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Finding Your Ideal Patients with Better Marketing

Finding Your Ideal Patients with Better Marketing
Dr. Christopher Phelps

In my experience, most dental offices are pretty bad at marketing. They’ll invest in a mix of newspaper ads, phone book advertisements, maybe a radio spot. In some areas, they’ll have billboards. Many sponsor Little League teams. Everyone has a website these days, of course, but most of them are pretty generic. You assume that your marketing attracts more patients, but does it really? And how do you know that your marketing attracts the sort of patients who are a good fit for your practice?


Too many dentists base their marketing on feelings. They’ll buy into a particular type of advertising because they get along with a salesman or because everyone else is doing it. I mean, sure, if you love sponsoring the peewee soccer team because you enjoy being involved in your community, go for it. But unless you’re an orthodontist or a pediatric dentist, you probably shouldn’t consider it marketing.

So, how do you find your ideal patients? With information. To find and attract good patients to your practice you need to know who your best patients are and what sorts of marketing they’re likely to consume.  Most dentists never manage to do this. However, chances are that you already have the most important tool for growing your practice: your practice management software.


Your 20 Best Patients, and What They Have in Common

Which 20 patients have done the most to grow your practice in the past month, year, or 5 years? Unless your practice is very small, you probably can’t answer this question. Fortunately, most practice management software lets you run custom reports. You can definitely find out who your top 20 patients are in terms of spending. If you also track referrals, you may be able to create a list of who your top 20 patients are in terms of referring other new patients, too.


Once you’ve gotten a few lists of ‘top patients’ together, see what they have in common. Are they all members of a certain age group? Do they live in certain areas? Do they share common health conditions?  The things they share will help you decide who to target. For instance, maybe your best patients are all diabetics in need of gum care. Then you might want to target your marketing dollars to reach the waiting rooms of local endocrinologists and internists.  Maybe your best patients are young professionals. Figure out which restaurants, gyms, and websites are popular with this group, and use marketing to reach them there.

Focus, Focus, Focus

If you’re not ready to make big changes, focus on attracting more of the patients you already serve well. For instance, in my own practice, I noticed many of my best patients were recently retired senior citizens who led fairly active lives.  I decided to focus my new patient recruiting efforts on members of this group.


I talked to recent retirees and looked at research on their dental needs. I discovered that many members of this demographic group lived retirement communities, lacked dental insurance, and needed treatments but worried about costs.  This research led me to create an in-house dental savings plan to meet retiree needs. It also led me to market the plan directly to these potential patients through wine and cheese receptions.  My new book, How to Grow Your Dental Membership Plan : Marketing Secrets behind my 1.4 Million Dollars of Growth, outlines how I managed to turn a simple exercise in identifying my best patients into an opportunity for growth.   If you’re ready to identify your best patients, develop a program to serve similar people, and market the program directly to them, my book can help you find and attract the new patients you need to grow your practice.

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