Don’t keep us a secret

Most dental practices would like new patients to walk through the doors with little financial outlay on marketing, advertising and PR.

This is possible providing the care and treatments are of a standard that patients are delighted to recommend the practice to their friends, family and colleagues.

Referral cards are a cost-effective and very successful internal marketing tool for all practices to have. Most practices should have a certain amount of referrals, but this usually happens on an adhoc basis without any system or structure in place. By having referral cards that are used continuously to invite and promote referrals, the internal marketing wheel will gain momentum.

When considering referral cards, it is extremely important to look at two aspects:

1. The design, content and finish of the cards

2. What you are going to do with the cards.

These cards need to reflect the quality of your dental care. They need to be designed with flair and the content needs to mirror your aims. These cards will eventually be given to prospective patients that know little about your practice, therefore impact is everything.

Referral cards can be the same size as a business card, or alternatively the most popular cards are larger and more substantial in size. By using both sides of the card you are capitalising on the space and are able to include the treatments and ethos of the practice.

Once the design and content of the card has been finalised, you need to decide on the finish of the cards. This can range from matt lamination, spot uv varnish, embossing or foil blocking. When deciding upon this you need to consider two points – impact and budget. The more finishes you have to your cards, the more costs will be incurred. Remember your literature is your reputation in print, so choose carefully.

These cards should not be viewed as a cost but an investment to help market your practice. Even if you choose the most expensive finishes and have full colour cards, they will only equate to the outlay of a reasonably sized advert in the local press.

Referral cards can be individual or you can have a practice card, used by all members of the team. The individual ones can have personal photographs, names and qualifications on and this encourages referrals into that dentist. The practice one is more general and encourages referrals into the surgery rather than to a specific dentist.

The most powerful way of utilising referral cards is to hand them out to patients at the end of a course of successful treatment and them you would be delighted to welcome their family and friends to the practice. You can choose which patients you give your cards to and the assumption is if you have an ‘A’ patient they will surround themselves with similar people, ie potential ‘A’ patients.

If you are uncomfortable handing out referral cards yourself you can implement a system that can be handled at reception. At the end of each day/week letters and cards can be sent out to previously selected patients that have attended the practice during that time. The letter will thank them for attending the practice and invite referrals from family and friends.

Referral cards can also be included in welcome packs and handed out at social occasions or business events. These cards can be classed as paper ambassadors for your practice. The most important thing to remember is to use them – there is little point in having them if they are under utilised. Make sure you are proud of these cards, this will guarantee their implementation.

Remember that referral cards are valuable in their own right but, when added to a promotional mix, they become a component in a successful marketing strategy. Welcome packs, newsletters, posters, treatment leaflets, advertising and marketing all have their place in the promotion of all dental practices. There is little point in being a great dentist and offering up-to-the-minute treatments if people don’t know about them!

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