How this startup went from zero to 112 monthly new patients in less than a year
When Behnaz Raisdana, DDS, opened Auburn Family Dental in Wichita, Kansas, she expected to practice part-time for the first six to 12 months while staying on as an associate at another practice.
When Behnaz Raisdana, DDS, opened Auburn Family Dental in Wichita, Kansas, she expected to practice part-time for the first six to 12 months while staying on as an associate at another practice. She opened her startup practice on January 4, 2016. By March, she was extremely busy and scheduling patients so far out in advance that she switched to a full-time schedule and left her associate job.
It's been quite a year for Dr. Raisdana. In August, she saw 112 new patients-more than many established practices see in a month. I spoke to Dr. Raisdana (she is one of my clients) to find out how she was able to hit the ground running.
Choose a low-competition, high-need location and be the go-to dentist in the area
Dr. Raisdana always knew she wanted to own her own practice. After living and practicing in Colorado for a few years, she decided to open an office in her hometown of Wichita, where she treats patients of all ages, from babies to seniors. She also does most of her own endodontic work and oral surgery.
Dr. Raisdana: "After looking at different offices, I just couldn't find one that was a good fit for me. So I decided the best thing was to create a practice that was all my own."
Working with Marie Chatterley of CTC Associates, Dr. Raisdana chose a vacant building in the west end of town, where the market was less saturated. The next closest dentist to her practice was a mile east.
Dr. Raisdana: "I'm the furthest dentist out west. There's no dentist serving the more rural communities, so we have a lot of patients who drive 30 minutes to an hour to see us. There was more of a need in this area-there isn't a ton of competition."
I said it sounded like she went to dental school and business school. Her response:
Dr. Raisdana: "I did. I majored in business and chemistry in undergrad."
If only all dentists approached owning a practice this way!
Generate a 2,079% ROI by marketing early and often
Along with getting her startup practice up and running, CTC Associates suggested a new patient acquisition plan that relied heavily on direct mail postcards to introduce herself to the community and get patients in the door. Having been on the receiving end of several dental postcard campaigns when she lived in Colorado, Dr. Raisdana knew they could be effective.
She sent her first mailing-19,000 postcards to residents living within three miles of the practice-about two weeks before opening day.
Dr. Raisdana: "Honestly, because of the postcard campaign, we were able to fill up the first week before we even opened."
Since then, she has mailed 6,000 postcards every month, rotating through the same mailing list. She knows repetition is vital to marketing success, and she has reached every residence around her practice multiple times.
Dr. Raisdana: "We always get the most calls right after the postcards hit the homes. They hit the homes at the end of the month, and we always get those phone calls the last week of the month. That helps us fill our schedule for the following month."
Let's look at the details of her postcard campaign so far:
• Mailing list-Households within a three-mile radius of her office
• Schedule-6,000 monthly (for nine months as of this writing)
• Campaign cost-$18,445
• Immediate ROI-2,079%
It's worth noting that Dr. Raisdana's ROI will only continue to grow from here, since these patients will be coming back for years.
Those regular, consistent mailings helped Dr. Raisdana build a lot of momentum: In the early months, she was seeing an average of 64 new patients per month. Now she averages 100.
Use multiple marketing channels and consistency to hit $1 million
Now that you know what the doctor spends on postcards, we should explore her other marketing efforts. They include:
• Phonebook ads-$7,632 year to date (YTD)
• Search engine optimization-$3,600 YTD
• School sponsorships-$495 YTD
• Mobile ads-$450 YTD
• Newspaper ads-$415 YTD
Some of you-especially those of you practicing in a more metropolitan area-might have looked at that $7,632 bill for ads in the phonebook and said, "Huh?"
Dr. Raisdana: "I know the phone book is not very popular anymore, but we do have an older community. We have a large number of patients over the age of 65."
I should mention that while Dr. Raisdana hasn't seen any returns from those ads yet, she had only placed them a month before I spoke to her. But if you look at the accompanying graphs, you'll see that her other marketing investments are paying off very well. Auburn Family Dental had nearly $700,000 in production by October.
Over the next nine months, Dr. Raisdana is set to mail postcards to a whole new area west and southwest of the neighborhoods she's currently reaching. She expects that strategy to bring in even more new patients for the fourth quarter of 2016 and the first half of 2017.
Dr. Raisdana: "Our goal for the year has always been to reach the $1 million mark on my production, and we're almost there. By the end of the year, we're probably going to hit that goal."
Train your staff to track new patients to continually improve return on investment
Dr. Raisdana gives her staff a lot of credit when it comes to her success.
This is a common successful component among my dental clients: A detail-oriented staff is key to converting new callers into appointments and tracking referral sources, not to mention patient retention.
Dr. Raisdana: "My staff has worked really hard, lots of long hours, and they've been so great about spreading the word. The most compliments I get are on the facility and how it looks, and my staff and how professional and kind they are."
Her staff asks every new patient how they heard about the practice, and they add that information to their customer relationship management system so the doctor can see what's working best. (Another smart business move!)
In nine months, Auburn Family Dental has seen 592 new patients. Here's where they came from:
• Referrals (other patients, doctors, family, and friends)-103
• Drive-by traffic-59
• Other (insurance, newspaper, etc.)-43
I was surprised to see such a high percentage of referrals for so young a practice. To me, that speaks to the quality of Dr. Raisdana's work and the quality of her staff.
Dr. Raisdana: "Wichita is a smaller community and word-of-mouth goes a long way here. I will probably cut back on the quantity of phonebook ads next year, but I plan to continue the direct-mailer campaigns for the foreseeable future."
It's also worth noting that those website leads likely came from another source, like postcards, insurance, or SEO. Patients don't just appear on your website-they're driven there somehow! That is where those leads are coming from.
Though she's only been a dental practice owner for less than a year, it seems Dr. Raisdana has a lot to teach many of her seasoned peers!
Joy Gendusa is the founder and CEO of PostcardMania. Using just postcards, a phone, and a computer, Joy built PostcardMania from a one-person startup into an industry leader. PostcardMania serves 73,792 clients, including 4,974 dentists! Need help promoting your practice? Call one of PostcardMania's dental marketing consultants at (844) 269-1836, e-mail Joy at email@example.com, or visit postcardmania.com/dentaldesigns.
Author's note: See Dr. Raisdana's video case study for the latest ROI numbers at postcardmania.com/dr-raisdana. And don't forget—as a Dental Economics reader, you are entitled to 5,000 free dental postcards, printed by PostcardMania, as well as free samples of postcards that are working right now for other dental practices. Redeem online or call (844) 269-1836 today—free marketing advice for your practice is also included!