A recent consumer study reported that the decline in patient trust of their dentist has plummeted severely, and it’s not even close to what dentists think it is. And when I say it’s plummeted, I’m not kidding. What do you think? When we randomly polled around our office staff responded with 70%, 65, 45 … 25% … but no, while 75% of dentists feel that the public holds them in high regard, according to the study, patients don’t even rank a 10% trust level. In a recent blog, we mentioned the fact that “of dentists who reported declining revenues, only 50% were going to do anything about it.”

Just like your own fitness level, for example, it’s simply unrealistic to presume that your business situation is going to change if you don’t do anything about it, particularly when consumer confidence is at an all-time low. It’s nothing new to hear that patients want to avoid the dentist. But combine that with the fact that they do not understand the importance of dental health, don’t place a priority on it, don’t want to spend money on it and have low trust in the industry, it’s difficult to imagine why patients would reach out to your dental practice without the addition of education or any sense of urgency to seek you out – unless, of course, they are in pain. And experts don’t expect things to change soon.

According to Dental Market Research (DMR), we shouldn’t expect recovery for dental practices until 2012. They cite that the main reason for the drop off in demand for dental services is consumer choice. Everywhere you hear recession, recession, recession, loss of jobs and insurance coverage, and decline in cosmetic services. The fact is, they state, that the majority of households most likely to visit the dentist can afford to pay for dental treatment because, what has happened, they feel, is that these patients are saving more of their income at a rate higher than at any time during the past twenty years. Even so, according to DMR, unfilled appointments, declined treatment, and unrealized billings have resulted from discretionary spending choices – consumers chose to spend less on dentistry. This is reflective of patient activity all across the country.

Many dentists are reporting sliding revenues. Some are reporting that while their new-patient numbers remain steady, their top 3-5 “big” services are down. The ones that are growing are start-ups, and those who are actively marketing. It’s not all negative – if you take a proactive approach. Consider the lack of dental health information available in mainstream media. If your practice is the one to help patients avoid painful and costly emergency treatment, if you’re the one that’s regularly educating your community about dental health and wellbeing, you will establish yourself as the expert in your field and the one patients turn to first. But it’s not just about getting more people to walk through your door. It’s about bringing in better-quality patients as well, and the DMR report shows that those ideal patients are out there and have the money to pay.

According to Pitney Bowes/Peppers and Rogers Group, direct mail contributes most to establishing a relationship, and consumers value organizations that make an effort to communicate and build a relationship with them through the mail. However, a low-cost flyer or postcard presentation isn’t what builds confidence. Combine that with deeply discounted special offers or misleading advertising lures, and you’ve potentially got the mix that’s contributing to the drop in practitioner trust. At a time when trust is low and people are not making educated choices about discretionary spending on dental services, the importance of educational content in your marketing mix cannot be underestimated. Educated patients are more profitable patients.

It’s far better to maintain a high-quality professional approach, build trust over time, and justify the dental spend through education. Like your past Yellow Pages patients who would book an appointment until they found another practitioner that would help them faster, cheaper, or more conveniently, patients searching on the web are comparative shopping so they’ll find your competition too. They will keep their appointment until they find another provider that’s faster or more convenient.

When you proactively solicit the target audience you want with high-quality educational messaging, you’ll obtain the caliber of patient you want and you’ll build deeper and more trusting relationships over time. Dr. Suvarna in Antioch CA launched her direct mail acquisition campaign with Patient News in the summer of 2010. Her combination new-patient program incorporated a highly personalized and effectively written educational newsletter, establishing her as the expert in her community along with a large-format postcard featuring the same overall look as her newsletter, maintaining brand integrity and generating maximum awareness for her practice. She says “Use Patient News because it’s the only advertising method with concrete results. We’ve definitely had the phones ringing since we joined PNP.” In one year, Dr. Suvarna realized a 20% increase in revenue and had a 30% increase in patient-of-record numbers.

For information on dental direct marketing, patient education, and generating more practice revenue, please call a PNP Account Executive now to reserve your free 20-minute consultation at a time that is convenient for you. 888.377.2404, or email us at info@patientnews.com. Your call will be answered live Monday to Friday between 8:30am – 6:00pm EST, or it will be returned within one business day.