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  05.12.05 Issue #166

Ways to Attract More Fee-for-Service Patients

By Howie Horrocks, President
New Patients. Inc.

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There are many marketing approaches you can use to get the patients you really want. But in my years of working with dental practices I've found that the following are the consistent winners.

Start With Internal Marketing

1. Talk to your mailing list and it will talk back. Your first and most cost efficient action is to start with your own patients. Marketing to those who are already familiar with you is easier and much more profitable than marketing to strangers (though you still need to do some external marketing). The bottom line is; you should develop regular communication to your patient base.

This could take the form of a practice newsletter or simply a personal letter from you sent quarterly or, preferably, each month. If you don't yet have your patient list computerized , I urge you to make this a priority. Most word processing software allows you to write one letter to your patients and “mail merge” this letter to hundreds or thousands of patients. Mail merge simply prints the name and address of each patient onto the single letter so your communication is more personal. It's easy and fast.

Don't make this complicated or expensive by thinking you need to hire a design firm to produce a four color, nine page magazine each month. A simple one or two page newsletter is just fine. You can upgrade the quality as you go. The important thing is to start sending something now. Internal marketing is about “upselling” which means selling more dentistry to those who are already buying dentistry from you. Someone who is already happy with your product can be sold more of it and more often. Both you and they will benefit tremendously.

One client of mine stopped sending his newsletter for several years thinking that it was too much trouble for too little return. At my urging he began sending it again and was surprised at the response. There were days he had 10 patients call to set appointments with each mentioning that the newsletter was what jogged their memory. He learned his lesson! The newsletter will never disappear again.

What to Say

Educate your patients on teeth whitening, bonding, veneers, air abrasion, lasers, intraoral cameras, porcelain crowns, white fillings and a host of other dental topics. Cover one topic per month and be sure to give them a reason to call such as a limited time offer relating to that month's topic. Keep in mind, you can't just say that veneers are great or that inlays are better than fillings. You've got to tell them what veneers and inlays will do for them (correct stained, chipped and misshapen teeth and replace unsightly amalgams) while at the same time giving them a reason to call you now and not next year (“Call before August 1st and receive a complimentary cosmetic evaluation which will determine if veneers or inlays are right for you.”)

These letters or newsletters are not meant to take the place of any recall efforts you are already making. Your hygiene recalls are a separate operation, employing postcards and phone calls. The monthly letters or newsletters above are designed to provide information and benefits on major dental treatments and services as well as invite them to call and refer their friends and family into the practice.

2. Seeking referrals. You can and should be asking for referrals from your existing patients. This goes for the staff too. Over and over again I've proven to myself that the vast majority of patients are more than willing to help you. They are not put off when you ask them to help. However it is sometimes uncomfortable to simply ask.

Why not give the patient something to take with them that they can pass along to their friends or family members? Hand them a dental health certificate and ask that they give it to someone - “Nancy, you're a great patient. Why don't you give this to one of your friends or anyone you care about? It will allow them to receive a dental exam at an introductory offer.” I recommend you make this handout more substantial than a simple business card. If it's too small or flimsy the patient may just toss it. Give them something that looks professional and 5 star quality. Make it look important (because it is.) When their friend or family member arrives (not just schedules but actually shows up) send the referring patient something valuable or useful like two tickets to a first run movie, or a restaurant gift certificate along with a personal note of thanks. Or send flowers, coffee mugs or something else people would value.

Let's say you get referred a huge case that ends up being many thousands of dollars. You may want to reward the referrer with a $300 day spa or $500 Nordstrom shopping certificate. Whatever you do the referring patient ends up getting a benefit, which means they are more likely to refer again. Send these rewards to their work address (not home). That way more people get to find out how generous you are. Bottom line: Don't let patients leave your practice empty handed.

Next Week: More Internal and External Marketing Techniques.

Howie Horrocks is the Author of More Unlimited New Patients . To order

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