How to Attract and Retain Your Ideal Patient on a Budget

In Building a Practice, Print Issues by Laura Schwindt

During dental school, running became my outlet. It was a simple way to get outside, move my body and refresh my mind. The miles would speed by, and I would forget about all the studying and lab work that awaited me upon my return.

Fast-forward to 11 years after graduation. Running was still a big outlet I enjoyed. However, I added three small kids and building a solo dental practice from scratch to my schedule. The only opportunity I had to run was at 4:30 in the morning. Because it was dark, the treadmill became my new best (and worst) friend.

I loved my treadmill and the fact that it allowed me to attempt to keep in shape during those busy years. Even so, I longed for the freedom of getting outside and breathing the fresh air. I missed being able to choose different routes and change up the scenery.

You may be wondering what running has to do with attracting and retaining more ideal patients on a budget!

The average American dentist’s overhead is 73 percent. If my Norwegian Grandpa were still alive and I told him this fact, his reply would be simple: “Uff-da.”

High overhead chains you to the treadmill and limits your choices. Burnout is just one of the negative consequences of not being able to get off the treadmill.

The standard solution to tackle a dental practice with high overhead is to cut expenses. I believe it’s valuable to take a “long-run” into your costs and explore if there are ways to improve your percentages.

Once you’ve investigated your expenses, there is an additional path you can choose to run down. It’s a path that requires you to slow your pace to scrutinize your form’s finer points.

When you decide to train for a marathon, each time you lace up your shoes for a run, the vision of your goal should propel you forward. The same is true in your dental career.

Unfortunately for many, the focus may turn to just looking at the numbers, including increasing only the number of patients. Because lack of vision with who you want to attract into your practice, dentists often try to be everything to everyone. This scenario can chain you to the treadmill, lead to overwhelmingly chaotic days and burnout.

It’s often beneficial to let up your pace for a drink of water and to refuel during a run. If you stop to take a look at your days in the office, can you say you are treating your ideal patient? Have you ever slowed down long enough to figure out who your ideal patient is?

There are three main characteristics of an ideal patient:

  1. A patient that you love to see in your chair.
  2. A patient that you have the expertise to help.
  3. A patient that can pay you and is eager to get started.

Slow down your sprint pace and spend one of your runs zoning in on who your ideal patient is. You will likely add a few details to the above list that fit your personality. Please take a moment and imagine how rewarding (and productive) your weeks at work would be if your schedule was full of your ideal patient.

Once you’ve determined who your ideal patient is, take the next step and ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What is their main pain point with dentistry?
  2. What do they desire most from dentistry?
  3. What are the most significant obstacles they have to getting the dentistry they desire?

And now, ask yourself, “How can YOU help them with the above three questions?”

Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, you have successfully put in the majority of long runs (preparation) in your training. It’s now time for the FUN to begin, and you are ready for the big race!

When you take the time to prepare and develop a vision of who your ideal patient is, the path of marketing to your ideal patient becomes very clear.

It’s a little bit like mapping out your training runs and races to qualify for a marathon. You’ve put in the work, and now you get to enjoy the experience!

Now you can focus all of your marketing towards attracting your ideal patient.

Sadly, when most dentists hear the word “marketing,” they tend to associate it with significant and sometimes expensive campaigns. I sat through several marketing presentations, and I understand why you make this assumption. As dentists, we also are not trained in marketing, and so it can feel like we should pay someone else to do it for us.

If the word marketing gives you an instant side-ache, I want to tell you; it’s not your fault. I want to present to you a remedy for your side-ache called attraction marketing.

Attraction marketing is a process of providing valuable information to your ideal patients (both new and existing) that helps create brand loyalty and a desire for the treatment you provide.

When you bring together your ideal patient homework, attraction marketing, and the digital world, you have set yourself up for a fantastic run. Add to that the fact that you can accomplish this yourself on a small budget, and you’ve just won the race!

Next, I’ll outline four inexpensive (if not free!) ways to apply attraction marketing to attract and retain more ideal patients on a budget.

Email Attraction Marketing

  1. Record a short informational video on any procedure you love to do and want to do more at your office. You can do this or have one of your team members do it.
  2. Post your video on your social media channels (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or LinkedIn).
  3. Run a report on your software to determine if there are patients with that particular procedure currently not scheduled.
  4. Draft a friendly email reminding them of their unscheduled treatment plan and include a link to your video.
  5. Invite them to call you or a valued team member to discuss any questions they may have about the video or set up a consultation/appointment.
  6. You can also send this link to any new patient after an initial phone call OR use it in a CTA (see below for CTA)

Local Publications/News Channels

Contact your local news publications and media channels to inquire if they have opportunities for educational spots.

Newspapers often have an “Ask the Expert” section that they publish on a regular rotation. Writing a short article that is published consistently goes a long way to establish your authority and help patients get to know you. (Make sure to include a professional headshot!)

Local media channels are always looking for stories. Showing up with educational pieces or feel-good stories of how you help the community with dental health or donated time is a beautiful way that helps patients get to know you as a genuine human being. The more they see you, the more your KLT (Know, Like, Trust) factor will increase and attract them to your practice.

Patient Challenges

Developing and running a simple patient challenge is a fun way to dive into attraction marketing.

  1. Educate patients on the importance of good oral health.
  2. Highlight procedures in your practice that can improve their oral health.
  3. Increase interaction and engagement with you and your team, which increases your KLT Factor!
  4. They provide an opportunity to get the word out on procedures patients may not know you offer.
  5. Bring more awareness for patients who may be unsure if they are candidates for specific procedures.
  6. Allow you to create excitement about the procedures you want to do more of in your practice!

Call to Action

The Call to Action (CTA) is a simple tool that is under-used! The best news about the CTA is it’s free to apply to your marketing. Everything you put out online should have something for your patient/future patient to do. Make sure that there is a simple and obvious next step. Examples of CTAs:

  1. Click here to schedule an appointment
  2. Click here to contact us
  3. Click here to pay your bill
  4. Click here to learn more about…
  5. Click here for a free consult
  6. Click here to visit our website
  7. Click here to read our blog post
  8. Click here to view our video

CTAs should be on everything you send electronically. CTAs should be on every page and section of your website. CTAs should be all over your social media pages and posts.

You know what happens when you need to stop and look up a number to call. You usually tell yourself you’ll do it when it’s more convenient. Help your patients and future patients get the information they want now, so they don’t forget to do it later or click somewhere else!

Amazing! You’ve gone from lacing up your shoes to finishing your marathon. I hope you enjoyed this running adventure on the “Attracting and Retaining More Ideal Patients on a Budget” path!