External practice promotion

Are you ready for this? Some of you may find it uncomfortable to even consider external promotion. However, I must tell you that I have been well-pleased with the solid, ethical, effective external marketing programs that many of our clients have integrated into their practices over the past few years.

Cathy Jameson, PhD

Are you ready for this? Some of you may find it uncomfortable to even consider external promotion. However, I must tell you that I have been well-pleased with the solid, ethical, effective external marketing programs that many of our clients have integrated into their practices over the past few years.

External promotion refers to any activities that take place outside of your office and involves people who are not presently in your active patient family. Most of your new patients will come to you as personal referrals. So, your internal promotion protocols are critical to your new practice's health and well-being.

Going outside of your immediate practice is beneficial not only to your dental office, but also to your community. Through external promotion, you will be educating your community about the benefits of oral health and the opportunities available in dentistry today. The world does not know about those opportunities. The main reason that people do not go to the dentist in the first place or do not accept treatment once it has been presented is a lack of dental education. Accept the role of educator, not just for your patient family, but also for your community. Don't expect someone else to do this for you. Be proactive and open your own doors.

Even though the ways in which you can promote your practice externally are numerous, for purposes of this column I will make only a few recommendations.

•Open houses: Invite people from your community or area to visit your office. If you are using modern technology, demonstrate that technology, including patient-education programming. Have packets put together with information regarding your practice and the services you offer. Invite community, civic, health-care, business, and educational leaders. You might also consider a specific open house for the media entities in your area (radio, television, newspaper, or magazine editors). Give a brief (10 minute) presentation about something special in your practice (for example: technology, cosmetics, implants, etc.) Give a tour of your office. Use the intraoral camera or cosmetic-imaging system on them, if they are willing. Give them a packet of material that you have produced, including a press release so that the data about your practice will be accurate.

•Community presentations: Contact the civic and school organizations in your area. Let them know that you are available for a 20-30 minute educational program about oral health and/or dental opportunities. Use visual aids and make this program informa tion al/educational rather than self-serving. Send a letter offering your program to these organizations, and make sure that you follow up to schedule the date and time. Don't wait for them to call you. This doesn't have to be the doctor making the presentation, by the way. Members of the team also can participate.

•Media exposure: News paper, television (either infomercials or interviews), radio, and magazines are fabulous ways to introduce yourself and your services to your community. Access the assistance of professionals to help you in the development of these media pieces. You are going to invest significant money and you want to make sure that you gain excellent results and revenues. Carefully track your results to make sure that your investment is working - and working well.

Many dental groups are compiling their funds and joining forces to develop these media pieces (especially television) and are sending out a powerful message. You must make sure that your entire team has carefully developed skills in handling this type of inbound call.

Beautifully-prepared media materials are accessing significant numbers of prequalified patients. Study this carefully. Consider:

•Referral services: Expand ing on the above-mentioned concepts are the referral services where, once again, quality advertising is done, a person calls an 800 number, and the potential patient is directed to a participating doctor/practice.

•Whitening programs: The new patients and the revenue generated by the tooth-whitening are both quite significant. However, the data is showing that most people who come into a practice for the tooth-whitening procedure frequently go ahead with other necessary or desired types of treatment.

•Direct mail: This type of external promotion has been a "stalwart" in our industry over time. It still works and works well to either attract patients to your practice or to introduce a particular type of treatment to people within a certain marketing niche. Here again, do your homework. Work with experts in this type of marketing to make sure that your time and effort are worthwhile.

Cathy Jameson, PhD, is president of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental lecture and consulting firm. She has been a featured speaker for the major dental meetings throughout the world and is an adjunct faculty member of the Oklahoma University School of Dentistry and an associate professor at the NYU College of Dentistry. Her books, Great Communication = Great Production and Collect What You Produce are top sellers for PennWell Books. Contact Dr. Jameson at (580) 369-5555, or email cathy@jamesonmanage ment.com

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