By Iman Sadri, DDS
Let's face it. Dentistry is a people profession. In fact, most health-care professions fall into this category. The best way to meet new people, who you hope will eventually become new patients, is to open your doors.
People want to feel welcome. The reason internal referrals are the most valuable form of practice growth is because new patients who are directly referred to you already have a sense of trust. They already feel invited and welcome.
Here are some unique ways to build new relationships and grow your practice.
1. Host a wine and cheese happy hour.
One way to have new patients feel welcome is to have a wine and cheese party. This can be for existing patients through an email invitation. Also, flyers in the mail are a good way to make potential patients feel invited. So why not open your office doors, say, on a Wednesday afternoon from 4:30 to 6:30, and have a wine and cheese soiree? You can call it "Happy Hour with Dr. Smith."
This can be an informal meet-and-greet with some basic brochures, fun gifts, and office information available to take home. People will feel connected and invited. They can meet the staff and ask questions about the doctor and office in a festive, low-pressure atmosphere.
2. Have a theme party with refreshments and hors d'oeuvres.
Another fun, yet more involved way to meet new patients is to have an office theme party. Your team members can dress up and do demonstrations in different operatories. For example, one room can have a demo on Rotadent vs. Sonicare. You can have another operatory with a children's theme if your office does pediatrics. You can invite a puppeteer or clown to make balloons. Another room can be geared toward Invisalign. There can be a sports-themed room featuring mouthguards. You can be creative with whatever services your office provides.
3. Have a referral bonus system.
One way to get new patients is to offer incentives. You can motivate the staff and your patients with cool gadgets and gifts. For example, if a patient refers a friend, that person may receive a Whitening for Life Kit. You can also set up a gift program where, if new patients are referred, the referrer gets a $100 Best Buy gift card. Also, any staff member or patient who directly refers five new patients could get a free iPad.
4. Host a photo shoot for existing patients with cosmetic treatment.
It's one thing to see a new set of veneers or a sleek, new, white smile on a patient. But it's much more fun and inviting when patients get all dressed up for a photo shoot. Then they can see a big photo of their bright new smile. This can be a bit pricey, depending on the photographer, but strive for a quality session. I found my photographer through a Facebook ad, and he is on point. Patients will love this and recommend you as a provider many times over for the extra effort.
5. Put your office flyer in surrounding apartment community lease packages.
This one involves persistence and patience, and most importantly, building relationships. Imagine having your office information, your photo and that of your staff, your hours, and before-and-after photos sent to all new tenants in nearby apartments. When they open their lease package, they'll see how to get Internet, electricity, water, and a new smile. If your information is in that package and you have it in multiple communities, just imagine the possibilities. If the apartment staffs trust your office, so will their tenants, who just might become your patients.
Iman Sadri, DDS, received his doctorate of dental surgery from the New York University College of Dentistry in 2008. He writes regular dental columns with an emphasis on the blend of pop culture and dental health. His passions are cosmetic dentistry and writing. Dr. Sadri maintains a private practice in Orange County, Calif.
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