How this dentist increased his new patients by 156% in a year—and still personally calls each one

Through expert phone training and strategic direct mail marketing, Dr. Seth Hall increased his new patient count without sacrificing relationships.

Mar 2nd, 2017
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Through expert phone training and strategic direct mail marketing, Dr. Seth Hall increased his new patient count without sacrificing relationships

I talk to a lot of dentists, and I'm always amazed by how many refuse to market themselves. They simply don't think there's any reason to. They believe:

• The market is saturated.

• People are going to "choose who they choose."

• They're doing just fine getting by on referrals.

• Marketing "cheapens" their practice.

To which I say, "Wrong!"

As evidence, I'd like to direct your attention to Figure 1. It shows new patient numbers for Seth Hall, DDS, an Indianapolis, Indiana, dentist who is a client of mine. Dr. Hall bought an established practice in September 2014, and for the first 16 months did no marketing whatsoever, apart from a Yellow Pages ad that was already under contract.

Figure 1: Hall Family Dentistry new patient numbers, September 2014 to December 2016

His new patient numbers were, in Dr. Hall's words, "dismal." He averaged about five to 15 new patients per month, only from referrals, for nearly two years. And now? More than 60 new patients a month and growing! What turned things around? I reached out to Dr. Hall to find out.

The first thing you learn when you talk to Dr. Hall is that he is very laid-back (a super nice guy, too), and so is his practice.

Dr. Hall: "I'm never going to wear a white coat. People love coming to us because of our laid-back attitude. I get hugs from many of my patients—that's just the person I am. I call or text every new patient before they come in and follow up with people after treatment. It takes a lot of personal time, but I want our awesome patients to have that personal touch."

The doctor even brings his 2-year-old golden retriever, Blue, to work. (Though Blue mostly stays in a separate garage, where Dr. Hall's patients often ask to visit.)

With service like this as his foundation, Dr. Hall has all the elements of a profit-generating practice on his hands. From there, all it took was three steps to grow the business.

Step 1: Prepare your front office staff and book 47% more appointments in one month

The doctor knew it was time to start marketing, but first, he wisely made sure his team was ready for the influx of new patients.

Dr. Hall: "I never knew how to prep a crown before dental school. People don't go to school to learn how to answer a phone correctly. So you need to make sure everybody in your office—not just your front desk, but everybody—should be able to answer the phone."

In November 2015, his staff started training with the Scheduling Institute, and by December of that year—before any marketing—the practice's new patient count went up by 47%.

Today, Dr. Hall uses a tracking phone number on his marketing materials that records every incoming call, and he listens to every single call to ensure they are being handled as they should be.

Dr. Hall: "If you're going to be investing money in marketing, and you don't have your staff trained to handle the calls, then it's not that the marketing's not working—it's that you haven't trained your staff."

Step 2: Generate a 3,628% return on investment with the right marketing mix

Now let's get to the marketing. Dr. Hall's marketing company recommended sending out direct mail postcards to generate interest (and new patients) for the practice before adding an online component to the campaign, but Dr. Hall wasn't sold.

Dr. Hall: "I was pretty hesitant [to do postcards]. In my mind, how we view marketing now, it's all online. Nobody checks the mail."

But oh how wrong he was! Dr. Hall agreed to give direct mail a try. He sent out a small number of postcards (2,000 of them three times) to homes in the area over the course of three months (January–March 2016). He then allocated the rest of his 2016 marketing budget to focus on Google marketing.

Dr. Hall: "At the time, I didn't want to put more of my marketing budget into mailers, just because I didn't know at that point how they'd turn out. I didn't know how Google was going to do."

But he quickly changed his tune.

Dr. Hall: "Looking back, I would have switched the majority of my marketing budget to mailers if I had known then what I know now. My postcard budget is now three times the amount of online search. Last year, I would have thought my budget would be 100% online."

In August, the doctor got in touch with my company, PostcardMania, to send out more postcards, while his original marketing company continued to manage his Google advertising.

Dr. Hall started mailing out 5,000 postcards per month in August. When his new patient numbers started to climb, he upped it once more. Between November and December of 2016, he sent out 40,000 postcards (figure 1), and in December he had his highest-ever number of new patients.

Let's take a look at his whole marketing picture from 2016:

• Marketing budget: $42,000

• New patients: 522

• Lifetime value of a new patient (estimated by Dr. Hall): $3,000

• Potential new patient revenue: $1,566,000

• Potential return on investment: 3,628%

The next step? Turn those new patients into referral sources!

Step 3: Follow through with a referral program to attract 20 additional new patients per month

As I mentioned, Dr. Hall provides amazing personal care to his patients, which earns him lots of referrals. But he knows that if you want more referrals, first you have to attract new patients.

Dr. Hall: "Referrals are vital. They are our number one source of new patients. But probably half of the referrals we've gotten in the last three months were from people who came in from postcards."

While I imagine his patients are more than happy to send referrals his way, a little extra motivation doesn't hurt: Patients who refer friends and family members are entered into a quarterly drawing in which the doctor gives away three $100 gift cards and one 55-inch flat-screen TV.

Dr. Hall: "You have to have a good internal referral structure. If you're getting patients from your postcards, you want to get their families in and be able to give them the quality care they deserve."

So what's next? Dr. Hall eventually plans to expand his practice, but for now he's happy with what he's got going.

Dr. Hall: "We know we could market more, and we would definitely get more new patients, but at this point we don't want to sacrifice the personal quality that we offer. I don't want to be so busy that I can't call people and give them my personal attention. That's our backbone."

On the other hand . . .

Dr. Hall: "We dropped 45,000 mailers yesterday and I think we've had 12 calls today already. We're already expanding our hours the next few weeks. We don't have any place to put more people right now, so we're just working longer hours. It's a good problem to have."

Indeed it is!


Author's note: If you'd like to e-mail Dr. Hall, he can be reached at sethhalldds@gmail.com. See Dr. Hall's video case study for the whole story and his latest ROI numbers at postcardmania.com/dr-hall.

Need help promoting your practice? Visit postcardmania.com/dentaldesigns to see postcard designs that are currently working for other practices, call one of PostcardMania's dental marketing consultants at (844) 269-1836, or e-mail Joy at joy.gendusa@postcardmania.com.


Joy Gendusa is the founder and CEO of PostcardMania. Using just postcards, a phone, and a computer, Joy built PostcardMania from a one-person startup into an industry leader. PostcardMania serves 73,792 clients, including 5,330 dentists! E-mail her at joy.gendusa@postcardmania.com

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