A: Thank you for your question! It’s one I get asked about regularly, and for whatever reason, we’ve never featured it in the column!
Normally, when I answer this question, I find it usually leads back to two deeper questions. Namely: 1) What do I need to do to get more new patients? And 2) how do I know what marketing will get results and what won’t?
And I can’t answer your question about postcards without answering these questions first.
In any industry, acquiring new customers or clients is a major area of the business. It’s intimately tied to expansion.
(Related: Get More Patients with DIY Video Marketing)
Most successful businesses spend a considerable amount of time and money on marketing, putting a lot of thought and research into it. Typically, there’s an employee in charge of the marketing taking full responsibility for it along with its ultimate success. And this person is normally considered one of the more important team members in the organization. They run coordinated campaigns in an effort to consistently generate new business and track the results to ensure an acceptable return-on-investment.
In dentistry, unfortunately, this process often devolves into “let’s send out a postcard.”
To answer these and your original question, let’s look at a few specific points:
Yes, you should be doing some form of marketing to acquire new patients.
Whether you should send out a postcard or do online marketing (or both) is entirely dependent on the area you are practicing in, demographical information, budget, and metrics. Specifically, you should be actively tracking (internally) what avenues of marketing have produced results for your practice and which haven’t. Obviously, we’d stick with (and expand on) what produced results, and drop the non-productive marketing methods
Marketing isn’t only about external advertising. It also includes actions within your practice.
I think we can all agree that your best new patient is a referral. It’s also very inexpensive (or even free) to get more word-of-mouth referrals from patients of record. So, if I’m looking to get more new patients, the first thing I focus on is internal marketing.
At the MGE New Patient Workshop, we teach you effective external (internet, Social Media and print marketing), AND internal marketing tools. Items such as referral programs, how to get patients’ family members scheduled, phone skills, effective new patient scheduling that reduces no shows and how to create a “wow” with your new patient experience.
Put somebody in charge of your marketing and new patient acquisition
It’s important to remember that an external vendor (such as a postcard mailing company or digital marketing company) is NOT responsible for getting you more new patients. Getting new patients in the door is an internal activity in your office. They can help create interest – but they are not going to schedule people who inquire via phone, email, your website, etc.
The first step to getting more new patients and having a consistently successful marketing campaign is to put someone in charge of it. Make it somebody’s job to coordinate the marketing activities and proactively acquire new patients. It may not be full time to begin with. They may do this and another job in the office. Chances are, the perfect candidate may already work for you!
Once you’ve assigned this responsibility, they would be responsible for your new patient numbers each month. Their job would include running your referral program, scheduling patients’ family members, handling any PR activities (e.g. Facebook/Instagram posts, online reviews, community involvement, etc.) and executing external marketing campaigns – such as postcards, Google ads, etc.
And one of their responsibilities is to do the research on what external marketing you should be doing in your area and tracking the results so that you can manage your budget well and make informed decisions about what’s working for you and what isn’t.
They need to understand enough about marketing to oversee all of this, regardless of which external vendor you may use to actually send out postcards or build your website. The external vendor, with their facilities and expertise, allows you to execute your marketing plan in a more cost-effective and efficient way. But the overall responsibility for this area of your practice – has to be internal!
Who should you place in charge of marketing?
This depends on the size of your practice and your need for new patients. If you have a larger office and you’re looking for 40 or 50+ new patients per month (outside of expected insurance network referrals), then you may consider hiring a full-time Pubic Relations Director for this role.
If you’re a smaller office and you’re just looking for an additional 10 new patients per month, this doesn’t need to take many hours per week, and it could be an additional “hat” worn by the office manager, possibly someone else in the practice or even the owner if there are no other options. But someone needs to take the job seriously and be accountable for it, regardless of whether they’re doing full-time or not.
No matter who this is, they need to get the training they need to be effective at the job. And the owner of the practice needs to gain this knowledge, as well, because they are the ones paying the money for marketing and are ultimately responsible for the success of the business.
So, should you send out a postcard?
There’s no way to tell you 100% yes or no until you do the research. I could give some broad recommendations like “If you’re located in a downtown city environment, you may be better served with online marketing,” but I think you’ll be much better served by getting a coordinated marketing plan and gaining the knowledge to run it successfully.
Marketing is absolutely vital to building a successful and growing practice, but if it’s done wrong it can be a very costly mistake. So, come to the MGE New Patient Workshop. We’ll show you – and the person you put in charge of marketing – how to do the necessary market research, organize your practice to attract new patients, and create an effective internal and external marketing plan. We deliver the workshop in 9 locations across the US and it includes 10 CE credits. It includes a money-back guarantee, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
I hope these tips helped! If you have any questions at all you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call us at (800) 640-1140.