In the age of sleek TV ads, interactive websites, and multifunctional apps, what we hear from friends and families still matter. A 2014 survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that regardless of increased usage of physician rating sites, word-of-mouth recommendations are very or somewhat important to 85 percent of Americans.
Word-of-mouth marketing and community building create advocates who will gladly recommend your healthcare organization to their network of friends, family, and colleagues. We take the advice of a friend much more seriously than any advertising campaign and costs a fraction of the cost.
Word-of-mouth travels quickly, and each satisfied patient can pass the word to dozens of potential patients in their network. When a patient has a repeatedly positive experience with your organization, they become dedicated advocates who forgive an occasional issue because they have now become invested in your system and feel that they are a part of it. They will gladly share their positive experiences with friends and will explain away any slightly negative experience they may have had.
It’s human nature. Once we have a well-earned and definite opinion about something, we become invested. It is a part of us, and we hesitate to budge, even in the face of new information. We want to share our positive (and negative) experiences with our larger community. If patients have repeated positive experiences they want to share, this type of marketing will help grow profitability and most important, loyalty.
Word-of-mouth is one of the most reliable forms of marketing because the patient jeopardizes their reputation when they make a recommendation. What are you doing to make sure your patients become your ambassadors?
- What are people are saying online about their experience with your medical practice? Paying attention allows you to correct mistakes and respond to any negative reviews before they reach too many people. With an honest response, you may even turn a complaint into a recommendation. Every business makes mistakes; it is how they respond that makes the difference and impresses future advocates.
- A patient is more likely to spread the word when their experience exceeds their expectation and surprises them. The patient expects decent service. What can you offer that triggers their desire to tell all their friends about the great experience they had?
- Offer patients an incentive to spread the good word. A frequent email updating patients on events at your practice can include a “Send to a friend” option and an offer for freebies if their friends mention them when making appointments.
- Sponsor special events or seminars for patients who’ve used your services. For example, sponsor a “New Moms” luncheon for women who have used your maternity services. It’s a great way to stay connected with your patients and gives them an opportunity to network with other new mothers.
When all the pieces are in place, word-of-mouth works. Wonderfully. Because it’s principles are baked into all of us. We all want to share, and we all want to be part of a larger community. And ultimately, “we” make up marketing’s most powerful patient acquisition strategy – referrals from family and friends.