The Two Most Common New Patient Marketing Mistakes Dentists Make

As business owners, regardless of industry or profession, we share two common high-priority goals – gain more new high-quality clients – keep existing clients longer. This requires us to listen to market trends, watch competitive activities, and ensure that our product quality is top-notch and includes exceptional customer service. 

When it comes to attracting more new patients, the most common mistakes we see dental practices make are (and these may not be in order):

  1. Inconsistent marketing / lack of follow-through
  2. Lack of staff training to improve conversion.

INCONSISTENT MARKETING has a negative impact from consumer perception to the practice’s ability to realize true campaign ROI. It also leaves the door open for competitive dental practices to gain the visibility they require to attract a higher percentage of the market – and even steal patients of record.

This happens most frequently with niche practices or practices located in challenging competitive markets. Many of today’s lecturers believe that the day of the “cosmetic” or niche practice may be gone; in fact most dentists advertise cosmetics. There’s also the proliferation of group practices offering the newest technologies, most convenient hours, and accepting all insurances. 

That doesn’t mean a practice in a highly competitive area or one with a focus on electives can’t win. It just means that we need to look at what business decisions we can control to suit today’s consumer. Most consumers are searching for “general dentistry.” The proliferation of group practices has put much more emphasis on convenient hours, open 6 days a week, call today & get in today, hygiene services before or after work and on Saturdays, and insurance. What they struggle with is building a dentist to patient relationship the way a solo practitioner can. These are the attributes along with the conveniences, that a practice can offer, that will help us win in a tough market.

Niche and competitive marketing campaigns can be crafted with content that will attract high-quality patients over time. It requires a dedicated commitment to consistently build the brand. And the practice must ensure that the entire new patient experience is high quality and cohesive, from the content and quality of your marketing, through the entire patient journey including online research and their first live impression of your practice on the phone.

Online reviews must be superior and websites must be welcoming and modern looking. Just as many people who inquire directly from your mailing will look you up online and call via your website. More than 80% of our clients draw at least, if not almost double, our anticipated new patient call volumes. There are four categories for the 20% that are below our expectations.

  1. The campaign is new and hasn’t been consistently maintained over 18-24 months.
  2. The practice has not followed our advice for content, offer strategies, and team training.
  3. The area is extremely competitive and/or the practice is offering niche services.  
  4. Frequency has been impacted by switching target areas and/or delaying distributions.

Marketing isn’t a one-time or short-term activity and it works when proven techniques are applied. Repetition with fresh content, content that appeals to the female head of household, and an effective targeting and offer strategy must be in place.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TEAM TRAINING has come to the top of our radar now that we are tracking and scoring every inbound telephone call. Industry experts have suggested that at least 50% of potential new patients are lost at the front desk and we can now corroborate this statistic. In some practices it is sadly even more challenging than this. The important thing is that we now have the technologies to identify problems – that are not just happening with your direct mail campaign but on every inbound call to your practice – and technologies to train and track improvements in call conversion over time.

It is painful to hear a well-meaning receptionist suggest another doctor down the street because the fees are better, or talk about how much time and how many visits are required for Invisalign, or tell a mom with a family of 5 to “call back if you’d like to book.” Rather than understanding the importance of getting the first appointment booked within 24 hours, they send patients on their way. Perhaps you have an empty operatory that could be opened up to allow you to get patients in sooner?

Many frontline teams are quite pleasant in their greeting, but they don’t know how to explain the doctors credentials, they don’t know about the content or offers the doctor has in market, and they don’t know how to ask for an appointment – or how important that is. And there are some that should never answer the phone. Whoever answers the phone at your office must be enthusiastic, knowledgeable, confident – and trained. And that also includes the dentist if they sometimes answer inbound calls! 

Does your front desk team say, “We don’t need any more patients.” We’ve heard it more times than we can count – the practice owner or dentist recognizes the need to increase new patient flow in order to maintain and grow the practice, but the team views new patients as more work – not more reward. Team training and awareness and involvement in setting and attaining practice goals are imperative to practice security – which also means job security.

We suggest incentive plans. “I pay them enough already” is not a motivational remuneration program. It’s recommended that 10% of an administrator’s income come from a bonus plan – for relationship builders it could be a 70/30 mix. It won’t cost much and it will go a long way … imagine if you are currently generating 100 new patient calls and instead of your current booking rate of 20 new patients, you could increase that to 60. In this mix is voice mail. This is a problem. You might think a new patient will leave a message, but most do not. Call your practice to see if you’d listen and leave a message. You have 8 seconds. Use it effectively. More importantly, commit to answering every call live that comes in during business hours. Our most successful practices have off-hours answering programs by sharing out duties via a cell phone.

When every extra 20 new patients equal, on average, $100,000 in lifetime revenue gain, you might want to consider revisiting your phone handling procedures.

Ultimately when everyone on a team is focused on key performance metrics, like number of new patients, number of patient referrals, along with your other key production metrics, then the practice will have a greater growth potential.

We have the tools and technologies and expertise to help your dental marketing programs become even more successful. Do reach out to your Account Manager for a business review meeting. We are 100% dedicated to helping you achieve your practice goals. 

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