We all want more new patients.
More new patients = growing practice = more potential production and so on, right?
So we spend a few bucks on marketing to get the phone to ring.
And then we run into a snag: The new patients coming in don’t accept treatment or follow through with their hygiene schedule.
This is a pretty common scenario. In fact, it’s one of the most common questions I get when I meet a dentist that is new to the MGE program—“How can I get more high-quality new patients?”
This is normally followed up with statements such as: “The ones I get from my marketing are ‘shoppers'” or “only wanted the special offer” or “they can’t afford treatment.”
The original question actually has a simple answer:
The best new patient you’re ever going to get is…a referral!
So, (obviously) you want to ensure you have a strong referral program. I’ve never met a dentist who wasn’t missing out on a ton of potential referrals in their office, so odds are you can do more to maximize the number of referrals from your patient base. If you’d like some help with this, I’ll suggest one of three options:
- I can give you a copy of MGE’s referral program for free. It’s step by step instructions on how to implement a simple referral program in your office. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or
- Take a more thorough approach and attend our Free Seminar: The Ultimate Internal Marketing Seminar. Dates and locations can be found by clicking here or,
- You could really push it to the next level by attending our Two-Day MGE New Patient Workshop. We deliver it in New York City, Orange County California and at our St. Petersburg, FL office. Dates and locations can be found here.
All right, with all of that said, let’s confront a simple fact:
Initially, a new patient coming in from another source (i.e. marketing) is not going to be as easy to incorporate into the practice. It can be done – it just takes a little more work!
Now, that doesn’t make them a “bad” or “low-quality” patient. What it really means is that you have to be better at effectively communicating with these patients so as to make their dental health a priority.
Improving Communication & Patient Retention
Nine times out of ten, that when a doctor says they are getting “low-quality new patients,” it’s actually a failure on the doctor’s part as a communicator, as opposed to a specific issue or “quality factor” with a patient. If you can’t communicate effectively, no one will agree to treatment! Well, who is responsible for that?
With a referral, the patient has already been “sold” by the person who referred them. With a new patient off of a marketing campaign, they haven’t been. They fact that there are IN your office is a testament to your marketing’s effectiveness. They are at least there! And they are “testing” the waters to see if they want to STAY THERE! Beyond poor marketing response and mishandling the conversion from phone call to appointment, the point at which most doctors blow it with regards to new patient marketing has to do with – customer service and communication!
And what happens next? These patients who don’t accept treatment or stick with the practice are assigned labels such as “low-quality” or “low dental IQ.” While these labels might justify failure to retain these patients and make the “labeler” feel better, it unfortunately does nothing for your practice, you or most importantly the prospective patient!
Sure, there are patients who don’t give a hoot about their teeth. And no matter how good you are – nothing will change this – but we’re talking about less than 20% of your new new patients here! Not 50% or 80%!
And unfortunately I don’t know of any way to market for “perfect patients” that
- Have “high dental IQ,”
- Care deeply about their oral health, and
- Have a flexible schedule and
- Of course, just throw their credit cards at you to pay for treatment!
Now, if you figure out how to do this, let me know!
The reason this does not exist is because it’s a case of barking up the wrong tree. People are unique and have be handled as such. If you address each person individually and establish good communication with them – you can take that “mediocre dental patient” and turn them into a great one who sticks with your practice!
So, if you’re find yourself having trouble with patients coming in from marketing it’s time to work on you – specifically, your ability to establish trust quickly and really get through to your patients.
With all of this in mind, there are a few scenarios where you can go wrong with your marketing and bring in patients that are very unlikely to be a good fit in your office:
- Marketing to the wrong audience. Obviously you need to make sure that you are marketing to the correct audience—meaning people that you’re actually expecting to treat in your practice. In other words, you wouldn’t market crowns or implants to college students, etc.
- Advertising the wrong special offer. While I do certainly endorse offering a “new patient special” of some kind (such as a discounted cleaning, free exam or consult, etc.), I’ve seen some offices get into trouble with the wrong offer. For example, advertising a discounted whitening on Groupon will often bring in people who just want their cheap whitening and then go back to their normal dentist. You’re much better off just offering a cleaning or exam, and probably avoiding Groupon altogether (because Groupon is a website that exists purely for the purpose of taking advantage of deals). You can do just fine with other marketing avenues like direct mail, Google pay-per-click ads, social media, radio, TV, local businesses, community events, etc.
Besides those two scenarios, the onus is really on you to improve the customer service, communication and case acceptance in your office. From an MGE perspective, I’d recommend one of two things:
- Come to our free seminar, The Effective Case Acceptance Seminar. Dates and locations can be found here. If we’re not coming to an area near you anytime soon, give us a call for future dates or
- If you want to become a real pro at case acceptance, come to the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars.
I know my answer may have seemed harsh at certain points. I guess I have a problem with “wasting” a potentially good patient who you could help get healthy! But it’s the truth and actually opens the door to doing something about it! I hope in the end that it helped.