3 Effective Ways to Get Chiropractic Referrals (With Examples)

Getting referrals is one of the most consistent and cost-effective ways to bring new patients into your chiropractic business.

It can be tough to get those referrals without a well-thought-out plan, though.

To help you come up with an effective referral acquisition strategy, here are 3 effective ways to get chiropractic referrals.

  • Ask existing patients for a referral.
  • Cultivate relationships with other healthcare providers.
  • Hold a patient appreciation day.

Ask existing patients for a referral

Ask existing patients for a referral

The easiest and most effective way to increase your referrals is to ask your existing patients to refer someone they think might benefit from your service.

No one knows the value of chiropractic care better than your existing patients. By asking them to recommend you to their friends and family, you are essentially unleashing the most effective sales team a chiropractic practice could dream of.

The fact that your patients are familiar with the pain-relieving and physical healing benefits of chiropractic care isn't the only reason they are a terrific source of referrals.

Most people are inherently distrusting of any claims a business makes about its products or services. You could know that your chiropractic skills offer some of the highest quality care in your area of operation. But no matter how much you promote your expertise, many consumers will have a hard time believing you without some third party non-biased source to back up your claim.

That trusted third-party source can take several forms. In the chiropractic industry, your patients ‒ people who have had firsthand experience with your care ‒ are one of the best options around.

It's one thing to hear from an unknown third party that a service is worth your time or money. The significance of a recommendation takes on a whole new level of meaning when that source is a friend or family member, though.

This isn't just an intuitive guess. According to Nielsen, 88% of consumers place the highest level of trust in recommendations made by people they know. As such, every business needs to try to turn their loyal customers into brand advocates.

It just so happens that chiropractors are in a uniquely advantageous position to take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing.

For starters, chiropractors spend a lot of one-on-one time with their patients. Depending on how personable of a practitioner you are, this time may be filled with a fair amount of genuine conversation and the formation of a real, meaningful relationship between patient and chiropractor. If this relationship exists, it will go a long way toward making patients receptive when you ask them for a referral.

But even if your conversations with patients are mainly focused on the treatment, the nature of chiropractic care lends itself toward forming a bond of trust between patient and chiropractor.

I mean, come on ‒ everyone who receives treatment from you is allowing you to manipulate their neck, spine, and other vital parts of the body. If that doesn't signify a high level of trust in your abilities, I don't know what does.

So whether you're a highly personable chiropractor or your main focus is on providing high-quality care, you're in a better position than most business owners in other industries when it comes to asking customers to refer their family and friends.

There's also another benefit to being a chiropractor that I haven't mentioned yet: everyone needs chiropractic care.

No matter who you are or what kind of physical shape your body is in, there is almost certainly something bothering you that a chiropractor would be able to help with.

  • Maybe you work a desk job and spend too much time looking down at your computer screen.
  • Maybe you tweaked your back lifting something a few months ago, and the pain hasn't gone away.
  • Or maybe you're one of the many millions of people who spend far too much time bending their neck at awkward angles to see their phone screen.

You're probably already well aware of this fact. I'm only mentioning this to drive home how ubiquitous the need for chiropractic care is. Because everyone would benefit from chiropractic care, anyone your patients talk to about scheduling an appointment might be receptive to the idea.

This is a luxury that many other industries don't necessarily have. If a plumber asks their clients to refer their friends and family, their clients would only be able to recommend the service to people who are actively looking to change or replace their plumbing.

And this even holds for other kinds of healthcare practitioners. Not everyone needs a podiatrist. If a podiatrist were to ask patients for referrals, those patients would have to find other people with foot or lower extremity issues to stand a real chance of sending a referral to the practitioner.

But pain is universal. And as the primary reason most people go to a chiropractor is to find relief for their pain, every single person within driving distance of your office is a potential patient.

How should I ask for a referral?

Asking patients for referrals.

Asking patients for referrals can be a touchy and potentially awkward subject.

You aren't just asking patients to tell you what they think of your service ‒ you're asking them to tell their friends and family to visit you. If someone isn't comfortable with doing that, you could be in for an awkward interaction.

Then there's the risk of jumbling words or losing your train of thought mid-ask.

Both of these possibilities could put you in an awkward position. Fortunately, there's a way to substantially reduce the risk of an egg on your face moment.

To make your referral ask process as streamlined and effective as possible, you can develop and memorize a script that you use every single time you ask a patient for a referral.

The exact way in which you word your referral ask script will depend on your demeanor and how you usually speak. However, here are a few tips that should help you formulate a winning script that brings in boatloads of new patients.

Stick to the essentials

It's far too easy to include too much information and fluff in your script. Condense your script by sticking to the essentials and cutting out redundant information.

Write like you speak

Your patients will never see this script in written form. The only version they'll be subject to is the live-action version in a treatment room or lobby.

So write the script like you'll be speaking it. Say it out loud as you piece the words together and make sure it sounds natural coming from your mouth.

If you're not a fan of writing, you can skip the pen and paper or Word document altogether and record yourself speaking. Make a new recording each time you mess up, and eventually, you'll have a full script recorded and ready to be rehearsed.

