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How Can I Generate More Client Referrals For My Veterinary Practice?

If you own or manage a Veterinary Practice then one question you should be asking is:

How Can I Generate More Client Referrals For My Veterinary Practice?

It is generally accepted that the best type of new customer is one that has been referred from an existing happy customer, as they are far more receptive, more easily satisfied and less price conscious.

That being the case, do you know how many of your new clients come from referrals from existing clients?

If you don’t then make it a priority to start keeping track of who is referring, how many they refer and how frequently they refer. You also need to keep track of referral activity including which staff members are doing the most to encourage referrals.

According to Joe Girard, the author of How To Sell To Anybody, the average number of attendees at both weddings and funerals is fifty-two. His contention is that, in marketing to consumers, each customer has the potential of referring fifty-two other customers. Now you could argue that in the case of a veterinary practice this number would be less, as not all of the fifty-two will be pet owners. Well according to the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook (2007 Edition) 37.2% of U.S. Households own dogs while 32.4% own cats. More recent statistics suggest that 63% of U.S. holds own a pet of some description.

So, even if we err on the side of caution and cut that fifty-two number in quarter:

Is your practice averaging thirteen referrals per client?

The answer is probably not, in fact most will average less than one and some might not even get thirteen referrals per month in total! Putting measures in place to generate

referrals from your clients should be a key weapon in any veterinary practice’s marketing arsenal.

The 3 Golden Keys to Client Referral

So, how can you take your practice from averaging less than one referral per client to double-digit referrals per client?

Well, essentially, there are three golden keys you need to unlock the referral flood gates and, in doing so, condition your clients to be serial referrers:

Golden Key #1 – Give Them Something To Shout About!

First of all let us start by defining what we mean by ‘refer’.

What we really mean is ‘promote’ and clients will not actively and abundantly promote your business unless you give them something worth promoting. That ‘something’ we refer to is an experience so awe inspiring and different to what they expect from any typical veterinary practice that they just can’t help but tell everyone that will listen about it.

Clients do not enthusiastically refer the ordinary, the satisfactory or even the above average. However, they will contagiously refer the outstanding, the unexpectedly wonderful and the downright memorable.

You need to create that ‘wow factor’ for your clients that will make your practice the talk of the town.

If you can create the buzz then your clients will be happy to convey their experience, whether they are meeting with friends, talking to other parents at their kids school soccer game or talking to work colleagues.

Golden Key #2 – Ask Them!

As it says in a very old but very wise book, “Ask, and it will be given to you” and you MUST ask your clients for referrals.

Here are just four ways that you can do it:

1.       Let them know that other clients refer – use notice boards, your newsletter and your website to publicize to your clients that other clients refer and you expect them to as well.

2.       Run referral promotions – run a competition to see who can provide the most referrals. Give away top prizes, such as flat screen TVs  for the top three referrers. The value to the client is huge but, based on the fact that the average annual value of veterinary client in the USA is around $400, you wouldn’t need many referrals to afford it.

3.       Hold Referral Events – if you want to meet a lot of potential new clients at once then hold a special event for your clients and ask them to bring their pet owning friends.

4.       Ask Them Why They Don’t Refer – This last one takes a little bit of courage but if you have a pet owner who has been coming to your practice for years but never refers, you need to ask why.

Golden Key #3 – Reward Them!

We mentioned earlier about ‘conditioning’ your clients to refer, and rewarding them plays a key role in this conditioning process.

We are based just north of Orlando and, therefore, SeaWorld is a frequent destination to take our kids. If you go to see the Shamu Show, you will notice that each time the giant killer whales perform a trick they are rewarded with some tasty fish. Over time the whales have been conditioned that, if they do as their trainers ask, they will be rewarded and so, doing the tricks becomes second nature to them.

What you need to discover is, what is the ‘fish’ you can give your clients to reward them for referring, so that referring becomes second nature to them?

You must make referrals a big deal and at the very least call your clients to say thank you for the referral or send them a thank you note and/or gift.

Do you think that if one of your clients received a nice thank you card, with perhaps a gift certificate, for making a referral that they would be willing to refer someone else?

You bet they would!

Not only that, but how many people would get to know that they’d received a thank you from their vet?

If you need more new clients and you’re not getting a flood of referrals consistently then you need to create an experience that your clients are compelled to tell others about.

Start today and watch the patients flood in!