One topic that always comes up in conversations with dentists and office managers is, you guessed it — New Patients. I sometimes sense that if the dentist could attract new patients, their practice would thrive. I don’t believe they are aware that marketing is part of a delicate circuit much like that of a light, and if the circuit is hindered at any point, the outcome is compromised.
In order for light to appear, the electricity needs to pass through a series of circuits. The light bulb needs to be maintained in good condition for the light to generate, and any break in the circuit reduces the brightness and strength of the light. Much like with circuits, marketing is the electricity that needs to pass through a series of internal and external circuits in order to prompt a new patient to call the practice. In the dental office, the team needs to be skilled in their communication techniques for the patient to make and accept treatment; any break in this system would hinder the desired outcome. Would you not agree?
I feel this is a point that does not receive a lot of attention and should. It is so frustrating for me to walk into a practice and see a dentist convinced to spend $5,000 to $10,000 per month on marketing with very little focus on their return on investment (ROI). Some factors affecting the return could be that they are marketing to the wrong audience, they are sending the wrong message, patients call and don’t schedule, or patients decline on treatment. Once again there is a break in the circuit. We will address this in next month’s newsletter – Differentiating Your Practice.
Brand Your Practice
The first step in unifying your marketing and communication strategies is to take a close look at your brand; who you are and the commitment you make to your community. Your brand is your vision, your values, what makes you unique compared to other dentists in your ZIP code. The more authentic the brand, the more likely the messaging will be consistent. You can create awareness, but engagement is created when people connect to your brand. The additional benefits of having a strong practice brand are:
- Differentiating yourself from the competitors.
- Unifying all of your communications. If you are a modern, high-tech practice that focuses on cosmetic and long-term health solutions, please do not feature Garfield the Cat flossing on your continuing care postcards (unless you’re a pediatric practice, in which Garfield will work just fine).
- Loyalty. Customers are loyal to brands and they will pay more money for that brand. Whether it’s your favorite shampoo, gourmet coffee, hotel or restaurant, we love what we love and are willing to pay more!
Tracking your return on investment for marketing helps you determine which efforts best promote your business. It will allow you to see if the message you are sending needs to be tweaked, if the time slot you have for a television or radio ad needs to change, and to assess the skill sets of your team. If you’re not tracking ROI, you could be throwing money away on promotions that don’t work.
It’s hard to measure the effectiveness of any marketing strategy without understanding what you did or what result you got. Some suggestions in measuring ROI include:
1. Train Your Staff to Ask All of Your Patients How They Heard About You.
While it might seem obvious to ask customers how they heard about your business it is surprising to me how many staff members overlook entering this information into their software routinely for tracking purposes. Whenever someone walks through the door or gives you a call, you should politely ask how they found you. How do you ensure this is being done in your office routinely?
2. Track Phone Calls
Tracking the number of inquiry calls that moved forward and scheduled an appointment, and actually kept their appointment- can prove to be quite helpful. In one office, we tracked inquiry calls to find out that 98% of inquiry calls scheduled appointments and 50% ended up cancelling or no showing for their “New Patient” appointment. In lieu of this, we created a customized “New Patient Inquiry” form that utilized the DiSC concept and trained the staff in DiSC sales communication. As we tracked the New Patient Inquiry, after implementation of these systems, we noticed that 98% of the inquiry calls scheduled appointments, 90% kept their first patient appointment and 98% moved forward with recommended treatment. Without this tracking system, the practice may have disregarded the marketing source due to lack of ROI.
3.Track Treatment Generated by Marketing Source
Most dental software programs have a feature where the amount of treatment from a referring or marketing source can be calculated. This should be tracked monthly to ensure if the amount of dental treatment being proposed to and accepted by patients from a particular marketing source exceeds the expense for that source.
Marketing sources can be internal referrals, specialist referrals, promotional events and television/radio ads to mention a few. Look for patterns in the information to learn how customers find you. Then, ramp up efforts in places that work, tweak areas that need revision and abandon efforts that aren’t working. This also helps with “nurture marketing,” or touching base with contacts on a regular basis.
4. Code Marketing Material and Emails
If you send an email blast, consider using an email marketing service like Constant Contact which can track how many people open the email and how many people click through to your website (called “click-throughs”). If you have a promotion on the web, set up a unique landing page on your website to track who’s visiting the site for that promotion.