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2 critical decisions that took this practice from 35% down to generating 41% more new patients in 2020—even during the pandemic

Oct. 1, 2020
What did Joseph Zicchino, DDS, do so well marketing his practice that you can do in yours? Find out what critical decisions he made to generate 41% more new patients.
Joy Gendusa, Founder and CEO, PostcardMania

Meet Joseph Zicchino, DDS, of Coastal Dental Group in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. He loves a laugh but is certainly focused on building a thriving practice, and he isn’t one to shy away from experimental marketing methods. I’m proud to call him a longtime client. But before I go any further, I want to share a tidbit that shows who Dr. Zicchino is at his core, and why he chose dentistry as his profession. 

Dr. Zicchino: “My mother’s friend was always self-conscious about her teeth. Whenever she laughed, she’d cover her mouth. She got braces and I saw what that did for her self-confidence, and I was hooked.“

Dr. Zicchino opened his practice in August 2004, and the office did alright. He was gradually growing his practice year after year until, well, you know where this is going. 

As I’m sure you all have experienced, dental offices have sustained some of the most significant impacts of COVID-19. The first wave of government-mandated closures allowed only for emergency dental visits. The American Dental Association estimated that dental care spending is down a whopping 66% this year, with the majority of dentists reporting their volume of total collections being less than 5% of normal (figure 1).1

These circumstances left Dr. Zicchino with a potentially life-altering ultimatum. He could close up shop and wait out the pandemic, or he could do everything in his power to ensure his doors stayed open. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Zicchino about these decisions and how they impacted his practice. This is what he had to say.

First decision:

Keep fighting for new business 

This decision is why he continued marketing despite the pandemic and statewide shutdowns. Like many dental offices,2 Dr. Zicchino wasn’t going down without a fight. He knew his income was going to take an inevitable blow, but that didn’t mean he had to give up. He could still help those with emergency cases—he just needed to let his community know he was there for them. It might seem like a bold move to market in an unstable economy, let alone during a pandemic. 

Dr. Zicchino: “[PostcardMania] really drove the point home about continuity. You have to continue to send out postcards. So COVID-19 or not, I knew I was going to do just that.”

Instead of halting his marketing, Dr. Zicchino shifted the focus of his direct mail campaign. He paused his usual campaign and shifted entirely to informing locals that he was available for dental emergencies, even during COVID-19. Figure 2 shows the kind of card Dr. Zicchino ran with us for years, which highlighted the importance of regularly visiting the dentist.

For obvious reasons, this kind of marketing message would not resonate during mandated closures. So, Dr. Zicchino shifted his marketing focus to figure 3.

The design of this postcard focuses on specific dental emergencies, and the photo of Dr. Zicchino in surgical scrubs positions him as a doctor fully capable of handling severe dental emergencies. A bright orange banner catches the eye immediately, letting the recipient know that his office is open, and that all precautions are being taken to keep patients and staff safe.

Dr. Zicchino stuck to his guns and started mailing his postcards in large blasts of 18,000 cards per month, targeting every mailbox within a certain radius of his practice. This type of mailing list is called every door direct mail (EDDM) and offers an extra discount on postage.

The campaign results?

Dr. Zicchino: “When the pandemic was at its worst and most dental offices were forced to shut, this campaign generated $20,000 for us. That made a big  difference for us. But since then, we’ve hit a new pace in new patients per month.”

Dr. Zicchino was kind enough to share his new patient numbers with me. We compared the same timeframe (March to September) in 2020 with 2019. He generated 41% more new patients this year than in 2019—despite a pandemic.

He went from averaging 28 new patients per month during that same timeframe in 2019 to averaging 39 new patients a month in 2020, a year that has decimated many businesses.

Dr. Zicchino: “COVID definitely took a toll on our practice. Initially, we were about 35% down, but we’ve recouped those losses entirely. We’re now up this year overall. I hate to imagine how much worse off we would be if we hadn’t continued marketing through the lockdowns, because that decision made all the difference—and not just to me, but to the entire practice and the people who depend on me for their paychecks.”

Back in June, I wrote about steps that could be taken to ensure your practice 

Dr. Zicchino: “I’m confident that postcards will be a driving force in our recovery and getting back to normal. We’re already well on our way and we’re in a great position to continue to grow and expand in the near future.”

As the country begins to move past pandemic fears and the people who drive the economy emerge from months of quarantine and social distancing, we hope that this is the first of many success stories, especially for the dental community. 

If you’d like to watch some of my interview with Dr. Zicchino, visit postcardmania.com/dr-z.  

Author’s note: I’m delighted to be able to add an update from Dr. Zicchino. On the eve of this article being submitted to the editor, Coastal Dental Group notified me that they had officially recouped all of their losses from the pandemic and are no longer down this year. In fact, they’re on track to be “well up” overall. My hat is off to Dr. Zicchino and his team. What a way to fight back from dire circumstances!

References

1 Nasseh K, Vujicic M. Modeling the impact of COVID-19 on US dental spending. American Dental Association. April 2020. https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Science%20and%20Research/HPI/Files/HPIbrief_0420_1.pdf
2. Gendusa J. Scratch practice rebounds from a minus 22% two-year slump in new patients. Dental Economics. April 1, 2019. https://www.dentaleconomics.com/practice/article/16386221/scratch-practice-rebounds-from-a-minus-22-twoyear-slump-in-new-patients

JOY GENDUSA is the founder and CEO of PostcardMania. Using just postcards, a phone, and a computer, Gendusa built PostcardMania from a one-person start-up into an industry leader. PostcardMania serves 90,642 clients, including 6,481 dentists. Need help promoting your practice? Call one of PostcardMania’s dental marketing consultants at (844) 269-1836, or email Gendusa at [email protected].

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