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Internal Marketing is King

 

Sep 1, 2009

by Roger P. Levin, DDS

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: internal marketing, patient referrals, practice?building, practice brochure, patient testimonials, e?newsletter, survey, Dr. Roger Levin.

Nothing beats the power of apatient referral. Think about the people you trust the most. Do their word–of–mouth recommendations carry more value than a print advertisement in the Yellow Pages or a radio commercial? Of course, they do! The same principle applies to your current patients and their friends and family. But will your patients willingly and frequently recommend your practice?

It all depends on your internal marketing efforts. External efforts through print advertisements will bring limited success at best. Only a well–designed series of in–office marketing strategies targeting your current patients can attract more patients in droves … but these action steps must be consistent, positive, and repeatable.

Here are 10 internal marketing tools that are part of the Levin Group's Science of Referral MarketingTM program, designed to appeal to new and existing patients:

1) Train your staff to ask for referrals — Your team members are one of your practice's best resources — take full advantage of them! Your staff interacts with patients at every step of the treatment process, and these interactions present countless opportunities to encourage patient referrals. Training your team to ask for referrals can lead to a dramatic increase in new patients. Most patients are happy to refer — they just need to be reminded!

Using the right scripting will help your staff consistently deliver your message effectively to patients at the appropriate times. One of the best opportunities to request a referral is when patients remark how pleased they are with the practice or a treatment. At these moments, team members should be prepared to respond appropriately by requesting a referral.

Training your staff through scripting can help them ask for referrals with more confidence and the most effective language possible. Levin Group clients use Power Scripting? to ensure continuous referral success.

2) Make it known that referrals are appreciated — Remind patients how much your practice appreciates referrals by placing signs in the reception room, clinical areas, and front desk. These signs should clearly state that the practice wishes to thank patients for showing their confidence through referrals. Make sure these signs are prominently displayed throughout the office and have a professional look. To take this effort a step further, incorporate referral language into any materials used to interact with patients, such as a Web site, billing efforts, letters, and brochures.

3) Start a referral–building system — Who wouldn't appreciate a small token of thanks for referring friends and family? A great way to motivate patients is to offer whitening, a power toothbrush, or another service at a reduced fee. Some practices offer a gift certificate to frequent referrers. Courtesies are very meaningful to patients, and these efforts are remembered. Therefore, develop a patient referral program that outlines all the benefits patients receive when they refer others to your practice. Remember, the goal is fun incentives to motivate patients to refer.

4) Create a promotional practice brochure — Why should patients choose your practice? In your practice brochure, highlight the benefits of choosing your practice over the competitor down the street or in the next county. An effective brochure contains information on patient services, new technologies, flexible payment options, practice hours, and other vital information. A brief biography of the dentist can focus on significant awards, training, or areas of expertise to help build confidence in the practice. Include your practice's philosophy to convey the patient–centered, friendly atmosphere of your office. Your brochure is an investment in practice growth, so it should reflect the quality of your practice.

5) Highlight services — Display posters around the office promoting the dental services you offer, especially elective services or ancillary products. Place them in high–traffic areas such as the reception area, operatories, and other clinical rooms. Most sales representatives are happy to supply you with eye–catching, attractive posters and other promotional materials. Posters are effective internal marketing vehicles that grab patients' attention and spark dialogue about new services.

6) Ask for patient testimonials — Encourage patients to send letters and e–mails to your office with their feedback. Positive words from current patients present opportunities to advertise your practice with more credibility. Posting patient testimonials about your practice can build more patient confidence. Testimonials are very effective at persuading current patients to stay with the practice long term and at encouraging new patients to commit to the practice. When you receive positive letters from patients, be sure to ask their permission to display their testimonials in your office or on your practice's Web site.

7) Build a practice Web site — A strong Web site at its best accomplishes three goals: educates patients, establishes credibility, and promotes services. Web sites should always include good resource information through articles and a Q&A section — tips to prepare patients for appointments, insurance acceptance information, office hours and directions, and space to provide patient feedback. The more questions you can answer through your Web site, the more satisfied your patients will be.

8) Start a practice e–newsletter — A practice e–newsletter is an excellent vehicle to update patients about practice offerings, events, and services. Today, there is a plethora of software programs available that makes it possible for almost anyone to publish a professional e–newsletter. E–newsletters should be fun and informative. For instance, report new services, feature the longest active patient in your practice, or highlight recent courses taken by the doctor and staff. Address anything that shows the practice in a positive light and builds patient trust.

9) Survey your patients — Surveying patients can provide valuable insight into how your practice is perceived. You can also gauge your patients' level of knowledge about products and services, as well as their interest in learning more about cosmetic treatment, other elective services, or ancillary products. Soliciting patient feedback can give you a good idea of areas where your practice needs to improve and where it is performing well. Surveys should be limited to 10 questions and take only a few minutes to complete.

10) Provide Stage III Customer Service? — Excellent customer service may be the best form of internal marketing. Patients love to be seen promptly, have their questions answered courteously, and be treated like VIPs. The dentist and staff can increase a patient's satisfaction through actions that enhance his or her personal experience. For example, get in the habit of using the patient's name frequently, learn at least one new personal fact about each patient during each visit, and make follow–up calls to patients after treatment. Surpassing your patients' expectations can be difficult, but achieving the “WOW” factor leaves an impression long after the patient has left your office.

Accelerated new patient growth

Only through internal marketing can your practice achieve the level of referrals necessary for accelerated new patient growth. These 10 strategies can assure that your practice puts its best foot forward at all times. Let your patients take care of the rest!

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc., one of the leading dental practice management firms. Levin Group provides Total Practice Success?, a comprehensive consulting solution for lifetime success. Levin Group may be reached at (888) 973–0000, or at www.levingroup.com.
 

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