Dummies’ guide to: converting patients

Chris Baker provides a guide to gaining new patients.

‘Converting’ patients – it’s a horrible term and does sound as if we are treating our much-respected patients as cattle rather than as human beings.

Nonetheless, it is a well-known term in the fields of sales and marketing – it’s simply the job of turning potential patients into actual patients, and if they are already patients and enquire about a certain treatment, ensuring that they go ahead.

However, I don’t want you ‘selling at’ your patients – I want you educating and communicating with them and there is a world of difference from both your and their perspective.

The better you convert, the less money you have to spend on marketing activity. If you run an advertisement and receive 10 enquiries and then convert one, your conversion rate is 10%. To get 10 new patients, you will need to run 10 advertisements. If you improved your conversion rate by just one patient to 20%, you will only need to run five advertisements to achieve the same result. You have halved your marketing spend at a stroke.

Don’t be frightened. You have been ‘converting’ patients ever since you have been in practice. All you need to do is fine tune it and improve upon it.

1. Team

As a clinician, you will certainly play a part in converting patients, but the first port of call will be your reception team. They will field the phone calls and be the first people that those who walk in will see.

Are your team confident about all the services that you provide? Can they quickly and easily take me through to booking an appointment? If your team hasn’t undertaken training, I would recommend that they do – they cannot be held accountable for conversion rates if they haven’t been given the tools to do the job.

The team should be knowledgeable, confident, but not afraid to say they don’t know. Their primary function is to get the interested potential patient to come to the practice for an appointment. If this cannot be achieved, they should at least be taking an email address and the promise to send relevant further information.

2. Environment

How is the waiting room and reception area looking? You are unlikely to convert new patients if when they are arrive they are greeted by fraying carpet, a 1983 copy of The People’s Friend, and tired, old furniture. It needn’t cost the earth, but make sure that your practice looks the kind of place patients would want to spend time and money.

3. Appointment

An empowered patient is much more likely to go ahead with treatment. That is why it is not about ‘selling at’ them – it is about listening to your patients and their hopes and fears, and you can then both decide together how you can deliver what they desire.

4. Follow up

It is often said in marketing that there are seven points of contact needed before someone will buy from you – why would dentistry be any different? If they left their email address with you, they should be put into a campaign where there will receive a series of emails extolling the virtues of your practice. If they received a treatment plan, they should receive a series of follow-up phone calls. After three of these, if they have decided not to go ahead, they can be put into an email campaign that talks about the treatment that they were interested in.

5. Measurement

If you cannot measure it then it is difficult to know whether you are being successful or not. Your reception team will need to keep records of all enquiries and where they came from, eg, recommendation, Facebook etc. These can then be put into a database that can be used for marketing. A database should also be created of those who have had treatment plans, so that follow ups can be recorded.

This information will allow you to make informed decisions about what is working, where options need to be tweaked, and so on. Now, success is in your hands.

If you have any comments or suggestions for future dummies’ guides, get in touch with [email protected]. For more information on this story call 0845 370 2211, email [email protected] or visit www.coronadental.co.uk.

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