Spending tips to get new patients

Most (not all) dental practices we work with want more new patients. With this in mind, they read the magazines and find the websites where (some) dental marketers make astonishing promises about what they can do for our client’s new patient numbers. (This is particularly prevalent right now in orthodontics.)

Practice owners get revved up by the promises and then very anxious about whether they are being fed a lot of spin and whether they will actually see all these new patients if they spend the (sometimes considerable) sums asked for.

As the coach, I sit in the middle of all this, offering hard won wisdom and experience as to what probably will bring in new patients and what probably won’t. So, I’m going to offer up Simon’s guide to how to spend your marketing budget with a couple of caveats:

  • All generic advice is questionable! What works in West London probably won’t work in St Austell and vice versa.
  • Marketing, like any art or science, depends on how well it is executed, a good idea executed badly still won’t work!

Before we get into this, remember that what you are marketing is your practice’s proposition(s) and if this is weak, no amount of clever marketing spend will rescue it. There really is no substitute for giving people what they want to buy!

Here are three weak propositions I found during a five minute Google search (all in the same city):

Visit our friendly, relaxing dental practice in ***** and experience unrivalled oral care at some of the most affordable prices within the local area.

Excellence comes with a perfect smile, the smile is something a lot of people dream about and if you are looking for a dentist in *****, you have come to the right place. We can help you achieve your goal with luxurious and stress-free dental experience.

Our modern dental practice is fully equipped to deal with range of tooth and gum ailments. Our qualified dentists are ready to treat you with both medical and surgical procedures. 

And here’s three that are working for sometime Breathe clients:

Gentle care. Great value. Guaranteed. A fresh approach to dentistry for your whole family.

Award-Winning Dentistry – Open 7 Days A Week  *****’s Leading General & Specialist Dental Centre.

Welcome To Friendly, High Quality, Affordable Dental Care.

So here’s where to spend your marketing budget:

  • A simple, effective, word of mouth referral process, systemised, so that it happens every day.
  • Great signage. Simple, clear from a passing car or from across the street, illuminated if possible. Just include your: practice name, short proposition and website address. Less is more, bigger is better. Also consider: lighting the building at night, placing a large screen playing a variety of messages inside a window, use place messages on vinyl on the window glass and use messages on blinds which dress the windows. Also paint the front door a distinctive colour and consider dressing the door with bay trees etc.
  • Have a functioning website. By which I mean a website which is able to convert a proportion of its unique visitors into enquirers. Most sites we come across do this at one per cent or less. A good website converts at two per cent or more. A great website converts at five per cent. If you are building a new site, the number one question for your developer and designer should be: “What percentage can your sites convert at?”
  • Website support: SEO that puts you into the top three on page one of Google.
  • Website support: PPC that puts you on page one of Google for specific treatments/search terms.
  • Website support: social media that drives traffic to your website or landing pages. And for advertising specific services or offers.
  • Website support: landing pages to take traffic directly to the information they are searching for and to collect the enquirer’s data.
  • Facebook and LinkedIn advertising.
  • Re-targeting leads using Infusion Soft. Automated ways to keep leads warm.
  • Online booking for new patients.
  • Lots of video on your website, featuring both the clinicians and patient reviews.
  • Editorial about your practice in parish magazines.
  • Taking a stand at a county show.
  • Colleague referrals.

Clearly if you follow this advice most of your marketing budget will be spent online. I read recently in a small business marketing blog that the author had been advising his clients to spend circa 50-60 per cent of their marketing budget online and that this year he had switched to asking them to spend 90 per cent online…

And here’s some tactics which seem to work poorly:

  • Print advertising
  • Email campaigns
  • Leaflet drops
  • Roundabout signs
  • Doctor’s patient leaflets
  • Post Office videos (shown to folk queuing in the Post Office)
  • PR
  • Radio advertising

(I’d be delighted for any principals or marketers to tell me I’m wrong about this list. Email me with data please!)

Of course, the only function of marketing is to deliver leads to your front desk and unless your receptionists can convert a reliable percentage of them into new patient consultations then the marketing spend is wasted… Fortunately, many more principals are having their recession teams trained to deal with new leads and some have even moved their phones off the front desk so that these calls can be handled in privacy and without rushing and with many of them turning into new patient consults.

Anyway, I suggest you do the things that make the biggest difference first and do them well. My hit list would be the first six of the what’s working list above.

And lastly, in a small business such as a dental practice, marketing is an attitude and a set of behaviours. You don’t do marketing, you are marketing your practice all the time! As Omer Reed, my mentor in the 90s said to me, “In a private dental practice, marketing is everything and everything is marketing!”

If you need some help with seeing the wood for the marketing trees, contact me for a chat:

e. simon.hocken@breathebusiness.co.uk.

m. 07770 430576

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