You need new patients.
Without patients, your dental practice will inevitably die. So it’s important that you grow your practice with new patients (and keep current ones).
But how do you get them? Maybe you advertise your practice on Google. Maybe you incentivize current patients to refer their friends. Or maybe you take the ‘build it and they will come’ approach and you wait for your new patients to walk in the door.
Unfortunately, today's patient has a plethora of options and that last, little nudge is what will determine if they end up visiting you or the dentist down the street. So, how do you provide that extra nudge?
An enticing deal, in the form of a New Patient Special, is a popular strategy for many dental practices and can be the key differentiator to drive practice growth. And if you don’t believe me, just look here, here, or here.
But how do you create and implement a new patient special that is truly successful?
With the help of this post, this detailed guide, you'll gain valuable insight into crafting an effective new patient special that will drive patient to your practice.
Let's dive in.
- Marketing & Distribution
Before deciding to offer Invisalign for free to new patients, there are a few things you should consider. And while this is meant to be a helpful, detailed guide, please know that there are many other items that could be considered, but these vary greatly between practices.
What you will find below are general enough that they can apply to any practice - big or small - and help craft a great special.
How feasible is running a new patient special for your practice?
Some practices could benefit greatly from a surge of new patients. Other practices may buckle from the pressure of too many patients. Before coming up with an irresistible offer to draw in new patients, make sure that your practice can handle the influx of new patients.
How many new patients can your practice realistically accommodate in a given week? 10? 25? 100? Whatever the number may be, it should be your first consideration and your primary guide in the formation of your special. Some practices may include a disclaimer, limiting the number of new patient specials that can be claimed; this may be a good idea, especially if you’re giving away physical products.
As you continue to think of the feasibility of bringing in XXX new patients with the special, you must also consider how much can be given away and still keep the lights on. This leads us to our second consideration: return on investment.
Return on Investment (ROI)
There is a cost to bringing in new patients.
Whether you’re advertising, optimizing your website, or even creating a welcoming space to encourage patients to talk about their experience, there is a monetary cost to operating your practice and acquiring new patients.
The same is true for a new patient special.
But, a new patient special can be better for one simple reason - tracking the return on investment.
Let’s say you purchase a new, comfortable couch for your waiting room. The couch may cost $10k, but now that you have this comfortable couch, more patients enjoy their waiting experience. This leads to improved patient satisfaction and more positive reviews online. With more positive reviews online, you begin to see more new patients seeking your practice out. Thus, the $10k couch could lead to hundreds of new patients.
But this is a bit of a fairy-tale, isn’t it?
Quantifying the value of a new couch (or whatever item it may be), is nearly impossible. In the example above, new patients were drawn in by other patients leaving favorable reviews. But were the favorable reviews a result of the couch or something else? It’s impossible to know exactly. While the new couch could certainly return value, tracking the ROI of a purchase like that is a near herculean task - unlike a new patient special.
Whatever special you’re giving away will have some cost (monetary or time). By fully understanding how much a new patient special will cost you (also important to factor in the price of marketing this special, described below in greater detail), you can very easily (and directly) calculate the ROI of the given special.
Whether you’re offering a special that costs money (giveaway), time (service discount), or a combination, you can very easily track how a specific special leads to more patients in the door.
One last consideration to mention is sanity.
An influx of new business can mean longer and harder hours. At some point, bringing in new patients is simply not worth it.
But this point is different for everyone and it’s important to know what your point is. It could be seeing patients for six hours a day, or sixteen.
Now that you’ve decided to offer a new patient special and thought through some of the considerations, it’s time to actually develop your special.
But what are you going to offer to bring in new patients?
We’ve compiled a few ideas for offers that many practices use for astounding success. Rather than give specific specials and the associated numbers, the offers below represent themes for new patient specials that can be adjusted to fit your individual practice needs.
Entice new patients with a deal comprised of a variety of services.
Many new patient specials include a package deal to help new patient acquisition. These deals typically look like this: comprehensive exam, x-rays, and cleaning for $XXX.
These deals are good for two big reasons.
First, this is a general special so it’s reach is enormous. Most people would like to get their teeth professionally cleaned and this special lets them know that they can do that for $XXX and while also receiving other great benefits, like x-rays. Second, through the exam and x-rays (that the individual signs-up for), you can then help to educate them on steps to better oral health while also leveraging your position as a provider to schedule follow-ups.
In-House Plans have grown tremendously in popularity.
