4 strategies to attract new dental patients

Dentists: New patients are waiting for you, and you can reach them with the right marketing. Here's how patient referral programs, online reputation management, direct mail postcards, and website lead generation can help. Article by Joy Gendusa, CEO and founder of PostcardMania.

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Joy Gendusa

Everyone needs a dentist. I don’t need to tell you that! But that doesn’t mean patients will automatically file into your practice without any effort on your part. If you’re not generating leads for your office, you’re losing patients to your competitors. It’s just a fact: other practices are marketing themselves, even if you’re not. So to keep your chairs full and your practice growing, you need to be proactive. However, that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money or even a lot of time. To that end, here are four proven strategies for generating your own leads.

Bring in 110% more leads with a patient referral program

Many dentists rely on referral marketing—and with good reason. Referrals are the easiest and cheapest leads to acquire. But while 83% of happy customers say they are willing to give referrals, only 29% of them actually do.1 That means you need to ask for them! This is as simple as saying to each patient, “Please tell your friends and family about us,” or handing out care-to-share cards. Even better, create a referral program.

For example, a client of mine, Jason Monroe, DDS, ran a month-long contest among his staff last year. He offered Apple products to those who brought in the most leads. His staff delivered: his new patients more than doubled that month—from 100 to 210!

But no dental practice can thrive on referrals alone. If you really want to grow, you need to embrace external marketing, too.

Reach 93% of potential patients with a robust online reputation

When you’re looking for a local business, where do you go? Google, most likely. But more specifically, Google Maps. Now, when a prospective patient googles “dentist” in your local area, the first result beneath a few ads is a large Google map. More and more prospective patients are conducting their searches directly on the Google Maps app for local results. These local map results are extremely valuable to dentists for two reasons:

  1. Location-related searches have been growing 50% faster than mobile searches.2


  2. These results show up before organic search results.


So how do you make sure your practice will show up in these results? Go to google.com/business to create your Google My Business account, verify your location, and add information about your business.

Keep in mind that proximity is now the No. 1 ranking factor in Google’s map-based search results.3Does this put your practice at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting new leads and patients in local search? Yes. But the good news is that consumers consider more than just proximity when it comes to selecting a dentist. Probably the biggest factor is the quality and quantity of your Google reviews. And this is where you should concentrate your local search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

Here are two simple steps to give a big-time boost to your volume of good reviews:

  1. If patients seem happy and satisfied as they’re checking out, have your front desk staff ask them then and there if they will leave you a review on Google. Immediacy plays a big part in generating reviews.


  2. Empower your office staff with an easy-to-use tool that lets them immediately text a link to patients once they agree to review you. This also makes it as easy as possible for patients to give you their reviews.


Figure 1: New patients per month, Hall Family Dentistry

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My company started using Podium for this process, and we generated 25 five-star reviews—in one month!

If you’re eager to jump to No. 1 on Google’s map results for all local searches regardless of proximity, it is possible. Google recently rolled out map placement for pay-per-click (PPC) ads, which means you can buy the No. 1 map placement for certain search terms such as “dentist.” This in itself is a topic for another article, but if you’d like to discuss it, email me. But don’t forget: the No. 1 action you can take as a dentist to drive traffic to your site from Google is to ramp up your Google review efforts.

Generate 480% more leads with direct-mail postcards

Even in the digital age, direct mail remains the best way to reach prospective patients in your area. It generates a 480% higher average response rate than PPC.4

Here are some numbers that may explain why:

  • 56% of consumers say print marketing is the most trustworthy.5


  • 54% say they prefer to receive updates and promotions in the mail.6


  • 39% say they have tried a new business because of direct mail.5


Want to see those stats in action? The accompanying graph shows the monthly new patients at Hall Family Dentistry in Indianapolis, Indiana, before and after they started marketing with direct mail (figure 1). The numbers speak for themselves.

