Take Advantage of Your Existing Patient Base

 

Melinda SpitekHow to Add Profitability — Without Adding Patients!
Special Marketing Feature
By Melinda Spitek, Hycomb Marketing

We all love to get new patients, but a lot of the dentists I consult with aren’t aware of the gold mine they’re sitting on: high value current patients!

My office is located in California’s Wine Country, where the marketing of wine is a Great Big Deal. Did you know that less than 10% of the population purchases more than 80% of all wine sold? That’s a critical core consumer group. You find it mirrored again and again in other industries and enterprises.

And dentistry is no exception! There are five basic components of a successful internal dental marketing strategy:

 

  • Information value (keeping your patients up-to-date on what you offer),
  • Educational value (teaching your patients about important health issues),
  • Repetition value (reminding your patients that you are their dentist and that they might be past due for recare),
  • Consistency, and
  • Consistency.

 

 

We are so inundated with information these days that people forget faster than ever. That’s why it’s never been more important to have an ongoing internal marketing program— and a realistic idea of what it can accomplish.

As an example, consider sending a regular newsletter to your entire patient base. Such a strategy provides:

 

  • Information and educational value,
  • Repeated name recognition,
  • A tangible link to your practice,
  • Flexibility of involvement (your office can be closely tied to development of the materials, or not involved at all), and
  • Cost-effective promotion to high-value current patients.

 

 

I’m often asked, “Do patients read newsletters?” I’ll be honest. Chances are a quarter of them will toss it without reading a word. But, even so, they will recall your name and know it came from you. Maybe half will read some of the newsletter with your name reminding them that you are their dentist. Maybe a quarter will read it cover to cover and be stimulated!

I’d compare this strategy to a political campaign. How could signs reading ROSS FOR GOVERNOR — absent any information about ROSS — motivate a vote? It’s the accumulative effect of these reminders on an individual’s memory that stimulates action.

That is the effect a sustained internal marketing effort can have on growing the productivity of your existing patient base.

Melinda Spitek is CEO of Hycomb Marketing Inc. Hycomb was founded in 1980 for the purpose of helping dentists market their practices. 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.

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.

Essentials of Marketing a Small Business

Melinda SpitekSpecial Marketing Feature
By Melinda Spitek, CEO, Hycomb Marketing

What’s the difference between your dental practice and any other small business in America? Simple: your education, professionalism, and technical abilities defy comparison with the rest.

But beyond that, you’re just another small business, faced with promoting the value of the service you offer. The principles of marketing remain the same, regardless of what service it is.

Seven Critical Reasons to Start Marketing Your Practice NOW:

  1. Your market is always changing. People move. Neighborhoods evolve. If you give up promoting your service, you fall out of touch with those you hope to serve.
  2. People forget — fast. Every day, we’re assaulted by information. People filter out all but their priorities, and arrange those on a “ladder to the brain.” A consistent marketing program lands you at the top of that “ladder.”
  3. Marketing strengthens your identity. The service you provide could be superior…and also the community’s best-kept secret! Don’t hide your light under a basket.
  4. Marketing is a potent reminder. No matter how great your service was, unless you regularly maintain contact…out-of-sight becomes out-of-mind.
  5. Consistent marketing puts you ahead of the game. Marketing efforts that come and go don’t work. Developing a long-term plan, funding it, sticking with it, pays off.
  6. Marketing gives everyone a lift. Employees and customers (or patients) feel good about patronizing a service well known in the community.
  7. It’s an obligation! You owe it to your team, your family, and your retirement program to be a success. And that only comes with persistent marketing. It’s not an expense; it’s an investment in your business and your lifestyle.

Choosing the plan that’s right for you

You need to define what you want for yourself: where you are now, and where you want to go. You must choose success; it will not just come to you. How much personal time and effort do you want to invest in marketing your services? All the tangibles (newsletters, stationery, advertising) play only a supporting role. The anchor of your marketing plan is the personal time you invest in your community.

A Successful Marketing Plan Reflects Your Character and Your Goals

  • The plan accounts for both short- and long-term goals
  • Your goal is to increase production, attract new patients, or change the community’s perception of your services
  • The shifting marketplace demands a new identity
  • You’re in transition, and need to communicate that to the community at large
  • You want a return on investment in education, equipment or materials you have invested in.

