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.

Dentist Sues Over Negative Review on Consumer Website

Yelp is a free website where consumers can post reviews of restaurants and stores, places and professionals.

It’s caught on very well in the San Francisco Bay Area, where people use it to find everything from coffee shops and antique stores to doctors and lawyers.

A California pediatric dentist recently made headlines for suing a couple for defamation after they posted negative reviews about the dentist on Yelp.

After the dentist treated their son, the boy’s parents complained about the doctor’s treatment, upset that the boy was light-headed after receiving laughing gas and expressing outrage that the dentist placed a dental filling that contained mercury in their son’s mouth.

Misplaced Consumer Anger

It’s easy for an educated dentist to assume that most people realize that silver fillings are composed of an amalgam that includes mercury. But this case highlights how no one should assume that consumers know the facts. In this case, the dentist had the parents sign a consent form that disclosed the mercury content. The parents’ review said they had not been told of the mercury content.

The parents’ comments also indicated that their son was woozy after receiving “general anesthesia” from the dentist. The dentist’s suit states, “Plaintiff could lose her license to practice if she gave her patients general anesthesia. Dr. Wong only uses laughing gas (nitrous oxide) and oxygen.”

Yelp strives to maintain a “hands-off” policy, and did not take down the review as the dentist had requested. Actually, the dentist didn’t quite request so much as demand… Here’s the ineffective note she wrote to Yelp:

The review by T. J. on 9/10/2008 is full of lies and misinformation. When a disgruntled patient makes false accusations against me, I cannot refute these charges on your website because I must protect my patient’s privacy. I demand that you take this review down immediately.

The dentist’s attorney initially filed suit against Yelp as well, but later acknowledged that he had not been aware that websites offering third-party content are legally protected.

Everybody’s Doing It

In a recent survey of the Chicago Dental Society, 11% of responding dentists said they sometimes scan websites like Yelp and Angie’s List to see what patients are saying about their dental practice.

Yelp is particularly popular in the San Francisco Bay area. (Indeed, the aforementioned dentist filed suit in Silicon Valley’s San Mateo.) Angie’s List is a similar such site that is most popular in the Midwest. Though they are the top names, there are other similar websites that have caught on in various areas.

The Scandalous Review

Wondering what all the fuss is about? Though the poster has erased all but the final sentence, we tracked down the text of the original review. Would you, as a dentist, be upset with a review like this? You certainly should be – it’s terrible marketing. But would you sue?

1 star rating! Let me first say I wish there is “0” star in Yelp rating. Avoid her like a disease!

My son went there for two years. She treated two cavities plus the usual cleaning. She was fast, I mean really fast. I won’t necessarily say that is a bad thing, but my son was light headed for several hours after the filling. So we decided to try another dentist after half a year.

I wish I had gone there earlier. First, the new dentist discovered seven cavities. All right all of those appeared during the last half a year. Second, he would never use the laughing gas on kids, which was the cause of my son’s dizziness. To apply laughing gas is the easiest to the dentist. There’s no wailing, no needles. But it is general anesthetic, not local. And general anesthetic harms a kid’s nervous system. Heck, it harms mine too. Third, the filling Yvonne Wong used is metallic sliver color.

The new dentist would only use the newer, white color filling. Why does the color matter? Here is the part that made me really, really angry, The color tells the material being used. The metallic filling, called silver amalgams, have a small trace of mercury in it. The newer composite filling, while costing the dentist more, does not. In addition, it uses a newer technology to embed fluoride to clean the teeth for you, I regret ever going to her office.

P.S. Just want to add one more thing. Dr Chui, who shares the same office with Yvonne Wong, is actually decent.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle article or see the actual complaint.

Tell us what you think…

TWD Contest: Show Off Your Dental Office Signage and Window Dressing For a Chance To Win a Cisco Flip!

the wealthy dentist dental signage contestDid you read our dental sign article on Dental Marketing: 7 Ways To Turn Your Dental Office Front Into a Hot Marketing Machine?

We featured Marina Pacific Heights Dental Care in San Francisco as a great example of dental sign marketing.

Do you think you have a great dental office sign, display window or building front?

Of course you want to show it off. Now you can, with The Wealthy Dentist Dental Practice Office Sign, Display Window or Front Picture Contest!

Snap a few photos of your incredible dental marketing efforts and send them to us for a chance to win a Flip UltraHD camcorder and a bit of bragging rights on our website.

We’ll feature the best entries in our, TWD Blog, Dental Signage showroom and our Facebook page. The winning entry will be featured on our blog and in our e-newsletter the first week of July.

Be sure to “Like” our Facebook page in order to follow the contest!

Submissions will be accepted now through June 30, so you have a couple of weeks to submit your front office marketing images.

Contest closed on June 30, 2011.

