You are in dentistry. To many, this may sound clinical and not talk-worthy, but we all know how people’s lives change and improve as the result of receiving dental care. They can chew comfortably, enjoy their favorite foods, smile with confidence, go after that job they always wanted, smile boldly in family pictures and laugh loudly with those they love. People can do more of what they love because they have a good dentist who cares. Dentistry is talk-worthy. YOU are talk-worthy. Maximize your practice’s talk-worthiness by implementing strong internal marketing.
"Internal marketing" is used in the corporate world to indicate communication with your existing employees. In the dental world when we say "internal marketing," we mean communicating with your existing patients. It makes sense to differentiate between your current patients—those who’ve already been to see you and engaged, to some degree, with your team—as opposed to external marketing, which involves attracting new patients to your practice for the first time. Some fundamentals may be the same, such as keeping your branding consistent, sending a clear message that’s cohesive with what they’ll find when they come to you, making it simple for them to respond, etc. However, there are key differences in internal marketing tactics and you need to keep a marketing mindset with people even when they’ve transferred from the external promotions category to the internal marketing/existing patient base category.
The bottom line is: you are always marketing to your patients long after their first call to you. So the question is how good you’re going to be at that and what a difference it will make in your practice. Here are some ideas to get you thinking, setting new goals and moving your internal marketing wish list into a goal-oriented action plan.
Spread your good news
Internal marketing is about strategically letting your patients know that you are still moving along in your practice and making advancements. For example, every time someone completes CE, do you have a system for informing patients about that? When you or a team member complete a CE course that is relevant to patient care, you should inform your patients. They need to see or hear that message five to seven times before they will remember or act on it (if applicable). Use your Dentrix eCentral software to send an email to your patient base about the CE course , put the information on your website, place it in a newsletter, mail a letter, tell them in the practice, include information in the hygiene bag, post something on Facebook, etc. However you get the message out, you must do so in a strategic and consistent manner.
Keep patients up-to-date
Give patients firsthand information on new procedures and technologies—or even older procedures and technologies that are relevant and valuable, but forgotten. Follow the same guidelines of the "five to seven" approach. Whatever information you want your patients to know about you, do so by informing them multiple times via multiple methods.
Wow them every time
Gaining consistent referrals and creating positive patient experiences boils down to providing outstanding customer service. Keep embracing a new comfort level with providing great customer service—yes, another general business term sneaking into your dental practice. Customer service is a valid dental management factor about which you must be diligent. While one out of 10 consumers will tell friends and family about a wonderful experience, nine out of 10 spread the word about a bad experience. These numbers are really exploding to broad audiences now that social media is so prevalent and mobile. Word of mouth is loud, immediate and lingering, so you must give them something good to discuss and share with their friends. Boost customer service to a new, talk-worthy level. You can’t afford NOT to wow your patients at every visit.
Show your appreciation
Remember to actively appreciate your patients. Thank your patients for choosing your practice. Mail them a thank you note or make follow-up phone calls after procedures to check on their questions and wellbeing. You know a strong new patient experience begins with building trust and you have to nurture that trust for it to continue to grow.
Set a tone of optimism
Bring out the positive side of your patients and they will enjoy themselves and give great reviews of your practice to others. Avoid talking about negative topics like the down economy, rough weekend, dragging work week, frustrating Internet connections, deadbeat colleagues or inadequate local coaches. Remain upbeat and positive—and smile. Build trust, offer reassurance and exude quiet confidence by keeping the energy among your colleagues positive and the topics of conversation on the bright side. You can keep the positive information flowing in the form of posts to Facebook and Twitter and by sending out consistent enewsletters and emails.
Encourage patient testimonials
Share patient stories that depict how your top-quality dentistry has improved patients’ health and made a dramatic difference in their lives. Ads or displays featuring your actual patients are far more credible than those packed with stock photography or clinical images/terms. Use testimonials. Put dates on the stories and keep them recent to show patients that others are undergoing treatment and enjoying the results. People love to share their stories with others. We are living in the social age where people put their entire lives out there for others to read about. So don’t be afraid to ask for their story. Create a talk-worthy piece that can be used on your website, in your office and on Facebook.
Real stories from real patients also help others to relate and begin to make that smile makeover more achievable. They may be thinking, "If she can afford that, I can," or "If he thought his teeth were yellow enough for that extra procedure, maybe mine are, too." Likewise, create an interest in patient loyalty. Include captions on your images like, "Jane Doe, satisfied X procedure patient, referred x patients to the practice within two years." This could make others think, "I can refer that many people!"
Follow up with patients
Contact patients who did not accept treatment and send copies of their “before” intra-oral photos with a digitally enhanced “after” photo. You can also include one of those talk-worthy stories about another patient with a similar case. Continue to give them the information they need to make the decision to remain loyal to your practice.
In summary, you can help make your practice grow and become talk-worthy when you:
The most important rule is to stay consistent with your marketing and make sure that your message is heard, seen or experienced at least five to seven times. By keeping your name recognition, "wow" experience and positive image, you will become a master of internal marketing and take a more enlightened approach to the fact that you are, in a sense, the director of marketing for your practice.
Misty Clark is VP Creative Services at Jameson Management, Inc., a comprehensive in-office coaching firm dedicated to improving the dental practice not only through marketing but also through business and clinical coaching. Visit www.JamesonManagement.com for more information, including an opportunity to browse the Creative Services portfolio, register for free webinars and read other helpful articles.