Okay, raise your hand if you’re sick and tired of being inundated by mailings and hawked by advertising in our profession’s trade publications promising “unlimited new patients”, or “guaranteed new patients for life”, or “more new patients than you can shake an explorer at”, or …(fill in your favorite over-hyped, gimmicky catch phrase here). My favorites are the ones that implore you to order their easy to implement 12 CD set which will magically teach you all the marketing genius that you now lack which will automatically work as soon as you spend another $20,000-$30,000 to implement it in your practice. If you’re wondering what to make of all of this bear market/down economy–induced promotional hysteria that your colleagues seem to be jumping on board with in a panic to give their struggling practices a boost, here’s my New Jersey viewpoint on the whole thing: “IT’S MOSTLY A BUNCH OF B.S. ” (and I’m not talking bruschetta and sopressata here). Don’t buy into the hype, because that’s mostly what it is. True, marketing is indeed integral to the ongoing growth and expansion of your practice especially now, but there is no quick fix out there which will take you to the promise land of 20-30 quality new patients per month even when quite frankly 15-20 would do just fine provided you were attracting the right type of patient. Of course the actual number of new patients that is healthy and required to attain your practice goals is dependent upon what type of practice you have, but rather than tackle that subject, you first must understand that there is one universal fallacy when it comes to all dental practice marketing that I call “The Great Marketing Misconception”. Once you understand and can accept this axiom, you can then decide for yourself where your marketing dollars will be best spent, either now or if and when you decide to take the plunge into these waters in the future. So here it is; the truth revealed:
Marketing does not generate you new patients. All that marketing does, if it works at all, is to generate potential new patients (PNP’s). And here in lies the misconception that has been the waste of much hard-earned money, and the demise of much wishful thinking about many a marketing plan. I have proven this fact in my analysis of the new patient numbers of hundreds of practices over the last 15 years of consulting and coaching practices in New Jersey and New York, by far the most challenging markets to promote a dental practice in in the US. Marketing is lead generation. It generates enough interest to get a PNP to inquire of your services either through your internal customer via referral, or from direct touch methods to people outside of your practice. There is no guarantee that anyone inquiring, calling, scheduling an appointment, or let alone arriving for their appointment will in actuality become a converted new patient into your practice active patient base. The sales process is lead conversion of PNP’s. It is directly proportional to patient retention of PNP’s who contact your practice from your marketing initiatives whether internal or external. It is the lack of an effective sales system that definitively converts all inquiries whether they are phone shoppers at one end of the spectrum, to qualified patient referrals at the other, that is the number one killer of any practice marketing program that you could implement. It is also the most lacking operational system in all dental practices that I have worked with, and should be the first to be developed and implemented before instituting any marketing program. This will virtually eliminate the revolving door syndrome that is prevalent in most practices that I have experienced, where new patients come in the proverbial front door, only to exit through the back door soon afterwards. Do not take this for granted. I have been told by numerous doctors that their new patient retention is excellent, and that no one ever leaves once they come in to experience their practice, but do you know for sure? What you may find surprising with a little investigation and analysis is just how many of your PNP’s end up truly converting and staying with you for the minimally acceptable “lifetime” of 8-10 years that I teach is desirable as opposed to the ones that drop out or do not return within the first year after their initial visit. More marketing dollars are spent in compensation for this deficiency with your internal sales system than you realize, and the cost in wasted hours in your schedule is equally detrimental and debilitating to your practice revenue as well.
Yes, marketing your practice can be an expensive proposition, but it does not need to be as expensive as it’s costing you now. Don’t be sucked in by gimmicks. There is no substitute for putting in systems and training for your team that will create an educational, impeccable, high service experience which will convert PNP’s into satisfied lifetime patients who will refer others like themselves to your practice.