12 ways to gain new patients through internal marketing
Your current patients are an internal marketing sales force who can help you gain new patient exams, influence your new patient conversion rate, and allow you to deliver more patient care. Each appointment is an internal marketing opportunity to remind your patients to refer their family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances. Take action today in your practice with the patients you already have to gain new referrals.
Make new patient contacts—the more, the better. You have something of value to share and you need to get the word out to your local community. What better way to do this than to have your patients share the good news of your orthodontic care?
1. Refer-a-friend cards. The next time you tell your patients, “If you know someone who’d benefit from our orthodontic services, please refer them to our office,” hand them something tangible that they can give to others. A refer-a-friend card gets this job done. The size of a credit card, this sturdy little item is easy to store in a wallet until just the right time. If you give your card a monetary value, perhaps $100 off treatment, your card will be taken more seriously when given to someone in need of orthodontic care.
Allow time for referrals to happen! Six months could pass before your patient transfers the refer-a-friend card to a future orthodontic patient. It could take two months for the prospect to call and schedule an exam, and another month to come to the office. After the exam, they may think about treatment for another two months before they make their decision to start. One month later, the new patient might finally schedule records to start treatment. That would be a full year since you gave your patient the card!
2. Welcoming family members and friends. Every day, patients bring family members and friends to your office. These visitors are window shopping for their own orthodontic treatment. Welcome them into the clinical area and don’t hold back from asking, “Have you even considered orthodontic treatment?” If the answer is yes, schedule their new patient exam right then and there. Make it easy for them. Having extra seating in the clinical area will make this daily referral process easier.
3. Patient T-shirts with office logo. Is your office “T-shirt worthy”? If patients love your practice, they’ll wear your office T-shirts to their appointments—and they’ll be walking community billboards, opening up conversations to refer others to your practice. In return for wearing your T-shirt on the day of their appointment, patients can be given tokens or points toward a prize or gift card.
Give new patients a T-shirt with your office logo at their initial start appointment. Immediately, your new patients are on your team! Consider patients wearing your office T-shirt your internal marketing salesforce uniform.
4. Pens and pencils. You simply cannot have enough pens and pencils to give out to your patients! Custom pens and pencils are the most popular promotional internal marketing item in the world, and they’re also cost- effective. Your pens and pencils will be taken far and wide, soon to be found throughout a 50-mile radius. City offices and dance studios will have your pens. Schools will have your pencils. Servers will wear your pens in their aprons, spreading them to customers signing their checks at nearby restaurants. If you need just one promotional item to get started with your internal marketing, this is it.
In orthodontics, we’re obsessed with our case conversion rates, otherwise known as “sales.” The intersection of marketing and sales is a new patient saying “yes” to starting treatment. Use internal marketing to help you influence the decision-making process of future patients.
5. Before-and-after photos. Before-and-after photos are your most powerful internal marketing advertising. Be sure to give every patient who completes treatment a copy of their before-and-after photos, so they can show off their result to family, friends and colleagues.
Place examples of before-and-after photos in your exam room display books for prospective patients to view, touch and hold. These photos will influence your new exam patients, especially if they see their friends and relatives in your book presentation. You may also place final photos on a patient “Wall of Fame,” across from where new patients and their families sit in your initial exam area. (These wall hangings are easily made at Costco or FedEx locations.) Future patients will look at the display during the exam and say, “I want a smile like that!” Before-and-after photos of your patients provide added social proof that you’re the premier orthodontist in your area.
6. Build value. Once new patients arrive for their complimentary orthodontic exam, it’s time to present and build the value of your services, which are well worth the cost. Beyond the oral health, function and comfort benefits of an aligned bite, there are important psychological benefits of being proud of one’s smile. During the initial orthodontic exam, emphasize the long-term social and emotional benefits of looking and feeling your best. Consider mentioning that how you look and feel will affect whom you date, whom you marry, the type of job you choose, and even career success. Ask patients, “Ten years from now, what will be the value of the orthodontic treatment you can start today?”
