Editor’s Note: This is the tenth article in a series exploring the business aspects of the dental profession, from starting a practice and marketing to hiring and finance.
Based on my experience, marketing has two main components: internal and external. Internal includes gaining higher case acceptance and introducing new procedures to your existing patients. External marketing includes efforts to bring new patients into practice.
There are so many ways to bring new patients to your practice. The following are just a few techniques mentioned. You can pay a company to do this for you, or you can do it yourself based on your demographic testing.
1. Direct mail. Some say this is the best way to bring in new patients. I think it depends on the demographics you target. If there is a dentist in my market (in downtown Seattle) trying to get me in, a mailing may not succeed. Most young couples renting out apartments in the city throw out their “junk mail” before leaving the mailroom. Where do these young couples look for a dentist? Online, specifically on Google.
2. Which brings me to reviews. Getting a review can be the best way to boost your online presence, keep your SEO happy, and attract new patients. Googling “Smile & Co.” — a boutique dental practice in Sacramento — is a prime example. While they have a beautiful, clean website and active social media page, they stay in the game through their 500+ Google reviews. Your reviews are your community’s way of showing you that they love and vouch for you.
3. Use your marketing as a try and fail method to test your market. If you’re targeting 50+ patients living in a retirement home, consider sending out mailings consistently for a few months and evaluating the return on investment. Have patients come by? Consider offering specials to veterans or seniors to make your clinic more attractive. Many patients lose their traditional employer-sponsored dental insurance by age 60. A membership plan can help keep your aging patients.
4. Are you affiliated with the local Chamber of Commerce? Consider hosting your space as a venue for one of their events, take that opportunity to meet more businesses in your area, and partner with entrepreneurs.
5. Are you a specialist? Join a study club of general dentists or make it a point to pick up the phone and call general dentists in your area to introduce yourself. Personally, I love meeting specialists who respect my drive to learn special procedures, while still continuing to teach. It allows me to connect with them even more and refer my favorite patients to them. dr. Sonia Chopra, my mentor in endodontics, and Dr. Alan Yassin, my mentor in implants, are two great examples of specialists who have made teaching general dentists their life’s work.
6. Think of your ideal patient. Who is it? One of my favorite speakers had once told his audience that his ideal patient is a “busy businessman.” He tried to imagine where those busy businessmen often hang out. Answer: bars and high-end restaurants. So he started offering bartenders and servers free dental treatment, and in return he left his business cards at those local watering holes. Without trying too hard, his dental work got facetime with his favorite client and often sent referrals to his office.
7. Focus on giving patients a 100% great experience. Work on creating a beautiful monthly dental newsletter, with updates on the team, office or community participation. Send a birthday wish, by e-mail or a nice video. Call patients after surgery, long treatment appointments, or after appointments with small children. Parents appreciate you calling after their children. It increases trust and creates goodwill.
What if you are still an employee at this point? Or maybe you’re studying dentistry and wondering if you can start marketing at this stage? The answer is yes!
1. Consider creating a personal website and professional Instagram/Facebook account. Think carefully about your personal brand, what is your vision for the future? Why should patients visit you? Think of the photos you’ve currently pasted on the Internet; do they convey the image you want there?
2. Stay true to yourself. One of the dentists I admire worked with a nonprofit that helps women who have experienced domestic violence. For each new patient appointment, he donates a portion of his fee to the nonprofit. He also offers a free cosmetic treatment to a survivor every few months. This work ties in with his socially conscious practice. It has also helped create a community of supporters around its startup.
Do you have any other ideas about marketing? There are so many, and so many dentists who do it right. Be open to learn from people you meet and always be willing to adapt your existing strategies for the better!
dr. Sampada Deshpande is a general dentist based in San Francisco. Sampada, a foreign-trained dentist from India, received her DDS from the University of Washington in 2018 and is a UW-LEND Fellow for 2020-2021. In addition to clinical dentistry, she enjoys teaching at the New Dentist Business Club and improving access to healthcare technology through her involvement in Samsotech† You can reach her directly at: @dr.deshpande on Instagram or visit her website www.sampadadeshpandedds.com For more information.