Q&A: Your marketing solutions

Q. I went on a marketing course recently where one of the speakers suggested that targeting new home owners in the area would be a good way of increasing my patient numbers. I think this would work really well for my practice, but am unsure about what my next steps should be.

A. New local residents represent a unique opportunity. They are the people least likely to know a dental practice in the area and in the early days may not have local friends who can refer a dentist to them.

There is a national database provider which keeps track of new home movers via the local authorities’ electoral rolls, but their minimum order level of 5,000 tends to be somewhat high for the majority of practitioners.

There are marketing companies – including Blue Horizons – who, by purchasing for a number of dental clients, can now access these names in smaller quantities on your behalf. They will often develop and post a complete mailing pack for you, leaving you free to attend to all the new patients you will have!

Q. I’m starting up a new practice. I have found the premises – they are now being renovated and changed to suit my requirements – and I have almost finished buying all the equipment I will need. I know I need to market my practice to attract patients, but should I wait until it is open?

A. In short, no – you need to start marketing your practice immediately. Many dentists make the mistake of leaving marketing until the last minute, and then spend several weeks if not months worrying because they don’t have enough patients.

You need to start attracting interest from local residents and making them aware of all the services you offer, so that when you do open they will already know your name and be more likely to join the practice.

Your first steps are likely to include developing a brand image, and creating promotional literature to inform potential new patients about your practice. Marketing initiatives to consider include:

• Putting signs outside your practice to let people know when you will be open and what services you will offer

• Positioning a ‘take one’ leaflet dispenser in a prominent position, so passers by can find out more

• Starting a targeted mailing campaign highlighting the benefits of being a member of your practice (you could use the ‘new home owner’ mailing idea)

• Contacting the local press to see if they will run a story

• Launching a competition to win free treatment such as tooth whitening or a smile makeover

• Start your networking, perhaps by giving talks at local schools, and by joining groups such as BNI.

Q. Even though I tell most of my patients that they need to see the hygienist, many of them don’t bother. What can I do to further encourage them?

A. Patients often have problems with seeing a hygienist because they don’t understand the importance of the treatment, and so don’t want to invest their time and money in it.

To get around these issues, you need to better educate them so that they perceive the hygienist service as being a vital part of their oral healthcare. They need to know about gum disease – what it is, what could happen if it is not treated, and how to avoid it or significantly slow down its progress.

Our clients find the best way of doing this is to include regular reminders in patient newsletters, and to ensure their preventive services are given a suitably prominent position in their practice literature.

You may also want to invest in modern equipment such as air abrasion – many patients are put off by memories of the more traditional, uncomfortable methods of removing plaque. Again, making sure your patients know about it will help ensure you quickly recoup your investment.

For more information about Blue Horizons services, visit www.bluehorizonsdental.co.uk or email [email protected].

If you have a question about marketing your practice you’d like answered, then email [email protected]. All queries will be dealt with in the strictest confidence.

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