Unleash your team’s marketing power
Fully harnessing the marketing power of your team has the potential to help your practice break free of the chains holding back its growth, says Penny Reed
In today’s digital world, clutter is the biggest obstacle for potential customers to hear your message. Not only are you competing with other dental practices for prospective new patients, your advertising messages are mixed in with every other business’ promotional message. The stats vary, yet most ad agencies claim that the average consumer is bombarded with anywhere from 2,000 to over 10,000 marketing messages per day. As consumers, we have trained our brains to screen out most of these messages…and it’s a good thing, otherwise we’d be incredibly overwhelmed.
How do we solve the challenge of being sure that our marketing messages are seen and heard in a sea of advertising clutter? Unless you have an Amazon-sized advertising budget with a creative and clever copywriting and design team, most of the cash spent on advertising your practice is wasted.
Your team holds the key
The very best asset when it comes to practice promotion is your team. Does this mean you don’t need a practice website or online and community visibility? No, you must portray a clear picture of the type of practice you have…this can be done with a simple website and social media presence. Your team members are the marketing ambassadors, both inside and outside of the walls of our office. They are the tangible representations of who your practice is…which is another reason why hiring is such a critical component of practice success.
To harness your team’s marketing power, you must be sure to develop and nurture a culture that makes team members feel important. This starts with consistently showing sincere appreciation. Additionally, practice culture must become the ongoing heartbeat of your practice and be continually worked on and developed. One simple way to do this is to involve the team in activities outside of the practice. Continuing education meetings are a great option. But the best way to nurture the culture of your practice is by doing something fun with your entire team: a community activity, going to lunch, having an office family picnic, bowling night, etc. The possibilities are endless, but remember that any time you invest time and money in your team, you send a positive message that they are valued and important. This is a critical piece of your marketing budget.
Happy and empowered teams exude enthusiasm about the offices they work in. By adding the appropriate strategies and tools to the core of their belief in the practice – the sky is the limit when it comes to the growth of your dental business.
How your team uses that time and influence is directly related to their beliefs, how they’ve been trained, and ongoing coaching on how to utilise their assets (of time and influence).
We begin by sharing with the team the importance of their role in influencing the patient and help them understand how critical their interactions with patients and prospects are. Your team’s marketing messages and direct interactions get heard over the sea of advertising clutter. This is a big reason why most practices get the majority of their new patients from existing patient referrals. A prospective patient hears recommendations from their friends and family over the clutter of advertising noise. Anyone who tells you that asking for referrals is an old method that doesn’t work is most likely trying to sell you an advertising program or platform.
Direct interaction is best because you already have the patient’s attention. Primarily, this would be in the form of a request inviting the patient to refer their friends and family members. What makes it so powerful and less like a sales pitch is to begin by letting the patient know they are important to you or what you value about them.
Most likely your administrative team members, assistants, and hygienists outnumber you. They have more face-to-face time with the patients. The power of momentum will build, and your referrals will increase.
There are several basic challenges that prevent dentists and their teams from being consistent with this strategy.
1. You know you should do it, yet the true power of making the requests is underestimated
2. Because you know you should do it, you overestimate the frequency in which it is happening. You remember the one time last week or last month when you asked for a referral, yet you aren’t measuring to be sure you are consistently having those conversations
3. You haven’t made it easy to make it a habit and utilised the appropriate tools to be intentional with the process.
When is the patient most likely to be enthusiastic and wish to share their experience?
1. Right after their new patient visit
2. Upon completing a cosmetic case or procedure such as whitening, orthodontics, or anterior crown/veneer case
3. When you’ve relieved or corrected a pain issue.
These are opportunities for which the team needs to be on the lookout. We want to be intentional and pro-active in making referral conversations happen.
Plan your approach
You need a strategy! One is the route slip (which is usually generated from the patient schedule in the practice management software). The second is a tool which is referred to as a Share A Smile Card.
The route slip is worth its weight in gold. It tells us a wealth of information about the patient. Not only does it show what is scheduled for today, but also additional treatment plan items. It can usually be customised to show whether or not the patient and their family members have their next appointment scheduled. There is a lot of value here! These should be used in every practice, yet are most important in the practices that are utilising electronic records. The reason is simple. It gives you a place-holder to write and attach information. Ramping up your referral requests will never become consistent until you become intentional with them.
Run the route slips for a given day’s schedule the day before. Focus not only on the patients who may be completing a large case or are new to the practice, but also on the patients who are scheduled for hygiene re-care appointments.
What should the Share A Smile card look like? It can look very similar to your business card on the front. It should have your practice logo and contact information, as well as have the phrase ‘new patients welcome’. On the back it should have a simple request to Share A Smile with a friend as well as an offer to the new patient. An example could be: ‘We would love to have more awesome patients just like you. Give this Share A Smile card to a friend and they will receive (offer).’ Offers could include a complimentary consultation, complimentary exam, reduced price tooth whitening, etc. Be sure your offer is consistent with the dental rules and regulations for marketing in your area.
Many practices choose to use an oversized card (the size of a small postcard) or fold-over business cards to increase the space for a message. An additional way to boost the practice is to inform your patients how to find you on social media and give your practice a review. An example would be, ‘Love Our Practice? Please share and review!’ Then list the social media icons where you have a presence and your page user names. So if your practice is on Facebook, use that icon and your Facebook page name @OurPractice.
Say it with flowers
There is one remaining internal marketing strategy that also happens to be a genius external marketing tool. Choose 10 patients per month in your practice who have either made your day or have sent you one or more awesome patients. Make an arrangement with a local florist (maybe you even have one as a patient), to deliver a small yet lovely flower arrangement to those ten patients at their place of business. Let the florist know that this will be a monthly activity and that the florist can use their discretion as to the types of flowers based on their inventory. Let them know that you will provide the ‘containers’ and that the deliveries can occur at times that are convenient for them. The container will be a simple coffee mug with your practice logo, website, and phone number on it. Then each month send an email to the florist, with the patient’s name, place of employment, and what to put on the small note to accompany the flowers. It can say, ‘Thank you for your referral.’ ‘We appreciate you!’ Or ‘Thank you for being such an awesome patient!’
Remember, the florist is getting regular business as well as exposure. Negotiate with them to give a discounted rate per delivery. This way you can also budget for this marketing strategy each month.
Here is the ‘genius’ of this strategy; you will wow your patient and make them feel valued and appreciated, and their co-workers will see their flower deliveries and ask the patient about your practice and if they would recommend you. You will get more attention for your practice at less money spent with this strategy than with almost any other marketing method.
By making your team feel valued and giving them the feeling of importance about their role, as well as their incredible influence on your patients, you can create an unstoppable team of marketers who promote your practice consistently. Not only that, but your patients will feel more appreciated and are more likely to recommend your practice. By tracking your patient referrals, you see that they increase significantly and that those referred patients yield a huge return on investment for your marketing budget.