Dental Practice Marketing is Part of a Dentist's Job

Dental Practice Marketing is Part of a Dentist’s Job

Melinda Spitek The “New Patient” Mystique: Build It and They Will Come?
Special Marketing Feature
By Melinda Spitek, CEO, Hycomb Marketing

In the classic movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s movie character has a vision of building a stadium and attracting long-dead baseball stars to come back and play ball. We the audience get caught up in the dream and, like the hero, start to believe the players will truly show up. But the truth is, it’s only a fantasy.

It’s not surprising that even in today’s competitive market for the new dental patient, some of the powers-that-be advocate the classic approach to dental practice building: word of mouth referral from satisfied patients. Effectively, dentists are encouraged to “Build it and hope they will come.”

So, should you be actively involved in soliciting new patients, or merely waiting for your current patients to “tell a friend?”

The answer is both. We’ve all heard dentists say, “Our best patients are referred by our best patients.” Certainly, that’s true. But should you just sit around and hope? I’ll bet dentists who do nothing to stimulate referrals do a lot of waiting – not to mention have plenty of empty chair time.

Alas, new patients just don’t magically appear. Perhaps you’re disinclined to mount an aggressive direct mail effort to solicit new patients. Or maybe you feel newspaper, magazine, or radio would be overly restricted by your state’s guidelines. At a bedrock minimum, then, you should be getting referrals from the best source of all – your current patients – by asking for them!

I know that, for some of you, asking for referrals is tough. You may even think it denigrates your professional image. But I assure you, that’s not true. Your current patients are coming to you because they believe in your abilities. Why shouldn’t they be honored and flattered when asked to refer their own friends or relatives?

You can punctuate the referral process with patient referral cards – Smile Cards.* These are business-size cards in which space is provided for the new patient to write in the name of the person who referred them. A win-win situation: the new patient receives a monetary incentive to make an appointment with you, and the referring patient receives a similar reward.

You may want to supplement your referrals effort by reaching out to potential new patients in other means of advertising. However, there are a few things to keep in mind here. Some states are very restrictive when it comes to professional dental services advertising. Before you begin to spend, make sure you’re knowledgeable about guidelines. An even better idea is to hire a professional dental marketing agency familiar with your needs and your state’s regulations.

*Smile Cards (design and text) are a Copyright product of Hycomb Marketing Inc. (Created by Jim Du Molin)

Melinda Spitek is CEO of Hycomb Marketing Inc. Hycomb is an authority in marketing for dentists. Melinda has had plenty of hands-on experience as well, having worked 23 years in dental offices. For help with marketing, just call Hycomb at (800) 523-6961 or visit www.hycomb.com.

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