10.28.11 Issue #503 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Direct Mail Dollars Deliver Results
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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You may have heard that the US Postal Service is losing money. Evidently people aren't sending as many letters through the mail, and more are paying their bills electronically. So what does this mean for dentistry? Plenty! For starters - that friendly mail carrier just might be the key link between you and a host of new patients.

Today, direct mail marketing is as strong as it has ever been. Why? The obvious reason is that fewer businesses are using it. Instead they are filling up your electronic mail box with special offers, promotions, catalogs, coupons, and the list goes on. They are inundating consumers with email; consequently, what was once old is new again. Snail mail marketing is back, and all the better.

While electronic communication and marketing have exploded, so too has the amount of digital garbage. Spam and junk email folders collect hundreds of marketing missives that are targeted for us, but miss their mark. Web page ads become digital wallpaper on our computer screens. It's there, but we don't notice it like we did when it was new. Don't get me wrong, email and electronic communication are absolutely critical in effectively marketing a dental practice. But they are only part of a total marketing strategy.

What is particularly interesting about the swing of the electronic vs. paper marketing pendulum is that while people won’t hesitate to click “delete” to rid themselves of the multitude of electronic distractions, they will take time to actually look at a flyer, brochure, newsletter, or postcard sent through traditional mail. For a few seconds or a few moments, when a person is reading the expertly written letter or the professionally designed postcard sent through the mail, you have a captive and engaged audience. What’s more, direct mail can be used for a multitude of marketing purposes, including generating new patients, reconnecting with former patients, creating awareness of the practice in the community, educating patients and the community about services, and the list goes on.

Case in point, “Dr. Maxwell” recently took over a practice in a smaller southwestern city. The doctor she bought it from was retiring after many years. Dr. Maxwell has invested a fortune in updating the equipment, technology, and décor. The place looks fantastic, but the patient base under her predecessor had been dwindling. There were plenty of patient records - the problem, only a fraction of them were active. Dr. Maxwell needed to get her practice name into the community. She needed to reconnect with former patients, and she needed to set herself apart from the other dentists in the area.

To her credit, she didn't attempt to go it alone. Dr. Maxwell worked with a professional dental marketing company to establish her practice brand, develop a custom website, and train her team. But even with several marketing pieces in place, the puzzle still wasn't coming together. She needed to increase the numbers of new patients.

Direct mail, like many marketing tools, tends to be misunderstood. Typically, dentists will claim that direct mail doesn’t work, doesn’t deliver the patient numbers they want, and is too expensive to bother with in this age of electronic communication. Yet, few truly understand how direct mail works and the fact that the return on this investment can be huge - provided it’s done right. However, as is often the case, it’s not the “tool” that fails; typically it’s the manner in which it is used. In other words, most direct mail campaigns that don’t produce results are poorly executed.

In Dr. Maxwell's case, an overall marketing strategy was developed for the practice to implement over the long term. One component of that strategy was a direct mail campaign. During the course of twelve weeks, the campaign targeted prospective patients with professionally designed direct mail pieces. The phones were ringing. Her staff were trained to handle the increased phone and patient activity, and she was well on her way to rebuilding the practice patient base.

Marketing, like dentistry, is both an art and a science. There is no single treatment that will cure all dental disease. The same holds true for marketing the dental practice. There is no “silver bullet” technique to effectively market dentistry.  It requires a plan, a strategy, and a system that is an integral part of running the business.

Next week, making the most of email and the least of social media.

Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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