If you’re a dental professional who’s just starting out with building a practice marketing program, you know there’s no shortage of options out there. From newspaper ads to Yellow Pages to Google Adwords to social media, there are marketing avenues galore – but where do you start? We’d love to give you some easy tips, but the truth is there is no shortcut to trying different things and figuring out what works for your office specifically. We have customers who’ve engineered sophisticated online outreach strategies and failed miserably, as well as customers who still get calls from their Yellow Pages ads (yes, really).
There is one thing that ALWAYS works, though. Look inside your four walls first. It’s a terribly overused business cliché that selling more to your existing customers is much easier than going out and getting new ones. That it’s a cliché doesn’t make it wrong. In fact, I hear it may have been made up by a dental practice manager. Think about it. An average practice has 1,600 active patients, with many of your offices having several multiples of that number. 70% of them need something right this second: be that a cleaning appointment, restorative work, cosmetic improvements or an occlusal appliance – you name it. They already know and love you, so they will open your letters, pick up your calls and respond to your emails and text messages. How come so little is said in the marketing world about harvesting these relationships and growing the lifetime value of each patient you have?
At RevenueWell, we’ve built a system that does just that by using data from your practice software – but you can figure out your own way to tackle this. The simple fact is such internal patient marketing is the highest impact marketing you’ll ever do. Wondering where to start with it? Here are five areas that have the highest effect on your practice profitability:
- Recare. This is the lifeline of your practice. Getting to see every one of your active patients at least twice a year for hygiene is what builds doctor schedules. Most of your restorative appointments are scheduled immediately after such prophy visits – yet an average patient recall in the U.S. is a hefty 11 months. Devising a strategy (prescheduling, timely communication, staff training) that keeps hygiene schedules full is essential and will boost your production like nothing else you can do.
- Relationship continuity. This is just a fancy way of saying “figure out a way to not let your patients slip off the radar” – Yes, in a typical practice 1% of all patients die every year and 2% move – and there is nothing you can do about that. But did you know that another 3% will be influenced away by their friends? Many more will just neglect their health and not come in for over 12 months. Now, these are things you can do something about. Organizing an outreach campaign to dormant patients can be a fairly easy thing to do – and when done right, these campaigns can bring back many patients you’d never expected to see again.
- Mindshare. Of your thousands of patients, how many woke up this morning thinking about you? Scratch that. How many thought about dentistry in the last six months? These won’t be big numbers. An average American doesn’t have you in their annual budget – and is definitely not putting a CEREC onlay onto their Christmas wish list. They don’t even know what CEREC is. So how do you change that? Stay in front of them – with newsletters, promotions, events that are happening at your practice, technologies you acquire to better their healthcare. Their insurance company does that. And their credit card company. In fact, I just got a “tips and tricks” email from my gas utility – a company with which I share a much less personal relationship than I have with my dentist. Who, by the way never, ever, sent me anything to remind me that she exists and has at least four ways to whiten my three-cups-of-coffee-a-day smile.
- Patient experience. If you’re wondering how this made it into the list of major internal marketing initiatives, just consider how many of your patients were referred by other patients at the practice. Think about how many of them stay loyal to you because you went out of your way for them. Your ability to WOW each patient at every interaction is the purest definition of what marketing is: creating, communicating and delivering value. When you greet every patient with a warm smile, run on time and thoroughly explain their treatment to them – that’s value. When you give them online access to their treatment history, confirm each appointment with a simple text and send them automatic email post-op instructions after every visit – that’s value. That’s giving your patients something special. That’s delivering the patient experience that keeps them coming back, gets them to rave about you online and refer their loved ones.
- Treatment acceptance. Whether you like it or not, treatment plan acceptance is a marketing function. It really has nothing to do with your ability to do perform the procedure better than anyone you know. It’s about how you sell it. That’s why you buy intraoral cameras, chairside patient education software and, to an extent, 3D imaging solutions. These technologies, along with how well you can do personally, help you visualize the condition and the benefits of treatment to get the patient to say “yes”
.Bolstering your capabilities in this area will always be one of the biggest drivers of profitability for your office. Again, why would you concern yourself with how many likes you get on Facebook when you have five $1,000 crown cases walking off every week without scheduling? Does the layout of your newspaper ad really matter if you don’t proactively follow-up with every patient who has an outstanding treatment plan?
The above isn’t to say that external marketing is a waste of time and shouldn’t be done. For your practice to grow, you definitely need to learn how to get new patients through the door. It will take time, it will take money and it will take effort – but you will eventually come up with a recipe that works for you. Yet if you’re looking for an immediate area of focus that almost inevitably delivers results, you may not have to look much farther than your front desk PC. Happy marketing!