How To Build A High-Performing Patient Referral Program [complete with templates & tools]

How to build a high-performing patient referral program image

In April 2021, our Inner Circle members were joined by best-selling author of Talk Triggers – the brilliant Jay Baer.

As part of his interview, he muttered a quote that has not left my head since.

He said:

“Advertising is a tax paid by unremarkable clinics.”

** let that soak in **

It’s obscenely true, isn’t it?

Because if you think about it, the clinics that advertise the hardest and spend the most on direct mail, newspaper, and television advertising are nearly ALWAYS the clinics that are the most unremarkable.

They almost have to advertise so aggressively to get new patients because they have nothing remarkable which would enable somebody to choose them in a side-by-side comparison to their competitors.

(You may have a competitor in mind that meets these criteria!) 😂

As a result of this:

  • Many of their patients only buy once
  • Go elsewhere for their next devices
  • And they don’t have too many positive things about their experience to share with others.

It means that the cycle continues.

The unremarkable clinics then have to continue to spend advertising dollars to find the next patient.


The problem is, as soon as a marketing metric changes, people age, or an advertising platform changes an algorithm, then they feel the full force.

  • The price of TV ads goes up due to inflation? Ouch.
  • Facebook changes their advertising targeting? Double Ouch.
  • Less people reading the newspaper due to an aging demographic? Triple Ouch!

This tired old-school approach to patient acquisition is like running on a treadmill with a hungry crocodile behind you.

There’s only so much running that you can do until you either become exhausted or run out of money to keep feeding the machine.

That croc will be feeding soon.

crocodile about to feed on exercising man

Maximizing Your Competitive Advantage

Here’s the thing – you have a very strong competitive advantage compared to your noisy competitors.

That is that you:

  • Organically have a great reputation
  • Consistently do a great job for patients
  • Have patients that recommend you to their friends/loved ones

This means that you’re able to grow your business based on something that an unremarkable clinic will never be able to do …

… word-of-mouth referrals!

Essentially, it’s no-cost patient acquisition, while your unremarkable competitors have to continually spend $500-$1500 to acquire their next patient.

You can attract them in exchange for no advertising outlay, which means more margin, therefore more time to care for the patient, which in turn creates even more word-of-mouth referrals.

It’s your ultimate competitive advantage.

But here’s the problem.

Although this is the ultimate way to grow your clinic, it’s a channel that has already proven to work for you, and it’s already driving you opportunities right now … most clinics have no formal referral program in place.

Instead, they organically wait for patient referrals; they rely on the power of reciprocity and just hope that the patient is somebody of their word and will introduce you to their friends/loved ones when the timing is right.

Yet one of the most important things a remarkable clinic can do is formalize a patient referral program.

It’s easy to understand why most clinics don’t have a formal referral program and that’s because it can feel dirty.

We’ve all been led to believe that the only way to have a referral program is to offer some form of awkward Amazon or restaurant gift certificate to your patients in exchange for them trying to help out their friend – it’s awkward and is more of a deterrent than a help.

Well, let me introduce you to somebody that has walked this road before you and share the key lessons behind their super-successful yet highly ethical referral program, as well as the templates and tools so that you can implement the same high-performing program.


Meet Dr. Tracy Board

Back in 2021 when I first launched the Business of Hearing podcast, Dr. Tracy Board from Audicles Hearing Services in San Antonio, TX joined us to discuss the key lessons behind the success of her clinic.

Recording: Episode #6 of The Business of Hearing podcast

As well as sharing her story and some of the biggest lessons of her career, she shared that one of the biggest contributors to her clinic’s success was the implementation of a patient referral program that is now responsible for generating 80% of their new patients.

As a clinic with decades of history and three providers, this converts to a significant number of new faces each year that walk through her door as a direct result of her referral program.

Best of all, each person that visits has heard wonderful things about her clinic, has already been educated that her clinic has the right people to help them, and it comes with a trusted third-party endorsement.


How Does The Referral Program Work?

Well, it’s called the Friends & Family Program

Essentially, following an appointment with a patient, you hand sign and hand them three simple referral cards.

These referral cards qualify the recipient to a “complimentary consultation” (for non-hearing aid wearers) or a “complimentary clean & check” (for existing hearing aid wearers).

You then encourage your patient to pass them to their friends or family members that they believe would benefit from visiting you, whether right away or to be kept in their wallet/purse for when they cross paths with somebody that needs help.

Your patient then walks away equipped with the tools (and motivation) to actively refer new opportunities in your direction, with their referral cards being seen as valuable (as they qualify the recipient for a complimentary visit).

Plus, as you hand your patient three of these, you set them up to maximize the number of opportunities that they can push in your direction.

  • If you give them one, then they’ll try to wait for the PERFECT time to give it to somebody (which will likely result in them not giving it to anybody).
  • If you give them five cards, then you may as well put them on the payroll, as it pivots from them helping you to you asking too much of them.

But it works incredibly well.

If your team consistently implements this, then it sows the seeds to start driving opportunities back in your direction. 

But here’s the caveat – this only works if you do and it doesn’t deliver fast results – a bit like going to the gym. Go today – no results. Go every day for a week – likely no results. Go every day for six months – then hubba, hubba.


I’ll Now Walk You Through How You Can Implement The Same Program


Step #1 – Create Your Referral Cards

The first thing that you’ll need is your referral cards.

Not only do these need to include specific information, but they also need to look and feel professional when handed to somebody that is not familiar with you so they’re deemed as valuable.

You have two options:

  1. You can ask a designer to create these for you following the below template (recommended).
  2. You can download the Microsoft Powerpoint design template that has been created on the link below and make your required edits before publishing as a PDF and sharing with your printer.

Click Here to Download the PowerPoint Design Template


Step #2 – Professionally Print Your Cards

Once you have your design, your cards will need printing.

Keep in mind, these cards will be the first encounter that many people have with your business, so print costs is not an area to skimp and save on quality.

You want these to feel professional and valuable. You can use a local printer if preferred, or for great quality, quick delivery, and competitive pricing, we’d recommended

Here’s a link directly to the correct spec.

These will give you premium cards that feel great and will last (they won’t easily get beat up when sat in a purse/wallet).


Step #3 – Introduce Your Referral Cards Following Patient Consultations

It’s now time to introduce your Friends & Family Program to your patients.

As your appointment comes to an end, you can introduce this program with the following script (of course, it’s recommended to put this into your own words).


Could I ask you a quick favor?

(Answers YES)


If you have anybody in mind that you feel would benefit from visiting us, then would you be able to share one of these cards with them? 

It will qualify them for a complimentary initial consultation, as they know you, and having great people like yourself introducing other great people is how we grow our business.


You can then write the name of the patient on each of the cards where prompted.

You can then send your patient on their way with three cards, ready for them to pass to others, whether right away or at some point in the future.


Step #4 – Consistency

This cannot be stressed enough.

This referral program will only work if you do.

It will not put “bums on seats” right away, but it will allow you to consistently and methodically build a new organic route to attract new patient opportunities. Introduce this to your team, set them targets of how many cards that they need to give out, and ensure that everybody on the team knows the importance of this program.

Well, it looks like it’s over to you to implement!

Look at you Go!

Oli Luke

Co-Founder & Marketing Director
Orange & Gray

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