Optimize Your Marketing

In today’s economic climate a great deal can be said for the benefits of marketing effectively. There are many mediums for marketing a practice – referrals from existing patients/clients are normally the best and most cost effective means of getting new patients/clients. External marketing, such as the Internet, business directories, new resident mailings, bus benches, and even the local newspaper, radio and TV, has worked for some. Some form of one or more of these has proven to be successful in various markets, but not all of them are effective in all markets. Given all this, it is vitally important to know how your new patients/clients are finding out about you, and based on this, you should focus your marketing dollars in the most effective areas.

This brings up the topic of this Hot Tip.

Somewhere on your new patient/client form there should be a little line that says, “How did you find out about our practice?” If you don’t have this line on your new patient/client form, you should institute it right away. Some offices have little check boxes that mention their various marketing activities, and others just offer a blank line to be filled in. However you do it, the purpose of this is for your new patients/clients to tell you which of your marketing tools have been most effective. This is vital information for your promotional and marketing activities, only as long as you do something with it. Unfortunately, many doctors don’t use this information properly.

In fact, the last poll taken in our online journal “The Practice Solutions Magazine”, showed that 54% of those responding said that they “did nothing” with the information that they got from this question on their forms. At the same time, our current poll shows 43% stating that they are increasing the amount of marketing they are doing currently. The poll data seems to support that “marketing for new patients/clients” is important to practice owners but the importance of tracking effectiveness of marketing seems to be missing.

Let’s take up effectiveness of marketing as a running theme and discover how it might be used. A simple starting point would be to actually use the data you have already gathered by doing a quick breakdown of where your new patients/clients came from for the past 6 to 12 months. Assign your front desk person the task of reviewing the files of all your new patients/clients and tabulate their responses to the question concerning what brought them to your office. Once the tabulation is done, have this staff member provide you with a summary of this information – i.e. “45% came from referrals, 20% came from new resident mailings, 10% from Yellow Pages ad, etc.” Use the results from this summary and locate the area(s) that seem to be providing you with the most new patients/clients. Do not be surprised if “referred by a friend or relative” shows up as the number one item – in fact you should be surprised if it doesn’t.

At this point, inspect your marketing budget. How much do you spend to make sure people know how to find your practice? How much are you spending on ads and how many new patients/clients came from that? What kind of materials do you have to stimulate referrals? Examine each area that you are spending your marketing dollars on and what your return is on those dollars. While taking into account the cost effectiveness of each activity, you’ll want to invest more heavily in the area(s) that are giving you the most return. For example, if “referrals” is your number one draw, and the local radio ad is not producing much, how can you shift your advertising dollars into more support activities for referrals? As an example, creating a “Refer a friend or family member” card might be one way to start.

To summarize:

  1. have a means to know where your new patients/clients are coming from;
  2. don’t ignore this data – tabulate and evaluate the information;
  3. invest your marketing budget in the most effective areas based upon the data you gather;
  4. regularly re-assess this information and adjust your marketing plans and investments accordingly.

If you do the above regularly and religiously, you’ll find a steady increase of new patients/clients coming in your door. The first priority is always to strengthen the area that is working best, before looking to add additional avenues.

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Marketing and Promotion Ideas for Your Practice

In my nearly 23 years of delivering practice management training and consulting, I’ve found that of all of the marketing techniques available, properly asking for referrals is easily one of the most useful marketing and promotional ideas for your practice. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It is the least expensive. You don’t have to create and buy ads, make newsletters, send mailings, etc.
  2. It is something that you can directly affect on an ongoing daily basis and see and monitor the results without much time lapse.
  3. It is something that you can train all of your staff to do. You can create reward systems to enhance the staff to do more of it.
  4. You can, more than any other way, attract the type of patient/client that you want. If you analyze the patients/clients in your practice, you can quickly isolate those who are the most cooperative, financially secure and the most fun to have around. These people will, by referral, bring in similar types of new patients.

The whole trick to getting referrals is nothing more complicated than ASK FOR THEM. This can and should be done as a coordinated team effort by all staff. There are many successful actions that you can implement in order to accomplish this.

