This week’s blog post comes from the “Ask Sabri” column in our magazine. As it addresses a question that is highly relevant to many dental practice owners right now, we wanted to share it on our blog, as well. Enjoy!
Q: We need more new patients, but we don’t have much money to spend on marketing. Do you have any tips that won’t raise our budget?
A: Thank you for your question! I understand the struggle right now with marketing costs going up (along with the costs of everything else these days).
Typically, I try to avoid cutting the marketing budget; that’s one area I’m always willing to spend money on because it’s vital for the future growth of my business. Having said that, though, there are a number of things you can do that don’t cost a single cent. Whether you’re spending money on marketing or not, you want to do everything you can to maximize results!
When it comes to acquiring new patients, sometimes the attitude and mentality of your team can make all the difference.
I’ve seen many dentists spend big on marketing but miss out on a ton of potential new patients because their team didn’t even realize the doctor wanted new patients. And so, despite the expensive advertising, they weren’t actually bringing in many new patients—and in some cases, the staff were even turning people away!
So in this article, I will show some examples of creative ways to bring new patients into your practice that many offices overlook. Some of these may seem pretty negligible, but they are all a sign that your team is thinking creatively to find opportunities. All together, these will begin to add up over time.
And remember, it’s all about mentality. If you get your heads together and are attentive to all opportunities that may come your way, you’ll probably find many more tricks than these.
1. Doubling (or tripling) up your new patients over the phone.
The average household has at least three people living in it, and oftentimes they don’t currently have a dentist.
So, when a new patient calls to schedule an exam or cleaning, ask them one simple and powerful question:
“While we’re scheduling your appointment, is there anyone else in your household that we should schedule, as well?”
See if they have any family living with them and let them know about your new patient special. Even if these family members don’t have any issues or pain currently, they should come in for a standard checkup and cleaning.
The caller may be able to go ahead and schedule appointments for their family right then and there, or perhaps they’ll agree to check with them and then speak again later to schedule.
And, of course, you can do this with patients of record, too.
Related reading: EBOOK – New Patient Phone Scripts
2. Collecting information about family members living locally.
As in point #1 above, the easiest referral is someone living in the same household. The next easiest is a close family member living nearby.
But how do you know if the patient has local family members? Ask them!
You can, of course, ask them verbally over the phone or when you see them in the office. Or alternatively, you can include a question in your new patient paperwork asking about their household and any family members living locally, with a few blank lines to enter names. Save that info in your practice management software.
Doing this makes point #3 easier.
3. Making notes of opportunities during your morning huddle.
Most offices have a morning huddle.
(If you’re not, you should! See this article on how to make your morning huddles extra productive: Making Your Morning Huddles Productive.)
While you’re going through your patients for the day, take notice of anyone who has family members you haven’t seen yet. Then determine which staff member will ask them (in a friendly way) if these family members currently have a dentist. Then work with the patient to get them scheduled.
4. Talking to miscellaneous visitors in the office.
One of our clients recently had a plumber come by to fix a leak. The receptionist asked him if he had a dentist himself, and it turned out he’d been having some tooth pain and was meaning to find a dentist soon. So, they scheduled an exam. His treatment plan wound up being about $6,000—and he paid in full and got started immediately.
This may seem like a rare situation, but don’t underestimate it! It’s also a sign that your team is paying attention to potential new patient opportunities. I’ve seen offices schedule family/friends waiting to give the patient a ride, supply reps, UPS delivery workers, people who work in the same building, etc.
5. Forming relationships with nearby businesses.
Have a team member venture out occasionally to local businesses with a tray of cookies or goodie bags and some new patient special cards. Many businesses will keep the cards around or hang something up on their bulletin board.
This is an especially smart move if there’s a big business nearby that offers great indemnity dental insurance. Or if a company doesn’t provide a dental insurance plan for their employees, you may consider making your own arrangement with them to help fill that gap.
6. Offering a new patient special for family and friends of the staff.
Sometimes, it’s the small things that make a big difference. Offering a special discount on dental work to the families and friends of your staff might not bring in a ton of new patients, but it creates a warm, inclusive atmosphere. It’s like giving a little thank-you to your team. And when people feel appreciated, they’re more likely to share their positive experiences with others. Think of it as a small seed with the potential to flourish into a robust referral network, boosting your dental practice’s reputation.
7. Making a game out of call conversion.
We have plenty of articles, videos, and podcasts about how to improve call conversion (i.e. the percentage of new patient calls that schedule for an appointment).
One point I’ll add here, though, is that often the biggest key is making it fun.
In many offices, the phone is an annoyance for front office employees. It distracts them from whatever other work they’re trying to get done. So, their goal becomes to end the phone call as quickly as possible—when it should be to start forming a relationship with the caller and get them into the practice.
If you can change the mentality so everyone is excited for the phone to ring, you’ll see the difference.
The front office staff for one client of ours even came up with a game they called “The Wrong Number Game.” They had a casual contest with each other to see who could schedule the most wrong numbers for new patient appointments. If someone dialed the wrong number, the receptionist didn’t say, “Sorry, wrong number. Bye.” Instead, they would say, “This is actually ABC Dental, you may have the wrong number. While we’re on the phone, though, do you currently have a dentist?”
Funnily enough, they scheduled quite a few patients this way! Again, the game itself isn’t going to produce tons of new patients, but it shows that the team members are thinking creatively and finding ways to get more new patients into the practice.
So, at your next staff meeting, bring these ideas up to your team and see if you can brainstorm any other clever ideas.
And if you’re serious about increasing your new patient volume, attend the MGE New Patient Workshop. We’ll give you a new patient acquisition system that thousands of dentists have already used to see a combined $750 Million in increased revenues!