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Monday, 18 June 2018

How to get word of mouth referrals

Many successful therapists will tell you that they get a significant number of clients via 'word of mouth' referrals, meaning that new clients are referred to them by previous ones. It’s a great system since it means someone else is doing your marketing for you - and for free - but when you’re new or trying to build your business it can be a challenge to get the ball rolling.
So this month I thought I would cover some tips to help you increase the number of word of mouth referrals coming into your practice.

 

Why don’t you already get 'word of mouth' referrals?

 
  • You assume satisfied clients will automatically recommend you - even though they rarely do.
  • You feel uncomfortable asking a client for help - you’re a therapist not a high-pressure sales person.
  • You don’t want to look as if you’re desperate for clients.
  • You worry there might be confidentiality issues around asking clients to tell people they have been to see you.
Regarding that last point, we must absolutely be respectful of confidentiality, of course. Similar worries lead some therapists to avoid ratings sites or testimonials, both popular 'word of mouth' type promotions in other fields.  
However, there are plenty of things you can do to increase referrals that respect your clients' privacy. So expand your comfort zone a bit - and take action!
 
 

Why are word of mouth referrals worth having?

 
  • 75% of people don’t believe advertisements, but 92% believe brand recommendations from friends
  • People are four times more likely to buy when referred by friends
  • Word of mouth generates twice as many sales as paid ads  [1]
 

Practical ways to get therapy client referrals

 
  1. Ask your satisfied customers. At the end of every successful course of therapy give your client two or three business cards; 'one in case I can help you with anything else in the future, and the others to pass on to anyone you know who might benefit from working with me'. This doesn’t put pressure on the client, they could throw the cards away as soon as they get home if they want to. But it does let them know you are willing and able to accept referrals.  
  2. Ensure you provide excellent customer service so clients think you're worth referring to - not just the therapy but a friendly and informative website and timely, efficient responses to telephone and email enquiries. 
  3. Answer questions openly and honestly. The highest number of referrals I ever had from one individual came from someone I didn’t ever work with. I was newly qualified and felt I didn’t have the right experience to work with him so I referred him on to someone who did. He kept telling people 'If she can’t help, she'll say so' and referred about a dozen people my way: I worked with all of them successfully.
  4. Public speaking can help people become comfortable with you. I used to chat to WIs and similar groups. Overt advertising was frowned on, but they were quite happy for me to leave a supply of leaflets on the table. Members often passed them on to members of their families. 
  5. Thank people who do make referrals: maybe even offer a free top-up or relaxation session if they send you a lot of work. Remember confidentiality and don’t mention the name of your new client in your thank you note, call or text. This could be via a specific programme (make 5 referrals and get a free session) or more informal. 
  6. Consider a reciprocal agreement with someone who provides a complementary service to your own. If you're a hypnotherapist who works with weight loss clients, for example, you might recommend your clients to a personal trainer, who in turn refers their clients to you. If you work a lot with stress or anxiety, set up an arrangement with someone who does aromatherapy massage, and so on. 
  7. If you're a specialist, network with other therapists and let them know you are an expert. Be explicit (but not pushy) about accepting referrals if they have a client outside their own area of expertise.
 

Effective ways to ask for therapy client referrals

 
Remember that you’re not just a therapist, you’re a business owner as well and that means promoting yourself. Asking for referrals in the right way doesn't make you look desperate or pushy, just professional.
  • If it’s hard for you to ask, remind yourself that the worst that can happen is the client says 'No'. If that happens, plan a response which makes it clear you are quite happy to respect their preferences. Avoid arguing or making flippant remarks like 'Oh well. Worth a try.' 
  • Don't ask for referrals just as you're taking money from the client. Separate the two things.
  • Ask face to face, don’t send an email or text after the client has left your office. It's more respectful and they’re more likely to say yes. 
  • Avoid putting undue pressure on clients by leaving them free to decide whether or not to act on your request. For example, at the end of every successful course of therapy give your client two or three business cards; 'one in case I can help you with anything else in the future, and the others to pass on to anyone you know who might benefit from working with me'.
 
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Author: is an experienced hypnotherapist and hypnotherapy trainer. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words and has co-written the Hypnotherapy Handbook, both of which are available from Amazon.
Find out more about Debbie's services on
Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training - multi accredited hypnotherapy practitioner training, taster days and foundation levels.
CPD Expert - accredited CPD and other therapy training (online and workshops options), expert and qualified hypnotherapy supervision XX




 


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