How To Write Great Emails That Get Referrals

Wouldn’t you love your satisfied patients to send referrals to you?

Of course you would. Common sense tells you that it’s good for business.

The power of physician referrals and expensive traditional marketing campaigns is on the wane; word of mouth referrals are what drive most practices today.

People naturally trust the recommendation of a family member or friend over anything sent to them by a faceless clinic. People especially trust someone with whom they’ve had a positive experience.

Science has shown that people are hard-wired to recommend services and products to their friends. It’s a instinct that drives any successful word of mouth referral system.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Maintaining positive patient relationships is the new referral source” quote=”Maintaining positive patient relationships is the new referral source” theme=”style1″]

I want to open your eyes to a new way of getting referrals:

Send great emails to your current and former patients to nurture positive relationships and referrals.

As you maintain a strong connection with your highly satisfied patients they will be more likely to use your services again and make referrals when prompted.

Specifically, I want you to develop an automated email marketing system to increase trust and income for your business.

A couple of years ago I sold my practice. We had a patient list of several thousand people–definitely a significant number to take the practice to the next level.

But we had a problem. Many of those patients had no idea about the transition and they hadn’t heard a word from us for years. I wish I would have been emailing my patient list regularly so I could have helped the new owners get off to a running start.

Word of Mouth Referral Series

Today’s topic in the Word of Mouth Referral series, is how to create an email marketing system that automatically emails your patients at key touch points.

If figuring out a simple email marketing system is at the top of your to-do list, then go back and read the previous posts by clicking on one of the links below:

Intro: Word of Mouth Referrals Vs. Traditional Referrals
Step 1: Why a CRM is THE Secret Weapon for Getting Referrals
Step 2: How To Organize And Segment Your Connections Lists
Step 3: How To Automatically Send Group Emails
Step 4: How To Write Great Emails That Get Referrals
Round Up Post By Experts in Email Marketing

Email Markeint Cheatsheet

Before we dive into how to write great emails that get results– we need to talk about a new way of looking at patient lifecycles. A patient lifecycle is much more than the time between the initial evaluation and the discharge. You might discharge a patient from active treatment but you should rarely discharge them from a client relationship with your practice. 

Patient LifecycleS


What’s A Patient Lifecycle?

Normally, a patient lifecycle is defined as from the initial visit to the discharge date when the treatment ends. I want to expand your perspective to include the before and after phases in a consumer lifespan.

A well-designed email marketing system will nurture a relationship at each stage of the lifecycle. An automated email system will enable you to:

  • Follow-up with visitors to your website
  • Convert website visitors to new patients
  • Guide new patients through an onboarding process
  • Enhance the patient experience during treatment
  • Nurture positive relationships after treatment

As you can see the challenge is that prospects and patients are all different. They have a variety needs, goals, and challenges. At any given time they will be at different points in the patient lifecycle.

The simple fact that they’re all different should be top of mind when you write an email. This will force you to ask several questions about your email receivers.

  • Are they a consumer doing Internet research on health problem they want solved?
  • Are they comparing your clinic with your competitors to choose where to go?
  • Are they a current patient or a previous patient?

Knowing where your clients are at in the patient lifecycle will help you send emails that are relevant and effective. Before you sit down and write any email ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Whom you’re sending it to?
  2. Why you’re sending the email?
  3. What you want them to do?
  4. How do you know it got the results you wanted?

What does patient lifecycle marketing look like?

The following scenario helps visualize how a patient lifecycle and email marketing work together to send the right message to the right person at the right time:

– A website visitor downloads a free patient guide in exchange for their email address- Send a thank-you email with links to other downloadable resources. Include invitation for a free phone call to answer questions.

– A healthcare consumer who calls for more information on your clinic before making an appointment. Send an email that includes a downloadable brochure on the key benefits of your services. Include an invitation for a free face to face 20-minute consultation appointment.

– A prospective patient makes an appointment. Send a welcome email to begin the new patient onboarding process. Include intake forms, checklist and a brief description on what to expect for their first visit. 

– A patient ends active treatment. Send a thank-you email with a request to answer Net Promoter Score. Include an incentive for referring friends and family.

– A previous patient that you helped three months ago. Send an email with helpful suggestions specific to their condition. Include an invitation to set up a 15-minute recheck on their progress.

– A dormant patient you haven’t seen for quite a while. Send an email with links to helpful guides specific to their condition. Include an invitation to an upcoming free seminar/screening.


Email Markeint Cheatsheet


How To Get Referrals With Email

Wouldn’t you like for every email that you sent would get great results?

Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It takes serious work to achieve a reasonable ROI from email marketing. It’s not just about writing and clicking send.

There’s a delicate balance about nurturing a professional relationship and benefitting your business. Think about email marketing as a vehicle for healthy growth. It’s a way to help clients and your practice to grow in a healthy way. 

To give you a practical example of how email can enhance your patient’s experience and your bottom line lets’ look at a very important series of emails– the patient onboarding sequence.


Patient Onboarding Email Sequence

The patient onboarding sequence is the FIRST thing a new patient receives after making an appointment. The onboarding sequence builds TRUST with your new patients immediately after they schedule their initial appointment.

Remember: Your patients are often anxious about seeing someone to help them with their problem. They might be concerned about what you will do, how long it will take and how much it might cost.

At this stage, they have a lot of questions and want to know MORE about you. You’re kind of in a dating relationship, they got your phone number somehow and their waiting for the blind date to happen.

The first email is your chance to build trust by sharing with them that you are a real person, what you believe and what they can expect.

Now, this might seem counter-intuitive but it’s a perfect time to explain whom you help and whom you DON’T help. You want them to know if they aren’t a good fit then they are free to call to cancel their appointment.

Your no show rates and patient satisfaction scores will improve if you free up your schedule to work with people who totally resonate with who you are and what you do.

What To Include In Your Onboarding Emails

After they have scheduled their first appointment have your front office person ask for their phone number and email address. Tell them to expect emails from you to make their experience as positive as possible. Ask them what’s their preferred method of communication; phone, email or text.


Email #1

First Onboarding Email- Sent immediately after making an appointment

Welcome them to your practice. Tell them how much you appreciate and value the opportunity to help them. Send them some sort of downloadable explanation of what you believe, what you do and how you make people’s lives better.

Include a downloadable checklist for their first appointment. Include downloadable intake forms or directions to where they can fill them out online.

Suggest they put their appointment time in their calendar so they don’t forget.

Email #2
Second Onboarding Email– Sent the day before the first appointment

On the day before the appointment send a reminder email. Tell them who you help and who you don’t help. The second email shares a little bit more about your practice and tells your story.

Tell them a little bit about yourself, your family and how you got to be doing what you’re doing right now? Don’t worry you don’t have to get overly personal just enough so they can relate to you as a real person.

This is a great time to estabilish your authority as an expert by sharing some of your credentials and accolades. Nothing over the top but a few references that substantuate your credibility.

Think of it this way: Your new patients could probably have gone to a variety of people for their problem. Give them reasons why they made a good choice.

Email #3
Third Onboarding Email- Sent the day of the first visit

Send a short email the day of the inital evaluation to tell them how much you’re looking forward to helping them. Remind them the time of the visit and to bring in their completed forms and insurance information.

Provide a link to Google maps of your location and a phone number to call for questions or in case of an emergency.

Email #4
Fourth Onboarding Email- Sent the day after the first visit

Thank them for allowing you to help them with their problem. Tell them that you want them to communicate with your office and get all their questions answered.

Tell them what to expect from this point forward and your desire to make their experience at your clinic as remarkable as possible. Include any downloadable resources specific to their problem. This will contribute to helping your new patient acheive their goals and enhance their total patient experience.

Your onboarding sequence will go a long way to helping your new patients to know, like and trust you enough to spread the word. The onboarding email sequence is one example of how to enhance a touch point through automated personal communication from you. 

Automated Email Sequences

For example, you can create other sequences for 3-month and 6-month follow-up appointments that are automatically sent to previous patients. Most patient will appreciate hearing from you on their birthdays and on the anniversary of their inital visit. Emails sent out on a monthly or quarterly basis are a natural time to link to a few of your best recommendations for self-treatment and wellness. Periodically you should include mention other services that you offer such as personal fitness or balance training. 

In the next post we are going to close out this series of Word of Mouth Referrals with a round up post from 10 therapy experts who use email marketing to grow their business. You won’t want to miss it. 


Email Marketing Guide


Paul Potter PTPaul Potter is a physical therapist and mentor who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, who is also a therapist. They have four daughters. For more than 35 years he successfully managed his own private practice. He now shares his knowledge and experience through teaching and mentoring therapists who want to have their own practice. 

He has authored On Fire: Ignite Your Passion with a Cash Therapy Practice and the Cash Practice From Scratch Course. His website is dedicated to helping therapists achieve professional and financial freedom. Connect with Paul on his website or on LinkedIn paulpotterpt. You can also get more free resources at