External marketing to attract new patients is an essential part of building a successful practice. Delivering top-notch quality and service to your existing patients will produce a certain amount of new business through patient referrals, but casting the net further abroad through external marketing will increase profitability.
There are literally hundreds of avenues to make the population in your area more aware of you and your services. Designing internal and external marketing plans for our clients that are specific for their practices and their budgets is one of our services, but more importantly, we get these marketing plans actually DONE. Any promotion or advertising is better than none. Ideas are just ideas and don’t produce any results until you actually bring them about in the real world.
Identify Your Public
The first step in marketing is to identify your public. For a denture practice, the age group you are most likely to attract patients from is 35 years old and up. Within that group, you want to target those who have disposable income — for example, retired home owners. Then work out what ways you can reach that target market. An example of this would be through publications specifically aimed at seniors and their interests. One denturist I know bought a list of retired homeowners in his area on a computer disk and then sent mailings specifically to them and obtained an excellent return on his marketing dollar.
What’s your message?
You have your public chosen, now you have to decide what they should know about your practice that will encourage them to come in. The easiest way to accomplish this is to talk to your patients and find out why they came to your practice and what they found most notable about it, i.e. quality of service, caring attitude, accessibility, or whatever. This becomes your message because it is likely to attract others in the same way. A point of caution: Ask only “good” patients for their opinions so you don’t attract more of the “wrong” kind of people into your practice. For example, patients who came to you because they heard you were “the cheapest” would be most likely to give you ideas that will attract more of the same.
Key Rules for Marketing
- The inflow of new business into your practice will be directly proportional to the amount of outflow. If you do no marketing other than great service, you will only attract new patients through patient referrals. Flip side: lots of external marketing will bring in lots of additional new patients. I often get asked, how much marketing should I do? The answer is to keep marketing until you have enough business coming in to make you happy.
- Marketing on a continual and consistent basis will keep your practice on an even keel with continual growth and expansion. I frequently see practices that only promote in tough times: this is called Crisis Management and is a great source of stress to many practitioners. Another aspect of consistent marketing is the rule: If I tell you three times, it’s true. When a prospective patient has seen your message or heard about you in three different ways, then they KNOW you are there and are more likely to choose your practice over one they haven’t heard of.
- Market with the idea and intention that it is going to produce a result. If the marketing method you’re contemplating turns you off or you don’t believe it will work, don’t do it. Some of our clients simply have to send birthday cards to all their patients — it’s just natural for them. Others don’t even send one to their mother, and if they were to send them to their patients, it would come across as phony and a marketing “ploy”. Keep in mind why you are doing marketing and make yourself do steps on your marketing plan every day, every week in order to reach your goals.
How can I afford to market?
The question we frequently get asked is: how much money should I spend on marketing? There is no fast and easy answer. As we work along with a denturist’s practice to expand it, the budget can grow in proportion to the increase in income. In fact, the less money you have, the more you NEED to market. The key in this case is to be creative and find inexpensive (or free) methods of getting word out until you have increased your profits enough to spend a little more on marketing, which will then give you even more profits and therefore even more marketing dollars, and so on.
Some examples of inexpensive marketing: Visit nursing homes or seniors residences and do denture inspections and oral health checks for free and leave your business cards or book appointments then and there. Weekly newspapers tend to have a much lower advertising rate. Get yourself published in the seniors newsletters in your community with a column on dentures and help them defray their costs of publishing the newsletter by taking a small, inexpensive ad.
Ask every new patient who comes in, “How did you find out about our practice?” Keep a log of these answers. Maybe they heard about you through additional avenues, so survey them as to whether they have heard, or read, or seen any of your other advertising or marketing. Use the results of your survey to determine where to best spend your marketing dollars.
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it
If a marketing method is working, do not change it or drop it until it no longer is producing results. This is one of the biggest errors we have observed in marketing — changing something that is already working. This includes colour in the ad, location in newspaper (for example), content, frequency, etc.
Some of the methods of advertising used by our clients are as follows: newspaper ads, advertorials (you write an article and pay for the space in the newspaper), Val Paks (keep the promo piece high quality, professional looking), TV ads, radio spots, get interviewed on the radio or TV, weekly “Dear Denturist” column in a newspaper (especially ones that cater to the public you want to reach), door-to-door fliers (high quality, classy promo piece will be inviting to high quality, classy people — and vice versa), an 8-1/2 X 11 inch flier insert in a newspaper (photo of denturist and staff, philosophy of practice, etc. – get a professional to design it), yellow pages ads, networking with other healthcare professionals (i.e. chiropractors re: patients with TMJ problems), and so on.
The sky’s the limit.
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