If you are like most dentists, you wouldn’t mind a few extra new patients every month. You might even like a lot more!
The brightest marketing experts look first for the biggest results at the lowest cost. As the marketing leader in your practice, do the same. You can dramatically boost your new patient flow or your return on your marketing investment by following these five common sense steps that are uncommonly followed:
1. Have a written system for handling prospective new patient calls. Unless you are standing right next to the phone and you listen to how every call is handled in your office, you really don’t have any idea of the effectiveness of the effort. If you are spending any money at all on external marketing, your total return is based on how every call is handled when it comes in. We have actually told some dentists to stop all investment in external marketing all together until they can get the system fixed for properly answering the phone. That system should be in writing with a specific sequence of questions and directives that will ensure a scheduled appointment by the time the call ends.
2. Track the number of new patients scheduled every day. If you wait until the end of the month to see the total number of new patients who have scheduled, it is too late. Track it daily.
3. Track potential new patient calls. The most productive practices we know track this essential number. How many potential patients called the office today? And who is a potential new patient? Any one who is not a patient! Every marketing executive wants to know what kind of interest there is in the marketplace for the product he or she has. For example, if a major department store knew that there were thousands of potential customers walking through the door every day, but only a few hundred bought anything, they would know they needed to work on their merchandising so that more people would find more things that were attractive to buy. If, however, there were only a few hundred people walking through the door they would know that the external marketing effort needed some work to attract more potential customers. Unless you know your potential new patient number, or the total number of people who are walking through your figurative “door” (or telephone in this case) you really don’t have a grasp on your new patients efforts.
4. If you track #2 and #3 above, then you can calculate your calls to scheduled new patients ratio. It is an essential number for success. What would you consider to be a reasonable ratio? If you have #1 above in place, would you consider an 80% calls to scheduled appointments successful? Clearly you are not going to be everyone’s dentist. Not everyone is going to be a good fit.
But 80% is probably a reasonable target.
So far, if you have numbers 1 through 4 above in place, you will increase your marketing results by simply putting a system in place and carefully tracking results. It has cost you nothing. It is a zero marketing cost proposition.
But what if you could increase those results by 50% or even 100% at no additional cost. Would it be possible? How much would it be worth to you if you did not have to spend any extra money to get those results? Consider what we call the “marketing multiplier” in number 5 below.
5. After each new patient schedules an appointment, make sure to ask the following: “Whom else should we go ahead and schedule today while it is convenient and I have you on the phone?” Make sure to ask the question in this exact way.
Don’t ask “if” there is anyone else they would like to schedule.
Ask, “Who else” they would like to schedule. It is a minor change in wording that makes a major difference in results.
Our experience has been that adding that one additional question at the end of a new patient call can increase the calls to scheduled new patients ratio from 80% to upward of 200%. That is potentially twice the number of new patients at no extra marketing cost. None! All it takes is someone being on the ball and asking the right questions.
We have an ongoing contest with dental practices all over the world in the following two areas:
1. Who can have the highest calls to new patients scheduled ratio?
2. Who can schedule the greatest number of new patients from one phone call?
The record to beat in #1 is 189%. In that particular case, the office had 25 prospective new patient calls in one month and scheduled 47 new patients from those same calls.
The record to beat in #2 is nine new patients scheduled from one phone call!
The five key areas above cost nothing to implement, but their return could be the lowest cost, best results you get for your marketing money. Get started today. You never know how many new patients you are missing until you see how many you can get with the right systems in place.
Steven J. Anderson is a founder of several dental organizations including the Total Patient Service Institute (www.TotalPatientService. com), Crown Council (www.CrownCouncil.com), and Smiles for Life Foundation (www.SmilesForLife.org). Over the last twenty years he has worked with thousands of dental teams, conducted hundreds of seminars and spoken at every major dental meeting in North America, the UK, and Australia.