17 Ways To Attract New Patients To Your Practice
With 25 years’ experience working with dental teams, I’ve experienced lots of attempts to attract new patients to the dental practice.
But of course, the whole area of marketing has been revolutionised in recent years with the growth of social media and other forms of online marketing.
If I’d asked a practice ten years ago what was their number one source of new patients, the answer would have been “word of mouth” 80% of the time and “practice signage” or “walk by” the remaining 20%
These two remain massively important, of course, but all the other forms of advertising and marketing can and should fuel that all important “word of mouth” process. Over 90% of people are influenced by, and trust recommendations from friends and family. But rather than go and ask our friends and colleagues nowadays for a recommendation, we want to find those recommendations online. Your customers are on their phones, tablets, and PCs for many hours a day. More and more people will Ask Alexa or Google Search things like “the best dentist near me” or if interested in a particular issue “how much is tooth whitening.”
The first image below is pulled from my computer screen when I Googled “how much is teeth whitening”. Just look at the types of questions people asked. They are asking Google, rather than a friend.
So, in years to come, when I ask a practice what their number one source of new patients is, I expect “Google Search” or “Web Site” to be the top answer.
Again, related to this same search, look at other things people searched for related to tooth whitening.
So, when people search the Internet, our online presence has to put us right up there at the top of the search rankings. So, back to the topic of the blog, here are my 17 proven ways to attract new patients to your practice.
1. An Engaging Website.
Your website should encourage that website visitor to want to become a new patient and book an appointment. So calls-to-action such as "click here to book an appointment" or "click here to download our dental health fact sheet" are recommended. I would suggest using a professional design company who will have an up-to-date understanding of all the latest technologies. The website should include a regularly updated blog section that addresses commonly asked questions, similar to the ones in the screen shot above e.g. "How much does it cost to have your teeth professionally whitened". Please avoid knocking something together for a couple of hundred quid at home. Generic websites are not going to get you noticed anywhere near as much as an interactive, engaging web presence.
2. Google Adwords & SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
When people Google anything that relates to a service you want to promote, then you have to be right up there at the top of Page 1. Adwords and SEO is a real challenge nowadays, so I recommend using a professional company or individual to manage this for you, but don’t expect immediate results - it can take a few months. Look for a local expert and be sure to use someone that can give you the names of some of his clients. I’d encourage you to speak to those clients to ensure they have benefited from his services. Don’t just run with the sales man who promises you the earth.
3. Online Booking.
Some practice management software systems enable your website to integrate with your software, but even if it can’t, you should have a way that patients can reserve a time online by paying a deposit upfront. To prevent No Shows, that deposit for new patients is important.
4. Reviews & Testimonials.
Google and other online search engines thrive on positive 5-star reviews. Encourage all patients to either write you a review, which you can add to your website, or leave you a review on Google or Facebook. I’ve already mentioned that over 90% of people are influenced by, and trust recommendations from friends and family, so having a practice policy in place to maximise reviews is essential.
5. Social Media Marketing.
Facebook and Instagram are a must. Twitter also works well. Don’t just put up a few posts and stop. Create a social media diary and map out in advance what you are going to post, where and when. Try and avoid scheduling posts or using 3rd party applications as there is a theory that Facebook gives preference to real-time posts as it knows that you are more likely to be available to engage in any comments or questions that come up. You’re not on social media to sell your services - it’s all about letting your followers see what life is like in your practice. Try and create content that people are likely to share.
6. Create Videos.
An individual is 40 times more likely to notice a video image than a static image. There are some great online tools for creating short snappy videos, but you can also record yourself or team members talking about practice life. Patient video testimonials are awesome as well. You can upload these to your social presence, your website, and YouTube. Video also boosts your Google rankings massively.
7. Email Newsletters.
Consider a quarterly email newsletter with patient opt-in, of course. It’s great for keeping in touch with patients and allows you the opportunity to promote other services, share interesting articles, and encourage your readers to mention you to their friends and colleagues. Newsletters also help create loyalty and trust with your patients. Encourage people to subscribe to your newsletter via your website and your social media presence.
