"I want a marketing plan that will attract more new patients. I want an advertisement that will bring in better patients. I want patients interested in comprehensive treatment." I want, I want, I want. Some practices will spend tens of thousand of dollars on marketing campaigns convinced that they can buy all the patients they want with clever ads, gorgeous brochures, or witty radio jingles.
Oftentimes these practices will see terrific initial success. Patients are flowing in. The schedule is full. The doctor is happy and convinced that marketing campaign was just what the practice needed. Then the cancellations begin. The patients don't schedule the recommended treatment. They took advantage of the whitening offer, but never returned. A few months down the road little has come of the grand marketing investment.
What went wrong? Too often practices consider marketing as a purely external activity. Yet the most critical promotion your practice can invest in has nothing to do with the catchy ad or fancy collateral pieces. Your single most effective marketing tool is the superior service you and your team offer long before and long after the fancy brochure fades.
Look first to build upon the patient's basic expectations. Reliability - they expect to have a doctor and team they can count on. Timeliness - they expect the office to run reasonably on time. Information - they expect to be able to ask questions and receive clear answers. And they expect you to deliver what you promise.
If your razzle-dazzle ad campaign says yours is a state of the art dental practice and the patient walks in to find vintage 1980s, you've lost them. If you claim state-of-the-art, make sure you deliver from the moment they walk in the door to the moment they drive away. Otherwise, the patient will feel they've been misled.
Don't expect new patients to wait months for you to fit them into your busy schedule. If you claim to welcome new patients, you better be able to see them within a week.
Examine the new patient experience in its entirety. Review how new patient calls are handled. What may be standard operating procedure in a practice could come across as insulting to a prospective patient. For example, the new patient who calls to schedule an appointment and is greeted with the question, “Do you have insurance? No? Let me tell you our financial policy” immediately feels unwelcome and defensive. Educate them first on the excellence of the doctor and team. Get into the rules and regulations later.
All new patients should be sent a packet of information within 24 hours after the appointment is made to welcome and educate them about the office. This includes a brief letter from the doctor indicating his commitment to providing the best possible care for patients. The letter also emphasizes specific qualities about the practice that set it apart from others, such as, the extremely high infection control standards, dentistry for the entire family, painless dentistry techniques, cosmetic dentistry, technology and a commitment to never making the patient wait more than 5-10 minutes, etc.
Welcome all patients to the practice by name when they walk in the door and regularly show existing patients that you appreciate that they have chosen your practice. Routinely seek feedback from patients, and make adjustments based on their comments.
Patients measure a dental practice by how the staff treats them and whether they feel as if this is a team that is working together effectively and is focused on meeting or, better yet, exceeding their needs and expectations. While some external marketing can be a helpful supplement, money cannot buy an advertising campaign that can compete with a service-focused team.
If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.