Strategic Messaging for Direct Marketing to Patients

Oct. 1, 2007
When pressured to boost patient revenue, direct marketing materials are a logical solution.

by Brian Whiteman

When pressured to boost patient revenue, direct marketing materials are a logical solution. Yet despite the importance of properly executing these campaigns, many dentists emphasize the advertising materials rather than the messagesthat go in them.

On direct marketing postcards, for example, standard promotional language can only go so far in attracting new patients to the office. Ultimately, the most effective postcard will be tailored to the unique needs and wants of your prospective patients.

Every dental practice should routinely use strategic messaging. If patients prefer convenience, then focus on language that best elevates that need (i.e., “pain-free” or “comfort”). On payment issues, consider terms such as “choice” and “flexibility.” These simple techniques can heavily influence whether you resonate with prospective patients.

To differentiate your practice from the litany of competing direct mail materials (not just those from dentists) you must give patients a reason to trust you and your staff. Your marketing materials represent only the beginning of a much larger dialogue with your patients. Here are a few tips for initiating and nurturing this relationship:

• Needs before leads. Any marketing piece can have a “call to action” that reaps short-term benefits simply by dangling the right incentive (“$50 off your first teeth whitening treatment,” for example). But the best organic revenue growth comes from the quality of your leads, not the quantity. You want a patient that is an ideal fit for your practice, not just the other way around. Keep your messages connected to the fundamental needs of your patients and improve the quality of your converted prospects.

• Education over assumption. Put yourself in your patients’ shoes. They probably require more information to truly appreciate the merits of your services, even if they appear ready to proceed with a treatment option. Whether it’s creating a comprehensive Web site or hiring a friendly office manager, you should always seek ways to educate and inform your patients.

• Keep it simple. Using technical terminology is a common mistake among dentists. In most cases patients are unfamiliar with “dental language,” and the practitioner only realizes his mistake when their confusion turns to disinterest.

• Be honest and set realistic expectations. Nothing repels patients more than unsubstantiated claims in a promotion. Even if you think the tactic will raise revenue, consider the cost of lost trust and credibility. Patients need to know what your services can and cannot do for their oral health because, eventually, they will discover the truth.

• Initiate the commitment. You may be hoping for a commitment from the patient, but your commitment to them matters most. Patients want to see that you can keep your word - whether it’s promising to respond to a patient phone or Web inquiry within a precise time frame, demonstrating a genuine interest in the patient’s needs, or fitting patients into your schedule in a timely manner.

Successful football coaches always come prepared with a playbook that supplies tactics for any situation. Approach your next direct marketing campaign to patients with similar precision by conveying the messages that respond to their most pressing needs.

Those strategic messages will define both the integrity you bring to your profession and the confidence you instill among your patients.

Brian Whiteman is CEO of, a leading online printing solution provider for business cards and direct mail postcards. He can be reached at [email protected].

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