Direct Your Message to Direct Mail
In an age in which there is an unrelenting push to channel most if not all marketing efforts to digital platforms, such as email and social media, direct mail is reestablishing itself as one of the most effective tools to attract new customers/patients. Need proof? Look no further than Google. As seemingly ubiquitous as this Internet search engine is, the company uses direct mail to market its services to small and medium-sized businesses. Why? Because it’s effective.
Done well and executed correctly, direct mail is exactly that - “direct.” It is directed toward a targeted audience. The message is tailored specifically to that customer and sent to a precise, clearly defined demographic. In other words, direct mail is no longer “spray and pray.” Your audience is carefully selected based on real data and reliable research. And most importantly, it is virtually guaranteed to reach the hands of its intended recipient.
Unlike email marketing, which requires the recipient to actually open the email, and social media marketing, which requires the recipient to be willingly involved, direct mail will, in most cases, be touched by the intended recipients. After all, virtually everyone still goes to the mailbox to get the mail, and that makes direct mail marketing well worth a spot in your overall practice marketing strategy.
Consider these 10 tips for an effective direct mail campaign:
1. Remember this is direct mail, not mass mail. It bears repeating that your target market be carefully and precisely identified. The better your target, the more effective your response rate will be.
2. Presentation matters. Do not attempt to do this at home. Printing costs and creative printing options have dropped dramatically. Invest in a professionally designed print piece. The presentation should encourage the recipient to hold and look at your piece for no less than 20-30 seconds. It should not feel like an item that begs to be tossed in the trash. Rather you want it to be “counter-worthy.” In other words, the recipient will set it on the table or counter with the intention of coming back to it for further consideration - and hopefully action.
3. Use a large over-sized envelope to ensure it stands out from the drab, dreary, and predictable series of #10 envelopes that typically hold little that is interesting. Also make use of eye-catching colors. Include a “handwritten” message on the front. There are many fonts that give the appearance of being handwritten.
4. Give your reader something in addition to well-written relevant information, such as a free gift, a limited time offer, a discount, a coupon, and a deadline to take action. Focus on what you can do for the reader, and make it easy and enticing for them to take action. You want to add value as well as create excitement and interest in your service.
5. P.S. - If you’re writing a letter, include the postscript after your signature. Studies show that 30% of recipients will read this first.
6. This is personal. Sophisticated marketing tools enable you to personalize your messages. Rather than “Current Occupant” which screams “toss this item in the trash,” use the recipient’s name. Messages can be personalized and will have far greater impact and staying power.
7. Don’t ignore the obvious. Make sure that your direct mail is not only eye appealing and compelling, but also well written. Typos, poor grammar, and incorrect spelling have sunk more than a few marketers on their maiden voyage.
8. This isn’t once and done. Prospective consumers/patients need to see/hear your message multiple times, no less than five and in some cases as many as 12 times.
9. Integrate the direct mail piece with the rest of your marketing. Include a website address and a QR code that will link them immediately to the special offer on your website. Encourage them to “Like” your Facebook page, and urge them sign up for the latest news and special updates via email.
10. Consistency matters. You want a consistent message across all of your marketing channels and a consistent image. In other words, all of your marketing should reflect your practice brand in terms of message, colors, logo, etc.
Certainly, digital marketing is an essential component in your marketing plan, but don’t disregard the tried and true success of direct mail. It’s a powerful platform for delivering a specific message to a specific audience.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Closing the Sale vs. Showing the Way
“Closing the sale” is a term familiar to those in sales. After setting the stage for a buyer to buy, getting that buyer to sign off on the deal or agree to the purchase right now, today, is an important goal. Letting a potential buyer take time to think about the purchase is viewed as failure. If the buyer thinks it over, he/she may decide the purchase is not a good fit. Perhaps it is too expensive, or doesn’t really suit his/her needs. Not the salesman’s concern. Closing the sale must happen now.
Does the buyer have questions or objections? Hard sell answers and time limits can be used. “Hundreds of people are already taking advantage of this opportunity” or “This offer is only good for today.”
A buyer who doesn’t fully understand what is transpiring is also no barrier to a sale. Playing on the buyer’s reluctance to show a lack of knowledge works well. “Everyone knows these units are a steal,” or “Don’t worry about the home-owners association fees. They are quite reasonable.”
It is important to every dental practice that necessary treatment is identified and performed. It is important to patients and it is important to the success of the practice. We need to pursue effective methods of getting patients to accept their conditions as well as our recommendations. Do tactics to “close the sale” have any place in dentistry? To get patients on board do we really need to pressure them to agree to a treatment plan right now, today?
From my experience, pressure may work in the short term, but will not work well in the long term. If we pressure patients to set up appointments today, they may cancel tomorrow. They may agree to procedures and then refuse to pay, or appear to be accepting and then walk out the door, never to return.