You may want to compose an “advantage sheet” that states the benefits of doing business at your orthodontic office. These advantages are the things that make doing business with you worthwhile, such as quality, experience, an exceptional doctor and team, one convenient location, or statements like, “You should rarely, if ever, have to wait.” Whatever you offer, let new patients know why choosing care in your office is a smart choice.
7. Postcards and cards. The thoughtful act of sending a card will keep you in the hearts and minds of your patients-to-be. If it’s been more than two years since you’ve seen a new exam patient for an initial exam, invite them back for a re-examination. Unless you’ve heard a “no” answer that they are not starting treatment in your office, they’ve just procrastinated and still need your orthodontic treatment. Your nonstart patients need a little reassurance that starting orthodontic treatment is the right thing to do. Imagine them waiting to hear from you, thinking: “Please influence me.”
There are several ways to contact new patients, including phone, text or email. A postcard or card is unique in that it is long-lasting and most likely to end up in the “to do” pile. Returned postcards will also inform you if a patient has moved away.
8. “Warm calls.” Warm calls are one of your most powerful internal marketing tools. It may take up to seven contacts before a consumer decides to purchase; keep this in mind in your daily follow-up of your “will call” list of pending patients. Warm calls from the doctor often have a greater influence on conversion rate than those from a treatment coordinator.
On a daily basis, you may need to make 40 follow-up phone calls to get one start. If this is your warm call close rate, consider each phone call as being worth $175 to your practice! Put a sticky note on your private landline office phone that reads: “I make you money!” I recently called a patient who had visited my office nine years ago for an orthodontic exam—and he started treatment with Invisalign! Stay in touch until you get a “yes” or a “no” answer, and never give up on a potential patient. The results of your persistence will surprise you.
Consider your patient care delivery a partnership: Your job is to provide clinical excellence, outstanding customer service and a great patient experience, while your patient’s job is to cooperate, pay for your services and refer more patients. When this happens seamlessly, it is a win-win.
9. Email campaigns. Your office software can send an email to everyone in your system. Running an email campaign for one month is an effective internal marketing practice builder, so send a limited-time offer email once per week for four weeks. You’re sure to get results at a high return on investment.
New exam offerings are often just enough of a reminder to get patients’ family members interested in starting treatment. A successful campaign is teeth whitening for a new exam. Some whitening systems can be done in 20 minutes in your office, so you can take before-and-after photos to delight your new patient right from the start of treatment.
10. “We will take great care of you.” We’re all looking for outstanding service providers whenever we do business. The seven words “We will take great care of you” are your dental team’s testimonial to the new patient. Integrity is doing what you say you will do, and delivering what you have promised.
As professionals, we “profess” to put the care of our patients above our own needs. This is especially important with difficult patients, who may have emotional needs and make life difficult for us as they cry out for help and attention. In difficult times of service, remember your internal mantra and promise: “We will take great care of you.”
11. Coffee, tea or hot chocolate? Do what vibrant and successful bookstores do: Make your office a place to connect and relax. For morning appointments, serve coffee and tea. A hot chocolate gives patients an immediate feeling of comfort every time they visit your office, so buy a Keurig machine and serve up the café mocha! A delighted patient always provides the best word-of-mouth.
12. Patient satisfaction surveys. On debond day, give patients and their families a customer satisfaction survey. This will not only provide honest feedback on how you can improve your office but also pose the simple question: “How likely are you to refer family and friends?” This question serves as a subtle reminder for your “10” patients to send you a “10” referral. Use your survey to screen for raving fans who’d be willing to write a 5-star review on social media.
Harvard researcher Michael Porter outlines three key areas of happiness in his Social Progress Index as being health care, food and education. As a health care provider, you are helping your patients to improve themselves and to be happier. Ask your patients what aspect of your office makes them most happy. Whatever they answer, do more of that. Therein lies the secret of internal marketing.