Many dental practices make the mistake of focusing only on gaining new patients. They fail to effectively address the need to retain those they already have.
Did you know that the most valuable asset that a practice has is its existing patient base? Every practice wants and needs new patients, but your surest and most predictable source of new revenue is right under your nose. It comes from the loyal patients who already know your practice.
It’s also far easier (about 50% easier) to sell to existing patients than to new prospects. Acquiring new patients is expensive (five to ten times the cost of retaining an existing one), but the average spend of a repeat patient is a whopping 67% more.
There are further staggering statistics on the value of existing patient reactivation versus new patient acquisition:
- The probability of selling to an existing patient is 60 to 70%, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5 to 20%.
- A 2% increase in patient retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%.
- Attracting new patients will cost your company five times more than keeping an existing
- A 5% reduction in the patient defection rate can increase profits by 5 to 95%.
Why do patients leave?
The average dental practice loses between 15 to 20% of their patient base per annum. Yet only 7 to 8% will move out of your area each year.
Therefore, the rest of your patients are leaving for other reasons. If you are not tracking your numbers, this steady erosion of your patients can go unnoticed for years. When you do notice, it may well be too late.
One main reason for patients leaving a practice is that the practice does not stay in touch. If you don’t stay in touch with your patients, they will think that you don’t care, they won’t know what other services you are offering that may be of interest to them and their network of family and friends, and they won’t be educated in understanding why they need to come in for regular check-ups or to complete their treatment plan.
Regular communication with your existing patients is critical. Internal marketing is the name given to this communication.
Internal dental marketing is all about building strong, lasting relationships with your patients. As we have seen, it is far less expensive to do what is necessary to retain an existing patient than it is to attract a new dental patient through external marketing.
Practices should use internal marketing with their focus on keeping the patients they already have coming back. There are some key things you can do from an internal marketing standpoint to help you reduce your marketing costs and drive referrals from existing patients.
Developing internal marketing strategies
There are so many easy and inexpensive or even cost-free things you and your staff can do to enhance the patient experience. Just start with the little things and you will begin to build a culture in your dental practice that will make your patients feel good about you and more likely to stay.
Remember that your current patients are the audience for your internal marketing message. With internal marketing, you’re talking to people who already know you, so it feels more comfortable.
The following are examples internal marketing strategies that we recommend that practices use to retain existing patients.
Sending email newsletters
Email communication is one of the most cost-effective marketing methods you can implement. Start collecting email addresses as early as you can. Even if you don’t currently have an email strategy prepared, these will prove very useful at a future time.
Email marketing campaigns give you the opportunity to distribute information to a wide audience of patients at a relatively competitive rate. Research shows that email marketing has one of the best return on investment ratios.
A growing number of professionals use newsletter marketing to build their practices. Newsletters are ideally suited and highly effective for the unique marketing needs of professional practices. Unlike traditional advertising, newsletters are not viewed as self- serving, because each issue provides valuable information.
Email newsletters benefits
The benefits of email newsletters include the following:
- They enhance your practice’s
- They increase the lifetime value of your
- They leverage your other marketing
- They provide instantaneous, easily-tracked
- There is an opportunity for your patients to easily and immediately interact with
- You can promote dialogue with
- They provide a higher response rate because they are being sent to a more receptive
- They are more cost-efficient than a printed newsletter because of the significant savings in time, printing, and mailing
A patient newsletter demonstrates your concern for the people your practice serves and aims to strengthen that relationship. It is a convenient and impressive way to keep in touch on a regular basis, especially with patients you may not see often.
Many of your patients can be found on social media these days – the old, the new, and the lost. This makes social media the perfect place to remind them who you are, engage them with information that will benefit them, offer special promotions, explain your services, and make it very simple to request an appointment.
You can use social media for reactivation purposes to establish, maintain, and optimise your practice marketing.
Holding a dental open house event
In my opinion, there is really a no more friendly way to say thank you to your existing patients and hello to your future patients than to open your doors up wide and invite them in. This is a wonderful opportunity to reach unlimited members of the dental community.
Your open house gives you the opportunity to make connections in a casual and relaxed atmosphere when you and your staff are not busy doing your day job.
As you would imagine, I spend a lot of time on hold waiting to speak to dentists about their marketing. It continues to amaze me that there are so many practices who do not use on-hold messages. If you don’t have one, you are missing out on a great opportunity to educate your patients about the services that you offer.
An effective recall procedure is the best way to keep patients attending regularly. This obviously needs to run alongside educating your patients on the importance of visiting regularly. Recall is one of the most important systems that you can organise in your practice.
Successful recall systems require your practice to employ the right systems and communication channels with patients, and it will require your whole team to be on board with the same message.
People are procrastinators; particularly when it comes to dentistry, they need a reason to come back in to see you. Incentive-based marketing is a great way to get your patients to come back in.
By using the right promotions, you can retain existing patients, attract new patients, and sell a wider array of services to patients who have traditionally participated in a very small segment of what you offer. Incentives can help you leverage the power of referral- based marketing, too. More practices than ever are using this strategy to drive growth.
Find Out More
Learn more about using internal marketing and to talk through the many other specific marketing questions that you have about your dental practice.
Contact My Dental Marketing today:
- 02 9410 1507
Carolyn Dean is the author of ‘Fully booked – Dental marketing secrets for a full appointment book’ and is the managing director at My Dental Marketing. Carolyn is a widely known seminar speaker and dental marketing consultant working with over twenty-five years’ experience in sales and marketing, working with some of the largest global IT organisations.