By Joyce Sunila

Have you listened to marketing gurus who insist you “engage” your patients on social media “because that’s where people are spending their time these days”? Have you taken their advice and spent scarce resources on Facebook and Twitter?

These sites can be great way to share tips and other fodder with your followers, but they likely won’t help you fill up your waiting room.

A new Gallop poll suggests that personal referrals are still king when it comes to accruing more patients.

Nearly 40% (37.20%) said they chose their doctor because of a referral from a friend or family member; 27.32% said they got a referral from another doctor; almost 27% relied on the internet or onine reviews, 4.31% saw an ad and 0.01% found their doctor via social media.

If personal referrals account for almost 40% of your new business, you should be spending your marketing dollars on internal marketing tools, and reaching out to the patients who already like and trust you. Here’s how:

• Hold regular patient loyalty events such as luncheons, seminars, etc. Show referral sources they’re important with events that include and flatter them.

• Start a skincare club. Offer members special deals that help them achieve perfect skin for life. (This can turn into a steady profit stream during volatile economic times, too.)

• Begin a Loyalty Program where patients can accrue “frequent-flyer” credits every time they come back for treatments.

• Send newsletters full of cutting-edge anti-aging information – not about your services, but about how science is learning to slow down cellular aging.

• Roll out the red carpet. Make sure everyone on your staff knows every patient by her first name – and uses that name often during visits.

The Route to A-Plus Patient Reviews

Besides winning referrals, patient-appreciation ploys will stimulate the kind of reviews that account for 27% of new business.

In fact, if there is any single way the Internet has affected doctors’ ability to win new business it’s by making word-of-mouth — in the form of reviews — abundant and easy to find. So re-allocate your social media budget. Spend it on cleaning up your bad reviews and getting new, positive ones.

That — and treating current patients like rock stars — are how you build a multi-million-dollar plastic surgery practice in the Digital Age.

Joyce Sunila is the president of Practice Helpers in Palm Desert, Calif. She can be reached via [email protected].