Dental Practice Referral Program Tips

6.referralThe value of dental patient referrals

The best patients have always and will always come through word of mouth. You’ve probably seen this in your practice for many years. It has been and always will be the best way to grow your business.

The American Dental Association reports that 70 to 80% of new patients in a typical dental practice are referred by current patients.[i]

People take their health very seriously nowadays and a recommendation from someone they know and trust can make them comfortable about seeking you out as a new medical provider. This is where a referral programme can greatly benefit your practice.

Starting a dental patient referral programme

A dental referral programme (also known as word-of-mouth marketing) entails having some formal procedure in place to motivate your existing patients to refer their friends, family, and colleagues to your practice. Its aim is to make your practice top of mind when patients are talking to their new neighbour or workmate. You need to have a formalised referral programme that rewards and recognises patients for referring business to you. A successful referral programme increases your average patient lifetime value.

Many happy patients fail to actively refer others to a practice once they leave their appointment. They just don’t think about it.

How many referrals should you aim for?

n today’s economy, dental practices should aspire to have 40 to 60% of existing patients refer at least one new patient per year. Go back and review your records to determine the percentage of patients who have referred another patient in the last twelve months. Are you even tracking this?

Promoting your dental referral programme

Once you have a programme, it is incredibly important to advertise it to your existing patients.

In the practice:

  • Have staff telling everybody and wearing badges.
  • Put up posters in the waiting room and throughout the practice (even in the toilet).
  • Print referral postcards to hand out to every patient.
  • Stock a referral programme brochure.
  • Display referral thank you whiteboards in the waiting room and/or messages of appreciation on any LCD screens in the practice.
  • Mention the programme during follow-up phone calls to patients after treatments.


  • Have a dedicated referral page on your website.
  • Mention the programme in newsletters.
  • Include a note with reminders.
  • Promote through social media.
  • Employ Facebook adverts.
  • Make a YouTube video.

Educating your dental team

The reality for any programme in your practice is that it won’t succeed unless your staff are on board and understand its importance. You need, therefore, to take the time to educate your staff on the importance of referrals.

Saying thank you

Once a referral is made, it is incredibly important to follow through. The referring patient (and/or new dental patient) should receive any gift promised within two to three working days of the referral coming in.

Remembering the human side

If you want to take your referral programme to a whole new level, remember that gifts and acknowledgements are a great place to start, but a personalised thank you is priceless.

Tracking referrals

It is incredibly important to have a system in place to track your referrals. You need to have a monitoring system in place for you to know if your marketing dollars are being effective.