Keep Your Patients Coming Back with Targeted Marketing

January 27, 2017
Sarah Anwar

Blair Drenner, vice president of business development at eRelevance Corporation, discussed strategies for driving business from your dental practice’s existing clientele at the Yankee Dental Congress in Boston, Mass.

Have you ever had a new patient walk into your practice and you think, “She looks familiar,” but you can’t quite put your finger on where you know her from? Then, only later do you realize — after the front desk staff pulls up her file – that she was one of your first clients when you opened your practice. Then, you start thinking to yourself, “Why has it been so long since she last came in for a check-up?”

Due to time constraints or lack of a reminder, most people go longer than six months between dental check-ups. At the 2017 Yankee Dental Congress held in Boston, Mass., Blair Drenner, vice president of strategic business development at eRelevence Corporation, discussed marketing strategies to get old clients back through your practice doors.

According to Drenner, it is far more profitable for you as a practice owner to retain old clients than it is to try and acquire new ones. In an interview with Dentist’s Money Digest, Drenner attributed this to cost, noting that it is much cheaper to drive “repeat business” from your existing patient base. This was the focus of his continuing education session.

Drenner discussed several marketing tools that most dental practices use, including email, Facebook, and targeted mobile notifications. However, he said, it’s important not to use these strategies blindly. In order for you to know whether your marketing is successful, you need to gauge its success with analytics.

One of the most commonly used tools, he mentioned, are emails. Not only is the national open rate for emails around 20 to 22 percent (meaning that approximately 80 percent of emails go unopened), most emails are sent en masse and written by, as Drenner refers to them, “overworked” employees who have other responsibilities around the office and who rarely have enough time to spend on customizing emails. In essence, Drenner says, you are utilizing a marketing tool with limited reach and uncertain results.

Instead of sending out one email to your entire database, says Drenner, try a different approach: First, break down your email list based on demographic or procedural interests based on dental history, and then send targeted emails to each patient group. For example, you wouldn’t send a patient in their twenties an email advertising that your office is offering a 15 percent discount on dentures. Moreover, he noted the “rule of seven,” which says that you must reach out to someone seven times before they act and actually engage with your email. Following up after an appointment, or sending a reminder about getting a semi-annual check-up are great strategies to get the patient back in the office, he said. Unfortunately, not all people tend to pay attention to their emails. With some generations, social media is the best approach to market your brand.

Facebook can be effective, Drenner said, but most individuals go on Facebook not to go to their dentist’s page, but to scroll through their newsfeed. Fortunately, with personalized ads, Facebook allows you to target ads to specific age groups in your own geographic area. These ads appear in the newsfeed of the specified targeted audience of your choice. You can target Facebook ads based on age, location and even gender.

For those patients that are neither interested in email nor in Facebook, there are targeted mobile notifications. With targeted text notifications, you can choose to send opt-in or opt-out messaging to your patients. Opt-in messaging requires the individual to choose to receive your messages. This can be done easily by adding the option to the forms patients fill in while sitting in the waiting room. Opt-out messaging, on the other hand, allows you to send messages automatically to your patients without them having to sign up; however, there must be an option to opt-out of messaging. Drenner refers to opt-out messaging as the more aggressive approach; he advises to be cautious not to annoy the patient. It is important, however, to check the anti-spam laws in your state before taking this approach.

Ultimately, having a multi-channel approach to your marketing strategy will only do your practice good. No matter which approaches you choose to implement in your dental practice, make sure you check analytics to know whether or not your strategies are working, Drenner says. Using a trial-and-error approach to your marketing strategy can help you identify which tools give the best results.

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