Q. The hairdressing salon across the road from my practice has leaflets in a box just outside their front door. I often see people take one, read it, and then go in. Would a similar approach work for my practice?
A. Your hairdressers are obviously pretty switched on when it comes to marketing! Clearly it seems to work for them, and doing something similar yourself could certainly boost treatment enquiries and patient numbers.
Before committing to buy a new product or service, or walking in to book an appointment with a new hairdresser or dentist, the majority of people like to do a little research to ensure they have chosen the right place for them. You need something that will help their research, and that will make them want to call in to find out more or book an appointment.
If you simply want to increase the number of one-off treatments such as tooth whitenings, a leaflet with a special promotional offer should work very well. If you want to promote your cosmetic services in general, then a leaflet or brochure explaining how you can help with various aesthetic problems is a good idea. Or, to encourage new patients to join the practice, you may want to make your practice leaflet readily available. Passers-by may not read it on your doorstep and call in immediately, but they will take it home and, if the content appeals to them, they are likely to get back in touch with you.
Q. With all the makeover programmes currently on TV, it seems the media are doing a great job of selling cosmetic dentistry for us. So why should I bother to do any marketing myself?
A. Complete makeover programmes are indeed very popular at the moment, and have inevitably led to a higher interest in cosmetic dentistry.
However, the impression that is often given in such programmes is that cosmetic dentistry is usually only for those with plenty of disposable income, and that it is more or less exclusive to ‘aesthetic dentists’ located in top West End practices.
Even if you have been offering cosmetic treatments for several years, the chances are that many of your patients will not realise that you can help enhance their smile, and may well go elsewhere when they decide they want cosmetic work done.
You need to ensure that you have a strong internal marketing campaign so that your patients are always aware of what services you offer and how they can benefit from them. You may also want to run ongoing external marketing campaigns too, so that when potential patients start to think about dental treatment your practice name is the first one that springs to mind.
Q. Patients sometimes mention to me that they have trouble getting through to the practice on the phone. Is this a common issue, and what can we do about it?
A. Sadly, experience has shown us that yes, this is a common issue – but it shouldn’t be. If your patients have trouble getting through, then so do potential new patients. The phone is often the first contact between them and your practice, and if the call is not answered there is a good chance that the potential patient will give up and go to a practice that they can easily get through to. Even if just one person gives up each week, the loss of potential revenue to your practice is considerable.
So it is worth taking the time and effort to get it right. Make sure that you have more than one phone line to the practice, so that callers do not get frustrated by constantly receiving the engaged tone.
Each call should be answered within three-to-four rings. We know this isn’t always easy when there are also patients at reception, but it can be done. Simply excuse yourself from the patient for a moment, and answer the call with a message such as ‘Thank you for calling the practice. I’m currently busy with another patient – can I take your name and number and I’ll call you back as soon as I have finished?’ And make sure you do return the call as soon as possible. Try to avoid answering machines if possible as some people are reluctant to leave messages.
For more information about Blue Horizons services, visit www.bluehorizonsdental.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.