To get referrals, first, determine which patient/client will be approached. A quick staff meeting at the start of the day can identify patients/clients who’ve had great results and are very happy with their service. Those satisfied people are the ones that you would want to approach. Next, determine who will talk with one of these people. It may likely be the receptionist who will be talking with the person after their appointment. Lastly, work out a simple script that can be used and have a card ready to give out to the person that they can then give to their referral.

Other Marketing Ideas

The following is a list of other successful actions that you can do to promote your practice and get new patients. They are all very inexpensive and easy to do:

  • Ask for referrals!
  • Ask for referrals!
  • Ask for referrals! (ok, point made).
  • Send patients birthday cards.
  • Send out a quarterly newsletter that educates patients.
  • Put up a new patients/clients welcome board in the reception room.
  • Put up a “Thank you for referring” board in reception listing out the patients/clients who referred new patients to the practice.
  • Send thank you letters to every patient/client who referred anyone into the practice.
  • Reward referring patients/clients by sending them to dinner, the movies, etc.
  • Provide a staff reward for generating referrals.
  • The doctor and staff should hand out business cards anywhere and everywhere that is appropriate.
  • Post your practice mission statement in your reception room.
  • Make post-care calls to patients/clients to ensure that they are doing well. This shows you really care.
  • Give tours of the office to school children.
  • Offer family discounts for cash patients.
  • Put up educational posters in all treatment rooms or areas to educate patients about the health care you deliver.
  • Have TV monitors with educational videos that are on a continuous playback loop showing in reception and/or treatment rooms.
  • Have a patient/client appreciation month.
  • Participate in health fairs.
  • Give brisk service with lots of care and affinity.
  • Have all staff who are on the phone always “smile on the phone.”
  • Stay in good communication with any patient or client who is waiting – never let them just sit in silence for any long period.
  • Never make patients/clients wait. Deliver on time.
  • Call your patients/clients by name.
  • Develop a logo and place it in every possible place you can – letterhead, newsletter, business cards, posters, etc.
  • Call patients/clients 2 weeks and then 2 days prior to recall appointments.
  • Confirm appointments the day before.
  • Have simple informational pamphlets. Create your own if you have to.
  • Make follow-up calls after sending a postcard mailer.
  • Use over oversized or odd-sized business cards. People will notice and remember them more than a normal card.
  • Take photos of happy patients and clients and place them on the bulletin board.
  • Have the doctor write a column for a local newspaper or other publication addressing issues within your profession.
  • Share successful results of patient delivery with your staff.
  • Once per year, offer 10% off for payment in full on all old accounts receivables.

All of the above actions will cost you very little up front and will generate the highest quality patients for your practice. Put these into place and you will see your new patient numbers not only increase, but the quality of your patient base will increase.

If you would like no-cost, no-commitment tips on how to effectively implement this information into my practice, fill out the form to the right, and we will be more than happy to assist you.

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How to Set Reminders for Continual Services (Recall)

Whether you are using an automatic reminder system, or it is someone’s job function to send out reminders; or a combination of both. The below information will be highly beneficial to increase your appointments scheduled, reactivating clients/patients and having them show up to their appointments.

In many offices recall can be one of the most overlooked aspects of a practice. Many offices are only utilizing about 30% of their recall poten­tial. This means that patients are not getting the care that they should, and a lot of business is slipping through the cracks of the practice.

One of the biggest problems encountered when you are trying to put in, or straighten out, a non-existent or inefficient recall system is that you may already have “trained” the patient or client that it’s not really all that important to come in for regular exams or other repeatable services. So, the first thing you have to do is let your patients/clients know how important these appointments are.

Patient/client education plays an important part in any successful recall system, whether you simply tell patients/clients or use pictures and other visual aids. The point is that you have to spend the time with your patients/clients. You might think that this is too much trou­ble to go through. But, just realize that the success of your recall system is related to the education of your pa­tients/clients and the use of the system itself.

You will always have people that will not “have the time” or “think it’s unnecessary” and will not participate in your recall program. But, most people, once they have been properly educat­ed and are programmed into the system to keep these appointments, will cooperate.

