The Patients Next Door


chrisTaking a quick step out the front door of your practice to market in your community can open a window of opportunity.

Recently I stepped into a dental practice where the moment I walked into the reception area I was impressed by the beautiful décor and bright smiles at the front desk to greet me. Venturing down the hallway, I quickly noticed the treatment rooms decked out with THE most advanced technology as well as high-end products for home care. As I passed each room, team members dressed in impeccable scrubs waved with gloved hands and whispered warm hellos beneath the shield of a mask. I eyed each wall adorned with various certificates of achievements from endeavors in the dental field. I thought to myself, “What an amazing place! Every patient should want to come here!” Like a human GPS I steadily made my way down another hallway to find the doctors “cave” to which a number of lab coats in swivel chairs whipped around to greet me, and almost as if on cue, the doctors cried out, “Chris–WE NEED MORE NEW PATIENTS!!!”

The question over how to attract more new patients steadily is one I hear so often that I would have to rank it in my “ToP-10-Biggest–Questions-Dentists-Ask-Their-Practice-Advisors.” The doctor doing the asking is ALWAYS engaged in the question. And the answer is pretty easy. Sometimes when I explain, the doctor is in disbelief that anything so simple can have such a huge impact or rather, work. But it’s true. It’s going back to the days of thinking like a Rookie—what it felt like to be totally and completely responsible for your first practice and its success. Dental School loans hovering, one team member assisting while running to the front desk to answer the phone, and you hoping she has more experience in all other areas of the practice than you would care to admit you don’t know. Those were the days the doctor would do whatever it takes to step out of the box and meet new patients in the community, talk about the new practice and location, and hunt down potential new patients at every social opportunity. Why is it that once a practice has been established in one location and the doctor has been out of school for 5 years or more, they would rather stay off the field and forget what it was like to be that excited, hungry Rookie trying out for the team every year? They would rather spend hundreds maybe thousands of dollars sending out cards that get lost in the local grocery newspapers or jammed in the magazines the mail lady folds in half to fit in the mailbox. Remember the days when you had to rely on building relationships in the community and how you interacted with people because you were building your reputation? The answer to finding and attracting new patients into your practice lies with you–and what you are willing to do outside of the box AND the practice–to get there.

I thought it would make sense that you have an opportunity to take that first step outside your practice with what I consider our ToP 21 ideas on how to Market to the Patient Next Door:

  1. Become THE Chamber Dentist in your area:

    Get membership for you and at least one key team member to attend Chamber Luncheons monthly, to promote your practice. You have 15 seconds to describe your business so seat everyone at different tables to have more than one opportunity to talk about your practice.

  2. Offer Member-to-Member Benefits:

    Every Chamber has a Member-to-Member Benefits program. Offer 15% off any initial treatment diagnosed during a New Patient Visit, for every Chamber Member!

  3. Honor First Chamber Patient:

    Award your first Chamber Member patient officially at the monthly Chamber Luncheon with an award and short speech of gratitude.

  4. Improve Team Image:

    What does your team image say? Make sure that when the team is representing what you do, their image says exactly that. Smiles on your team and what they are wearing speak volumes about what you do and are your biggest marketing tool. The entire team should look like the type of dentistry and care you provide!

  5. Door-to-Door Marketing:

    Map out the community and canvas the area to meet other business owners in their place of business. Take whitening certificates with you to offer something as an invitation to come see the team and practice. You can decide with your team on the goal of the visits: “Making appointments for whitening at every stop!” The key is to make the introduction and share that you are out meeting with other business owners to get more familiar with your community.

  6. Choose Your ToP 20 Patients:

    Call your top 20 patients to ask if you can stop by their place of business to show your appreciation for them. Bring snacks, practice goodies that are branded with your logo, and offer the opportunity for their colleagues to find a happy dental home with you. Create a relationship and make appointments on the spot. Offer a drawing for a fun basket of goodies that is filled with items branded with your logo.

  7. Sponsor a Lunch n’ Learn:

    For a minimal fee, you can sponsor a Lunch n’ Learn for the Chamber or other various community organizations with decision makers. This allows you to do a short presentation on how dentistry can impact their health and lives in a positive way. Why not cover “How to Make the Best First Impression” with a group of business people who are looking to make the best first impression with clients by way of a healthy and attractive smile?

