What methods do you use to track referral sources?
To answer this is somewhat challenging, as referral source tracking is notoriously difficult to pin down if you are doing a good job in advertising. On the other hand, it is incredibly important to track advertising or money spent or it is essentially worthless.
We track our patients on an intake form, and our secretaries and staff log referral sources at the time of each new appointment. This is entered on our system and tabulated over time. Additionally, I read each intake sheet to see what the source is.
The problem lies in patients who have multiple referral sources (I saw your ad in the paper and then asked my Aunt Jane who said you were good...). The other problem is patients who say something like "I heard about you everywhere..." Where does this type of response go?
The key is to actually take the time to obtain results and then look at them regularly. We have used the results of our system to curtail advertising in certain places due to lack of any visible benefits from advertising (such as a few radio stations and local papers). On the other hand, we have used positive feedback on some sources to increase the 'buy' for outlets (mainly radio stations that produce well).
What is the best source of advertising for your practice?
This varies, of course, from practice to practice, but mine is definitely word of mouth. This is followed by family referrals and then it is a tie between all other types of advertising. Sadly, Yellow Pages advertising is being eroded significantly these days, but it is even sadder that we must continue to advertise in it (mainly for the Medicare patients) despite terrible penetration into the younger generation.