The System:

The following can be used for any type of follow-up or recall appointment:

  1. Have a supply of postcards made that the patient/client will fill out prior to leaving the office. You should also have appointment cards with spaces for appointment dates and times to be filled in.
  2. Before the person leaves the office, the receptionist should schedule them for their next appointment. They should always be scheduled for their next appointment, no matter how far away it is. (The prior education of the patient on the importance of regular exams is very important to this step going smoothly.)
  3. Put the person’s name in the appointment book and give them an appointment card with the date and time on it.
  4. Give the person a postcard and have them fill in their name and address on the card. Let them know that you’ll send the postcard out ahead of time to remind them of the appointment and that you’ll also give them a call. Having them par­ticipate in the making and scheduling of the appointment is highly effective, it creates a more solid agreement to keep the appointment.
  5. File the postcard in a file box that is divided into each week of the year. File the card in the weekly slot that is two weeks prior to the appointment.
  6. At the beginning of each week, pull out the cards for the appointments scheduled two weeks away and mail them.
  7. Using the recall confirmation dialogue, call the patients two to five days before their appointment to confirm the appointment.

You’ll find that because they filled out the card and received it in the mail, you’ll have a much easier time of confirming and keeping these appointments.

Other Tips on This System:

  1. To really get the person to comply, it is important to stress the importance of “continuing care” rather than the traditional “come and see us in 6 or 12 months” attitude.
  2. Watch the language you use too. Sometimes the word “recall” can have negative connotations. Patients may think of “defective” merchandise being recalled by manufacturers. Use “reexamination,” “reevaluation,” “regular visits,” or “regular appointments.”
  3. It is helpful to note the name of the person that the patient/client should call to make an appointment with (if appropriate) or indicate to the patient who will be calling them and when. This makes their appointment scheduling more personal.
  4. Reminder calls should be made when you are most likely to reach the person. Call after 5:00 p.m. on weekdays or on Saturday morning. Be very diligent about follow-up calls if you can’t reach the person. Make every attempt to reach the person by phone, and send letters if the phone calls are unsuccessful.
  5. Do not let patients fall between the cracks. Every patient should be in two places: in the appointment book with an ap­pointment and in the reminder system to be reminded at some time in the future of their appointment.

Fill out the below form to the right and receive Part II “How to Put in a Recall System and Find Production in Your Existing Patient Base” (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Reactivating Patients: How to Get Them Back

If you were to calculate the value of each patient or client visit and multiply that by the number of patients or clients you have not seen for 6 months or more, you would begin to get the idea that you are losing significant amounts of income by allowing these patients to slip through the cracks. The reactivation of patients or clients who have discontinued care can be a major source of increased activity and income. Although they aren’t new patients or clients per se, the reactivation of these persons can produce a significant increase in activity for you. By simply concentrating on reactivating those persons who have visited you in the past, you can increase office visits and income notably.

People drop out of treatment for many reasons. It is possible that a person decided to discontinue care due to financial difficulties. By contacting them, you might find that their situation has improved, and they may be quite willing to re-establish their visits with you. It is also possible that a patient/client may have stopped coming for services because they didn’t have a full understanding of the importance of regular visits. This is a matter that could be cleared up through communication and education. Lastly, don’t rule out the idea that your former patient/client may be upset with your office, which again could simply be handled with communication. The important thing to be aware of is that communication, a caring attitude, and good follow-up can encourage people to come back to the practice.

Set aside some time to go through your inactive files and find those patients/clients whom you have not seen for at least six months. Look through the chart to determine what services they might be in need of. Compose a letter which addresses the specific service indicated.

Keep a log of letters sent out and, through the use of a reminder file, target a follow-up phone call to the client/patient within one week of sending out the letter.

When placing a phone call, make sure that you are specifically familiar with whom you are calling. Have it clearly in mind exactly what it is you are calling for. Keep a record of your phone calls which would include:

  • the date and time of the call,
  • whom you spoke with,
  • the reason for the call, and
  • the results of the call.

Request the second part of this article to get an amazing sample call script and the four most important things to focus on during a reactivation call. Request “Reactivating Patients: How to Get Them Back – Part II” (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Presenting Treatment Plans – The Do’s and Don’ts

Are you advocating for the patient’s health or his wallet?

How should a treatment plan be presented?

What can a doctor and staff do to ensure a high acceptance rate?

What does all this have to do with sales?

These questions, left unanswered, could potentially cost a practice untold sums, quality of care can suffer, new and repeat business can drop off, office morale can be low and practicing can lose it’s entire purpose if patients are not receiving the care that they need.

