Humans ceaselessly weigh up situations and make risk assessments, often at a subconscious level. They balance whether certain information or actions are likely to produce positive or negative results, pleasure or pain.
While it is true to say we are hardwired to give referrals, making recommendations also contains an element of peril. When providing a referral, we are to some degree risking our relationship with the recipient by sending them to our favored person or company.
There is always the doubt that our friend will not receive the same high level of treatment or satisfaction and so reduce our social currency as the source of reliable information.
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Obviously, the level of risk depends on the type of referral that is being made. There is less risk if a person asks for the name of a good tailor, say, than one who needs the services of a good heart surgeon.
It is, therefore, important to build a business model for your dental practice that reduces any perceived risks involved in making referrals. Your marketing needs to have trust at its very core.
One way to remove risk as much as possible it to create a practice that engages with patients on both logical and emotional levels. Or in the words of Fred Reichheld, author of The Ultimate Question, ''the head and heart''.
Fundamentally, people make decisions about which dental practice to choose the same way they make decisions about whether to buy an article of clothing. Both the brain and the heart is involved in the decision-making process.
We weigh whether the price is affordable, if it fits or if it addresses a need (the brain) against how it will make us feel wearing it or using it (the heart).
In many cases, the heart wins over the brain. If we feel a strong enough emotional pull towards a product or service, we often ignore or explain away any rational objections such as a high price.
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To create the right conditions for referrals, it is necessary to make people enthusiastic about a product or service whether it be a dental practice or new car. Consumers rarely get excited about a fair price or a satisfactory service and seldom talk about it.
By building a dental practice that makes patients feel good about themselves and makes them talk about you, you remove most of the fear they might have of recommending your services.
It is not just about offering good treatment; it is about creating an experience that excites a patient enough to the point they want to talk about it. They should be motivated enough to voluntarily share their experience with others, who then, in turn, become potential new patients.
An example of the way to create a buzz about your business can be found in the experience of Nona Jordan, a life and yoga coach based in Italy.
Jordan ordered a type of singing bowl from the Fabeku website that offers business enlightenment, amongst other things, before going on vacation. While on holiday she checked her email and was delighted to discover a message thanking her for the purchase and telling her the bowl had been dispatched.
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What caught Jordan's attention, however, were the compliments Fabeku sent about her website. The email contained remarks that made it clear Fabeku had taken the time to look around her site. On top of this when Jordan received the parcel it contained a handwritten card, and a packet of free incense all in a gift wrapped package.
It is this type of attention to detail and a commitment to add value to your services that get people talking about your business. It creates the buzz in which referrals naturally and voluntarily occur.