Here’s another example. E. Roy Finley, DDS, a client of mine who owns Finley Dentistry in Toledo, Ohio, is a sharp marketer who has his bases covered. He mails postcards weekly. I had one of my consultants analyze a five-month snippet of his campaign. Here’s how his postcard campaign breaks down:

  • Mailing list: homes with an income of $35,000-plus


  • Mailing schedule: 2,500 cards every week


  • Campaign cost with postage: $19,508


  • Unique calls from his postcard: 997


  • Results: 75 new patients or 15 new patients per month


  • Return on investment (ROI): 1,438%


Note: Dr. Finley estimates the lifetime value of his patients to be $4,000 to $9,000 each. To be conservative, I used the lower end of that spectrum to figure out his ROI.

Consistency and repetition are key. Dr. Finley mails 10,000 postcards permonth, hitting each prospect multiple times per year. He also runs coordinating online banner ads to the same geographical area as the postcard campaign, creating even more repetition and name recognition. So, when prospects are ready to make an appointment, they are familiar with Dr. Finley—and he is the one they call.

Book 80% more appointments with your website

The last—but by no means least—piece of the marketing puzzle is your website.

Whatever kind of marketing you do, people are going to check you out online before they call. Your website needs to do two things:

  • Increase affinity for you and your practice


  • Get prospects to make an appointment


The best way to accomplish the first item is to make sure your website is professional looking, user-friendly, and mobile-friendly. It should provide lots of information about you, including photos of you, your staff, and your office. This makes prospective patients feel more comfortable because they know who they’re dealing with and what to expect.

To accomplish the second item, your website needs a lead-capture form or appointment software that makes it easy to book a time online. As a backup plan (in case someone isn’t ready to book right then and there), I like to see an “Ask the Doctor” form, where visitors can ask a question about their oral health and receive an answer via email. Once you’ve answered a prospective patient’s question, you can continue to follow up via email, encouraging the prospective patient to make an appointment. At my company, 76% of the leads we close do so after the first contact. If we didn’t collect their information online and then follow up afterwards, we wouldn’t be in business!

So there you have it—four surefire ways to get more new patients through the door.

Author’s note: Want to boost your new patient numbers with direct mail? Visit postcardmania.com/dentaldesigns to see postcard designs that are currently working for other dentists right now.

References

1. Subramanyan V. Referral marketing: What is it and why does it matter? Business 2 Community website. http://www.business2community.com/marketing/referral-marketing-matter-0944226#MAbq7Ylk0jBAjtir.97. Published July 15, 2014. Accessed August 1, 2017.

2. Kim L. 10 things you need to know about the new Google Maps local search ads. Wordstream website. http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2016/06/01/google-maps-local-search-ads. Published October 24, 2016. Accessed October 1, 2017.

3. Shaw D. Proximity to searcher is new #1 local search ranking factor. Moz website. https://moz.com/blog/proximity-to-searcher-is-new-top-local-search-ranking-factor. Published February 22, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2017.

4. Haskel D. Direct mail response rates are at their highest point in over a decade. IWCO Direct website. https://www.iwco.com/blog/2017/01/20/direct-mail-response-rates-and-2016-dma-report/. Published January 20, 2017. Accessed August 1, 2017.

5. Morris B. 10 print marketing statistics you should know. DMR website. http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/10-print-marketing-statistics-know/. Updated September 9, 2014. Accessed August 1, 2017.

6. Cummings C. Infographic: Consumers know exactly how they want to be marketed to. Adweek website. http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/infographic-consumers-know-exactly-how-they-want-be-marketed-167840/. Published November 1, 2015. Accessed August 1, 2017.


Gendusa Joy Flip

Joy Gendusa is the founder and CEO of PostcardMania. Using just postcards, a phone, and a computer, Joy built PostcardMania from a one-person start-up into an industry leader. PostcardMania serves 73,792 clients, including 5,025 dentists. Need help promoting your practice? Call one of PostcardMania’s dental marketing consultants at (844) 269-1836 or email Joy at joy.gendusa@postcardmania.com.

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