional.

Howie: Yeah. Right.

Mark: Okay so

Howie: Well, and there’s that there’s another pitfall too, right? It’s kind of the other side of you know, there’s a can Canyon here and you can’t run into the walls. There’s another wall, if you fail to acknowledge a patient who has to go

Mark: Yeah.

Howie: Then you’re toast.

Mark: You’re done.

Howie:  He didn’t even thank me, I sent me my brother. And he didn’t even thank me,

Mark: Right?

Howie: You’ve got to thank them. And you’ve got to incentivize them. But you see how it’s a confusing area. It’s

Mark: right now. So now I’m going to take it to another social. This is a very realistic pot, probably extremely sexist, but nobody’s ever accused me of being politically correct anyway. So I’m going to ask the audience to look into their own lives, their own interactions with their spouses or their significant others. And I’m going to ask you, what feels better? To receive a gift when you know you’re supposed to receive the gift? Like your birthday? Or your anniversary? Or Valentine’s Day?

Howie: Hey, that’s today.

Mark: That’s today, right? Or is it? Does it feel better when the gift comes from the heart out of the blue for on some random Thursday? Right? So if you ask a woman that question, this is the sexiest part, if you ask a woman that question 99.999999999% of women are going to say, No, no, man, send me the gift, give me the gift from your heart on a random day. That means more than my birthday, let’s say, or Valentine’s Day, or Christmas or whatever, whatever holidays that that you’re a part of.

Here’s how to do it, right? Here’s how to avoid this trap of thinking you have to create an incentive based dental referral program, you create the incentive on the back end by rewarding properly. Okay, that’s how it works. Mrs. Jones comes into the office, and Mrs. Jones has been a patient for a while she came in for her cleaning appointment. And after her cleaning appointment and exam, the doctor finds no additional work necessary. And the hygienist looks at Mrs. Jones and says, Hey, Mary, how do you like it here. Mary says, I love it here. I keep coming back. You guys are awesome.

You’re always happy. I love this place. So the hygienist says here, Mary here I got I got these things for you there. These are gifts you can give them to anybody you want. They could be your family, your friend, your mom, your dad doesn’t matter. Somebody at work, maybe who might be looking for a great dental office. These are like Kohl’s cash, you can just give them to anybody that you know and put them up on your refrigerator at home and and just grab them when you need them.

Mrs. Jones goes all thanks. And she goes home. And she puts these things up on a refrigerator assuming it’s not stainless steel, if it is she puts them in her takeout menu drawer. Because magnets don’t stick the stainless steel, and she puts them there and she pulls them out when she needs them. Now when she uses them, Bobby Jones, former 76 he comes into the office and says yeah, my wife, my wife sent dental patient referrals to your practice. She says you guys are great. I haven’t been to the dentist and 4000 years. And I guess now’s the time. So Bobby Jones comes in, you update the database referred by Mary Jones. Now this is where the surprise gift comes in. This is where the incentive comes in. But you don’t use the incentive up front. You don’t tell them you don’t tell them. It’s coming.

Howie: Yeah,

Mark: Just like you don’t tell your wife when you’re going to get her a bouquet of flowers for no reason at all on a random Thursday. You’ll call your wife and tell her that if you are beat your head against the wall, okay. So Mary refers Bob or Yeah, Bobby Jones. And then about two or three weeks later, Mary gets a gift. totally out of the blue. And it’s a thoughtful gift. Visa card. It could be movie ticket could be anything really. It could be local community theater, it could be literally anything that you get from around town from your local merchants. Right? Maybe it’s a business that you have a cross referral relationship with? Wonder how that would work, right.

But the point is, is that Mary gets this and she is totally completely surprised. She didn’t know she was going to get this when she referred Bobby. Now how much of an incentive you think Mary has to take those dental patient referrals’ brochures and use them more often? Now? That’s a hell of a lot more motivation than if you actually told her what she was going to get before she referred Bobby.

Howie: Right. We’re going to give you $50 credit? Well, that sounds pretty good. Who wouldn’t like that? But you don’t even do that, that this works much better than a $50. much better.

Mark: Much better? okay

Howie: you keep the money out of it?

Mark: Yeah.

Howie: In the social connection that you have with your patient?

