Last updated on February 10th, 2024 at 03:40 pm

Jeff Headshot - New Patient Acquisition, Part IWhen the average dentist wants more new patients, he or she normally thinks the solution lies in some form of marketing – internal, external or both.

It is merely a component part. You could say that marketing or promotion is the spark that lights the fire. Or, the fuel in the fuel tank of a car – but it is not the car itself!

You could say that the component parts of new patient acquisition would be:

Marketing or promotion of some kind: Whether this is mailers, internet, TV, radio, internal marketing (referral programs) or just word-of-mouth.

New Patient Management: This would include how new patients are handled when they call in as well as scheduling and finally making sure new patients actually show up.

Service: On top of any clinical considerations (i.e. quality of care) this would include how your patients are handled when they come into the office by both the staff and the doctor and the level of satisfaction the patient has with your service.

Each of these three are component parts of the new patient “machine” so to speak (important parts of the whole – yet still just parts). None of them work particularly well without the others.

Beginning with this post, we’ll take a closer look at each one of these so you can compare it to what’s going on in your office.

We’ll start with point #1Marketing: 

New Patient Marketing

Without getting into a bunch of marketing ideas, I’ll say this: Marketing should be:

  1. Targeted
  2. Consistent
  3. Of adequate volume to produce the result you are looking for.

Let’s break these down a little further.

1. Target Marketing, Finding the New Patient You’re Looking for! 

This may sound stupid, but I’ve seen it violated too many times – Marketing should be done to the demographic that you are actually trying to attract. I say this because I’ve seen dentists who want to do a lot of crowns, bridges and implants blow thousands marketing to college students. Now, you may have several different demographics you’re interested in (i.e. families, potential restorative patients, etc.) and each of these would be marketed to differently. Ultimately though, when spending your marketing dollar, you should have some idea as to whom you are marketing.

Another aspect of targeting is surveys. For someone to receive your message, it has to be delivered in a manner in which they would be willing to listen. For example, let’s say you were selling tires and your target public was families with large vehicles (minivans and SUVs). You survey these public and find that their biggest concerns with regards to tires are safety and reliability. Well, you would theme your marketing campaign that way as this is what this target public wants and needs. You would not do some type of ad with a shiny Ferrari sitting on a showroom floor as this is not what that public is looking for. Dad might think its cool, but he’s looking for safe, durable tires for the vehicles which will transport his children. You could imagine that the “Ferrari” campaign for your tires targeting families with minivans and SUVs probably wouldn’t sell a lot of tires – and selling a lot of tires is why you’re marketing in the first place!

So, you would need to survey your demographic to find out what is wanted and needed to ensure that your marketing actually works. We teach you how to do this on the MGE New Patient Workshop.

2. Consistency – They Need to See it More than Just Once.

OK, so you have a great marketing idea, you sent it out via the internet, mail, TV, etc., etc….once.

Take a look at any product you’ve purchased (as the result of advertising) in the last 12 months. Some you may have purchased the first time you heard about it. If you are like the majority of Americans – you heard about it multiple times before you bought it.

So, this tells us that repetition is an important component of your marketing.

New Patients - New Patient Acquisition, Part IThen there is the simple fact that if you have a promotional campaign that brings in 30 new patients, you could in theory promote again in a similar manner to bring in 30 more. This is not to say – even if you promoted once – that you shouldn’t expect a good response. What I am saying however is that for consistent results, you need to market consistently.

3. Not Enough New Patients? Maybe Not Enough Marketing!

A couple of years back, I was speaking with a prospective client with regards to his marketing efforts. He was upset and went on and on about how the marketing he was doing just wasn’t working. I asked a few simple questions and found that he was getting about 10 new patients per month and wanted over 30. Probing further, I found that his marketing efforts consisted of 200 postcards being mailed out from his office every month. 200 postcards to get 20 new patients would be a 10% response – which would be phenomenal – and definitely not something you could count on. Worse than this, even if 20 people responded to this doctor’s postcards, there is no guarantee that they would all shop up!

The moral of the story – ensure that your marketing effort matches the result you are looking to achieve.

Before wrapping up for this week, I’ll leave you with this:

The ultimate purpose of marketing is to create a demand and to sell something. Whether you are selling your office or a specific service or product – you are attempting to induce someone to purchase or do something. Having said that, keep in mind that the direct result of a promotional campaign will be a response or interest – not necessarily the sale itself.

About ten years ago I was speaking with a client who claimed that his new patient promotion was “not working” because he wasn’t getting “more new patients” (only 5 had come directly from his advertising the prior month). I asked him to tally the number of responses (calls) he had the prior month off of his new patient marketing. He called me later that day and was very quiet at first. Then he dropped the number of responses on me – 55. Yes, 55 people had called and only 5 scheduled. His problem was not marketing – the marketing was doing what it was supposed to do. The real problem had to do with the staff member answering his phone. New patient marketing isn’t going to put people in your dental chair. It will, however, get prospective patients interested in and contacting your office. Whether this person actually becomes a new patient has everything to do with your staff and their skill at new patient management, which I cover in Part II.

(For Part II in this series, click here.)


Jeffrey Blumberg provides this general dental practice management advice to furnish you with suggestions of actions that have been shown to have potential to help you improve your practice. Neither MGE nor Mr. Blumberg may be held liable for adverse actions resulting from your implementation of these suggestions, which are provided only as examples of topics covered by the MGE program.


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