Record yourself reciting the script

How you sound isn't the only important factor to consider ‒ you also need to know what you look like when you're making the ask.

The easiest way to review this is by recording yourself as you recite the script. If you notice yourself consistently making odd looks or doing anything else unusual or off-putting, make a note to cut down on that behavior.

If shooting a video every time you want to practice your script seems like a bit much, you can always practice in front of a mirror. However, this prevents you from looking back with a critical eye and combing over your performance for any missteps.

Isn't this a bit much?

Some of you might think I'm going a bit overboard with the analysis and prep work here. I mean, you're just asking patients a question ‒ why does that require so much time and attention?

Here's how I see it: patient referrals are one of the most consistent and effective patient acquisition methods in existence.

They're free, they require almost zero effort on your part, and there's a high likelihood that people in pain will take the advice of their friends or family and give chiropractic care a shot.

If you can do anything to increase the odds of an existing patient following through and referring a new patient, it's worth the time and energy to implement it.

And there is something you can do. You can take the time to craft the right message, perfect your delivery of that message, and refine your technique based on feedback and results (or lack thereof).

I advise looking at your referral ask script as a piece of advertising copy. Because honestly, it is a piece of advertising copy. There is a specific action you want a consumer to take, and you're using words to convince them to take that action.

Copywriters make great money for a reason. They make great money because the words you use when you're trying to convince someone to do something matter.

I'm not saying you need to go out and hire a professional copywriter to craft your referral ask script. I'm just trying to impress upon you the importance of choosing the right words and delivering your message in the right way.

A bit of preparation and forethought now can bring in thousands in additional revenue down the road.

Which patients do I ask?

The first step in your referral acquisition strategy is to decide which patients to ask.

While it's certainly possible to ask every patient for a referral, that shouldn't be the goal at first.

Before you start asking every patient who walks through the door to recommend you to all of their family and friends, you need to practice and refine how you ask for referrals.

To make practicing as easy as possible, I recommend starting with patients who have been coming to see you for a long time and who you have a particularly good rapport with. This will enable you to work out the kinks of the script and delivery with someone who will laugh off any mishaps and potentially offer advice on how to improve your asking process.

Once you feel comfortable with those initial asks, you can set up a system to ask the rest of your patients for referrals at optimal times.

When to ask for a referral?

When should I ask for a referral?

There's no one right time to ask for a referral. It depends on the patient in question, where they're at in their care regimen, and how much your care has helped them.

In general, I recommend waiting until a patient has been in the office at least three times. This will let you build up a rapport and get to know them a bit better. And if they're continuing to book appointments after coming in twice already, they're probably pretty satisfied with your care.

The patient must be satisfied before you ask for a referral. No one is going to recommend a service to their friends and family that they don't even like themselves.

So once a patient notices a substantial improvement in how they're feeling, you can consider that a green light to ask for a referral.

And the word "substantial" is key here. While it can be tempting to ask after someone says they feel the slightest bit better, most people won't take the time to recommend you if they aren't feeling much better than before they went in to see you.

Waiting to ask until a patient feels a significant difference will also strengthen their recommendations to their social circle. If I heard that a healthcare practitioner made someone feel slightly better, I wouldn't be all that motivated to visit them. But if I heard a doctor completely relieved my friend's chronic back pain, I'd be much more likely to pick up the phone and book an appointment.

The best piece of advice I have to give is to use your intuition. If you were able to help a patient on the first visit, but you don't think they'll be returning for a second appointment, ask them at the end of the first visit.

One more timing-related tip: wait until the end of the appointment to ask.

You're likely going to be giving your patient a lot of information throughout their treatment. If you ask for if referral in the beginning or middle of the appointment, there's a decent chance the patient forgets all about your referral ask by the time they walk out the door.

Should I ask more than once?

If you have a system for tracking which of your existing patients send you referrals, you can figure out which patients didn't end up sending a referral.

Now, it's possible that patients who didn't send referrals still tried to refer someone to you. Your patients can't control the actions of the people they ask ‒ they can only offer a recommendation and hope for the best.

So don't assume that a patient who didn't send a referral didn't try to send one.

You should also remember that your patients aren't obligated to refer people to you. They don't even get anything out of it, except for the knowledge that referring a friend or family member might lead to a decrease in that person's pain and suffering.

Here's my point: you shouldn't expect the majority of people you ask for referrals to follow through, even if they enthusiastically agree to try and send someone your way.

Most people lead busy, hectic lives, and the thought of recommending that someone make an appointment with you will likely leave their heads as soon as they exit your office.

That being said, it can't hurt to follow up with patients who don't end up sending new business your way. Most of them will either have tried or have forgotten; either way, asking them how their referral attempt went will either remind them that they agreed to try or confirm that they did indeed try to send someone to you.

Should I get my staff to ask for referrals?

One way to spread the responsibility of asking for referrals is to ask your staff members to help with the process.

While it is tempting to delegate this task to your front office staff, I advise against it in most situations.

