I was flying back from visiting with a coaching client and daydreaming about the marketing we have done over the last forty years in our offices. I began to smile as I remembered three strategies that I tripped over in my quest to insure never having a year that we did not increase our production (and profitability). Not only have you never heard of these – they don’t even cost anything. Here is what I came up with and they have worked for decades.
Keep in mind that with each of these three strategies I am assuming you are trying to attract every patient within 4-5 miles of your office, and even further out if you are in a small town or rural setting. This 5 mile radius needs to be the center of every marketing outreach you use. All three of these strategies were used to help doctors who were on the verge of financial collapse and had almost nothing to spend on marketing. They were desperate, broke, and facing losing their practices. Each strategy was perfected in my main practice in McKinney, and each one of them was responsible for turning the challenged client’s practice to new growth and new profitability.
1. The Pharmacist: If you were my age, you could remember a time when all of the pharmacies were owned and operated by someone who lived in your town. Now they have gone the way of vision and medicine: Corporate owned businesses with the pharmacist or doctor a paid employee. NOTE: In case you haven’t noticed, dentistry is heading down the same road – FAST! At one time, pharmacists were highly trusted professionals.
I was trying to figure out a way to increase my referrals and new patients without adding to the existing marketing budget. This is how it went… I dropped by the closest pharmacy to my office on a day and at a time they would not be busy. For me, that was my day off on Wednesday about mid- morning. I just waited until they hit a lull and introduced myself: “Hi, I am Michael Abernathy, a dentist just down the street. I wanted to stop by and thank you for taking care of my patients. It seems like whenever I write a prescription, a lot of my patients come here to get it filled. I just wanted to meet you so I would have a name and a face when I call.”
So we visited for a few minutes and then I said: “As a professional courtesy, I would like to extend a 25% discount for you and your family if you do not currently have a dentist. Just drop by any time and we will take care of you. Also, if you run into anyone looking for a dentist, we are available evenings and every day of the week for their emergencies.” I provide two or three business cards and leave saying: “Glad to meet you! I look forward to seeing you in our practice in the near future.”
I then let a week or ten days pass by and I show up again with a plate of home- made cookies and just wait until they have a minute and say, “Hi, Mike Abernathy here, the dentist down the street. I just wanted to thank you for the two patients someone here sent me. We took great care of them and I wanted to drop off these homemade cookies my wife made, along with her great- grandmother’s secret recipe. Thanks again, and I would love to see you and your family in our practice someday.” This time I leave a stack of cards, and a few newsletters. You get the idea.
Whether you get a new patient or not, you go back and reward them for the behavior you want from them. I continued to cultivate this relationship and before long I had almost every pharmacist in McKinney in my practice. Keep in mind that all day long they direct consumers with toothaches to over- the- counter remedies. It is just natural that if you become friends, they will also recommend you for their dental care.
2. Nail and Hair Salons: I had a dentist friend that was struggling to get new patients into his practice. Nice guy, average dentist with lots of competition in the city where he lived. He was just held back by a below average number of new patients.
He was a jogger and all I did was suggest that he start at his office and jog clockwise on the streets around it, moving outward in an ever widening spiral block- by- block while jotting down the names of any hair or nail salons along his path (you can drive and record the names on your smartphone or take a photo). I had him do this for a distance of about 3- 4 miles radially from his office. By the time he got through, he had 5- 6 of these places on his list and was ready for the next step.
I had him go in on his day off and introduce himself to the owner and the employees. All he had to do is explain that he wanted to whiten every employee’s teeth. When asked why, he merely said that he knew how much his wife loved and was loyal to the salon she went to and that he knew that when his wife and the person that took care of her nails or hair spoke, they really listened to one another. He was basically communicating that he wanted to whiten everyone’s teeth that works there so that if he did a great job and they liked the results, they would mention his name and he would get new patients.
The strategy worked great and before you knew it he had the salon owner handing out his cards left and right. He also bought plastic covers for their magazines with his name on them and installed an LED picture frame with before and after pictures on the wall. This created a steady stream of patients and referrals from the patients that originated from a simple bleaching. I figured up the cost to be less than $10 to bleach the original employees teeth, most of who became patients (along with their families and friends). Add in all of the referrals and it cost almost nothing.
3. Emergency Care Facilities: I will have to give credit for this one to a client that literally pulled herself out of bankruptcy by taking an idea I gave her about calling every dentist in her large city and offering to see their emergencies on the weekends and middle of the night. She just called these doctors and explained how she had just opened a practice, was struggling to make ends meet and would gladly see those patients that they did not want to see and then return them to their offices once the emergency was under control. She built her practice doing this and continues to play the emergency card with all of the practices in her area.
Here is the rest of the story and the tactic that you need to look at: She took my original idea and really added steroids to it. She went in person to every Emergency Medical clinic and hospital ER, met the decision maker, and laid out the fact that she was available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take any and all dental emergencies. She even offered to help train the staff on how to handle small emergencies until they could reach her. Not only has she built a multi- million dollar practice, but she currently has three doctors working for her in two locations, all growing at 30% a year.
Quick and easy, except that you have to get off your duff and meet these people, lay out your offer, follow-up, and repeat forever. This is how you Summit.
Mike Abernathy, DDS is founder of Summit Practice Solutions. You can reach him at 972- 523- 4660 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.