Better than “closing the sale,” we may be more successful with “showing the way.” We can explain what we are seeing in a patient’s mouth, describe what might be done, and offer a plan. We can allow patients to think it over, so if they decide to go ahead with treatment they are invested in its success.
A treatment conference using the “showing the way” technique may be approached like this:
1. Photos and radiographs of a healthy situation can be shown. For example, a first molar with an attractive resin restoration accompanied by a radiograph showing adequate bone support and no apical infection can be displayed (stock photos are ok). A brief discussion of what is seen and why it is healthy is provided.
2. Photos and radiographs of the patient’s situation can be shown. Decay, inadequate bone support, apical issues, etc. can be pointed out.
4. The dentist’s recommendations for the patient’s situation are offered, as well as the financial aspects of the plan and how the office may be able to help (financing, CareCredit, etc.). This approach can be provided in a private office setting with the treatment coordinator and patient talking, or the dentist may offer treatment recommendations with the treatment coordinator setting up financial arrangements.
If there is no time to prepare a full treatment conference at the close of an exam, a separate appointment set up at the same time as some minor treatment can be scheduled. For example, the patient needs to have an occlusal resin on #3, but also needs an endo and crown on #30. Set up the appointment for the treatment conference followed by chair time for the resin on #3. In this way the patient does not feel they are coming in “just to talk” but will be receiving necessary treatment as well.
In the hygiene department, after radiographs and full mouth perio charting are complete, areas of concern can be shown right at the chair. A photo of the probe extending into a shallow sulcus followed by a photo of the probe disappearing into a pocket is effective. An x-ray showing bone loss also illustrates well the extent of the patient’s condition. Even in the absence of a photo, a hand mirror can be utilized quite successfully. A patient of record can be told that a new situation has arisen that needs to be addressed, with the statement, “It doesn’t make sense to just ignore areas like this. Even though we have been seeing you on a regular basis, infections can develop. Removing the bacteria from these inflamed pockets will allow the body to begin healing.” New patients can be told that a gum and bone infection exists, but that it can be treated.
After explanations have been given, if the patient wants to think it over they should not be pressured. Put their name on a call list in the computer and follow up with them next week. Tell them, “It is our job to let you know what is going on with your health and what can be done about it. It is up to you to decide. We will call you next week after you have had some time to think it over. Call me if you have a question that you think of later.”
We offer solutions to dental problems and maintenance plans to keep people healthy. When our patients trust us, they return for treatment. “Closing the sale” today is typically not a successful philosophy for long term relationships with our patients.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You Can Do It
You’ve educated patients with brochures. You have high tech equipment. But even with pictures, patients aren’t following through with the treatment recommendations you’ve made. It’s the beginning of a new year and your goal is to sell patient treatment more successfully. Influencing another person to take a course of action, especially one that costs them money, is a difficult task…one that takes patience and perseverance. Let’s look at the following scenario.
Imagine that you are scheduled to meet with a new patient. He/she tells you that their last dentist said “everything was okay”. However, on examination you discover the need for several thousands of dollars of work, from deep root cleaning to restorative procedures.
For many, this situation triggers discomfort at best. The patient believes they have no problems. Regardless of whether this is denial or misrepresentation on the part of their previous dentist, this patient is not expecting or wanting to hear the bad news you are about to deliver. When patients are in pain, they are highly motivated for treatment, at least in the short run. But convincing the patient in the example above is another story - they don’t have a toothache and they believe their teeth are fine.
For you the dentist, there are two primary and sometimes competing factors involved: 1) providing good dental care and 2) overcoming financial resistance. Assuming that your intentions are noble - you are recommending treatment that is necessary, appropriate, and in the patient’s best interest - the real issue is money. More specifically, how you feel about money. Before you overcome the patient’s concerns about cost, you need to check your own beliefs about money and its place in your life.
Most medical professionals enter their respective field because they want to help people. It’s likely that you saw dentistry as a way to serve others and to make a good income. Yet how you feel about the financial aspects of your practice is a key issue in your ability to sell treatment to patients. To understand your beliefs about money, pay attention to what you say to yourself when financial matters arise with patients.
Another way to recognize your view of money is to free associate to the word ‘money’. That is, quickly name the first five things that come up in your mind when you say ‘money’. Notice whether your associations are positive and income-enhancing. If not, objectively challenge your negative ideas about money.
Financially successful people have positive beliefs about prosperity and abundance. Expand your mental frame around money. Operate from the perspective of “what’s possible”. Remove the limitations and barriers in your thinking.
The same holds true for patients. Their resistance may be fear-based. By achieving a peaceful state of mind about your own views of money, you will be more capable of reassuring patients. You’ll also be more convincing when you present a viable dental plan to them. After all, you are only advising. It’s up to the patient to decide. Remember that people respond more to what they are going to lose than to what they are going to gain. And money is one of the strongest motivators of human behavior.
To learn more about how your thoughts, feelings and attitudes contribute to or interfere with your financial success, contact Dr. Haller at email@example.com.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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