6 Retention Strategies That Keep Patients Coming Back


If you want to continue to be successful, there are three key initiatives that must always be in play at your dental practice. When you’re just starting out, you’re focusing all your dental marketing efforts on getting new patients. As you gain momentum you must keep a focus on acquisition, while also attending to your retention and reactivation efforts. (And never drop acquisition! If you’re not consistently focused on gaining lots of quality new patients to address natural attrition, achieving practice growth will be impossible).


To grow, or I should say, to not decline – you cannot sit back on your laurels.  


Loyal patients don’t just appear out of thin air. It takes time and effort. Future practice success and security means keeping retention as a priority part of your overall dental marketing plan. It takes less effort to keep a dental patient than to gain a new one … but both activities are equally important. If you know you want to improve retention at your dental practice – click here now to schedule a convenient time to discuss strategies.  

Here are 6 strategies to keep patients coming back: 

1. Keep An Eye On Attrition 

The key to improving patient retention is to understand your underlying metrics. How many active patients do you have right now? When you compare how many new patients you gained, how many patients did you lose in the same period? What’s your patient average value?  

Your Patients Scheduled percentage is the backbone of retention. It measures the number of patients connected to you right now. The higher this metric is, the more willing patients are to commit to your practice. The lower that metric is, the more likely your practice is headed for a financial struggle.  

2. Increase Patient Value 

The ultimate goal of retention is to increase patient lifetime value. That means you need to review your value proposition. Is it the strongest it can be to first attract and then retain quality patients? Are you doing all the right things at every phase of the patient journey to create loyal long-term practice advocates? When was the last time you completed a SWOT exercise or reviewed your top competitors and their offerings? Can you and your team give me the 10 second elevator pitch with your top three competitive advantages? When was the last time you reviewed your patient communications and marketing strategies to ensure that you’re elevating your services and highlighting the ways you and your team go above and beyond to provide exceptional services?  

3. Identify Top Value Patients. Then Surprise & Delight 

Do you know who your top value patients are? Not knowing which patients have invested with you can lead to awkward moments and to patients feeling less than valued. Imagine how you would feel at your luxury car dealership if they didn’t shower you with love. If your realtor or favorite sommelier at your regular restaurant didn’t jump at your beck and call. Identify your best patients and then allocate resources in the most optimum manner. When you know who these folks are you can strengthen your relationships, improve your reputation and obtain positive reviews, generate referrals of people just like them, and likely upsell more services.  

4. Invest In Customer Service 

Support systems help you effectively communicate with patients and provide them with the right level of servicing. Marketing automation and staff training can help both pre and post appointment by enhancing patient communications. Offering your patients more than just transactional communications will set your practice apart. It takes no effort to implement a monthly email newsletter and it’s super inexpensive … let’s say your monthly production is between $80,000 - $200,000 … is $250 per month too much to invest in something you can set and forget but that will remind patients you careWould it be too much to allocate a budget of $10k per year to MAIL – yes, I said it – mail a custom patient newsletter with value-added gift every quarter? I say mail because it really does work well, and it will make your practice stand out to patients. And staff training. Your reception team IS your practice to patients. Give them the training, tools, and motivators they need to WOW your patients at every interaction. Again, not a huge investment against your $million plus practice. I can’t emphasize how basic this effort is and how many dentists are missing out. This is an easy one you could take care of today.  

5. Focus On The Full Patient Journey 

Every patient has a unique way of arriving at your practice … and similarly, each patient has a different way they will leave. When you focus on all phases of the patient journey and ensure that every stage has a consistent brand and style of communication and commitment, you will improve retention.  

The patient journey has changed. Don’t be misled by digital companies that tell you the journey starts at consideration on your website. It starts well before that by building awareness and it goes long after the appointment into advocacy. Patients are becoming harder and harder to please. Expectations are increasing and competition is intense. Decision making is more complex, and products, services, and value propositions are evolving faster than ever.  

Today you must engage in activities at each stage of the patient journey including:  

  • Community awareness building: direct mail, events, signage, word of mouth  
  • Consideration/research: website, listings, positive reviews, social media, blogs 
  • Buying decision: telephone training, scheduling 
  • Patient experience: staff friendliness and professionalism, office cleanlinessnewslettersschedulingloyalty campaigns 
  • Advocacy/growth: referrals, reviews, surveys, event participation 

    6. Use Reciprocity 

    Research continues to show that if you do something for someone first, they are more likely to reciprocateIt also shows that you can give something small to get something big. But the give cannot be contingent on another thing – that’s a transaction. It’s like our blogs, we invest a great deal of time and energy to write, edit, and ensure we’re regularly sharing our 25+ years of dental marketing, practice performanceand research findings with you … we share them freely and without any required transaction. 

    😊 A good friend of Patient News, Dr. Chris Phelps has very effectively used reciprocity at his practice and talks about it in his presentations. At checkout they would offer patients a choice of gift card, i.e. $10 for a sporting store, salon, or coffee shop … when the patient selected and said thank you, his team would say “my pleasure, now can I ask you a favor” and they would use the opportunity to request a review or referral. Always remember to ask. 

    When you focus on your metrics and use that baseline to focus on your patient experience, you can increase patient lifetime value (aka retention strategies) to keep patients coming back. If you’d like to learn more about today’s “patient journey” and how to quickly and easily implement retention strategies at your practice, click here to schedule a convenient time to chat 


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