First of all, your patients will likely have a far better relationship with you than they will with your staff. A request coming from you will hold more weight than a request that comes from one of your staff members.

If you involve your staff in the process, you'll also need to coordinate with them and decide who will be asking for the referral. You don't want multiple people asking for a referral in the same visit ‒ this will come off as a bit desperate and may put your patients off of asking.

While coordinating who will ask is doable on a slow day, it will be nearly impossible when you're busy. You likely won't get the chance to speak to your office staff much, as you'll continuously be treating people while they handle the check-in and check-out process.

So unless you've got a long-term receptionist who has a good rapport with a substantial portion of your patient base, I recommend keeping the referral ask responsibility to yourself. It will keep things simple and ensure that patients take requests more seriously.

How can I encourage patients to give me referrals?

Relying on patients to refer people to you out of the goodness of their heart sounds nice on paper, but it's not particularly effective in reality.

One of the main ways you can incentivize people to send you new business is by setting up a referral rewards program. For each new patient someone refers to you, you can offer them a certain dollar amount or percentage off of their next appointment.

To ensure that referring patients are rewarded consistently, you'll need to set up a system to ask new patients if anyone referred them. The easiest way to do this is to include a spot on your patient intake form for people to tell you who they were referred by, but you can also ask them in-person if someone referred them.

And if all else fails, you can always ask people if they managed to refer anyone since the last time you saw them. If they say yes, and you can corroborate that the person they referred did indeed come in, you can give them their promotional discount or whatever other referral rewards you offered.

The other way to encourage patients to refer people is by giving them something to offer the referral prospect. If you give them a "free visit" coupon to give to a person of their choosing, the whole dynamic of them asking their social network shifts. They now have a gift to bestow upon someone: namely, the gift of free chiropractic treatment. People love to give things to the people they love, so offering a free first visit to the person they refer can both increase the odds they ask someone as well make the person they ask more likely to book an appointment.

Example script

Here's an example of a script you could use to ask patients for a referral.

"Hey, John. Before you leave, I want to ask if you would be willing to recommend my services to someone you know who is dealing with a lot of chronic pain.

I consider it my life's work to bring healing and pain relief. As you're one of my most valued patients, I would love to do what I can to help out someone you know who is living in pain.

To make things easier for them, I'm running a temporary promotional event where you and the person you refer both get a free adjustment. So if you can think of anyone who might need a treatment or two, have them call and mention that you sent them."

You could adapt that script however you want, or make a completely new one that better fits your personality and communication style.

Cultivate relationships with other healthcare providers

Cultivate relationships with other healthcare providers.

While the majority of this article has been about getting existing patients to send you new business, that isn't the only way to get referrals. Another excellent method is to convince other healthcare providers in the area to refer patients to you.

Here are a few tips that should help you set up a consistent stream of new patients from the doctors and other healthcare practitioners near you.

Refer your patients to other practitioners in the area

If you think back to your elementary school days, you might remember your teachers telling you about the "Golden Rule": treat others the way you want to be treated.

Well, the Golden Rule holds just as true in the world of chiropractic referrals as it does in the classroom. If you want other healthcare providers to send you referrals, you should start by sending referrals to them.

If you've got a newer practice, other practitioners may not even be aware of your existence yet. One of the best ways to make them aware of you is by sending some patients their way.

Of course, you shouldn't just start recommending patients see other doctors for the sake of it. You need to have a legitimate health-related reason for referring someone.

If you make a habit of sending people to see doctors they don't need to see, you will be diluting your reputations with both your patients and the practitioners you're referring to. Patients will begin to question your medical judgment, and other doctors will hesitate to send their patients your way out of concern for the quality of care they will receive.

Thank providers for their first referral

Whenever someone refers a patient to you for the first time, make a habit of calling and thanking them personally for the referral. Doing so will show the other doctor that you appreciate their efforts, and they will be more likely to think of you the next time one of their patients needs a chiropractor.

Hold a patient appreciation day

Patient appreciation day

The final way to get more chiropractic referrals is to hold a patient appreciation day open to both current and new patients. If your event is interesting and exciting enough, some of your existing patients might bring friends or family along ‒ and some of those people might end up booking appointments of their own.

Here are some tips to make your patient appreciation day the best it can be.

  • Make it themed.
  • Offer free adjustments and goodies.
  • Hold contests with valuable prizes.
  • Promote your patient appreciation day through social media, email, and other channels.
  • Get your staff involved

Final thoughts

Getting referrals from existing patients and other healthcare providers can look a bit difficult on the surface.

But with a bit of preparation and creativity, you can turn referrals into reliable, consistent sources of new patients without spending a dime.

By following the tips mentioned in this article, you can turn referrals into your best source of new patients.

I wish you luck in implementing this advice ‒ and if you have any questions, you can always schedule a free 30-minute chiropractic marketing consultation. I'm here to help.

Additional Resources

Shawn Manaher - Owner of Ignite Marketing
Shawn Manaher
Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of Ignite Marketing. He's one part local business growth specialist, one part campaign strategizing ninja, and two parts leader of an awesome nerd pack. He won't eat pancakes unless you call them flat waffles.

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