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11 Ways to Attract More New Dental Patients Who Will Pay And Stay

Want more new dental patients in your practice? We’d be hard pressed to find a dental team who says “No.” The key to creating a stream of steady new patients is making sure you have several vehicles driving leads and a team who is trained and equipped to convert leads and maximize the word-of-mouth referrals from each person who walks through your doors. It’s not enough to pay for marketing and expect to see new patients, there are several systems that need to be in place first.

Here are 11 ways to attract more new patients to your dental practice:

1. Communication First

We are health care providers, not corporate America. Our #1 focus isn’t about selling to consumers, it’s about meeting our patients’ needs and maintaining their health. We are dealing with people that want to be seen as human and have their concerns heard. We are dealing with fears and pain. Your patients (customers) can very easily decide that if they are not getting heard in your office, they should move on to the next dentist. From the first phone call, how you communicate and which words you use will decide how the caller reacts to your team, if they show up for their appointment on time, and if they accept the treatment plan. If we want reviews and referrals, we need to care about people first and sell dentistry second.

2. Answer phones

The phones are the most vital connection to acquiring those new patients. If you’re not answering your phones between normal business hours and during lunch, the patient is going to hang up and find a dentist who will. You think you are already answering your phones, but you are only answering your phones sometimes – not all the time. I guarantee if you picked up every single phone call that came in to your office, your numbers would improve. Seriously, I guarantee it. Make sure anyone answering your phone is great at handling new patients calls and fully trained with the videos on Front Office Rocks site in the receptionist section. How the calls are handled will really have an impact on the results of your marketing. It doesn’t matter how much you market, if your team is not great on the phones, all that money and effort could be wasted.

3. Use social media

We want our patients talking about us, commenting on our posts, and liking what we say. Why? Because their friends and family see it! Being seen is the hardest part of building a small business and it becomes impossible if you are not making every effort to be seen. Social media offers social proof that encourages new prospective patients to reach out. Patients can’t share what we’re doing online if we are not active on our social media outlets. It’s a wasted opportunity to connect with your patients and potential patients.

4. Optimize your marketing mailers

Consumers, including prospective dental patients, must see something about a business between three and five times before they respond. At that point, prospective patients will likely get online to search for information about you, your office, and your patients’ experiences. 

We found that postcards work the best for marketing and we send 3000 a week every week. We have five different versions of our cards and we have a mailing list large enough that each house gets one every five weeks on average. Each postcard has a slightly different message and picture, though they all have the same look and feel so those that see each time (hopefully) recognize it comes from the same office. The idea is repetitively sending them to the house as it takes most people three to five times of seeing something before they respond to it.

5. Run a referral contest

Word of mouth marketing is one of the biggest drivers of new patients that will value your practice and services. In our office we used “Care to Share” cards for our patients and we involved our team. We turned asking for referrals into a monthly contest among the office and gamified the process to make it fun for them. What we noticed was the reviews online started mentioning team members by name and our team was constantly going out of their way to offer the best service so they’d have the opportunity to ask for a referral. Your employees have the potential to be some of your brand’s biggest brand ambassadors. So, why not create a referral program specifically for them?This is a win-win scenario.

6. Monitor your online presence

Once people are ready to look for a dentist and they’re aware of your office through advertising and reviews, you can seal the deal by having a detailed, informative, well-designed, and customer service-focused website. The website should not be their first exposure to you, but it should give them comfort that they’re making the right decision, and it should have a call to action so they can schedule an appointment.I also make sure to watch our online reputation on a regular basis too because I feel that people who see anything about or from our office then go online to see what how good our reviews are. It is important that overall your reviews are good (not each one so don’t stress if you have one or two bad ones), that there are more than just one or two reviews about your office and they are somewhat recent. People want to see what others say about the office to make sure the reviews are good before they pick up the phone to call.

7. Ask for reviews

If your office is offering the best dental care and amazing customer service, then you are hearing compliments from your patients each and every day. The question is, are you making the most of those compliments? Many times, offices miss the opportunity to turn a patient compliment into a referral or a review. One way to get referrals or reviews from good patients is to come out and ask for them, and this is usually best done by a trained and outgoing member of your team. Anytime a patient says something positive about your practice, the employee should start with a thank you and then go immediately into the request.

8. Get active in your community

Whether you choose to sponsor a local youth team, volunteer time at a school, or adopt a local charitable cause, it all comes down to awareness and building brand recognition. Dental practices, by their nature, are local businesses, and they rely heavily on the local community to provide patients. This lays an excellent foundation for how the community will view you, and it gives you a chance to engage in some word-of-mouth and direct marketing.The goal is for your office to be known as the best choice for dental care in your area.

9. Make patients the priority not their insurance

Over time, in their attempts to be insurance savvy, the staff gets mired down in insurance details so that it becomes their main focus, instead of patients being their main focus. We’re here to take care of patients and give them the best dental care possible, not to let insurance dictate their treatment. Listen to your front office answer the phones, how quickly do they ask about insurance? If you want your patients to accept treatment plans because it’s what they need, not just what insurance will cover, then you need to reflect on how your practice is communicating about dental insurance.

10. Offer a membership plan

A membership program solves the insurance issue by giving your office the ability to keep the patients in the schedule who normally would have cancelled because of a lack of insurance. Patients feel they can’t come to the dentist if they don’t have insurance and assume there’s no way they could afford out-of-pocket costs for dental work. The membership program shows patients how they can pay a small monthly amount for the work they need, which allows them to come for dental work without the fear of a costly appointment.

11. Make a GREAT first impression

What patients see and hear about your office (from other people, from your advertising, from your website) all plays into their initial judgment of your practice based on first impressions. This opinion forms the subliminal foundation of their level of trust in you, which begins the case acceptance process—before you have ever met them.If you want your dental patients to accept their treatment plan, then earning their trust the key.

We need to get new patients in the door for a dental office to thrive. But many offices focus so much on the new patient numbers, they don’t realize they are losing a lot of existing patients out the back door.This happens when a dental office is focused almost exclusively on how it treats new patients and starts to neglect processes for existing patients. Follow-ups aren’t done, or they are done in a manner that is about checking a task off a list rather than maintaining the customer service relationship with the patient. We need both new patients, treatment acceptance, and recare to thrive and grow in the dental industry.

Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM is the founder and driving force behind Front Office Rocks, and the leading provider of on-demand virtual training and resources for dental practices.