When the dental office moved to a different location, we were lucky; we had tons of loyal patients who followed us a few miles down the river to our new office. They were all long term patients who had built a long lasting loyal relationship with our doctor. The kind of patients who take care of their teeth and proceed with that crown because they know, like and trust the doctor. A common phrase in our office was, “If the doc says I need it, then I do!” the sentence that every dentist loves to hear their patients say!
Fast forward to a few years later, and those loyal patients are getting older; it’s not so easy for them to make their way across the river when their families will no longer allow them to drive their car! So we started marketing, tons of marketing and then we marketed some more, it worked new patients started calling and walking in the front door.
Now it’s the end of the year and our schedule is full, a year’s worth of marketing has done its job well, we have replaced all the patients who could no longer drive to our office and we’ve added a few more! So what’s the problem you say? Well, we have increased our volume, but our numbers are still about the same.
How can that be? Simple, it is that the new patients are not so ready to accept treatment as the one we had before. It seems that they are more focused on price, than ever before. Quite often we hear, “What does it cost and will my insurance company pay?” “I can’t do that if it’s not covered by insurance.” I have a theory that “can’t” means “just not willing”, and that will not work for us. But what can we do? Well, We took a deep breath and realized that we were working harder, not smarter. A majority of these new patients are turning out to be pains in the butts (PITA as we dental folk like to call them).
We realized that they are so focused on their dental benefit plans (insurance) that they won’t do their care unless the insurance company will pay. They want to negotiate prices and they want a discount, like the one they got last year, “remember, you gave me,$100 off that Christmas crown.” They want free whitening, and they want to wait until next year when their insurance max starts over. Oh and if there is not enough money left in their dental bank account for two cleanings, they will just skip one because, after all “it’s just a cleaning!” UGH, it’s so frustrating but what can you do? It is the economy, people just don’t have money to spend.
Or do they? I think that they do because I remember seeing a ton of people in line at Target on Thanksgiving night, and they were all waiting for a chance to buy that 50 inch screen TV. I guess that some folks just are not focused on good health; their priority is watching a big screen. It’s a free country, so that is their choice, but we know that is not how everyone feels; there are those out there who want great overall health. The problem was not the people, but our marketing. It was who we were attracting with our special offer campaigns; we invited those folks to come on over and save, by doing that we were teaching them to expect a deal.
In marketing our practice by price; we attracted the people who were looking for a discount by offering them a savings to our services. Once they got a taste of the lower price, they always wanted more. “Can you extend this offer into next year, just this once, I’ve been coming here for years” and “I can’t do that crown without pre authorization, I can’t do it if insurance doesn’t pay.” Phrases that we were starting to hear almost every day. Until, we took a deep breath and decided to make a change.
Our doctors are highly educated and very focused on health; they are definitely in this profession to take care of people, to help them have healthy confident smiles. We realized that it’s time to realize that while everyone deserves great dental care, not all of them want it and you can’t save the world. We decided to focus on our goals and stick to our practice vision, not just try to fill our chairs.
While we continue to serve, care for and love all of our wonderful patients, we are focusing on marketing to those who care about health, not money. We try and reach the folks who care about their family’s health more than saving a $100 off a crown. We made a change to our marketing campaigns, no more special offer marketing; we made the highlight having great oral health. We market to moms who want the very best for their families not what is best for their insurance company’s pocketbook!
Is this working for us? Time will tell, good marketing takes time, and a bit of patience but when you’re attracting health centered patients who won’t leave you for the next “really great deal” the rewards are greater and the longer you do it, the less you have to do!
With your success in mind,