Many businesses compete for a piece of the enormous dentistry marketing pie. And the sheer volume of messages we receive on a regular basis from all these organizations has virtually “trained” us to feel that we need to “break the bank” to attract sufficient numbers of high-quality new patients. But that simply cannot be true! It’s true that you need to advertise your business wisely to get the most out of your money. However, you should additionally make use of other, low- or no-cost methods to increase your patient base.
Now that we have set the stage, let’s examine several low- or no-cost strategies for attracting new patients:
1. Maintain a record of all calls regarding a new patient.
It may seem obvious, but you’d be astonished at how few people actually follow this advice. All calls from possible new patients should be recorded by the front desk, either electronically or manually.
Different tracking measures (such as dedicated phone numbers and call logging software) should still be used. However, it is important to keep track of ALL new patient queries. You need to have all this data readily available.
Dentists frequently say, “geez – that didn’t work!” after investing a significant amount of money into dental marketing that fails to attract new customers. But who are we to say what is failing and what isn’t? Someone calling who isn’t being counted as a potential new patient could be calling. And then you blame the ineffectiveness on your marketing when the issue actually lies with the front desk!
One of my favorite things to do is to do this from the very start. Maintain a record of each new patient enquiry that comes in, including:
-Name of Person
-You can reach them at the number they provided.
-What brought them to you
-Why they are phoning and the topic at hand (i.e. cleaning, second opinion, etc.)
-If they have or have not set an appointment (so you can get in touch with those who haven’t)
-Your new reach-into-office conversion rate can be calculated using this call log. You want your conversion rate to be as high as possible (between 80% and 100%). My previous workplace had a 98% conversion rate, so it can be done!
Having a log of the origin of each call is also helpful for determining which advertising strategies are yielding results and which are not.
2. Make sure your staff has received adequate training and plenty of practice in handling phone calls.
Practice, I might add!
The front desk may receive a call about a new patient while they are already helping another person. You don’t want them rushing through the phone call to get back to the patient in front of them since they don’t know how to handle these two activities simultaneously.
Data shows that the longer a potential patient spends on the phone with a receptionist, the more likely they are to make an appointment. That’s why it’s disastrous for new patient conversion if your receptionist is always in a rush to end calls.
In light of this, it is crucial that your staff have clear policies and procedures for dealing with any and all scenarios that may arise, as well as answers to the concerns that new patients frequently ask. And then you’d have your workers rehearse these various scenarios until they felt comfortable responding to them instinctively rather than having to stop and think about it.
Now that you know you and your team need to keep exercising these skills, you can’t afford to let the conversion rate fall without doing something about it. Every time the conversion rate dropped below 95% at the dental office I oversaw, I knew that someone at the front desk was not answering the phones in accordance with office rules. So, we dug up the rules and had them rehearse them again, this time maybe by role-playing a challenging phone call from a new patient they weren’t prepared for. They were better prepared for similar calls in the future, and conversion rates quickly recovered.
3. Take initiative to increase patient referrals.
This is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to attract new clients. We’d want to have a look at the current patients who are scheduled to see you today or tomorrow, as well as any relatives who haven’t been seen by patient care in the dental office.
Take the case of a patient we’ll call Susy. She has been a patient of yours for quite some time, but her husband and two teenagers have never been seen by you. Someone at the front desk would then be tasked with talking to Susy about her husband and teenagers in an effort to organize dental appointments for them before Susy leaves. Find out more about their family members who might also live in the area, such as siblings, parents, etc. Naturally, you’ll want to make sure they’re not already seeing a dentist, but the good news is that roughly one-quarter of Americans don’t receive regular dental care. It’s likely that you’ll be able to schedule an appointment for at least one and probably two of those people who don’t already have a dentist.
Don’t be too persistent; we don’t want to create any unpleasant situations; but, many patients are willing to book an appointment for their family member right there and then, or to call them on the spot to verify their availability by cell phone.
Then, you can offer them a Care-to-Share card and tell them to use it to help out anyone they know who needs dental work done, whether they’re related or not.
You may easily increase your practice’s weekly patient intake by three to five new people simply by encouraging internal referrals among your current patient base. Don’t forget to track down those satisfied clients and consistently solicit recommendations!
4. Create a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Developing a client-focused, compassionate approach is the final step. When patients arrive through the door, they should be greeted with kindness and made to feel important. It’s important that your employees share your perspective when it comes to caring for patients. You, like the vast majority of dentists, probably believe that optimal patient health is the ultimate goal. You should make this clear to your patients, and you should make sure your employees share this mentality.
Dentists want their practices to be distinguished from their competitors, therefore they invest in cutting-edge equipment and facilities. After all, I don’t think I’ve ever heard somebody say, “I need to go to a dental clinic because it’s just like all the others,” in reference to their own experience.
To stand out from the crowd, it’s important to demonstrate concern for your patients, keep them from having to wait, and explain the necessity of their therapy. The patients of our practice frequently report back to us that “Oh my god, no other dentist has ever explained things to me like this!” The significance of my teeth has always eluded me. To whomever you may be, I appreciate your time and consideration. Those are the patients who tell their friends and family about their experience.