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Promoting Your Practice
Making sense from all the “chatter” about new patient acquisition
There are several Internet dental forums available. Some are open to all; others are selective. We monitor several, and when asked, we share with dentists what we have learned from them about how to effectively promote the benefits of dentistry.
We define dental “chatter,” which we consider to be a positive, not a negative, as the many different responses dentists receive when they solicit advice from their colleagues—whether in person or on dental forums—about what works well when promoting dentistry to the masses.
Normally, the result of asking the question is a mish mosh of singular responses that leave inquirers more confused than before they asked their question. Our goal with this article is to organize the chatter, explain why the answers are so varied, and summarize these responses into something you will find beneficial as you invest your marketing dollars.
Chatter on New Patient Acquisition
When you talk to general practitioners about the methods they use to attract new patients, there are three responses that you hear most commonly. Each is outlined briefly here.
• I only promote internally and get plenty of new patients. These dentists either have very modest growth objectives or are in underserved market areas (or both). Practices with modest capacity, in great dental markets, can likely survive forever on simple and inexpensive internal promotion.
• I only use direct mail and get plenty of new patients. These dentists probably do have fairly strong and consistent internal promotion. They just don’t consider internal promotion to be marketing. If they are doing well with direct mail and do not have a strong Internet presence, imagine how much better they would do if they did have a strong Internet presence.
• I get a good number of new patients from the Internet. The Internet is a great place to get new patients. But, like mail, these dentists probably don’t count internal promotion as marketing.
Considered individually, these three points of view might seem contradictory. It is easy to get confused about what advice to take and where to put your marketing efforts and dollars. However, it is important to realize that they are, in fact, not opposing views, but rather each represent a part of a comprehensive, overall strategy to promote your practice and attract quality new patients.
Indeed, internal promotion to patients of record, direct mail, and the Internet are the three foundational cornerstones of proper/effective use of a dental practice annual marketing budget. They represent the most predictable (market to market), most consistent, least risky, and most affordable media for marketing all dental practices. Whatever your annual promotion budget, it should focus exclusively on these three components, which the above chatter by your colleagues validates. If you consolidated all of the input from everywhere, it all adds up to these three cornerstones of a fantastic and predictable marketing plan.
Consolidating the Feedback
As mentioned above, what you ultimately want when designing a marketing plan is a producing suite of internal promotions, a producing external direct mail campaign (or combination of different types of mail), and a competitive—even dominant—Internet presence. The three pieces of your marketing foundation work wonderfully well with each other. Here’s how it works.
When an existing patient refers a new patient to your practice, it is not mandatory—but it is demonstrably better—if the patient referred has heard of you before (eg, through the mail) or can go to your website to check you out further before calling the office to make a first appointment.
Similarly, mail that is designed and deployed properly gives your existing patients more information about services you offer, keeps you at the top of their minds, and—with your website domain plastered all over the mailer—gives both the existing and potential new patients a place to learn more before they call for their first appointment. In addition, with direct mail pieces, tell the world all about the many reasons to choose you—not just one. Every dentist reading this article has at least a half dozen marketable attributes that can be communicated in such a way to sound or be perceived to be unique.
As for the Internet, 70% to 80% of the visitors to your site are either your existing patients looking for your phone number or potential new patients who typed your domain directly into their browser after receiving your mailer at their home. Once you have eyes on your page, it is important that the website they find is attractive, easy to navigate, and above all, informative. When it comes to designing your website, a common mistake—one made by 90% of dental websites—is to bury all the benefits under a general link called “Services.” A website home page should be seen like a windowed storefront, where the window/home page presents the most attractive products. People visiting a dental home page for the first time should be able to visibly see its best offerings—convenience, technology, treatments, etc—to spark their interest and invite them in.
Marketing your practice in the way described above is a big, effective, circle. Every component leverages the marketplace on its own, but also leverages the other elements as you build your marketing foundation. If you have heard chatter or feedback from your colleagues like that described above, you can rest assured that it is correct, but it is important to make sure you are hearing the whole story. Hopefully, you now understand what they are really telling you taken as a group, not just as individuals, and are ready to develop a comprehensive strategy for acquiring new patients.
About the Author
Howie Horrocks is founder and chief executive officer and Mark Dilatush is president of New Patients Inc. Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, New Patients Inc. has been helping dentists attract new, high-quality patients into their practices for nearly 25 years and has hundreds of dentist clients all over the world. For more information about New Patients Inc.’s offerings, visit www.newpatientsinc.com.