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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Maximizing your Marketing Dollar

Lenora Milligan
Salt DPM Consultant
Part 1 of 2

Where to focus to achieve the biggest return on your investment.
Smart marketing is an article designed to get your practice working efficiently and effectively in 2012.
Historically, marketing in the health care field was looked upon with distain, some even believed it unethical.    Considering how long it has been a part of society, marketing in dentistry is relatively new.   The health care industry changed its thinking on the subject in the late 1970’s.  Still, many dentists worry marketing somehow cheapens their services.  Over my 20-year career as a Practice Management Consultant, I have listened to many dentists' concerns regarding the issue.  Some have a fear they will seem desperate to their existing patients, other worry they will attract the wrong type of patients.
My opinion is that marketing your practice is essential for growth and profitability.  The success of your practice depends on your marketing plan.  This article is designed to assist you to find a marketing method that fits your comfort level and represents your practice philosophy. 
In order to create exceptional results in whichever methods you choose, you and your team must be willing to commit to a process that includes:  1. setting goals; 2. tracking results; 3. creating scripts; 4. practicing or "role playing" situations; and 5. being prepared, office-wide, to answer questions that may arise from patients. 
Image is critical.  Make sure you, your team and your office is neat, clean and welcoming.  Attracting patients is part of marketing, and keeping them is essential.   How the phone is answered can make or break an advertising campaign.  Smile, listen to your tone of voice, take your time, and don’t put them on hold too quickly even if you’re busy.
The most well-known and well-perceived marketing method is internal marketing.  Marketing from within your practice can be extremely effective and very low cost.   You may want to start by asking for referrals.   Many dental professionals don’t really know how to approach their patients without feeling uncomfortable.  Some dentists may think their patients already know they accept new patients and that asking is unnecessary. There are ways for this process to become a very natural, and well- accepted, practice in your office.  Once you start asking, you may be surprised to hear patients say, “Oh, I didn’t know you accepted new patients.” 
 When you receive compliments from patients, this is your opportunity.   Respond to compliments with, “Thank you, we are always accepting new patients and would love to see your family and friends.” Or, “Thank you, we love having you in our practice, and always appreciate it when patients send in their family and friends to see us.” What each of you say will be different. The reason is that everyone needs to come up with words that are genuine and true for them.  At IPS, we abide by the concept that birds of a feather flock together, so make sure to ask your best patients for referrals.  You can put referral cards in the hygiene take-home pack, frame and post the request on your wall, but nothing says it better than your voice.  You may decide to create a goal for each team member to ask one patient per day.  Make it a game.  Every time a team member asks for a referral, put their name in a monthly drawing for a gift card.  
A referral program in the office is essential.  If you ask a patient to refer and they send someone to you, please acknowledge the honor they've bestowed. Send a hand written thank you note. Flag referring patient’s charts so you can personally thank them the next time they are in the office.   If you are a specialist you can still ask your patients to refer.  Many patients have a misconception about needing their general dentist to refer them into a specialty office.    
If you would like more information, please contact us at info.saltdpm.com
This article was originally published by Tri-County Dental Society Bulletin

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