If you’re already offering an in-house plan (or considering it), why not advertise this to bring in new patients?
Unlike insurance plans, in-house plans typically represent a much simpler way to pay for dental care. These plans can attract a wide range of customers.
Additionally, you can include a limited-time special discount on the in-house plan to really drive new patient acquisition.
Honestly, offering a free item or service could be given it’s own post. Unlike the ‘package deal’ or ‘in-house plan’ described above, a giveaway will likely need a system in place, as there will be a finite amount of the giveaway.
But the formula for free offerings can be simplified, so let’s examine it.
First, you must decide what you’d like to offer. The possibilities are nearly endless. Some classic giveaways may be a dental service (exam) or dental-related item (toothbrush), but you could experiment with something completely different (iPad, night at hotel). Just make sure that you take into account all the considerations described above when deciding upon what you’re going to offer.
Next, you should consider the limitation of the offering. Because you don’t have an infinite pool of whatever you’re giving away, you should include some sort of disclaimer to prevent stretching your resource pool to unmanageable lengths. Many disclaimers will follow include either a time constraint (offer good until XXX date) or a use constraint (offer good for first XXX claims).
Finally, you may want to attach a qualifier to the offering. What will the new patient need to do to receive the offer? Do they simply need to come in for an exam or will there be more? Determine what exactly a new patient will need to do to qualify for the free offering, before taking the offer live.
A free whitening is a great giveaway for most practices. However, with this recipe, you can create a very enticing free giveaway to get new patients in your dental practice that doesn't necessarily have to be a free whitening.
Marketing & Distribution
At its core, a new patient special is a marketing tool.
But how do you market the marketing tool?
This is an extremely important question, considering even the most amazing special won’t bring in any new patients if no one knows about it. So, how can you let the world (or your target audience) know about the new patient special your practice is offering?
Here are three strategies to promote your new patient special:
Want a tried and true method to distribute your new patient special? Use mailers and word-of-mouth.
These methods have been around for decades now and used by countless dentists - because they work.
While sending a mailer or simply telling your friends, family, and current patients about your special might not be glamorous, they’ve withstood the test of time.
But just because these methods have been around for decades, doesn’t mean you have to use decades-old methods to get them done.
Consider using a modern mailer company like DentalMarketing.net for sending mailers. DentalMarketing.net provides a whole host of features that will be sure to help your practice see greater success with sending out mailers.
Want to distribute news about your new patient special in a more modern, shareable format? Use email and social media.
Nowadays, nearly everyone has some form of email or social media. This means that you have the potential to tell anyone about your new patient special. And with email and social media, it’s very easy for others to share news of your special in networks outside of your own.
So, how do you maximize the reach of your special with email?
Try using an email service like Mailchimp to send customized emails to your list. Customized emails have higher open rates, better response rates, and are generally better received.
When it comes to social media, make sure you choose a channel that will have lots of potential patients. Facebook is great because it’s large (nearly everyone in the US has a Facebook account) and if you choose to pay for ads, you can cheaply promote your new patient special to thousands of people in your city for less than a dollar a day.
Want to distribute your new patient special using a format that hasn’t been widely adopted yet? The world is your oyster.
There’s a near-endless array of new social media channels popping up and by engaging with this new media, you can find large groups of potential patients. Have you heard of Tiktok? What about the Tiktok dentist? Through Tiktok, they developed a massive following by using the platform organically. This organic following has led to a huge increase in new patients coming into their office.
There are also new Software as a Service (SaaS) companies emerging everyday that can add all sorts of functionality to your website to help better engage web visitors with your offerings. Consider a platform like Hello Bar to automatically engage with website visitors and let them know about your new patient specials.
You’ve considered the feasibility of a new patient special, determined what you’re going to offer, and decided how you’re going to market the deal to your future patients. Now what?
Now, you prepare your offering and get ready to meet the new patients that come in from your special. But that’s not all.
You should be actively thinking about your special/offering and tweaking it as you see fit. Remember, just because you started with a “$99 exam & x-ray” special that you advertise on Facebook, doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it. Maybe you change the offering to a “free whitening” special that you advertise on LinkedIn, to get better results. The key is to continually tweak the special so that you’re growing your practice with the patients you want.
And don’t forget about patient retention. You’re offering a new patient special to acquire new, long-term patients.
Yes, some individuals may see your deal and simply go for the special and never return. But if you delight your patients with your great dentistry and all the little things that go into making an appointment great, you’re sure to grow your practice with your offering.