If you answered “Yes,” then you’re not unlike 99% of the non-MGE clients or brand new clients I speak to for the first time! For that matter, I have a hard time remembering the last new client I spoke with that didn’t have some concern about their new patients. And these concerns range from quantity (how to get more) to quality (i.e., how to get more “high-quality” new patients who care about their teeth and so on).
And while new patient acquisition is a broad subject (I couldn’t hope to cover everything about it in an article like this), I did want to share the most common scenarios I encounter, along with the common steps I take to fix or debug each one.
Which brings us to “Scenario 1”:
The number of new patients has never been consistently adequate (relative to desired level of growth).
Looking at this scenario, the first thing I look at is the two possible sources of new patients:
- External Marketing: mail, website, online ads, billboards, TV, radio, community events, etc.
- Internal Marketing: patient referrals (word-of-mouth).
With regards to external marketing, the first and most common error I normally see is not marketing at all.
I’ve spoken with lots of dentists who are desperate for new patients but aren’t doing any form of external marketing. So the first solution here is to START marketing!
Beyond this, the next most common error is spending too much money on marketing that doesn’t get any (or gets poor) response. Usually the reason behind this is that the dentist simply sends out a postcard or ad and then waits, hoping they’ll get lucky and a bunch of new patients will come in.
Believe it or not, success with marketing is not a matter of luck. There is a methodology to it that will produce a predictable result when done correctly—just like there’s a methodology to any given clinical procedure you do.
Now, if you haven’t been marketing, I’d take these steps to get it off the ground right:
- Isolate WHO you should be marketing to.
Who is your audience? If you’re looking to do more high-end work (i.e. implants, etc.), you would not want to market to twenty-year olds – unless they played a lot of hockey! If you were a family practice, your audience would be broader and so on. Ultimately, you have to establish who the right audience is for your marketing.
- Determine HOW to reach these people.
Limiting the entire subject of external marketing to just postcards and “pay-per-click ads” would be wrong. They can both be worthwhile, but there are people everywhere and a multitude of ways to reach them.
Different audiences may be easier to reach by different advertising. I couldn’t hope to cover them all in detail, but there’s postcards, flyers, newsletters, your website, Google ads, social media ads, search engine optimization, email, online review sites, ZocDoc, magazine ads, TV, radio, health fairs, community events, billboards, local business relationships, sponsorship opportunities, and on and on.
- Find out what resonates with your audience and get them to respond.
Starting out, most business owners come up with an ad based on what they like. This would be great – if you were advertising to yourself! But you’re not – so this is the wrong approach. Where this gets worse is you’ll see a doctor farm out the ad to a marketing company – who has no idea what resonates with your audience either! They have a graphic designer come up with a pretty and appealing ad, that doesn’t necessarily communicate with your target market.
So no matter how smart you are (or your marketing company is), you can’t know what will resonate with your audience until you ask them!
It’s very simple to ask them. Simply conduct a survey with your patients or people out in the community. A properly crafted survey will tell you exactly what your audience wants and what will actually get them to pick up the phone and call. If you don’t know how to craft surveys properly, give us a call and we’ll help you.
- Send the correct quantity to get the results you want.
Both quantity and regularity plays into effective marketing. And again, while I can’t hit all of the details here, I’ve found that the common errors most dentists make are:
- Not reaching out to their audience enough (multiple advertisements). Many dentists try a marketing campaign as a one-off effort. And while I don’t think you should continue an expensive marketing campaign that is getting a poor (or no) response, it’s also true that some people respond on the first ad – and some people respond on the fifth! Sometimes you need to market to somebody several times before they take notice and respond.
- Sending out a low quantity and then being disappointed by a low number of responses. This one is self-explanatory, but if you just send out a meager amount of marketing, you will get a similarly meager response.
- Not marketing consistently. Doing sporadic marketing efforts (with weeks or months between them) will get you sporadic results with your marketing. This gives you a big rush all at once that wreaks havoc on your schedule and then big gaps of low production. Marketing consistently, week in and week out, gets you a consistent flow of new patients.
That’s all the space we have this week, but we’re not done with these external marketing steps yet! Next week we’ll continue covering External Marketing and then we’ll move onto Internal Marketing (referral programs—the lowest-cost way to get more new patients).
I hope this helped. And as always, if you want to really optimize you new patient acquisition long-term, do the MGE New Patient Workshop. Get more information at newpatients.net.
For the next article in this series, click here: How I Fix New Patient Problems – Part II