A major part of owning a dental practice is working out how to get more people through the door. Increasing your patient traffic also increases your profits, allowing your business to grow and enabling you to provide a better standard of care. So how do you go about attracting more patients?
There is no easy answer to this – if there was, everyone would be doing it! However, focusing on your internal marketing is probably the most effective strategy. If you can win over your current patients, you will find that they will bring new ones to your practice without you having to make an effort to find them and win them over.
A lot of dentists heavily use external marketing instead, putting up posters and banners to try and attract new patients. There is certainly a place for this kind of strategy, as will be discussed later. However, good internal marketing is a more cost-effective option that often is easier to implement.
The idea behind it is that if you can win over your current patients, they will attract more through word of mouth. By marketing in a single place – your own waiting room – you will be able to reach a very wide audience as the patients you impress will recommend you to people who might not know you exist otherwise.
There are a number of tactics you can use to improve your internal marketing. Here are just a few of the options you have to get your patients advertising for you by recommending your practice to others:
Show off all your treatment options
Your waiting room walls are essentially one big canvas for you to advertise to your current patients, so it would be a shame not to use them! This is a great place to show off all the different treatments you can provide, with the aim of impressing patients who might not realise the range of services you have on offer.
Most of these will be cosmetic. Your patients will largely come in with medical issues, but while you’ve got them there with a toothache or for a regular checkup then you can let them know about more pleasant treatments. They might not realise they can have their teeth whitened, for example.
This is likely to get them talking about you to their friends and relatives. The next thing you know, you will have more people enquiring about the cosmetic dentistry you offer.
Keep your patients in the loop
One of the aims of internal marketing is to forge a somewhat meaningful connection with your patients. However, this can be difficult when you only see them once every six months for a checkup; unless something goes wrong, that is!
Keeping patients informed about your practice with an ezine or something similar is therefore a good idea. It will make them feel a bit more like they are part of a community. There is a huge amount of information you can include in a fortnightly or monthly ezine, all of which can be used to make patients feel more connected with your practice.
Go above and beyond for new patients
First impressions are absolutely crucial in internal marketing, so you need to make sure people feel happy with your practice as soon as they walk through the door. If people are considering switching dentists to you, their first visit will help them determine whether they should bother or not.
Good customer service and a friendly manner are both very important here, but you can use other methods to swing the balance in your favour. One tactic is to give out welcome packs to your patients. This gives them all the information they need to continue coming to your practice, while also making them feel appreciated.
Let them take something home
Free gifts are a surprisingly easy way to win people over. You might already do something similar to this, giving balloons to young children or something similar. However, the same tactic will work just as well on your adult patients.
Branded items like toothbrushes, mirrors or lip balm can help your patients advertise for you. As they use an item they will be showing your logo to anyone around them, and people will probably ask where they got it.
Let’s not forget how nice it is to get a free gift, as well! The last thing your patients will experience after each appointment is being given something, which is bound to have them leaving your practice on a positive note!
Make it easy for patients to recommend you
You would be surprised at how often patients actually want to tell their friends about you, especially if you’ve followed all of the above tips well. However, it is also surprising how few dentists provide people with an easy method of doing so.
If someone asks if they can have your contact details for a friend, you need to be prepared. If you respond by scrabbling around for a pen and a scrap of paper, it is going to look like you are not used to people recommending you to others, which may make them think twice about telling others!
Have a stack of referral cards to hand at all times, so you can quickly, easily and professionally hand out your contact details whenever you need to. This will make it easy for your patients to refer your friends to you.
These are some of the tactics you can use for internal dental marketing. Now we will look at some in more detail, so you can work out exactly how best to use these in your practice.