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Chicago Midwinter Meeting: 5 Ways to Turn On the New Patient Faucet

It’s always possible to bring new patients into your dental practice. You just need to use the right marketing approach. That was the message of Michael Abernathy, D.D.S., during his continuing education session at the Chicago Midwinter Meeting last week. According to Abernathy, the key to successful marketing is to make sure that the proper practices are in place before you begin.
Darcy Lewis
PUBLISHED: Monday, February 27, 2017

Michael Abernathy, D.D.S., offered Chicago Midwinter Meeting attendees tips on improving their dental marketing efforts last week during his continuing education session.

It may seem harder than ever to build a steady flow of new dental patients, but they’re still out there for dentists who have drive and marketing know-how. “The ability to literally turn on the new patient faucet is still a reality,” Michael Abernathy, D.D.S., told attendees at the Chicago Dental Society 2017 Midwinter Meeting.
“The problem is that most of us just don’t know how,” he added.
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Abernathy is the founder of Summit Practice Solutions in Dallas and runs a multi-office dental practice based in McKinney, Texas. “My main practice consistently had 250-300 new patients in an area where the dentist-to-patient ratio was 1:695,” he said.
Abernathy started by reminding colleagues that successful marketing is an outgrowth of what is already happening in a healthy practice.
“There’s an old marketing axiom that applies to dentistry beautifully: Good practices who are receiving many new patients don’t need to market, but they should do it anyway,” he said. “Poor practices who are losing patients to better practices need to market, and yet they shouldn’t, because the basics aren’t in place.”
1. Make Sure Your Practice is in Order.
Abernathy suggested evaluating your practice the same way prospective patients judge a dentist.
Key attributes include hours and location, of course. But go beyond these factors to evaluate your practice in terms of how clean and up-to-date your facility is. Also consider the warmth and friendliness of your staff, how long patients have to wait for appointments and the clarity of your treatment plans and payment options, he said.
If your practice is weak on any of these fundamentals, fix them as soon as possible. “Don’t look for an external solution — marketing — to fix an internal problem,” Aberathy said.
2. Offer Generous Promotions.
New patient specials are a tried-and-true way to build a practice for the simple reason that they are effective. Abernathy suggests experimenting with an introductory rate of $1.00 for X-rays and a dental exam.
Another favorite idea: Buy billboard space in a prominent, local location and use it to offer free teeth whitening. Prospective patients can then call for details.
Abernathy has also wrapped his practice’s front windows in a custom vinyl photo banner that offers the same deal.
3. Develop a Consistent Referral Mechanism.
Abernathy showed a postcard that he has used in his practice with good results. Each patient receives it at the end of their visit. It includes three key questions: How did you learn about us? What did you like least about your visit? Would you refer your family or friends to our office?
The postcards can either be completed on the spot or they can be returned via Business Reply Mail, so the practice only pays postage on the cards that they receive.
He also goes the extra mile and encourages current patients to generate referrals by offering a $50 certificate to use on their next dental visit. Both the referring patient and the new one receive $50 off.

Click to the next page to see tips four and five.

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