Internal Practice Marketing
Maximizing Success With Minimal Investment
THE NEXT DDS
Investments such as updated computer systems or equipment
upgrades are always beneficial to the practice but they can be quite costly. To implement these changes, a practitioner may
want to consult with his or her financial advisor or lender. There are,
however, highly effective investments that can be incorporated into the
practice immediately and with little to any cost. By initiating five simple,
virtually cost-free marketing programs focused on increased goodwill and
potential business opportunities, a practitioner can reap significant returns.
Advertising, direct mail, and a website are critical to the
growth of your practice, but no form of advertisement will bring in clients
faster than positive relationship building through internal marketing. By
encouraging current patients and contacts to bring additional business to your
practice, you can begin to generate profits immediately.
The first step to an effective internal marketing program is
to establishing friendly patient communications that will help build positive
goodwill for your practice. You can achieve this through the use of new patient
letters. When composing your correspondence, be sure to thank your new patient
for putting their faith in you, include a description of your practice
philosophy or goal, provide an overview of the services to be rendered during
the initial patient visit, and provide a phone number to address questions. A
map or brochure should be enclosed as well as the forms for registration and
medical/dental history. Don’t forget to provide an appointment and/or business
card, and to have your draft proofread for typographical errors or omissions.
If you obtain email addresses from your new patients, you
can send welcome letters via the internet, ultimately saving time and money
while making it easy for your patient to pass your contact information to their
family and friends virally.
The second step focuses on patient referrals. Many of your
best patients come through referrals, and asking patients to refer a friend or
family member is one of the simplest and least expensive methods of marketing. It
is certainly not necessary to obtain a name and phone number immediately.
Focus, instead, on communicating to the patient that you appreciate and respect
them and are accepting new patients.
To effectively prepare your practice to ask for referrals,
set an office goal to achieve 85% of new patients through internal referrals, and
schedule staff meetings specifically for the purpose of role-playing until each
member of your team is comfortable asking for a referral. Only approach those
patients who have expressed a positive attitude toward your practice and
services, and implement an incentive program that will reward patients who
provide referrals. Be sure to advertise the program in your practice.
When a patient compliments your practice or services in some
way, take that opportunity to ask for a referral. Asking, “How was your visit
with us today?” is a tactful way to elicit a compliment. If the patient
responds positively, simply thank your patient for the compliment, reinforce
your commitment to quality care, ask for the referral, and offer a business
card. You can be graceful and patient gratifying when requesting a referral by
saying, “By the way, if you have friends and family looking for a dentist, we’d
love to have more patients like you.”
Your patients’ responses may also be used, provided you secure their
permission beforehand, in other promotional activities (e.g., your practice
website, blog, or literature) you develop for the practice.
Giving out your business card is the third step to effective
internal marketing. If you are looking to build awareness of your practice
within the community, those little cards can be invaluable. You should include
your business card when you make donations to local groups, dispense home care
products, send out treatment follow-up letters, or send orders to your dental labs.
Be sure to include your card too when you have your car, appliances, or
computer serviced, when you leave prescriptions at pharmacies, and any time you
leave your contact information with a service provider.
If you’re looking to enhance relationships and build trust
with your patients, you would be well advised to incorporate post-procedure
follow-up phone calls. A quick two- to five-minute phone call at the end of
your day to each patient who underwent a significant procedure is all it takes
to implement this invaluable fourth step. Be sure to contact the patient no
later than a day after the procedure. Inquire as to how he or she is doing, and
answer any questions he or she may have about the treatment. Patients will
appreciate your concern and be more likely to speak positively among family and
friends concerning your practice.
The fifth and final step to effective internal marketing is
to increase patients’ commitment to treatment recommendations. Such factors as
time constraints and financial concerns can cause some patients to resist a commitment
to treatment. Some proven techniques you can use to address your patients’
concerns and encourage commitment are actively listening to your patient’s
concerns by responding, “Sounds like you’re concerned about your schedule,” and
you could provide a tangible benefit by saying, “By having this crown done now,
we can lower the risk that you’ll need a root canal on that tooth.”
There are also three types of statements or questions you
could use to incorporate the objection-handling technique. The first is called
the Feel-Felt-Found statement, “I understand what you’re saying, we’ve had
other patients express the same concern and this is what they found…” The
second is called the Inducement question, “If there were a way we could find a
time that works for both of us, would you be ready to begin?” The third type is
called the Objection Finding question, “If we could find a time that worked for
both of us, what else would prevent you from starting treatment as soon as
possible?” Each of these would help you provide an effective response to your
Once you have obtained a treatment commitment from your
patient, be sure to close out the conversation by directing your patient to the
The daily implementation of these virtually cost-free
internal marketing techniques is sure to increase goodwill toward your
business, generate positive word-of-mouth, and improve practice productivity. Now
that’s success with minimal investment.