Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Shouldn’t Dentists be Especially Good at This?

Sales executives in every business will unanimously agree that referrals from existing customers are the of lead generation. Certainly for us, when a satisfied ABELDent user recommends our software to a colleague, we are thrilled on multiple levels.

First, it is testimony to the confidence that Dentists place in our product. We are honoured that they take the time out of their busy day to champion ABELDent! Second, the positive introduction promotes our solution and dramatically reduces the sales cycle. Finally, the direct lead to a qualified decision-maker is the most cost-effective method of welcoming new customers.

The same benefits apply to a dental practice whose patients trust them enough to recommend their services. Imagine for a moment if one-quarter of your existing patient base was to successfully refer just one new patient each. That would represent a 25% growth spike without touching your advertising budget!

As great as that sounds, it is actually realistic to aim to receive one referral per year from 40-60% of your existing patient base, of which ideally 10% will successfully convert to a new patient.

So how does your dental practice measure up? Do you even know how many referrals you received over the past year? Are you aware of the value to your practice?

Every dental practice should know:

  • The number of new patient referrals and revenue attributed to the new patients
  • Your referral conversion ratio – how many leads actually convert to new patients
  • The net patient growth of the practice (the number of patients leaving the practice vs. number of patients added over the same period)

The good news is that all of the information necessary to calculate these KPIs resides within your ABELDent data. Detailed Referral Reports present useful data about all referrals including names, sources, timing, and resulting revenue generation.

Now… considering the value of patient referrals, imagine the exponential benefits that could be achieved with a little proactivity:

  • Ask for referrals. Train your front-desk staff to be confident: “We’re expanding our practice. Do you know anyone who needs a great Dentist?”
  • Print out cards that your patients can easily pass along to contacts
  • Develop an email or texting campaign to make it easy for your patients to forward your coordinates
  • Create prestige whereby a referred patient receives a value promotion (and be prepared to offer that same promotion to existing patients upon successful referral)
  • Offer an incentive. Contests, random draws and Frequent Referral Rewards always spur participation
  • Establish a Patient Appreciation Event… remember the famous car maker that sponsored a free drive-in movie event each year for customers and their families and friends?
  • Maintain top-of-mind awareness through ongoing communication. Brief, interesting newsletters tend to have a high readership ratio

It is important to remember that new patient acquisition should only be a priority focus once a successful patient retention strategy is in place. To explore some practical ideas and strategies for patient engagement and loyalty, just re-visit my previous posts:

In with the new… Patients

Facts and Figures Speak Volumes about Dental Patient Retention

Every dental practice has a UVP. What’s yours?

In closing, we have recently launched our amazing new ABELDent 365. Do you know anyone who needs some great practice management software?

I invite you to continue this conversation by reaching out to our team at any time.

Are you Living the Vision, Mission and Values of your Dental Practice?

Audience fragmentation is a challenge that marketers have been grappling with for some time. Consumers can no longer be pigeon-holed into a few contact channels: They are increasingly adventurous, capricious, demanding, and armed with information. Just when you think you’ve built a toehold on a social media site like Facebook, the early adopters have already moved on to the next shiny thing.

Consumers want to understand what you stand for, but they also want you to understand what makes them tick. Increasingly, they expect responsiveness, interactivity and customization.

Dental professionals cannot ignore these trends. The current environment for attracting new patients is competitive to the point where clinical expertise and caring service are just part of the equation.

Market differentiation is necessary to fuel momentum. A practice that can define and clearly articulate what unique advantages they offer to their patients can often move the needle from surviving to thriving.

In ABELDent’s Practice Management by Objectives™ methodology, the development of a meaningful Value Proposition is fundamental to a solid business strategy. There’s a mutual underpinning between the Value Proposition, the Mission, the Vision and Values statements, and the Operating Plan. Learn more about Practice Management by Objectives™.

If you have not yet articulated your thinking on this, your Mission is a good place to start. It should describe:
a. Why you are in business
b. Who you serve
c. How your practice adds value or improves the life of those you serve

Next, explore your Vision:
a. How do you define success, both short and long term
b. How will you and your practice improve, grow and prosper over the next several years

Finally, identify your Values:
a. What’s your patient care philosophy
b. What principles and qualities are important to you
c. What behaviours model those principles

This exercise is both a personal exploration and a team exercise. In order to create a shared vision and encourage buy-in, all staff and stakeholders could be involved.

Your operating processes, practices and systems evolve from this foundation. They define your day-to-day activities within the dental practice, from the business stakeholders to all staff and all the way through to each patient. Inevitably, these emotional connections you create will extend to external audiences and form the basis of marketing communications that reach and attract new patients.

Build Case Acceptance from within your dental practice data. What’s sitting in your database?

I met a friend for dinner over the holidays. One of those people who go back forever and with whom, within five minutes, you’re able to pick up exactly where you left off. By the time our entrées arrived, she had grimaced in pain three times. It turned out she had an impacted wisdom tooth. It hurt “only when she chewed” and had caused a few infections.