  8. The Freshly Baked Cookie Effect:

    Ever walk into the mall and instantly your nose finds the store baking fresh cookies? Have a fresh baked plate of cookies waiting for the patient when they walk through the door, or to give to them as they walk out. Choose a ToP 20 New Patient that you enjoy having in your practice and bake a dozen, place in a gift bag, with a thank you note and deliver personally to their place of business. Note in the thank you that they can expect freshly baked cookies waiting for them when they walk into the practice, every time. Include whitening certificates for that person and their colleagues!

  9. Order Fresh Flowers:

    Fresh flowers in the practice make a statement. Every Thursday, choose a team member with the best relationship with your favorite patient who is coming in that day for an appointment. Simply state, “Our team voted you our favorite patient of the day so we wanted to gift you with these flowers to take home and enjoy.”

  10. Just ASK:

    Novel idea? Simply get in the habit of identifying at least two patients on your schedule at the Morning Opportunity Meeting to ASK for a referral. These patients should be in your ToP 20 percent and referrals should be based on their most recent positive experience in your practice. Identify who on the team has the best relationship with those patients to ASK…and get a commitment!

  11. Acknowledge Patient Referrals

    Sending flowers to a patient at work with a great note from the dentist, or a large pizza right before lunch hour can certainly make a statement. Why not have their car washed during business hours in the parking lot as a thank you? Include business cards so the impressed colleagues will call you for their first appointment!

  12. Offer Whiter Teeth to Wine Enthusiasts:

    Why not connect with local wineries in your area or wine enthusiast clubs to give them whitening certificates for their members?

  13. Deliver a Baked Pie

    Nothing says comfort and home like a freshly baked pie. Personally deliver a fresh pie to an outstanding patient at work with enough plates and forks to share. Let them know how much you appreciate them! Remember to brand the box with the practice logo!

  14. Find a Way to Connect With Your Local Retired Community:

    Get in connection with the director of your local retired living community and offer a session with their residents on “How to Find a Good Dentist the Smart Way”. Offer tips on what they should be looking for from quality of care, comfort, budget, to outstanding customer service. These are the people that when treated well, they share with their community how much they love seeing you at your practice!

  15. Pay It Forward:

    Seat yourself in your local coffee house and give the manager $100 to buy one coffee for each patron that walks through the door until it is gone. Ask that they share you are seated at the back table reading your newspaper (however be approachable!) and have business cards ready.

  16. Hold a Candy Buy Back

    Organize a Candy Buy Back for kids the day after Halloween to encourage healthier smiles and open doors for families to become patients. Have games, various activities, and plan to schedule appointments. Trade a pound of candy for a dollar and send the candy to the troops overseas with notes from the kids.

  17. Welcome New Move Ins:

    Anyone who just moved into the community will tell you it’s a challenge to get established with a doctor. Be the first to offer a New Move In Special by placing invites in all welcome packets at apartment complexes in the area.

  18. Participate in a Local Health Fair:

    Take part in a local Health Fair and offer complimentary Oral Cancer Screenings while you are there! Include drawings at the booth for various dental products.

  19. Impress the TEAM:

    Know a local high school coach? Get permission to have the team “impressed” with mouth guards! Become the team dentist! Take impressions of the coaches and cheerleaders for whitening. Call the local newspaper to get pictures taken.

  20. Have an OPEN HOUSE and Ribbon Cutting!

    Organize an “Open House” for the practice to invite patients of record and potential new patients to the practice for hors d’oeuvres, door prizes, and whitening giveaways. Invite the Chamber to do the Ribbon Cutting of your practice that same night while getting photos taken and placed in the local paper. Invite all Chamber Members as well as your patients and people in the community. Ask for donations from local businesses for door prizes by letting them know they will be able to advertise their product for free to a number of your patients.

  21. ASK while you have captured them on the phone!

    When making the first New Patient appointment, why not get your team to simply ASK if the patient knows of any family member or colleague they would like to help get scheduled as a New Patient as well, while it’s convenient for them during the phone call? You would be surprised at what a simple thing like ASKing does for your practice schedule and New Patient flow!