Dr Harry Singh discusses how to gain and utilise patient testimonials to effectively market a clinic
In promotion and advertising, a testimonial consists of a person’s written or spoken statement extolling the virtue of a product or service. The term ‘testimonial’ most commonly applies to the pitches attributed to ordinary citizens, whereas the word ‘endorsement’ usually applies to pitches by celebrities or prominent figures.1
The importance of patient testimonials has been highlighted by numerous studies.2,3 Many suggest that patients are more trusting and hence more willing to uptake your services if they know other patients have had a positive experience and that the service they have received has resulted in an optimistic impact on their lives.4 Patients want reassurance and confidence that they have made the right decision in seeking your services, and evidence from their peers will greatly help this. Personally, I have found that many patients feel privileged to be asked to give a testimonial and it therefore generates a feeling of goodwill with those patients. They might feel special and proud that out of all the patients, you have asked them to share their experiences. They are likely to act congruent to what they have put on paper or said in a video; I have found within my own practice that the patients that have given me a testimonial will remain with me longer than those patients that have not.
Social media is an important communication tool that patients use to connect to other patients or to your business. Patients will use social media to share their experiences, reviews, testimonials, information, advice, warnings and tips. This information may influence other patients’ decision-making. Some studies suggest that people use information on social media as the guideline for their own future purchases. In one study, it was indicated that 53% of consumers look at information from forums, social accounts and company websites before a purchase.5,6 Therefore, social media, via reviews and testimonials, can be successfully used as advertising for your business.
It is valuable to create methods that will increase the probability of your testimonial requests being approved. I don’t have a rigid system where I ask every patient I have treated. If I did, then the patient will feel it has been rehearsed and they are just a number. My approach is to wait until the patient shows gratitude and thanks, which indicates that they may be ready to give a testimonial. The advantage of this is that it is more natural and in my experience you get a greater uptake for your request. So, how might you increase the chances of your patients presenting themselves to give a testimonial? The production of a testimonial is usually the last and final part of the patient journey. There needs to be a seamless and enjoyable patient journey before patients will be willing to give any form of testimonial. Some of the processes you need to consider to make the patient journey exceptional are, but not limited to; how the initial enquiry was handled (whether this be by phone, email or face to face), the ambience and décor of your clinic, friendliness of the team, the assessment process, rapport building, comfort of the procedure, the treatment itself, the anticipated results obtained and follow-up care. As previously discussed, my team and I wait for that moment when the patient shows gratitude or has a positive comment on any aspect of our business. It is at that time that you should kindly ask the patient if they’d be willing to provide a formal testimonial. The law of reciprocation7 is inbred within all of us and when we have a positive experience we want to return the favour. It is imperative that you ask for the favour to be returned as soon as the patient recognises that they have benefitted. The longer you leave your request for a testimonial (i.e more than a week), generally the less conversions you will have for your testimonial request.7
You will need to generate various formats of testimonials, such as written or video, and choose the platform, such as social media channels and Google reviews. Generating different formats is important because your patients giving the testimonials will each have a certain personality/learning profile8 and will likely prefer one format compared to others. Similarly to this, potential new patients will prefer to receive information via one particular platform, which may influence them to book a consultation or treatment more than others.
Social media: use of the various formats of testimonials across the different social media platforms such as Facebook and Google Plus. Written testimonials on your Google Business Page is a good idea because it will add credibility to your page and is one of the many ways to improve your search engine rankings.10
Written: you can either use a template document, where the patient writes their testimonial according to a set of questions, or a testimonial/visitor’s book, they can fill in.
Video: this is a visual recording of the patient’s experience. Make sure you have good lighting, sound and a well-presented area to undertake the recording. In my experience a large majority of my patients are not too comfortable with video testimonials and you need to tread carefully when requesting this and don’t be surprised with the low uptake for this form of testimonial.
Stories: personal stories of their journey from their initial aesthetic concerns to how the treatment provided has been beneficial.
Case studies: more for your professional peers, but can be adapted for patients too. This will be in the format of before and after images accompanied by text on how you achieved the results, what materials were used, your injection technique, and anything you would have done differently. This can also be supplemented with patients’ comments. The above forms of testimonials can be published anywhere and everywhere, such as newsletters, websites, social media channels and around the clinic.
For my written testimonials I let the patients write free flow with no script to follow. For video testimonials, it is important to have some structure to it. The reason is that most patients are more comfortable undertaking the written format compared to the video, so you can help patients by letting them focus on two to three points. I have a list of around a dozen questions and out of those, I’ll pick three different questions for each of the patients to talk about as you don’t want all videos to be the same or too long. Questions to use could be, ‘what was your main concern?’, ‘why did you choose us?’, ‘how was your experience of the service?’, ‘how was the procedure?’, and ‘would you recommend us to others?’
People will, broadly speaking, fall into three learning types – visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.8 We have all three of these learning styles present in ourselves, but one is normally more dominant than others. This will be the preferred route for learning and thus more likely to influence buying decisions. There are various online tools where you can discover which learning type you are.9
Visual patients will learn and decide via images, videos and drawings. Therefore, with visual personality types, it is essential that you show before and after images of results and video testimonials similar to what they are looking to achieve. If you show a visual learner written testimonials, you are less likely to interest them and provoke a positive response to uptake your services.
Auditory patients will learn and decide via hearing facts and figures. Therefore, with auditory personality types, it is essential that you go into detail about the procedure and services and you use written testimonials and case studies that emphasise the details of the procedure carried out.
Kinesthetic patients will learn and decide via their feelings and emotions. They want to know how your services have transformed patients’ lives and how the patients felt afterwards. Therefore, with kinesthetic
It may sound obvious, but it is vital that you don’t make up testimonials. As well as breaching professional standards that could land you in trouble with your relevant medical body, you’ll be breaking the law in relation to The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 200811 (which covers marketing aimed at consumers) and/or the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008.12
Secondly, you will need to obtain express consent from the patient for the use of the testimonial for promotional material. This is critical for medico-legal issues and the Data Protection Act.13 It is also recommended that you make sure that the patient is aware of where the testimonial could possibly be published, for example online, on social media or maybe playing on the televisions in clinic.
We cannot advertise prescription only medicines (POM) to the general public.14,15 This means that you cannot use any format of testimonial (such as written, video and before/after images) that is accessible by the public (newspaper ads, leaflets, posters on shop windows, website, social media etc.) that is showing the use, results obtained and patients’ experience of botulinum toxin treatments or other procedures that have used POMs.
There is a clear benefit to asking for and receiving different formats of testimonials in terms of adding extra value to your existing patients and allowing new patients to experience what others are saying about you. You may need to ‘coach’ your patients in expressing the value and emotional benefit of your services, not just the product side. For example, saying ‘the service was great’, will be more of a benefit as we tend to buy on emotion and justify later with logic.
However, you do need to make sure you comply with your professional guidelines, such as insuring that you do not advertise POMs, any off label usages and most importantly ensuring that you have patient consent.