How dental practices can master internal marketing

August 6, 2014

In today’s economy, dental practices should aspire to have 40–60% of existing patients refer at least one new patient per year. Meeting this target will help ensure a healthy increase in hygiene appointments and overall practice revenue.

Securing referrals requires compelling internal marketing. This type of marketing targets the dental practice’s current patients and is less expensive and more effective than external marketing (which only works about 20% of the time). For a productive internal marketing campaign, follow these steps:

Appoint an Internal Marketing Coordinator (IMC)
Marketing should be the responsibility of a team member who can dedicate a number of hours to creating and implementing the appropriate strategies. With the dentist seeing patients all day, he or she doesn’t have the time to also successfully promote the practice.

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Build a strong brand
Before you start promoting, develop a practice brand and image. Your brand is what you are known for. Ask for feedback from both your team members and your patients about what differentiates your office from competitors. Seeking feedback is a way to not only measure the accuracy of your own perceptions about the practice’s strengths and advantages, but also gain additional information so your materials can emphasize elements that appeal to more new patients.

Ask everyone for referrals
Many happy patients fail to consider actively referring others to the practice once they leave the office … they just don’t think of it. Initial marketing strategies should focus on motivating patients to consider you when speaking with their friends and family. You want to convey that you appreciate new patients and encourage patients to talk about you and recommend your practice.

Implement at least 15 simultaneous, ongoing marketing strategies
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” goes the old saying. The same holds true for marketing. In a well-orchestrated marketing program, strategies that do not work are taken out and new ones are put in place. A multipronged campaign with at least 15 strategies will generate a higher and more consistent flow of patient referrals by reaching “critical mass.” Below are some ideas to consider:

Promote any new services, technologies, or products offered.

Give all patients a brochure, requesting referrals and thanking them for their confidence and trust in the practice.

Call patients who refer others to thank them personally, which will inspire them to refer again.

Let existing patients know that your practice is available to see other family members.

Design an outreach program to patients with short educational updates about dentistry that also mentions your appreciation for referrals.

Display posters promoting the dental services you perform.

Create a practice newsletter to update patients about offerings, events, and services.

Provide excellent customer service, which may be the best form of internal marketing.

Train your team
Staff members interact with patients at every step of appointments, encountering limitless opportunities to encourage referrals. When current patients remark how pleased they are with their treatment or how much they like the doctor, scripting will help your staff respond with the appropriate message: “Thank you. We love having patients like you. Please tell your friends about us.”

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Conclusion
While the new dental economy necessitates a multi-strategy internal marketing program, the good news is that dentists don’t have to do it alone. An IMC, working with a happy patient base, can generate enough referrals to keep the practice growing each year.

Note: To learn more about the impact of internal marketing on increasing practice production, come to one of Dr. Levin’s upcoming seminars. Pick a convenient date and location at www.levingroup.com/gpseminars. You can also sign up for an email Tip of the Day at www.levingroup.com/tipoftheday.