Where do (new) patients come from?

Ah… the million dollar question. The question that gave birth to the multi-million dollar industry of sales and lead generation.

You may be operating a steady dental practice with loyal clients, great retention and satisfactory productivity and profitability. What a great achievement… kudos to you.

For all the other practices out there, increased growth through new patient acquisition is vital to the success and sustainability of their business. When TV spots, print ads and online campaigns like Google AdWords or website banners fall outside the limits of a modest advertising budget, how does a small-to-medium-sized practice effectively attract attention and draw new business?

Here are a few ideas:
Tap your existing patient database for referrals

There’s a great deal of trust that accompanies a personal recommendation. In many companies, referrals can account for one-third of all new business.

Every patient has immediate family members and friends, all consumers of dental services. But growing your business is not a top-of-mind priority for them. They require a nudge.

Happy clients refer new clients. So a) keep your patients happy; b) be assertive in asking for referrals; c) remind them frequently; and d) show your appreciation to encourage participation.

Optimize your website

Is your website helping you generate new leads? Are you taking advantage of Search Engine Optimization techniques to make sure that your business ranks as high as possible in keyword search results? I’ll dedicate a future post to this topic.

Think grassroots. Think local.

Your best pocket of potential is likely your own backyard. Direct Response initiatives and signage within your immediate neighbourhood can reinforce the convenience of your location to long-term residents and present a solution to newly arrived neighbours. You can create interest with special offers, postcards, door hangers, posters, fridge magnets, dental product samples…

These items can also attract attention when you get involved in events like school fairs and church functions or local mall and community centre gatherings. Sponsoring such events and local sports teams goes a long way in growing your word-of-mouth recognition. Or create an event for locals to drop in, meet and greet, qualify for a complimentary service or special incentive.

Fine-tune your reception process

What happens when your marketing efforts do work and a new prospect actually calls your office… huzzah! How attentive and welcoming is your staff? A harried, too-busy reception can be a huge turn-off. On the other hand, a telephone answered by a friendly, knowledgeable individual can have a dramatic impact on new client intake. Do you have an appropriate focus and process? (If not, follow this space for a future post.)

And finally, in the category of new business from not-so-new customers:

Look inside your “Million-dollar filing cabinet”

You may not think of your unscheduled recommended treatment as a marketing vehicle. But if your recommendations are growing mold in a filing cabinet, despite the best of intentions, they represent lost revenue. Follow-up and digital pokes can help you realize organic growth.

Pharming and Phishing and Smishing… what next?

Three words that did not even exist a couple of years ago – at least not spelled like this – are now mainstream threats. They’re right up there with spam and scams, spoofing and spyware, hacking and botnets, malware, viruses, worms, ransomware, Trojan horses and, yes, WiFi eavesdropping.

I’ve already written about some of these types of cybercrime in this space, in particular the ones that have been known to affect small businesses with big sensitivity to database privacy, like dental practices.

But online fraud is everywhere. I used to think that it was only the naive non-digital-savvy individuals who got themselves duped with such schemes. No longer. Hackers and scammers are getting more and more sophisticated. Like the recent spate of official-sounding telephone calls directing taxpayers to a spoofed Canada Revenue Agency website to pay re-assessed taxes – that would make most of us sit up and take notice.

So when I came across the Get Cyber Safe website sponsored by Public Safety Canada, I double-checked to make sure it was legit. The site is part of a national public awareness campaign around Internet security and online protection. It is full of great information and advice, from tips to safely dispose of your tech devices to precautions to take when an employee leaves your company. There’s even a downloadable Get Cyber Safe Guide for Small and Medium Businesses and a self-assessment tool that could be quite handy resources. www.getcybersafe.ca

Even if you don’t have time today to check out this site, at least bookmark it for future reference.

We all need to learn to be skeptical – even if it’s against our nature. We must learn to detect fraud and protect ourselves, our businesses, our patients, our employees and our families from becoming victims of cybercrime.

Ps: I had to look up “smishing”: it is ‘phishing’ for private information using SMS (texting) rather than email.