Confusion About “Sales” Will Cost Practices a Fortune.

A sale is simply an exchange where all parties involved receive something of value. In healthcare professions, a patient receives care to fix a health problem and/or maintain good health. In exchange for the work done, the staff and doctor are paid.

A successful practice includes doctors and staff who care enough to sell patients exactly what they need. Each doctor is key in the sales cycle because without the doctor diagnosing and planning treatment for the correct care, there would be nothing to sell.

Most confusions stem from the false ideas that people have about sales. High-pressure techniques used by some people can leave a bad impression and make patients/clients want to shy away from buying at all. These techniques are not true sales techniques. In fact, using them can set a doctor up for failure. So to does going out of your way to avoid using any sales techniques at all.

Convincing vs. Selling

Convincing a person that they need to buy something is a different activity than selling them on an idea, service or product. Selling is really nothing more than obtaining agreement. A patient who understands the treatment needed and agrees that it needs to be done — and they are going to do it — is a result of a successful treatment plan presentation. In an attempt to convince a patient to accept a plan, a doctor often talks too much, which in most cases works against him. Good communication, then, becomes a key factor. A doctor using communication skills that serve to enlighten and educate will bring a patient to a point of understanding and agreement.

The Patient vs. The Wallet

Doctors can become so worried about whether or not the patient is going to consider a plan too expensive that they actually neglect giving the patient the true treatment plan. We have not met a doctor who does not consider him/herself a good technician. Yet, when it comes to passing treatment information along to a patient, a doctor can get in a habit of making the presentation more palatable by reducing the plan. Concerns about what the patient might think can get in the way. The wallet, then, becomes the center of attention rather than the exact treatment that the patient needs. Doctors do know what patients need, and this should be clearly expressed to the patient or the likelihood of primarily doing “patch-up” work will enter into the practice.

Plan A or Plan B or Plan C?

The doctor may give the patient too many choices. The patient is not a physician and, therefore, does not know what’s best for him. Patients rely on the doctor to tell them what they need. If the doctor doesn’t do that but gives them a choice between Plan A, Plan B or Plan C, the patient will naturally ask the cost of the different plans and select the least expensive one. Asking a patient to make a choice between a $600 plan, a $350 plan and a $195 plan will cause suspicion. One of the most common misconceptions about doctors is that they’re all rich. A patient may wonder why you would do a $600 plan if a $195 plan will suffice.

Read Part II of this article to see how “Maybe vs. You Need,” “Hesitancy vs. Help,” “Integrity” and much more, coincides with presenting the best treatment plan.” Request “Presenting Treatment Plans: The Do’s and Don’ts – Part II” (highly recommended) Scroll to top

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The Truth About Referral Marketing

The Truth About Referral Marketing

In my nearly 23 years of delivering practice management training and consulting, I’ve found that of all of the marketing techniques available, properly asking for referrals is easily the most useful. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It is the least expensive. You don’t have to create and buy ads, make newsletters, send mailings, etc.
  2. It is something that you can directly affect on an ongoing daily basis and see and monitor the results without much time lapse.
  3. It is something that you can train all of your staff to do. You can create a reward systems to enhance the staff to do more of it.
  4. You can, more than any other way, attract the type of patient/client that you want. If you analyze the patients/clients in your practice, you can quickly isolate those who are the most cooperative, financially secure and the most fun to have around. These people will, by referral, bring in similar types of new patients.

The whole trick to getting referrals is nothing more complicated than asking for them. This can and should be done as a coordinated team effort by all the staff. There are many successful actions that you can implement in order to accomplish this.

First, determine which patient/client will be approached. A staff muster at the start of the day can identify patients/clients who’ve had great results and are very happy with their service. Those are the people you want to approach. Determine who will talk with these people. It may likely be the receptionist who will be talking with a person after their appointment. Work out a simple script (we have several) that can be used and have a card ready to give out to the person that they can then give to their referral.

Instantly receive the second part of this article, The Official Dirt Cheap Marketing Checklist. Simply fill out the form to the right. Click here to go to the form. Scroll to top

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Achieving Better Retention and Patient Satisfaction

Achieving Better Retention and Patient Satisfaction

Thriving successful practices have mastered the challenges of patient and client retention.

A question that needs to be asked, answered and fully understood is “Where does patient or client retention start?”

