According to a recent poll, 70% of Americans believe the economy is still in a recession. Dental practices nationwide report decreases in production, most notably in the number of new patients. Clients come to us with concerns about losing patients to rival practices, but dentistry in a recession isn’t always about competition among dentists. As patients tighten their purse strings, you’re far more likely to find yourself competing against rent, groceries, and debt. The solution? Internal marketing.
What Is Internal Marketing?
Internal marketing capitalizes on two of your most valuable assets, your staff and your current patients. Its main objectives are:
- Retain existing patients
- Increase per-patient value
- Generate referrals
Basically, it’s your dental practice’s calm in the storm, a marketing function that focuses on aspects over which you have a good degree of control. You can’t change the economy, you can’t change minimum wage, and you can’t give every patient a job. What you can give them is information, kindness, value, and dental health solutions.
A Satisfied Patient Is a Loyal Patient
On what factors do consumers base their buying decisions? If we’re talking about tangible goods, the answer is usually price. Dentistry, on the other hand, is a service. A practice that caters primarily to insured patients cannot effectively compete on the basis of price alone. All things being equal, a patient with dental coverage will pay the same copay at your practice that he will at the office up the street. It’s up to your team to create a patient experience that goes above and beyond the typical dental experience. Consider developing your practice’s personal signature, something your patients can look forward to. For example, we have a client who offers scented neck wraps, and another who eases patients’ anxiety with guided imagery and chairside meditation. There’s little margin for error here, which explains why so many practices are now investing in staff development and training. The economy will improve, and your patients will know exactly who to call when the time comes.
Convert More Patients With Stellar Case Presentations
When money is tight, patients reassess their ideas of what constitutes an elective procedure. For a financially secure patient, preventive and restorative dentistry are non-negotiable. Unfortunately, stability isn’t par for the course these days. Dentists are finding that many patients think of preventive as the new elective. In other words, if it isn’t causing excruciating pain, it’s elective. Practices nationwide report a larger number of fix-it and single-tooth treatments, many for patients who disappear forever after—no checkups, no professional cleanings. Nothing.
Money talks, but value explains. During your case presentation, a cash-strapped patient will focus primarily on the price tag. It’s up to you to present the value of the proposed solution in terms of their health. Touch on the basics of the procedure, but spend more time communicating the nature of the problem and the benefits of the treatment. Because money matters are now the crux of many patients’ healthcare spending decisions, your patient will be more protective of his finances. If a patient perceives that you are selling a solution for a problem that he doesn’t really have, you can be certain that he won’t return under more favorable economic conditions.
Leverage Existing Patients’ Connections With Referral Programs
Referral programs are a win-win solution. Your practice wins by gaining direct access to prospective patients, who receive the recommendation from someone they already know and trust. Patients win because they get an opportunity to enjoy “something for nothing,” so to speak. Making recommendations to friends takes five seconds on social media, and social media analytics make building awareness, monitoring success, and measuring engagement a no-brainer. However, referral programs are not an option in some states, which forbid remuneration for soliciting referrals. Check with Jill or myself before implementing a program.
Example 1: Each time a patient refers someone to the practice, both patients’ names are entered into a drawing for gift cards, an electric toothbrush, complimentary teeth whitening, etc.
Example 2: For every X number of new patients referred, the referring patient receives a reward or credit toward future dental work.
As always, you are welcome to contact either myself or Jill with questions about program design and social media.
New patients are hard to come by these days, but things are looking up. Internal marketing presents incredible opportunities to grow your practice at a time when most are desperately marketing to patients
About the Author: Jill Nastasia, CEO and Director of Business Development, is unsure of which type of recession is worse, economic or gingival. To learn more about our dental marketing solutions, contact Jill at 972-781-8861, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.