Dental Marketing: $151,200 with Google Offers and Groupon

This is the final article in our dental marketing series on Internet dental coupon marketing.  Today we boil it all down to just how profitable this new dental marketing vector can be.

First, let’s start with a quick review of the offer and the results:

1. The basic offer — $59 for a $421 dental package.
2. That’s an 85% savings to consumers who buy within the allotted time.
3. The purchase window was 23 hours.
4. The number of offers (dental packages) available was 300.
5. The number of packages sold was 51 — or 17% of the available offers.
6. Total dollars grossed in the test was $3,009, which was split evenly — $1,504 each for Mt. Tabor Dental and Google.

(Click here to view the full ad)

What’s important to note in the results above are that 51 packages were sold for a gross income to Mt. Tabor Dental of $1,504. On the surface, this tells us that the practice now has about $29.50 available to service each of 51 new patients.

However, what most people don’t realize is the concept of “Breakage.

Not all the coupons will be redeemed with the allotted time period. The reality is that people forget to use their coupons, and breakage can run from 30% to 50%. Meanwhile the practice is using the cash immediately. (This is the same game that American Express has been playing with Traveler’s Checks for the last 60 years.)

I think we can safely assume a 30% breakage rate. This turns our 51 packages purchased to just 36, giving $41.77 to cover the service cost of each patient. Now most of you are now trying to calculate how much money you are going to lose on each of these new patients when you only have $41.77 to deliver an exam, X-rays and a bite-and-boil home tooth whitening kit.

Don’t bother!

The reality is that Mt. Tabor Dental has now identified 51 potential new patients who are willing to pay $59 each.

The average new patient in the US is worth about $975 in gross production in the first nine months of treatment. Take out delivery cost of 10%, 4% collections loss and 9% universal expenses (cotton balls) and your net marginal profit is about $750. Knock off another $50 to cover any additional initial delivery costs and you end up with $700 per patient in your pocket.

Assuming a 30% breakage loss on coupon utilization, you net 36 new patients at $700 net each for a total of $25,200. For those real pessimists in the crowd who will say that half of those bottom-feeding coupon patients won’t accept your treatment plan and stay for at least nine months, well ok, you just made $12,600.

Now do you see any good reason why you wouldn’t run this or a similar Internet coupon ad with Google or Groupon every month for the next year?

Think about a possible $151,200 net to your bottom line over the next 21 months…

Dental Marketing: Cosmetic Injectables, A Smart Economic Move for Dentists?

Dentists offering injectablesDepending on the dentist surveyed, the use of injectables in the dental office is either not a part of general dentistry, a smart economic move, or something dentists can do very well.

To dentists who support offering injectables as part of their dental marketing, they see it merely as a natural extension of the cosmetic treatments that they already provide. To dentists who dislike the idea, injectables are just an invitation to a malpractice lawsuit.

One thing is for sure: Injectables have become one of the most popular cosmetic medical procedures in the United States. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the number of non-surgical cosmetic treatments, such as injectables, has jumped 228% since 1997.

Who will fill the demand?

The Wealthy Dentist conducted a survey asking dentists if they have started administering injectable treatments such as BOTOX® and Dermal fillers for cosmetic reasons. 85% of the dentists surveyed responded, “No!” for a variety of reasons.

Here is what they had to say –

Not a part of dentistry…

“These procedures should not be done by a dentist.” (Indiana dentist)

“They’re cheesy and unprofessional!” (California prosthodontist)

“They’re not dental procedures. I don’t care if some dentists want to do them. I know one who does them and he says women can get their husbands to pay these bills from the dentist, but would be more scrutinizing about bills from a plastic surgeon.” (Illinois dentist)

“It’s not part of dentistry.” (California dentist)

A smart economic move …

“I think I will get myself trained to be able to expand my cosmetic dentistry packages.” (General dentist)

“Patients pay up front for a quick procedure with no insurance paperwork. What’s not to like?” (Florida dentist)

“A great way to see patients several times a year since these patients need regular touch-ups. It can be added to a treatment package with routine dental cleanings.” (Arizona dentist)

Something dentists can do very well…

“Of course! This is something we as dentists could do very well. However, in California the oral surgeons seem to have cornered the market, so to speak…keeping the generalists out.” (California dentist)

Dentists give more injections than any other healthcare professional, so why not?” (Nebraska dentist)

“Who’s more qualified than a dentist that is already injecting patients needing fillings, or more extensive work every single day?” (West Virginia dentist)

Just an invitation to a malpractice lawsuit …

“I don’t believe extra oral injectables are within the scope of my dental license. I believe it verges on malpractice.” (Nevada dentist)

“The liability is too high; I’d rather leave it to MD’s with higher coverage.” (Texas dentist)

“I’m not sure about the complications with state and the malpractice issues with injectables.” (California orthodontist)

What are your thoughts on dentists offering injectables?

To participate in future The Wealthy Dentist surveys, please sign up for our newsletter in the right sidebar.


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