How to Keep a Steady Flow of New PatientsMay 19th, 2010 | By Lisa Buber | Category: Featured Articles
For any dental practice to flourish, you must develop a steady flow of new patients. But how can you effectively recruit new patients while concentrating on the clinical aspects of your practice? Today’s successful practitioners know the value of using consistent and well thought-out marketing strategies—not only to ensure proper promotion of their business but also to allow them to concentrate on the clinical demands of their practice.
Old-school marketing methods of relying only on patient referrals and a big sign in front of your office are becoming a thing of the past. As a result, it is important to construct a meaningful and effective plan to keep new patients coming through your doors.
Consistent effort is key
The key to successful dental marketing is consistency. Your activities should be arranged on a monthly basis, planned in advance and implemented on a sound schedule. When planning your overall activities, you should consider these two essential areas of focus: how to get new dental patients and how to keep them. Your dental marketing plan should include a mix of external outreach, internal programs and public events that raise the profile of your practice.
While your marketing plan should be tailored to your dental practice and the type of patients you wish to attract, the following important marketing strategies should be considered as you work to gain new patients and keep your existing patients coming back for more:
Many dental specialists hesitate to advertise their practice because of the costs involved in traditional radio, television and print advertisement. But in today’s online society, new affordable avenues for outreach have opened up that you should take advantage of. It seems that everyone has a Facebook page or is using Twitter to connect, discuss and interact online. If you have not begun to use these new social networking tools, you are missing a great opportunity. Reach out to new and existing dental patients, and bolster the profile of your practice for essentially no cost.
Professionally prepared newsletters are perhaps the most effective and affordable marketing tool available to dental professionals today. Mailing newsletters to existing dental patients, prospects and professional associates is a proven way to get the word out about your dental practice. E-mail newsletters are also effective and have the advantage of eliminating printing and postage costs while enabling people who receive your newsletter to easily forward it to friends and family members. Remember, however, that “content is king,” so be sure to enlist the services of a good writer. Boring and bland content will bring disappointing results to your effort.
Public speaking engagements give you credibility as a trusted resource in your community and an authority on the topic presented, and can be a valuable way not only to bolster the profile of your dental practice but also to elevate your professional status. Select subjects that match your area of expertise, and choose topics that align with the particular services you want to promote to new patients. Public speaking is a good image builder and helps potential patients gain confidence in your abilities as a specialist who is up-to-date on the latest research and treatment methods.
Internal referral programs
Referrals are the lifeblood of any thriving practice, so work consistently to encourage referrals from your existing dental patient base. If your referral system is based solely on your own efforts, however, then you do not have a true system in place. Increase referrals by providing various incentives for your current patients to refer friends and family. You may find it difficult to ask for referrals, but in fact, most dental patients are happy to refer others if prompted to do so. Internal referral programs can include patient appreciation days, charity sponsorships, health certificates or simply a program set in place to ask for referrals on a regular basis.
Reactivate dental patients
Inactive patients are a hidden gold mine. One way you can reactivate your inactive patients is by sending personalized direct mail to remind them about your practice and their unfinished treatments. You might also consider offering credits or discounts toward any elective services you offer (e.g., veneers, whitening, etc.). An e-mail campaign can also be a powerful and no-cost way to reach and reactivate your “lost” patients.
Once you bring in a steady flow of new dental patients, how do you keep them coming back? One of the main ingredients is dental patient education. The old adage “a well-educated patient is a good patient” holds true. Adopt a mindset that patient education begins when a new patient calls the office for the very first time, and it never ends. Use every opportunity to educate. Provide dental patients with a detailed written report of findings and progress reports. Invite patients to attend your speaking engagements and workshops. Use educational pamphlets that help deliver the message about your services and dental practice, and promote you as a provider.
Leading businesses know that customer service is vital to building clientele over the long-term and strive to consistently create a “wow” factor. Your dental patients should go away saying, “Wow, that was an incredible experience.” Your staff can make you or break you when it comes to getting and keeping patients, so make certain your staff members are well trained in the art of exceptional customer service. Straightforward steps, such as remembering a dental patient’s name, maintaining a clean, professional office, and paying attention to little details like smiling and saying hello, will make your patients’ experience a memorable one.
Developing a steady flow of new dental patients and keeping your existing patients coming back for more does not happen magically. You must be consistent and thoughtful in your efforts. Your goal is to encourage new, high-quality patients and a solid foundation of returning—and referring—patients. Use these strategies to develop a marketing plan that fits your dental practice. And remember, whether you have been practicing for a long time or are new to your profession, for your business to thrive, you must always look for ways to keep new patients coming into your practice and existing patients coming back for more.