What is your comfort level with marketing tools?

How do you feel about direct mail…newspaper ads…savings certificates? Are you a believer in Yellow Page ads? The important thing is to present your business in a way that reflects your personality—and fits your comfort zone.

Who will play a role in managing the marketing plan?

Even owners who want to “run the whole show” are usually dependent at least in part on their staff for day-to-day activities, like tracking your results. To be successful, your marketing choices must reflect the office’s overall style—and more importantly, be enthusiastically accepted by your office team.

Where to Begin?

Marketing any small business may seem—to the owner—like a daunting task. But really it’s a combination of common sense and experience. The worst thing you can do is to put it off until “tomorrow.”

Dental Marketing Is an Investment in Your Practice

We’ve beenpublishing excerpts from Melinda Spitek’s new book, Dental Marketing: When a Shingle Isn’t Enough. A regular contributor to The Wealthy Dentist, Melinda is CEO of Hycomb Marketing and has 23 years of experience with dental practice management.

Here is another excerpt from her book:

Doctor, if you are proud of your skills, committed to the practice of quality dentistry, and participating in a practice you believe to be significantly beneficial to the community, doesn’t it make sense to back this fine product with an investment in its success?

Many dentists are put off by the idea of practice marketing because they feel the quality of their work should speak for itself. It certainly should, but most of the time all that is heard is little more than a whisper. Most patients can’t evaluate the quality of their dental work the way they can tangible consumer items like cars, glassware or home furnishings. Frankly, superb dentistry isn’t exactly Topic of Interest #1 in most casual cocktail conversations.

An investment in yourself can take many forms – anything from newspaper and radio ads to refrigerator magnets, from direct-mail letters to a quarterly newsletter to sponsorship of local events. Later we’ll discuss which might be right for you. Many dentists balk at spending any money at all in this manner because they can’t see how it lifts the practice. The fact is, you can determine, in many cases, the Return on Investment (ROI) for your expenditures, if you know where to look.

As Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot – just by looking.”

Melinda SpitekJust click here to order Dental Marketing: When a Shingle Isn’t Enough. Plus, say The Wealthy Dentist sent you and you’ll get free shipping!

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.

 

Dental Marketing with Smile Cards

Dental Marketing with Smile CardsWord-of-mouth dental marketing—the spoken word carries great weight.

The fact that one person believes something tends to convince another person that it must be true, else why would he/she have said it?

Strangely, word-of-mouth is the most neglected of all the forces at work in a dental marketing.

Word-of-mouth has probably destroyed more dental practices and, conversely, made more practices successful than all the other forces in the marketplace put together. Why isn’t it more researched/systematized/budgeted/planned for?

The principles of word-of-mouth advertising are particularly relevant to dentistry because patient referrals generate an estimated 68% of all new patients. Sound like something you’d like to try?

Here are the steps:

1. Ask! Patients are honored when you ask them to refer more people “just like them.” Use a Smile Card (referral card) to punctuate the request.

2. Track! Know who referred your new patient so you can thank them. A personal thank you card can get patients motivated to refer again.

3. Reward! The reward? A small amount gift card from a local merchant with a hand-written thank you note stimulates the recommender to do more of the same.

4. Winner! Have a contest to promote referral. When a new patient is referred by your patient with a Smile Card put that card with the name of the referrer in a “fishbowl” for a drawing. Once a quarter draw a winner who receives a gift card for say, $250 to a local mall. Make a big deal about the Smile Card drawing with a sign sporting the photo of the latest winner up in the office, on your website and in your newsletter. This is a win for the new patient, a win for the referrer and a win for you!

Dental marketing can be as simple as asking for a referral with a Smile Card when a procedure has pleased one of your patients—or sending out helpful reminders like a personal letter or a quarterly newsletter promoting your Smile Card drawing.

A little dental marketing can go a long way. Doing nothing—especially in times like these, can really deteriorate your practice.

Dental Marketing Consultant Author Melinda SpitekMelinda 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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