Last updated on September 16th, 2020 at 11:20 am
What would you say if I told you that you could get a bunch more new patients for your dental practice…without spending a crazy amount of money?
If you’re like most, you might say “Sounds great…in theory,” while wondering if this were at all possible.
Well, it is.
The dental marketing space is HUGE and there are a ton of companies involved in it. And the amount of messaging we regularly get from all these groups has almost “programmed” us to believe that we have to “break the bank” as the only way of attracting adequate high-quality new patients. But… that’s just not true! Sure, you should market your practice efficiently and maximize your return on investment. But you should also supplement these efforts with actions that can get more new patients with little, or no, cost.
At the MGE New Patient Workshop, we teach you how to do both—make low or no cost internal changes to attract and keep new patients and how to market intelligently so it’s cost-effective and targets high-quality new patients.
And many dentists that attend the workshop are surprised to find they start getting more new patients before they even start their external marketing campaigns!
So, with that said, let’s look at a few ways to increase your new patient flow for little to no cost:
1. Keep a new patient call log
I know, this seems like a “no-brainer,” but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t do this. Essentially, your front desk should keep a log of all potential new patient calls—using either a software or simple pen and paper.
Sure, you should still use various tracking methods – i.e. unique phone numbers and call tracking systems. But you should have a log that encompasses ALL incoming new patient inquiries. You want all this info in one place.
(Related: Why Your Patients Aren’t Coming Back and How to Fix it)
Often when a doctor spends a lot of money on dental marketing that doesn’t end up generating new patients, they think, “gosh – that didn’t work!” But who’s to say what’s not working? You might have people calling that are not being reported as a new patient inquiry. And as a result, you then think your marketing isn’t working, when really the problem is at the front desk!
This is one thing I like to implement right at the beginning. You should have a log of every single new patient inquiry that comes in that records:
- Their name
- Their phone number
- How they heard about you
- What they are calling about (i.e. cleaning, second opinion, etc.)
- Whether or not they scheduled (so you can call back anyone who didn’t)
With this call log, you’ll be able to determine what your conversion rate is for those new reaches into the office. Ideally, your conversion rate should be between 80% and 100%. In the office I managed, our conversion rate was 98% — so yes, it is possible!
And as an additional benefit, it gives you a good idea of what marketing methods are working and what aren’t, since you now have a record of where each call is coming from.
2. Train your staff to answer the phones effectively and practice, practice, practice! And did I mention…PRACTICE!
Sometimes your front desk will get a new patient call while they’re handling another patient… and because they don’t know how to handle these two actions at once, they end up hurriedly answering that phone call to try to get the person off the phone so they can get back to the patient in front of them—which is not what you want.
(Related: 3 Techniques to Improve Employee Phone Skills)
It’s been statistically proven that on average, the longer the potential patient is on the phone, the more likely they are to schedule an appointment. So, if your receptionist is in a hurry to get off the phone, that’s a disaster for your new patient conversion!
So, it’s important for your staff to have guidelines on how to handle the different types of situations that come in, along with the different types of questions that new patients typically have. And then you would practice these different scenarios with your staff until they feel they can handle them naturally without having to think about it.
If you don’t have these guidelines within the practice, we also teach this at the MGE New Patient Workshop and in our online training courses at www.ddssuccess.com. So, head over to either of those and sign up to get that information.
So, now that you know you need to practice these skills with your staff, any time you see the conversion rate dip, you should go right back to practicing these skills again. This was common in the dental practice I managed — any time the conversion rate went below 95%, I knew that somebody at the front desk was not answering the phones based on the office policy guidelines. So, we simply took out the guidelines and practiced them again by, perhaps, simulating a difficult new patient phone call that they received and didn’t know how to handle. This way, in the future, they could handle that type of call and the conversion rate went directly up again.
3. Be proactive about getting more new patient referrals
This is by far the cheapest way to generate new patients and one of the easiest. We want to look at your existing patients that are coming in today or tomorrow and what family members are not yet your patients
(Related: 6 Ways to Get More New Patient Referrals)
For example, let’s say you have a patient named Susy. She’s been coming to your office for years and she has a husband and two teenagers that are not yet patients of yours. So, you’d assign a person at your front desk to speak to Susy about her husband and teenagers with the goal of getting them scheduled for their dental appointments with you before she leaves. If you know they have a sister, parent, etc. that lives locally, find out about them. Obviously, you want to check to see if they already go to a dentist, but luckily in the States, about 1 in 4 people don’t have a dentist. So, chances are that at least one if not two of those individuals will not have a dentist and will be able to get set up for an appointment in your practice.
And don’t be pushy—we don’t want to make it awkward—but many patients are happy to set an appointment for their spouse or child right then and there, or call them on their cell quickly to check their schedule.
Then beyond direct family, you can also give them a Care-to-Share card and let them know they can give it to any friends, colleagues, etc, that may need to see a dentist.
Generating internal referrals is a very easy way to generate new patients and if you do just this action alone, you should be able to generate 3-5 more new patients per week in your practice. So, definitely make sure you’re identifying those patients and asking for their referrals!
4. Create a caring and inviting environment
Now the last point is creating a caring, service-oriented practice. You want to make sure when patients walk in the door that they’re greeted warmly and that they feel cared for. You want to make sure the staff are on the same page with you as far as your philosophy in terms of treating your patients. Like most dentists, your philosophy probably includes wanting fully healthy patients. You’ll want your patients to know that that’s your goal, and you’ll want your staff to know that is your philosophy and that they’re in agreement with that.
Dentists are always looking for a way to stand out from all the others in town—whether it’s with technology, a state-of-the-art office, etc. After all, I can’t recall ever hearing a patient tell their friend they need to go to a dental office because it’s just like all the others.
The best way to stand out is to show your patients that you care, ensure they don’t wait, and ensuring they understand why they need their treatment. I often hear from our clients that patients tell them, “Oh my gosh, no other dentist has ever explained things to me like this! I never realized how important my teeth were. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me!” That’s the kind of patient that will refer their friends and family.
These are just four points you can use right now to start generating more new patients for your practice, but there is a lot more information I’d like you to have from our New Patient Workshop. We’ll give you different guidelines and tips to create a marketing plan that doesn’t break the bank and actually generates high-quality new patients for your practice. We deliver the workshop in 9 locations across the United States — you can read more about what the New Patient Workshop is and where they’re held here or you can request more information by filling out the form below.
And as always, if you ever have any questions or need any help at all, feel free to call us at (800) 640-1140 or email me directly at VickyP@mgeonline.com.
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