Mark: That’s right. That’s right. And you and it’s, it’s between you and them, nobody else, this isn’t something that you brag about, on your website, or your social media, or anywhere else, this is between you and Mary. Okay. You can brag about maybe the smiles for life campaign that you’re sponsoring or maybe the trip to New Guinea, okay, that you took to help the poor in in that country with their, their health care, you can obviously, you know, make a big deal of those things.

But not one on one social interactions with they want to keep that private. And by doing it the way we just suggested, here’s what’ll happen. You and your team aren’t going to feel smarmy. This is not against your social principles at all. Hey, hey, Mary, how do you like it here while I, I like it here, you guys are always happy? Well, here, here’s some. Here’s some free gifts, you can give these to anybody that you know, husband, friends, family, coworkers, whoever. And, you know, just put them in your takeout menu or throw them up on your refrigerator and grab one whenever you need them. Because we’d love to fill our practice with people just like you, Mary. That’s it, man, that’s after do. That’s all you have to say. Right. So now, there are some practice management principles. With this technique.

If you notice, at the beginning of this, I said that Mary, Mary had her cleaning and there was no additional operative treatment necessary. That’s one of the two times that you would present these dental patient referrals rewards to your existing patients, right. The other time is when, let’s say it’s Mary and she just had a whole bunch of work done. And the next appointment is going to be for routine six months require. So here are the two times when the patient is complete, has completed their operative treatment and is ready for routine repair. And when the recare visit showed no reason to come in for additional operative treatment, those are the two times your patients are the happiest with you when they’re done their treatment and when they need no additional treatment other than professional cleaning. Okay?

So if you do this at those intervals, and you make it social, just like I just mentioned, okay, because it is a social transactions it if you’re a dentist listening to this, if you don’t think staring into somebody’s mouth for a half hour, 45 minutes, four inches away with instruments and all kinds of stuff go if you don’t think that’s personal. You’re crazy. Okay, industry is about as personal as upfront and in your face as you can possibly, right, Howie?

Howie: Oh, yeah, I mean, it’s invasive.

Mark: It’s invasive.

Howie: I mean, there’s no way around it. It has to be but dentists get immune to that. They don’t they don’t understand that they are literally in people’s faces,

Mark: right? Oh, yeah, the whole time.

Howie: And that, you know, when it when a when a person, even a friend comes up and stands too close to you, you know, you get a kind of like, Hey, dude, back off, you know, I have my personal space. Well, you violate their personal space, every day,

Mark: every day, multiple times a day

Howie: and you’re immune to it, but they’re not.

Mark: Right. They’re not a immune, and they’ve chosen to allow you into that, that that close?

Howie: Yeah,

Mark: a pretty amazing stretch, right? So um, so they’re, they’re looking at you on a social level after the first visit, they’re not looking at you with a transactional level. Okay, now, this now, I’m going to just throw in one little point, maybe we can discuss this on the Dental Marketing Mastery community on Facebook, our Facebook group, but this same transactional versus social relationship, this measurement that human beings make, to determine where they go, what they buy, what they like, what they listened to their, even their partners in life.

You can say the same member, we always have said, when we still maintain that the dental market is split in half moms who will choose a healthcare provider based on price and moms who will not. The market is split in half by moms who are looking for a social relationship with a dentist and moms who are looking with a transactional relationship with a dentist. Okay, this so that should make far more sense to you right now than it ever did before. It doesn’t just relate to attracting new patients here. It also relates heavily on your how you interact with your existing patients. how those existing patients accept treatment and how those existing patients refer others.

Howie: Exactly.

Mark: So you’re going to give us a snappy close Howie

Howie: well did it did you want to make an announcement about the new Facebook thing? Or did we already announced that.

Mark: Well, well, for we did I think last time, but we might we might as well do it again. It’s our podcast, we can do whatever the hell we want.

Howie: Hey, that’s right.

Mark: That’s right, right. Facebook, Dental Marketing Mastery Community. Just do a search. asked to be included, will probably include you unless you’re unless you don’t want to be included. And come on in for the discussion. Because after each podcast, after people read our book, after they take the seven hours of our dental marketing summit material there. Our book is there too for download. So after people are getting educated, they’re asking questions, and we have a discussion going on weekly about certain topics. So everyone listening, you’re welcome to come join us.

Howie: Yeah, good. And on that note, we will close this podcast and we’ll look forward to the next one. Thank you very much for listening.

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