For most dental practices, new patients are the “life-blood” of a practice. Once you complete a patient’s treatment plan and they are on maintenance mode, you need a constant supply of new patients to keep your clinical restorative schedule full. Short of adding a new skill such as sedation dentistry, sleep disorder dentistry, or advanced restorative techniques, simply having more new patients is the quickest way to keep a practice alive.
But, is there a point when too many patients are also a problem? There is a “sweet spot” where most doctors will say “If I had between X and Y number of new patients each month, things would be great!” Having not enough patients is often a problem with newer practices just starting out, or older, more established practices, where the primary doctor just wants to cut back their time in the office.
There are business strategies that can be discussed in depth on both ends of the spectrum. For the purposes of this article, let’s focus on “Where do the patients come from?”.
Where do the patients come from?
Everyone has heard of “internal marketing” and “external marketing”. Is one better than the other? Is one cheaper than the other? Does one produce “better” patients than the other?
Many established practices that are active in the community hardly need to advertise at all, because they have done a great job “training” their patients that they LOVE REFERRALS aka word-of-mouth marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing tends to bring in patients that will accept treatment faster and in higher quantity with less resistance, and may refer others. They are considered “warm leads”. Essentially, they cost you nothing to market for them. Unfortunately, it seems only 10-20% of your practice will refer a friend without a little “nudging”. Staff often don’t like begging patients for referrals because it can make you look desperate.
When you spend money on advertisements, whether it’s on TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, Yellow Pages, GoogleAds, or Facebook ads, you are tossing out a wide net to less than 5% of the market who might be looking for a dentist or specific procedure right at that time. It can get expensive. Often, it requires repetitive marketing before people start to recognize your logo or branding and trust that you have been around a while so when they ARE ready, they will give you a try.
People love a good experience and will refer you
Patients who tend to refer once, will be more likely to refer again, if the first person they referred comes back and tells them what a great experience they had. Notice, they won’t say that the crown margins were perfect, they will talk about the experience. This includes how they were welcomed on the phone, how they were greeted when they arrived, the attention to comfort and detail the team showed them that would make them be happy to come back again.
Your marketing ROI
Using the Square Practice Dental Analytics platform, you are able to quickly identify exactly the SOURCES of your New Patients. With a few quick clicks, you can see not only the SOURCES of your new patients but also wether or not your staff are entering the referred by documentation in your practice management software correctly.
If you are spending money on marketing, wouldn’t it make sense that it would be smart to know exactly which marketing program you are doing is working and which is not producing any results? Of course, that would be valuable. You need to inform your front admin team that this information is just as important as anything else in the patient file.
When staff tell you that they are too busy to enter that info, you need to gently remind them that it is part of the new patient information entry that you require for all new patients. These days, it is as important as collecting their email address and mobile number. (You might be surprised at the number of dental offices that don't consistently do this, or even review these entries!) If you see a new patient was referred by a friend of yours, are you acknowledging your friend with a hand-written thank you card, or at least an email or text? Reward those behaviors that you wish to be repeated!
External marketing can be expensive, but it can also be lucrative if done correctly. If you aren’t getting at least 5-10 X your money back on your marketing dollar, you should look at switching it up. These days, it is suggested that the cost of acquisition of a new patient can easily run between $50-$250 per patient! If you aren’t diagnosing at least $500-$1250 per new patient on average during their first year with your practice you might be able to benefit from a complimentary marketing and blindspot analysis.
We are here to support you in your practice growth and are continually looking for ways to help boost those areas that are doing well and identify those areas that need attention! Learn how to maximize your software and involve your team in marketing in ways that don’t break the bank or make them feel uncomfortable. After all, if you offer a product or service that can improve people’s quality of life, isn’t it your moral and ethical responsibility to share that with as many people as possible?
Article by Randall LaFrom, D.D.S., CEO of The Dentist Advantage and President of Integrity Dental Marketing.
The Dentist Advantage works with Square Practice's software to provide excellent insights, strategies and coaching for practices at all stages in their career. Contact us today for a Free, no cost or obligation chat about how we may be able to help your practice as well!
Dr. Randy LaFrom
Business Consulting and Practice Strategies.