By Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA
Attracting new patients and internal marketing are keys to any successful practice. While it doesn’t sound that hard, the truth is it can be daunting. How do you continually attract new patients and get your existing patients to refer family and friends?
One of the best marketing techniques we’ve come up with is our Referral Rewards Program. Each time an existing patient refers a new patient to our office, the existing patient receives a $10 gift card to Target. Even if it’s a family of four, we reward $10 for each new patient! If you decide to do this, be sure to tell your patients that the person they refer must put the referrer’s name in the “Who referred you to our office?” section of the new patient form. We’ve actually had husbands and wives fight over who can earn the most gift cards! So what if you have to give away 40 or 50 gift cards a month? That means you’ve gotten 40 or 50 new patients!
Another very successful marketing tool is teeth whitening. Everyone wants white teeth! There are several different ways to promote this. We offer free whitening to each new patient on his or her first visit. Each person gets a choice of custom bleach trays or stock trays, or a discount on in-office whitening with our new Philips Zoom WhiteSpeed System.
One office I’ve heard of offers “Whitening for Life.” Simply put, each patient is given custom bleach trays and two to three tubes of bleach. If patients keep their six-month recall appointments within two weeks of their scheduled time, they receive another two to three tubes. This gets patients motivated to make their recare appointments on time. Your front office loves it because if a patient cancels, the front office staff can simply remind them that they need to keep their appointments within a certain window of time or they won’t get their refills. It’s a great promotion!
Successful whitening is the door to patients requesting additional changes to their smiles. Many veneer cases have started with whitening.
Do you offer products to your patients? Patients see products on TV, and they want them. The manufacturers create all the hype for you, so all you have to do is deliver the goods. In our office, we make great efforts to find the products that best suit us. Not every product is going to be right for you, so choose wisely, because you’re choosing for your patients!
The newest product we’re excited about is the Sonicare DiamondClean, which our hygienists love. When your team is passionate about a product or service, they’ll spend time educating patients about it and get them excited too! Let your team become involved in choosing which whitening products will be offered to your patients. Have a Lunch ’n’ Learn, or ask manufacturers to drop off samples at the office. What better way to test whitening than to have your hygienists use it?
Social media has power behind it, so it’s important not to ignore this valuable tool. My favorite way to market a practice is to use your existing patients. We’ve all heard this, and it’s true! The patients who are happy with our office, services, and products tell their friends and family, often via social media. It is the most effective and least expensive way to market a practice. That’s where the gift cards come in. Besides Target, another great gift card idea is Starbucks. You’d be amazed at how many people love getting a $5 Starbucks gift card in the mail as a thank you for referring a friend. You can also use gift cards to tell patients Happy Birthday. They’ll think the world of you for caring enough to think of them.
Let’s not forget one of the best practice builders — the team that supports you every single day. When you invest in your team, you invest in your patients’ care. So make sure your entire team has business cards. This is a trick I learned a long time ago that is simple but effective. We’ve all been in the situation when someone finds out we’re in dentistry, and they want us to diagnose them on the spot. This makes me laugh. But what better opportunity to whip out a business card and invite the person to be a part of your practice?
These are just some of the things you can do to attract new patients and keep existing patients coming back. You’ll be building your practice one tooth at a time!
Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, is a 1981 graduate of the Missouri College, and has over 30 years of chairside experience. She is currently the office manager/chairside assistant to Dr. Eric Hurtte of O’Fallon, Mo., a member of the ADAA, founder of the Dental Assistants Study Club of St. Louis, director of the Dental Careers Institute, and an independent consultant specializing in assistant training, team building, CEREC assistant training, and office organization. She can be reached at [email protected], or find her on Facebook.
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