The truest and most simple answer is the point when the patient is procured!

You could say that patient procurement and patient retention are two sides of the same coin.

Let’s delve into this in a bit more detail.

Let’s delve into this in a bit more detail…

A practice, in essence, has a systematic way of obtaining patients, receiving patients, treating patients and collecting payment for services rendered.

In amongst all of this is the human element or the patient or client themselves. This is where the complexities of patient retention begin and end.

The Key Points That Determine Patient Retention.

How a Clinic addresses the human element is really the crux of succeeding in the challenges of patient retention.

Always keep in mind that underlying retention and patient satisfaction issues are usually issues with service, delivery, and the interaction with the staff.

There are several key points in any practice that determine the outcome of patient retention. This applies to new patients as well as existing patients. These are as follows:

  • Overall Clinic Environment and General Staff Interaction with the Patients
  • Front Desk – Patient Arrival
  • Patient Prep
  • Physician Interaction
  • The Front Desk – Patient Departure
  • Interim Period – The Time After the Patient Leaves Until the Time They Return.
  • Dealing with Patient Upsets

Each of these elements, when properly set up and organized, will lead to a higher degree of patient satisfaction and will result in better retention and better reviews.

In the next article, there will be some tips and strategies to help improve patient retention and treatment satisfaction.

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Nuts and Bolts of Obtaining Client Retention

This article is a continuation of Achieving Better Retention and Patient Satisfaction. If you haven’t done so yet, we recommend reading the first article to get a better context when reading this one.

This article will discuss some of the general aspects and strategies that will help the clinic achieve better retention and patient satisfaction.

Dealing with Upset Patients

Are there clear strategies, procedures and precise policies in place to deal with patients who are upset or dissatisfied with some aspect of the clinic or the service they received?

Is there a person in the clinic who is trained on these policies and designated to handle upset patients?

Staff that come into direct contact with patients should be trained to recognize bad indicators of patients and deal with them in accordance with clinic policies. This is particularly important to address before the patient leaves.

Is there a private place in the clinic where an upset patient can be consulted?

Are Surveys Being Used?

Perhaps the single most important tool to improve the patient experience is the survey.

This often overlooked but powerful tool, when used properly, can determine the exact course of action to take to directly improve retention and improve other aspects of the practice.

The use of surveys in a practice can also result in creating better promotional response in the acquisition of new patients. Other beneficial information can be derived from the use of surveys.

New and existing patients should be surveyed.

The actual subject of creating surveys and surveying is a rather involved technology. The entire subject of surveys would be impossible to cover in this article.

Ideally, there should be someone in the clinic who has at least a basic working knowledge of technology of surveying.

Manners Matter

There is much more to manners than just being polite. This is very important, but there may be other factors to consider on the subject of clinic manners.

Are patients being communicated to in a way that makes them feel understood and acknowledged?

Be Aware of and Sensitive to Personal Beliefs and Concerns

Treat each patient as the unique individual they are. Every patient likes to be made to feel special and important.

Be sensitive to patients who may have particular customs, beliefs and ideas about medicine and treatment.

Develop a culture in the clinic of compassionate care, patient importance and service orientation.

It would be very wise for a clinic to discover the demographic nature of their patient and client base.

Patient questionnaires and surveys can be used to discover any important information in this regard.

All of these things done should add up to a patient who feels that they are important and appreciated.

Who knows, in addition to good retention maybe the clinic will also get rave reviews to boot!

Questions? Ask the Editor.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this article, please feel free to submit them below. Our editors speak with professional doctors like yourself every day. They would be delighted to hear from you.

[ Video ] Your Google and Yelp Reviews

NOTICE: This training video is intended for: Dental, Veterinary and Optometric practice owners.

Just In! Just in! What did Dr. Marlene Siegel, DVM of Pasco Veterinary Medical Center have to say about our assistance?

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    Google and Yelp do not treat all reviews equally. There is an exact science to the way reviews are filtered and ordered to show your potential clients and patients. Get the insight that you need to better understand how Google and Yelp “think.”

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Get Help! Reclaim Your Google and Yelp Pages Now (highly recommended).

Contact us below, and we will be able to walk you through and ensure your Google and Yelp review accounts are set up properly to maximize their effectiveness.