In response to my obvious question, she didn’t really know what she was waiting for to get it extracted. She simply had not got around to it – it was on a long list of things to do. Her dentist had referred her to an oral surgeon well over a year ago and neither had ever followed up. Weeks turned into month, as they tend to do.

I was not there to judge or lecture, but I couldn’t help but wonder why both practitioners would have let this drop. Are their practices so successful that they don’t need the business? Or are their workflows simply not set up to follow through with all their treatment plans? Yes, the patient is an adult and thus responsible for her own care, but even she admitted that a simple email or phone call was all it would take to stop her procrastination.

So that’s pretty low-hanging fruit. How many such cases might you have tucked away in what we like to call your ‘million-dollar filing cabinet‘? With ABELDent’s Treatment Manager, the data is at your fingertips. Combining it with email or text alerts through the patient portal makes this kind of follow-up a breeze and can really bolster case acceptance. Maybe it’s time your team took a look, and started a New Year’s revolution against stale-dated treatment recommendations.

In with the new… Patients

For many, fall is a time of great change and renewed beginnings. With that in mind, we turn our focus to business-building strategies: attracting new patients and retaining existing ones within your practice. Today’s complimentary Point-of-View Paper: “Through the Looking Glass: What Your Patients See” is chock full of techniques, tips and advice to help position your practice for success.

If you build it, will they call?

The current thinking on website design seems unanimous. From our in-house Webmaster (my go-to resource of choice) to an array of trusted Consultants with many an article read along the way: A business website should be designed for prospects.

It’s not all about you – even though the “About Us” tab on the majority of sites appears FIRST on navigation bar! It’s about what you can do for them.

It’s not even primarily for your existing customers. Your current patients should ideally get exclusive access to a customized extranet or personalized communication through a portal. “Already a patient? Click here.”

Your website exists as an information destination for new leads and a powerful mechanism to convert these leads into patients. It’s digital real estate to present your Value Proposition. Its raison d’être is to get your phone to ring, email to ping or online chat to buzz.

So if your website doesn’t already have a prominent and compelling call to action on every page, you’re ready for a refresh.

I’ve compiled some tips through the above-mentioned research. Whether you’re tackling your first website or an upgrade to an existing one, I hope you and your website designer find these helpful.

1. Yup. A compelling call to action on every page

2. Craft a powerful expression of your practice’s Value Proposition and Positioning Statement. You want visitors to clearly understand what makes you stand out from your competition

3. Offer a clear, accurate description of your services

4. Plan a layout that follows current conventions. Visitors don’t want to work too hard to get the information they need

a. Place your logo where they expect to see it: in the upper left corner
b. Put your contact info in a prominent spot
c. Structure your site with a top or side navigation bar with intuitive menus and titles
d. Offer your key info above the fold – don’t make them scroll
e. Use colours that reflect your practice personality

5. Keep your copy short, and focus on the benefits to the reader

a. Use concise, plain language to express your unique strengths and grab your reader’s attention
b. Make a list of keywords – the terms that resonate with your desired audience – and use them frequently
c. Express all your features as benefits. This is a practised skill ‐ it may take some time, thought and brainstorming
d. Create “read more” links so your reader can choose when to scan and when to delve
e. BUT avoid the tendency to bury good info under too many clicks!

6. Testimonials. True sentiments from real patients help build trust, especially when they’re in synch with your Value Proposition. Make sure the stories focus on the patient experience and service, avoiding clinical commentary

7. Vary the way you deliver your information. Some people like words, others like facts and figures. Infographics and pie charts are great for this. Most of us like photos to help visualize ourselves as a patient in your practice

8. When you get to the “About Us” section, strive for a personal touch. Using “I” and “We” is one simple way to create warmth in your copy. Photos of the practitioners, teams and practice environment add depth

9. Search Engine Optimization is vital. Use your keywords in your copy and in your page titles. Again, brainstorming can help you and your team figure out what words and strings of words your ideal prospects are likely to enter into a mainstream search engine like Google or Bing or into a specialized dental directory

10. Make sure your site is mobile friendly. A responsive design will adjust the view to best usability on a smart phone, tablet or computer screen. It’s easy to check this: just click https://www.google.ca/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ and enter your URL

This list just scratches the surface of a very interesting topic. The next level involves setting up benchmarks and analytics to assess your site’s effectiveness. You and your website designer likely have much advice and many more tips… I’d love to hear about them and share with our clients! Drop me a line at angela@abelhealthgroup.com. I’ve started to build it – it’s your turn to connect.

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.

There are many telemarketing companies and online lead generation services out there… like I said, it’s big business. Some are successful in delivering qualified patients at a reasonable cost per lead; others can be not so reliable. But there’s nothing trial-and-error about patient referrals, effective SEO, local presence, treatment plan acceptance, and a welcoming, inviting reception.