Discounts, Coupons and Promotions Can Send the Wrong Message
In healthcare, it is all about the message and the perception of the patient. When marketing, dentists join the ranks of other advertisers to build a patient/client base to achieve a successful and thriving practice. Looking at promotional materials as they come through the mail there seem to be constant incentives to purchase a service, or free services being offered to get patients acquainted with the practice. As expensive as healthcare is to the average person, a “free cleaning and exam” is enticing.
With these “free” cleanings abounding, why is periodontal disease a problem for so many Americans? After all, a professional cleaning is a service that prevents periodontal disease, is easy to obtain, and is affordable. The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) supports new research published online in the Journal of Dental Research confirming the need for careful risk assessment to determine which patients may benefit from additional treatment to prevent periodontal disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), perio disease impacts over 50% of the U.S. adult population. The AAP recommends that once a year, all patients should receive a comprehensive periodontal evaluation to effectively screen and assess risk for disease and guide preventive care.
Would it be of value to offer a free cleaning and a periodontal evaluation too? With 50% of the adult population needing some form of periodontal therapy, is it a good idea to offer a free or discounted preventive service such as a cleaning to a stranger? Usually there is fine print at the bottom of the advertisement that says “in the absence of periodontal (gum) disease.” This is where it becomes confusing to the public.
During comprehensive examinations, doctors and staff often describe scaling and root planing as a “deep cleaning” so that patients understand the procedure. The word “cleaning” should not be used to describe periodontal therapy. If 50% of the patients that respond to the marketing piece have active periodontal disease, what now? Do you do the advertised special along with education and hope that the patient returns for what they really need, scaling and root planing? Unfortunately, many wait for the next advertised special and the disease gets worse.
Dentists want new patients, but at what cost? Consider the message of health that you send with this: “Exam, cleaning and necessary x-rays, new patients only, in absence of gum disease, without insurance one-time special $69.” The professional examination is probably the most influential time that you can spend with the patient, by providing education and a listening ear to what the patient wants for their long term dental care. Will you be providing that kind of service with this package deal? For the patient to see the full value of what they are receiving, the services should be performed as they would be for any other patient in the practice.
If you want to help low income patients, you can become involved with organizations such as Dentistry from the Heart or other charitable organizations in your area. Bring value to the services that you provide by not discounting them in an advertising campaign. Propose a “teeth whitening” special or a complimentary mechanical toothbrush for new patients that complete a comprehensive examination, necessary radiographs and professional teeth cleaning. Offer $50 off any product or service not covered by insurance, or give new patients a $50 gas card for their comprehensive new patient visit. You might even consider offering complimentary second opinions for patients who have questions about treatment proposed to them by another dentist.
Most patients will come to you by word-of-mouth referrals from friends and relatives, or from online searches and reading favorable online reviews. Invest advertising dollars into improving your website and online presence. Patients who stay with practices do so because they receive good service for a fair price and are treated with respect and empathy.
Take a good look at your discounts, promotions and coupons. Are they helping you to build the practice you envisioned? What is the message you are sending? Are you attracting patients who understand the health benefits of good dentistry, or people who just want a cheap deal? Want help building a practice that attracts and keeps the best patients? Call McKenzie Management for a Free Marketing Assessment or sign up for a course in Professional Business Training or Treatment Acceptance Training today.Forward this article to a friend
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