One of the most common things I hear from dentist practice owners today is, “I just want more patients.”
The unspoken bottom line though is: I just want to generate more revenue. And there’s three ways to do that: increase the number of transactions, increase the size of the transaction, or increase the frequency of the transactions.
I’ve pulled together 10 of my best tips to target each of these ideas in turn. The good news is that literally any business can do them. The great news is that they’re free.
There’s nothing better than acquiring new patients for exactly $0.
Consider combining these 10 free guerilla marketing tips together and see how well they work in tandem. Creating a marketing plan around free, sustainable actions within your business is a great first step to creating a business that pulls in new patients virtually automatically.
1) Create great content.
I’m a firm believer that every dental practice should have a content repository that’s updated regularly. For many practices, this might come in the form of a blog, but it can also be videos, podcasts, or something even more creative.
The key is to speak to your ideal patient. What are their fears and frustrations? How can you answer those? What are their hopes? How can you meet them? Focus on creating content that will resonate with your audience.
2) Connect with other local businesses.
Look to the other businesses in your area: the hairdressers, accountants, real estate agents, and other local companies. If you begin to build a relationship with them now, you might be surprised to find the opportunities that appear later. You can reach out online by commenting and sharing the good content they’re creating.
3) Retain your patients.
I think this step is so important I’ve written an entire book about the subject. There’s no point in acquiring new patients through the front door if your old patients are leaving through the back door. Retaining patients builds relationships, which builds trust, which builds the space to suggest more extensive and expensive procedures that support the bottom line.
4) Create a process to handle complaints.
If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know that things go wrong. This happens to every business so it’s not a black mark against you. The key is how you handle complaints. I’ve talked about the recovery paradox before, but oftentimes, our most steadfast brand advocates are patients that had complaints we were able to fix.
The best way to ensure that each complaint is fixed is to create a standardised process that filters through one person that acts as the touchpoint.
5) Get mentions in the media.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to get a lot of free PR. This will depend on which country you’re in, but my favourite resource in Australia is Source Bottle. It’s a fantastic platform that connects media outlets with experts. If you have a particular area of expertise, register as an expert and take advantage of the opportunities that arise to give interviews. This is a great, easy way to position yourself as an authority and build credibility in your community.
6) Ask for word-of-mouth referrals.
Word of mouth is probably the most powerful free marketing tool in the toolkit. The good news is that you don’t just have to wait and hope people are referring you. You can ask using the four-step ESAR framework:
• Earn the right to ask for a referral.
• Set the scene by letting patients know you welcome referrals
• Ask for referrals.
• Reward the referral.
Setting up this ESAR framework to be in place for each patient interaction is a proactive way to ensure word-of-mouth referrals.
7) Generate reviews online.
Once you have the ESAR framework in place to ask for referrals, you can use the same structure to ask for reviews online. This also helps build credibility for you and increase your search presence for anyone doing a Google searches for dentists in their area.
8) Multiply your bookings.
This is, again, a simple process you can set up within your office and use on existing patients. In its easiest iteration, it is simply asking patients if there’s anyone else that needs an appointment while we’re at it. In my experience, it’s often the mums orchestrating household needs and will make appointments for their children or husband.
It’s an easy, fast question that generates additional revenue and takes a little emotional labour off of your patients.
9) Leverage corporate sponsorships.
Corporate sponsorships can be such a win/win for both businesses. It’s about asking the question, “What do we need to do to partner with an organisation in a way that is going to add value to them and add value to our patients?” We want to look for partners who have our ideal patients as their customer or employees, who have a good relationship with them, and have the ability and reach in terms of distribution.
10) Don’t forget about good, old-fashioned networking.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this, but building a strong network can pay off in spades. Standard options for networking include community groups and events, appearing as a keynote speaker, and building your authority in your community.
You can use just one or two of these ideas if they are the only ones that resonate with you. These marketing techniques do work best if you work toward all of them. They build on each other and create a snowball effect as it rolls down the hill. The more you get your name out there, the easier it gets. The stronger your business ties in the community are, the easiest it is to pitch a killer corporate sponsorship opportunity.
Before you go, if you haven’t already, considering liking the Savvy Dentist Facebook Group. It’s filled with like-minded dentists interested in turning their practices into strong, successful businesses. You can also download the Savvy Dentist app for free on both iPhone and Android. It’s a great resource where you can catch every episode of the podcast as well as additional tools, tricks, and resources.