Almost all dental practice owners when asked, “would you like to be busier?” will reply with a “yes”.
Whilst being busy is often a good sign for your business, typically what a practice is really aiming for is to be more profitable.
One way for your practice to be more profitable is to attract a regular flow of high quality new patients to filter into your patient base.
7 ways to grow your patient base, with high quality new patients:
(1) Define your Unique Selling Point (USP)
Dental practices typically offer a very similar menu of services, so it is important to consider and define what sets you aside from the other options available to your potential patients. Why would a patient choose to visit you? What competitive advantages do you have over other practices in your area?
If you have certain dental specialities then this can be a plus point. However, even if you own a general practice it is possible to find ways to establish your business as the leading oral health provider by looking at the detail.
It could be your pricing, your payment plans, your opening hours, your facilities, your after-care or your general ethos, to consider a few options.
(2) Define your Target Audience
Defining your specific target audience is also essential when growing a profitable practice patient base. Before you even start any kind of promotion, it is important to understand the type of patients you want to attract.
This is where many practice owners go wrong; they open the doors wide to everyone and end up servicing time wasters, poor payers or generally low quality patients.
By spending some time considering the exact profile and demographic of your ideal patient, means you can focus your energies and marketing budget on reaching out to these specific groups.
(3) Own a strong & consistent brand identity
In any service-based industry your brand is so much more than just having a beautiful logo to go on your business stationary.
A strong brand identity is vital to reassure your target audience that you are consistently good at what you do.
This identity can then be applied to all your communications, both written and verbal, in print and online and it means all your business is always projecting the same messages.
(5) Don’t be a stranger – regular communication is vital
Once you have established your USPs, your target audience and have a strong brand identity, it is important to then communicate this with the world.
Communications these days vary and should include a combination of as many of the following as you can:
- A strong presence online
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) will help patients find your site when searching.
- A patient-focused website means potential customers will be able to easily find the information about you they need when they reach your site.
- A social voice
- Patients may use social media to check out your business.
- Show them you are active in sharing information with your network
- Regular emails with news and views
- A regular email campaign to your patients and contacts reminds them you exist
- Share news about the dental world + any team updates to build stronger relationships
- Printed leaflets and brochures
- Even though promotion is moving to be more digital these days, printed leaflet, brochures and other tangible material is still great to spread your brand around
(5) Ask for referrals
If you have an ideal patient that you treat already, it is likely that they will know other ideal patients for you in their own network.
Similar people tend to attract similar people, so if a profitable patient has family or friends that could benefit from your services too, ask them for a referral.
It can be daunting for dentists to reach out to their existing patients and it may take some practice to get the spiel right.
However, a referral mentality is essential for a profitable patient base, and essentially it doesn’t cost a penny in marketing spend!
Instead of asking a patient direct, you could design some promotional postcards with a few details about the practice, to be handed to happy patients as they leave the practice, to pass to people they know. It is likely you will find most patients are actually very approachable about this.
It may interest you to offer a referral incentive, either in the form of a gift, or a discounted treatment price, if a new patient joins the practice.
(6) Record and analyse your new patient sources
Information is key to replicating your successes. Ensure you record how new patients heard of your practice, so you can tailor your marketing strategy accordingly.
If after a few months you realise a particular advert is proving successful, then you are likely to want to continue and expand the exposure.
Of course, not all promotion will generate direct leads; some will be just for gentle, ongoing brand awareness. However, by recording and regularly analysing your new patient sources, will empower you to make better business decision.
(7) Exceptional customer service
Whilst offering exceptional customer service shouldn’t be a USP as such, it is one sure and fast way to get new high quality patients.
Excellent training for your front-desk staff, along with a set of standard procedures for your team to adhere to, will ensure that your practice is always operating to an optimum standard.
By introducing a patient-focused ethos along with a defined business plan and brand, means that the customer can be placed in the forefront of all activity.
From this, everything else flows – testimonials, referrals, patient retention and a happy and committed team.