Practice Management

Caution: Using Discretion in Choosing Marketing Strategies


Ron Weintraub


June 20, 2017

June 20, 2017

As growing the size of patient bases becomes increasingly challenging, one cannot help but notice the aggressive strategies some offices choose to draw attention to their particular operations.

Almost all offices need to enrol a cohort of new patients to remain viable going forward. One important reason for this ongoing requirement is that all practices suffer from attrition to a degree as a result of one or more of the following normal factors:

  • Patients move to other areas;
  • Patients’ transition to assisted living facilities, some of which provide in-house health services;
  • Patients may lose their jobs and with it their dental benefits, and they may choose to delay or forego their scheduled maintenance care;
  • Some may change job location which makes it difficult from a distance perspective to attend the previous office;
  • Other patients may not be satisfied with their care and choose not to return;
  • Inevitably, patients may become chronically ill, consequently not sufficiently mobile to attend the previous office;
  • Still other patients may expire. This is significantly more prevalent where there is a large component of geriatric patients.

Obviously, a significant attrition component exists in all practices. Although rare, some of our clients have no problem to open up their rosters and welcome the waiting new patient flow. More commonly, however, adding to the surviving patient base to maintain and enhance practice growth is an urgent priority.

Positive Strategies To Attract The Replacement GroupBefore broaching a marketing strategy, keeping in mind thoughtful definitions of your core philosophy of dentistry, values, and specialties is essential to a successful plan. The tips below could serve as a guide to your decision-making.

1. Tasteful Professional MarketingA precursor to marketing is to understand clearly what your office “brand” really is and get the message out to attract a new patient group that will respect and respond to what is special about your office. You want to attract appreciative patients, not just to fill the chairs with bodies who will often shortly leave the practice. If an outstanding characteristic of your practice is based on a friendly, consumer serviced patient, promotional materials should be emphasized. If the team is of long standing and decidedly supportive, pictures of them should be present.

2. Electronic Marketing Today’s evolving mainstream patients depend heavily on website exposure to get a sense of the experience to be obtained at a new patient exam. The website should endeavour to tell a story of the practice and the whole team. This is focusing the “brand” front and centre along with presenting faces to practitioners. All this should be done in a non-generic presentation in keeping with the defined culture of the existing practice.

3. Accessible Transportation NeedsPositive inducements should also be stressed; for example, a favourable, easily accessible location along with availability of parking onsite or nearby or the proximity to public transportation.

Some Potentially Problematic Marketing ToolsOvertly advertising financial incentives to secure potential new patients’ appointments needs to be reconsidered. Such advertising presents dental treatment as a commodity rather than as a professional healthcare service with all that the difference implies, for instance, displaying signs indicating free initial exams or free whitening to new patients. This sends a clear message that the relationship between the dentist and the patient is probably one of customer/establishment with the attendant caveat emptor mentality. I believe that this kind of attitude is counter-productive to establishing a trusting professional relationship for the long term. It may attract some shoppers, but in the long run it makes it difficult to maintain a viable relationship or practice.

1. Financial responsibilitiesOne cannot ignore the financial responsibilities implicit in particularly large comprehensive dental cases, but these arrangements should be addressed in private by a treatment coordinator/staff member and extend accommodations by offering financial terms as opposed to negotiating “discount dentistry.” A courtesy fee should be applied in special cases of hardship, but it is not to be confused with “fee cutting” and the potential attendant treatment shortcuts that may go along with it.

2. Logos and SlogansEmploying a cutesy, eye-catching logo tends to infantilize the serious health care procedures that are routinely proffered inside the office and can turn off serious potential patients looking for competent treatment. An exception might be a pediatric dental facility where including “Murphy the Molar” holding a toothbrush standing prominently on the sign.

3. Healthcare EducationIdeally, public promotion should be attached alongside an advertisement providing oral health information, for example, a booth inside the mall with the objective of promoting preventive oral health services attended by the office team.

Sponsorship of neighbourhood projects is another appropriate use of a positive way to draw attention to particular facility.

Appropriate marketing strategies to make a positive impact are dependent upon articulating your vision of providing quality oral health care.