We’ve all heard stories about how a satisfied customer might tell five people about their pleasant experience with a business or brand. By contrast, an unhappy customer might share their bad experience with as many as 100 people.
The same principle applies to patients and their experiences with your healthcare organization—positive or negative, there’s no doubt word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool.
Word-of-Mouth Marketing Makes an Impact
“Word-of-mouth marketing has always been one of the most effective pillars to building a strong medical practice and remains so today,” says Andrea Eliscu, president of Medical Marketing Inc. and author of It’s Personal: The Art of Building Your Practice.
When choosing a physician, word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals from other physicians carry a lot of weight, according to a research letter published in the February 19, 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Consistent with JAMA’s findings, nearly 35 percent of the patients in Phreesia’s database reported hearing about their physician through word of mouth from family and friends.
From Word-of-Mouth to World-of-Mouth Marketing
With social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it’s easier than ever for patients to let others know how they feel about you and your practice.
“What has changed is that word-of-mouth has evolved into ‘world of mouth,’ ” Eliscu says. “People now share their experiences and opinions—good and bad—with an even broader audience.”
With these insights in mind, here are three strategies you can use to promote your healthcare organization through positive word-of-mouth marketing:
1) Provide Outstanding Patient Care
The quality of patient care you deliver and the personal relationships you develop and nurture along the way—with patients, referring physicians, staff and your community—are critical for growing and sustaining your practice, Eliscu says. To spark meaningful connections, she suggests that practices: share their unique business story; engage patients during their visit; send handwritten notes; deliver memorable and personal care experiences; focus on an exceptional service experience from the moment patients walk in the door until they are seen in the exam room; and give back to the communities they serve. “All of these [activities] will help cultivate loyal ambassadors for your practice who will share their positive experiences and expand your ‘world-of-mouth’ marketing,” Eliscu says.
2) Ask for Referrals
Patients, physicians and employees may consistently have positive experiences with your healthcare organization. But they might not think of referring you to others unless you explicitly ask them to. Make asking for referrals part of your standard practice. For example, if you show videos in the waiting room that highlight your specialties, state-of-the-art technology and ancillary services, conclude them by letting patients know you appreciate their referrals. Or, you might consider putting up signs in your waiting room that illustrate the various ways patients could share positive reviews about their experience. You could also form mutual referral agreements with local providers and businesses (e.g., a podiatrist and an athletic shoe store).
3) Create a Strong Online Presence
Online comments are one of the easiest ways for patients to give you positive reviews. That’s why it’s vital for your practice to establish a strong Internet presence. Beef up your visibility on such social media pages as Facebook and Twitter by posting timely topics of interest to your patients on a regular basis. For example, if you’re a dermatologist, post tips for avoiding sunburn just before summer begins. If you’re an orthopedic surgeon, share advice on preventing spills before the first snowfall. Make sure your website links to your social media pages and allows patients to sign up for a weekly or monthly practice e-newsletter. Your e-newsletter topics could echo your social media pages, as well as and share successes, awards or advances in the practice. You might also include a request for positive reviews, along with links to your social media pages and website at the bottom of every e-newsletter.
Make word-of-mouth marketing part of your daily practice by building it into your routine. The first time you see a new patient, find out how they learned about you. Personally thank patients, physicians, employees or others who refer new patients. Also, be sure to generously provide referrals yourself whenever possible. Most importantly, make it a point to give patients something great to share with others in the first place—the positive experience they had with you and your healthcare organization.
-Melanie Lundheim is a freelance writer based in Minnesota.