Cost-effective internal marketing

Feb. 1, 2019
Marketing your dental practice can cost a lot of money. Many dentists overlook an easier way to market themselves, and that’s internal marketing. Turn to the people who know and like you—your faithful patients and your team—and ask them to spread the word about how great you are.

If you’re like most dental professionals, when you think marketing, you think website, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media. They’re incredibly valuable. But as the dental world races toward more high-tech external strategies that can be expensive, I want to bring you five cost-effective internal marketing solutions.

it begins with your team

External marketing is designed to persuade prospective patients to pick up their phones, call your office, and ultimately visit your practice and “buy.” Knowing that, savvy dentists recognize one very strategic group of people who need to “buy” first—their teams.

With total team buy-in, we can ignite our practice brands. We can engage, educate, and empower the patients who already know us, like us, and trust us. On the flip side, without that buy-in, all the external marketing dollars in the world will leave us vulnerable.

Here are five ‘hows’

New-patient calls

As we lead, our teams follow. One of the greatest demonstrations of your commitment and one of the most cost-effective ways to raise the bar is for you to call your new patients prior to their appointments. Why do this?

• Memorable—In a time-stretched world, your call is going above and beyond. It’s different. In a world of desired hockey-stick growth, different wins.

• Accountable—This is an anti-anonymity call. When patients know that the doctor expects them, they show up.

• Discovery—Think of everything you will be able to learn with this call—what a new patient wants or needs, why the person wants or needs it, what someone has liked in the past, and what someone did not like in the past.

Posttreatment provider calls

Posttreatment provider calls are a team effort. When treatment becomes complex and challenging, or you have a patient who needs some extra TLC, doctors should make the call. When the treatment is routine, the assistants can step in. When the treatment is in hygiene, the hygienists can make it happen.

Why make these calls?

• Providers know exactly how well the procedure went.

• Providers know the post-op instructions given.

• When everything feels great, this call is affirmation that the provider delivered excellence.

• In the unlikely event everything didn’t go perfectly, the provider has a chance to address it.

Be radically curious

Picture being in a room of dental professionals, friends, or family. Given the choice, would you rather be fascinated or be fascinating? Your patients will give the same answer. One of the most powerful internal marketing strategies is simply to be radically curious. It’s not only OK to not have all the answers, it’s a strength. The more you ask, the more you know. The more you know about your patients, the more they believe you know what you’re doing.

When do you do this? You do this on the phone, when patients arrive, when you wrap up treatment, when bringing patients up front, and when patients leave.

Referrals and rewards

Asking for referrals is a challenge for many dental practices. That said, big stomachaches bring big rewards. If you have a morning meeting for no other reason, I highly recommend you have one for this reason. While remembering that this is a team effort, here’s how you do it.

• Each day identify three patients to ask for a referral. In the beginning, make it easy and ask your best patients who always show up, always pay, and always compliment the practice.

• Determine who has the best relationships and, therefore, who will ask which patients.

• You’ve chosen three patients who you like and who like you. At some point in the appointment, they’ll share something nice about someone on your team. Follow their lead.

• Leverage their kind words. Hand them two business cards and ask them if they know someone who would appreciate the same treatment.

• Now, be accountable. Each team member who asks should report how it went the following day at the morning meeting. Stay consistent, and if only half of your favorite patients send you one patient, working four days per week, you’ll grow over 300 patients a year.

The second part of this process is the rewards. Think about the value of a new patient to your bottom line during the first year. Now look at that value over three, five, and 10 years. Add to that any overhead you have with an external marketing plan. Once you know your numbers, build a rewards program that drives your team and best patients to build your practice.

Digital newsletters

As I said at the beginning of the article, if you’re like most dental professionals, when you think marketing, you think website, SEO, and social media. Ultimately, we have one goal, and that’s to stay top-of-mind. So far, our internal marketing solution has spanned the initial call, the in-office experience, the phone call follow-up, and an accountability plan. All that remains is making sure patients remember you when you’re out of sight. Newsletters can help do this.

Without getting into the multitude of companies who can help you do this, be cognizant that you own an asset every business wished it owned . . . your database.

Here are some options for your newsletter:

• Videos that focus on technology or treatments that you want to be known for

• Blogs that educate about oral health and wellness

• Photos that showcase your practice giving back to your community

• Team member highlight stories

• Telling patients thank you

Engage, educate, and empower the people who know you, like you, and trust you, and you will ignite your practice growth from the inside out.

About the Author

David R. Rice, DDS

David R. Rice, DDS, is founder of the nation’s largest student and new dentist community, igniteDDS. Dr. Rice travels the world speaking and connecting today’s top young dentists with tomorrow’s most successful dental practices. In addition to igniteDDS, Dr. Rice maintains a team-centered restorative and implant practice in East Amherst, New York.

Read Dr. Rice's DE Editorial Advisory Board profile here. 

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