Internal marketing 101

January 2010 | Dental Products ReportThink like a CEOInternal marketing 101Communicating with your current Fred Joyal, CEO of 1-800-DENTIST

January 2010 | Dental Products Report
Think like a CEO

Internal marketing 101

Communicating with your current patients.

by Fred Joyal, CEO of 1-800-DENTIST

Fred Joyal is CEO of 1?800-DENTIST and author of Everything is Marketing: The Ultimate Strategy for Dental Practice Growth. He can be reached at

In the dental marketing industry, we spend a lot of time showing dentists why they need internal marketing. After all, existing patients are your best opportunity for increased production, loyalty and patient referrals. But as I was recently reminded, the “why” is only half the conversation. We also need to be talking about the “how.”

Some recent polls we conducted at helped reveal the problem. When asked how valuable internal marketing is, 60% of respondents answered it was equally as important as marketing to new patients-and another 30% felt it was more important. So far so good.

But then we asked whether practices had a patient newsletter. The results were surprising: 82% answered that they do not communicate with their patients via newsletters-82%! And these are doctors who frequent a dental marketing Web site. Clearly there exists a disconnect when practices that know the value of internal marketing overlook one of its most powerful tools. There are a huge variety of ways dental practices can effectively reach out to patients, but here are a few that are tried and true:

Spread the news

A quarterly newsletter is baseline marketing to me. Why? It allows you to talk about all the services you don’t have time to mention while patients are in your chair. Patients need to hear a message over and over before it sinks in, and that’s not an easy trick if you only talk to them twice a year. Newsletters are an effective, visually appealing way to stay on their minds and keep them thinking about their teeth.

Newsletters can be sent either digitally or by mail-or both. Customize them as much as possible with pictures of you and your staff, practice news and any specials you offer. Then fill the rest with all the great things you can do for them. Get your patients thinking about whitening, or the fact that they grind their teeth, or how nice it would be to get rid of those silver fillings. You may be surprised to have a long-time patient come in and ask you about a particular treatment.

Get digital

The best way to keep up with modern patients is to communicate on their terms. E-mail messages are free (can’t beat that) and most patients check their inbox multiple times a day. Send them birthday greetings, promote a new technology you’ve added, offer them a promotional discount-or just tell them what kind of electric toothbrush you recommend. It’s an easy way to stay in contact with your patients non-intrusively on a consistent basis.  

Of course, in my experience, most practices only have about 5% of their patients’ e-mail addresses, so the first step is asking every patient you see to provide this information. Get in the habit of collecting e-mail info now and you’ll be in great shape to market digitally before you know it.


Don’t forget recall cards

Recall cards are one of the most neglected opportunities in dentistry. You need to get your patient to return to your office for treatment and you pin your hopes on a cartoon postcard? This is the perfect opportunity to tell patients about one of the services you offer. The truth is, if you don’t take your preventive care messages seriously, your patients may not either. It’s nice to be lighthearted (and I recommend that approach everywhere in your practice), but the most successful dentists I know take advantage of this chance to communicate something more about their dentistry at this opportune moment when patients are about to return for recall.

Talk the talk

Internal marketing isn’t just about what you send your patients, it’s also about what you say when they’re in your office. Mention that you offer smile makeovers, sedation options, same-day restorations or implants. Give first-time patients a tour of your office and point out all the technology you have for their comfort. You never know what might interest your patients (or be impressive enough for them to tell someone else).

Finally, make sure you consistently ask for referrals. I recommend saying something like, “If you’re happy with the care we’ve given you, we’d love to offer that same care to your friends and family. Please feel free to recommend us to them.” It’s a simple way to let them know you’d welcome more patients like them. And make sure to thank them when they do refer.

Get started now

After 25 years in this industry, I have seen the incredible impact that effective patient communication can have on a practice - bringing additional revenue, increasing case acceptance, tightening recall and helping retain patients for life.
You may already employ some of these strategies in your practice, but if not, there’s no time like the present.

For more internal marketing tips visit or preview the patient communication products available on

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