Dec 13, 2023 • 4 min read

Five steps to grow your business through word-of-mouth

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Think about the last time you made a big purchasing decision. How did you come up with your short list of options? What was the factor that pushed you to your purchase? Chances are you sought some kind of referral through a personal contact, searched online reviews, or used a trusted source for recommendations. You’re relying on word-of-mouth, or “eWOM” in the case of online reviews, to guide your choices.

Today, we’re often overwhelmed by choice. We use referrals to help us build trust in our decisions. Referrals have always been important in influencing consumer behavior. A study from the consulting firm McKinsey found that word of mouth was the primary factor in 20-50% of all purchasing decisions. That’s powerful! But, also probably not surprising when you reflect on your own decision making.

The importance of word-of-mouth referrals and online reviews extends to healthcare as well. If a client is referred to you by a friend, or can see a slew of excellent reviews for your practice, they’ll be quicker to trust you with their care. 

Having a solid strategy to maximize word-of-mouth opportunities is essential to growing your business. Take these five steps to set yourself up for word-of-mouth success.

1. Ensure a GREAT experience for you clients

This feels like a no-brainer, and something you are already doing in each appointment. But, sometimes it’s hard to know what “great” feels like for different people.  One study found that when patients have positive healthcare experiences, the things that they most often point to that made the experience great are:

  • Having a provider that clearly explains the patient’s condition and similarly clearly explains the treatment
  • Having a provider who listens, understands the patient’s needs, and provides emotional support

2. Identify your strongest referrers

Some clients will be more likely to refer than others. It’s worth figuring out who those people are so you can prioritize them with your asks for referrals. To segment your client base, use the following prompts.

  • Who are the clients you have the strongest relationships with? Consider how long you’ve been working with them, how frequently you interact, and how successful they’ve been in achieving their goals with your support.
  • Who are the clients that are demonstrating that they are advocates? Who has shared that they’re discussing their progress and treatment with their friends? Has anyone organically shared a referral in the past? Have you engaged with any clients on social media or on another platform?

3. Pick the right moments to ask for referrals

The best moments to ask for referrals are 1) when the client is having a “peak moment” in their engagement with you, and 2) when you have something new or exciting to share about your business.

“Peak moments” for your clients happen for different reasons. Your client may feel most positively about their engagement with you when they’ve hit a specific goal, or potentially reached a milestone (e.g., an anniversary), or when they’ve overcome a challenge with your support. Timing your asks for referrals around these moments will be most impactful. 

“Exciting moments” for your business could take many forms, and the level of excitement is all relative! You could ask for referrals around a milestone or anniversary of your business, e.g., 100th client, 2 years in private practice. Another opportunity could be when you have a new offering– e.g., you’re in network with a new insurance company, you’re offering weekend time slots, or you’re using a new meal-planning app to support clients.

4. Identify the right ask

A direct referral for a client is the ultimate goal, but a positive review, or the opportunity to introduce your business to new people are also valuable! Ideally, you’ll want to mix up your asks, and pair them to the right clients and the right moments. Some options to consider:

  1. Send an email to your “advocate clients” to ask them to leave you a review on google, yelp, or ZocDoc.
  2. Invite a group of clients to a workshop you’re hosting with a local partner (maybe a physician or local business), and ask them to bring at least one friend with them.
  3. Ask for the direct referral, give them information to share with their networks to help grow your business.

5. Prioritize responsiveness

Your clients will be more likely to continue to send you referrals and support you with reviews if you can share the outcomes of the referrals with them. Make sure you thank people for direct referrals or for sharing a review, and put substance behind your thanks! For example, “thank you so much for sharing a review. I’ve had 10 new client inquiries this month, and I know the online reviews make a difference!”

With the right strategy in place, your current client base can be the key to growing your business. The key is to continue using these tips– you’ll never be “done” growing word of mouth for your business. Start small with a group of your most active clients, and continue to expand your efforts as you learn what works for you and your clients. For direct support on implementing these tips and other strategies to grow your business, reach out to our team at