You can't keep it to yourself

March 21, 2012
Renee Knight

Issue 8

You’ve gone through the extra training. You’ve talked to specialists and even spent some time in their practices observing and learning. You’ve put the time in, and now you’re ready to add a new specialty service to your list of offerings.

You’ve gone through the extra training. You’ve talked to specialists and even spent some time in their practices observing and learning. You’ve put the time in, and now you’re ready to add a new specialty service to your list of offerings.

Whether you’re ready to start taking on more orthodontic, endodontic or implant cases, your patients won’t know about your expanded skill set unless you tell them about it. If you don’t want the extra time and effort you put in to go to waste, you have to do some marketing-to both your current patients and potential patients. Sounds intimidating, maybe even a little overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be.

You have to talk about it

Marketing is about communication, not advertising. It’s simply getting the message out, said Penny Reed Limoli, owner of the Reed Limoli Group.

An easy way to start marketing internally is through case presentation. If you offer cosmetic services and you see a patient who is a good candidate, let him know it’s an option. Ask him what is most important to him about his smile. If he says keeping his teeth looking nice for as long as possible, you know you have someone who might be interested in implants. Show him photos of cases you’ve done and make it easy for him to understand the potential benefits.

Think of this as educating your patients, not marketing to them. Use tools such as CAESY patient education to help explain the procedures and the benefits, Limoli said. Remember most specialty cases are complex and likely expensive. Send patients home with materials so they can talk to their spouse about not only the cost, but what the procedure can do for their smile and their everyday life. Think about setting up a GoToMeeting or WebEx to talk to patient and spouse together about the procedure, without them needing to make another trip to the office.

Don’t put it on the patient

Many dentists think hanging signs on the walls and putting brochures in the waiting room is all they need to do to promote a new service. They assume patients will see the materials and ask about it if they’re interested. When that doesn’t happen, clinicians often decide it must be because patients weren’t interested in the product or service, said Misty Absher Clark, vice president of creative services at Jameson Management. That simply isn’t the case.

“Your patients have to hear, see and read the message five to seven times before they’re going to act on it,” Clark said. “You have to reach them through different avenues. The goal is repetition, repetition, repetition.”

So what else is there? Plenty. Use your website, e-newsletters and e-mail to let current patients know you now offer Invisalign in your practice. Include what you would tell them in person-the benefits, the possibilities. Include testimonials if possible.

And don’t just use online vehicles to tell your patients about your great new service; give them a call to action, Clark said. Urge them to call to make an appointment or simply to find out more. Avoid just talking about “we” and include a special offer in your materials to give them a reason to make that call. Send them a postcard in the mail with the same message. 

And don’t forget about Facebook and Twitter, Clark said. Social networking is a huge part of many of your patients’ lives, and if you’re not there, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to spread the word.

Get your team involved 

If you’re going to market a new service, your team has to be on board. They not only need to know about the new service, they also have to believe in it and be able to talk to patients about it, Clark said. Team members need to see the marketing materials and know about any offers you’re promoting, both externally and internally. If patients see a breakdown in the message, they’re less likely to want to go through with the treatment.

“If  your team is not knowledgeable and excited about the services you provide, you’re definitely going to struggle to get a patient excited about it,” Limoli said. “We all know when the doctor leaves the room the patient turns and looks at the staff member and says, ‘Wow a dental implant, do those work? Is this something I should do? The last thing you want is for that team member to say ‘I don’t blame you, I’d be scared, too’ or ‘Yeah, that is a lot of money.’ The team has more power in the case presentation often times than the doctor.”

Beyond your patients

After you get internal marketing down, you can focus on external marketing, Limoli said. Newspaper, Web and radio ads are great ways to get the message out to potential patients, but make sure your practice’s overall brand reflects that you offer comprehensive care. Touting your emergency services, while not a bad thing, doesn’t say comprehensive. Local media also can be a great way to get your message out. If you’re adding a new technology to your practice, send out a press release.

You also have to determine your target audience and develop a message targeted toward that group, Clark said. Your website and direct mail and promotions are key here as well, and you have to make sure whatever offer you promote in your direct mail piece is easy to find on your practice’s homepage. You have to make it easy or potential patients will turn into lost opportunities.

Makreting isn't a bad thing

Marketing isn’t about advertising or pressuring your patients into something they’re not comfortable with. It’s about education and making sure your patients know about the services you offer that can help them solve a problem or reach a goal. To get the full benefit, you have to be willing to try different avenues. It’s not enough to talk to your team about the new service, put a few signs up and then say, “well, I tried” when you don’t get any results. You have to keep putting the message out to reap the benefits.

“Marketing is communication. Period,” Limoli said. “If patients and prospects don’t know a service exists or don’t know your practice provides it, you’re losing out.”