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Attracting more patients who need the advanced procedures you enjoy doing

May 1, 2021
This dentist went from getting no new patient referrals from specialists to 10 to 20 per month, and explains how you can do the same.

One of the biggest challenges of owning a dental practice is maintaining new patient flow. There are few things that are more frustrating than spending thousands of dollars on CE (and taking time away from the practice to attend courses) and then struggling to find patients who actually want the advanced dentistry that you just learned how to do.

When I was a new dentist, I loved being “courted” by local specialists. They would take me out to expensive dinners, drop off food, and send holiday gifts all in the name of getting patient referrals from me. Several years later, I bought a practice and was in a rapid-fire cycle of attending advanced restorative workshops and courses because I wanted to offer my patients more comprehensive, longer-lasting treatment. One of the local orthodontists met up with me for lunch, and I shared with him all of the exciting courses I was taking.

A few weeks later, he called me about a patient who didn’t have a dentist and had found him online. She had peg laterals, and he knew that she would need restorative care in conjunction with ortho. He remembered that I had just completed a workshop on anterior restorative and asked if I wanted to see her to treatment plan the case. I saw her for a comprehensive exam, and her chief comment was, “I know that I’ll need veneers after braces, and the orthodontist said you are good at veneers.” The patient had already conducted online research on the process and was prepared for the fee and timeline.

I don’t know about you, but how refreshing is it to get new patients who’ve already accepted cosmetic, comprehensive care before they even walk in your door? That’s when a light bulb went on in my head.

How I got it started

Over the past several years, I have gone from getting zero new patient referrals from specialists to 10 to 20 per month. Depending on your practice size, that may not sound like a lot, but for a smaller practice like mine, 10 to 20 new patients a month with advanced restorative treatment plans fill up your schedule fast and cause your production to skyrocket.

How did I do it? By reverse-marketing to my specialists.

I started by creating a professional portfolio of before-and-after photos of advanced cases that I had completed. I included veneers, worn dentition cases, clear aligner cases, implant restorative, and full mouth reconstructions. Next, I set my mind to courting all of my local specialists by getting some one-on-one time with each of them and giving them a copy of my before-and-after book to prove what I was capable of. I made the decision to drop in to each of their practices or send a gift to each office quarterly. Slowly but surely, new patient counts from specialists increased month after month to the point where I was getting as many referrals from current patients as I was from specialists.

Let’s break down the marketing ROI on that. What makes more sense—dropping off donuts quarterly to get new patients who already trust you and know they need treatment, or directing potentially thousands to online pay-per-click marketing campaigns to get patients who have low trust levels or are not a good fit with your practice? Yes, it really is that simple.

Where we took it next

As my practice grew and I had less and less free time to do quarterly drop-offs, one of my hygienists, Sarah, asked me if I would like her to make the drop-offs for me on her day off. She even offered to coordinate purchasing and organizing the gifts. Knowing that she had a creative soul and could see that I was too busy to do the drop-offs, I said yes. That’s when the reverse-marketing program morphed into the next level. It turned out that Sarah really had a knack for everything marketing and putting together creative, professional-looking, unique gifts. Fast-forward three years—she is solely handling my marketing and managing relationships with my specialists as my professional relationship concierge, and both specialist and internal referrals are at all-time highs.

I really lucked out finding such a creative, talented team member who essentially trained herself for the role. It may not make sense financially for practices that aren’t in a group or DSO to hire someone for this role, let alone finding someone creative enough to actually do it. After getting comment after comment from both specialists and dental colleagues of “I wish I had a Sarah,” I decided to start BEST Practices DDS to scale and share the services of a trained professional relationship concierge with others.

Remember that whether you want to reverse market using someone within your team or use a service like BEST Practices DDS, you have the potential to start doing more of the dentistry that you enjoy!

BENJAMIN TURNWALD, DDS, lives and practices in suburban Chicago. In addition to leading a private, fee-for-service practice, he also teaches and mentors in various programs on practice management and comprehensive dentistry. His mission is to help dentists prevent burnout by doing more of the dentistry that they enjoy. To contact Dr. Turnwald or to learn more about the marketing and consulting services of BEST Practices DDS, visit bestpracticesdds.com or email [email protected].