8. Be different.
What can you do or offer that others can’t? It could be something simple like free on-site parking or an education fun pack for the children, but it is more likely to be services like Invisalign, Facial Aesthetics, Nervous Patient Specialists, Oral Sleep Appliances. Others in your area may offer these, but they may not be using it as a way of standing out from the crowd. Focus on the benefits your services will bring to your patients - Confidence, Happy Smile, Healthy & Strong Teeth, Eat anything you want!
9. Befriend the local media.
Speak to the local press and local freebie magazines. They may well be very interested in receiving a series of articles on the various services you offer, but write these from the readers perspective rather than from a dentist perspective. Articles such as “Foods that are good for your teeth", “10 things to avoid in your kids' pack lunches”, and “everything you need to know about whiter teeth” will always attract readers and enhance your credibility. If you can’t write these yourself, use a copywriter to do it for you. Once created, these articles can generate additional interest as blogs on your website.
10. Sponsor Local Events.
Get involved in the community. Be seen to be a practice that is friendly, supportive, and caring. These things usually take up some of your time rather than cost you money, but they are great at promoting you and your brand.
11. Practice Signage
Your practice signage should be bold, eye-catching, bright signage that catches the eye. Consider also a part of your signage where you can potentially change an image every few months. People notice new things. Is your signage visible from 100 yards away in each direction? Is it eye-catching? PVC banners work well on any sites nearby where potential patients can see them.
12. Leaflet Drops.
Make the local area aware of your presence. Door-to-door leaflet drops can work well, but avoid the Royal Mail option as they tend to bundle your leaflet in amongst others. Pay a little bit more and use a local organisation to do it for you. Ideally your leaflet is dropped through the door on its own. Evenings work well as people are at home and are generally more relaxed and more inclined to read your leaflet. The content should be about what you can do for your patients rather than all about you.
13. This one’s a bit wacky!
Buy a tooth or a toothpaste fancy dress costume and get out on the high street. You can hand out balloons with your name on them to the kids and invites to come and see the practice to the adults. I came across a practice that did this last year, and it worked a treat. They also did a selfie competition at the same time, which gave them great Facebook exposure.
14. Extended Opening Hours.
Consider an 8:00 am start a couple of days a week and a late finish a couple of evenings a week. Extended opening hours works well if you have 2 or more dentists who are happy to work flexible hours. A Saturday morning session will also be popular. If no one else in the area is offering this, then it will be very appealing to those who struggle to get away from work without taking annual leave.
15. Get Out & About.
Visit local businesses and make office staff aware that you will be doing lunchtime appointments, early morning appointments, and evening appointments. Busy office people will love this.
16. Partner with other outlets.
Visit the nearby Hair Salon, the Nail Bar, the Chiropractor, The Florist, etc. and ask them if they would like to have some of their business cards or leaflets on display in your waiting room and ask them if they would do the same for you in exchange. Be careful though who you choose. Only approach businesses where your potential patients are spending their money anyway. Avoid places that sell goods or services that are outside a person’s normal spend. For example, if a patient that you have examined is interested in your recommendation for veneers, the same person may also be tempted by a visit to that travel agent you promoted in the waiting room! They possibly can’t afford both.
17. Thank You Cards and Patient Survey.
Design a Thank you card - postcard size folded in half. Use it as a thank you card to thank patients for entrusting you with their dental care, and it should also encourage people to leave you a review somewhere - see above. Set up a www.surveymonkey.com feedback questionnaire and send it to all patients each day who complete that day - it will demonstrate to them that you take their feedback seriously and it might just prompt them to say to any one they are with at the time that they’ve just had a feedback survey from their dentist.
So, lots to consider. What is important here is that you have a marketing plan, you allocate as generous a budget as you can, and you monitor what’s working and what’s not. Kick off with that all-important website, get your signage prominent, then gradually introduce more elements to your marketing and if time becomes an issue, outsource what you can. Your time as a dentist is best-served meeting and treating patients so nothing on this list should eat too much into your clinical time.
Have a look at some of my older marketing blogs for some more inspiration.