You might think that if your dental practice has a great-looking website, attractive brochures, and a strong social media presence, you’re doing everything you can to market it.
Local marketing isn’t just about your online presence and traditional marketing materials. Local marketing also includes extra details that make your patients feel special and wanting to return – and to refer other patients to your practice.
Don’t get me wrong. An awesome, user-friendly website, a clean, recognizable, memorable logo, and brochures have their place. We certainly wouldn’t recommend you not have them.
However, if you’re missing this one key ingredient in your local marketing plan, then you’re most likely missing out on new patients and referrals as a result.
So, what’s the missing ingredient?
It’s about making marketing a priority for your staff.
It's about your staff understanding that while their title isn't 'salesperson', they are still selling.
It's about your staff being able to overcome common objections while on the phone or at the front desk and being able to still book that appointment, all while the patient still feels comfortable and not like they were pushed into something they didn't want to do.
Adding Your Dental Staff to Your Marketing Team
Let’s start by talking about adding your dental staff to your marketing team. They might not have traditional marketing experience, but they have customer service experience, which is a form of marketing.
Here are a few reasons why training and encouraging your dental staff to help you with marketing is a good idea:
- Your front desk is often the first point of contact for a prospective patient. When a patient is looking for a dentist, they may call several practices before making an appointment. What happens during that initial phone call may result in an amazing first impression AND a booked appointment, resulting in thousands of dollars in lifetime revenue, or it could turn away a perfectly fine patient that you could help, and profit from.
- Your office staff has contact with every patient who walks in the door. They’re responsible for checking patients in, coordinating with insurance providers, collecting payments, and booking appointments. If they’re not trained in marketing, they might not do everything they can to make the patient’s experience a good one.
- People choose service providers based on a lot of criteria, many of which, are subconscious. Your skills as a dentist are an important part of the equation, but they’re not the only part.
In other words, your team plays an essential role in a patient’s experience with you. They are most likely the first point of contact when a new patient contacts the office, the first people they’ll see when they check in, and the last person they’ll see when they check out.
How to Evaluate Your Team’s Performance
Before you train your team and tell them what you expect them to do to market your dental practice, it’s a good idea to evaluate what they’re doing now.
There are several ways to get this information. For example:
- Use (or hire someone to make) “Secret Shopper” call to find out how your staff is answering the phone and speaking to prospective patients.
- Ask your staff to walk you through what they do when a patient arrives for an appointment or when they pay their bill and leave.
- Send a survey to your current patients and ask them to evaluate their experiences in your office.
The goal here is not to spy on your employees. Rather, it’s to find out what they’re doing well and what might require some guidance from you.
If you do make Secret Shopper calls, pay attention to:
- Whether the phone is answered quickly – how many rings?
- What your staff says when they answer the phone – are they greeting callers the way you want them to?
- Whether your staff engages callers by asking questions and providing details.
- Whether your staff provides your credentials to callers.
- Whether your staff asks callers if they’d like to book an appointment or consultation.
- Whether they asked for the caller’s name, telephone number, and email address.
- How long the call lasted and how long the caller was left on hold.
Collecting this information can help you pinpoint problem areas so you can retrain your staff as needed. It may also be helpful to have in-person Secret Shoppers come in to evaluate how your staff deals with patients when they’re in your office.
Train Your Staff on Phone Etiquette
After you’ve evaluated your staff’s performance and etiquette on the phone, it’s time to review your findings with them and provide any necessary training to bring their marketing skills up to speed.
These suggestions can help you conduct the training in-house if you feel that’s the best option. Otherwise, if you can afford it, you might want to consider bringing in outside trainers to handle it.
- Come up with a standard greeting for all people who answer the phone to use. For example, “Good morning, thank you for calling ABC Dental. This is Cheryl. How may I help you?”
- Ask them to get the caller’s name and repeat it back to them at least three times during the call. Repeating a name makes the caller feel valued and appreciated.
- Provide all staff with a “cheat sheet” listing your credentials and the credentials of any other dentists on staff. That way, they can answer questions as they’re asked and not have to worry that they’re leaving something out.
- Remind them that callers can hear it when they’re smiling – and ask them to smile when they answer the phone.
- Let them know that they should never answer with only Yes or No. If a patient asks, “Do you offer cosmetic dentistry?” they should respond with, “Yes, are you interested in getting your teeth whitened?” Everything they say should move the conversation forward.
- Ask for the caller’s phone number and email address so you can follow up and add them to your list of leads.
- Never end a call without asking if the caller wishes to make an appointment.
- Never go 'off the cuff'. Your staff should always be using a proven sales script.
These are simple things, but having a clearly-defined phone policy for your practice will ensure that every caller is treated with warmth, respect, and professionalism.
Customer Service Training
The next step is to train your staff on the customer service procedures you would like them to use when people come into the office. You can also include greetings and procedures like those in your phone policy, and add some other elements as well. For example:
- Decide how patients will be greeted when they walk in the door. You might ask your staff to say, “Hello! Welcome to ABC Dental. My name is Cheryl. Do you have an appointment today?”
- Establish whether your staff is to offer guests water or something else to help the patient feel more comfortable. Determine how the offer will be made, and then be consistent with it every time. “Dr. Smith will be just a few minutes. Can I offer you some water while you wait?”
- Discuss check-out procedures and determine how to streamline the process for patients. If it’s possible for your staff to do some preliminary work while the patient is with you, it can make their experience at check-out a pleasant one.
- Make sure your staff understands the services you offer and can talk knowledgeably about them. If a patient asks about a new procedure, you want your office staff to be able to explain it to them in simple terms and offer them a brochure or book an appointment.
- Train your staff to up-sell, cross-sell, and suggest services and any merchandise your practice offers. For example, a patient who comes in for a cleaning might be interested in whitening, or perhaps one of the electronic toothbrushes that you offer. They should get accustomed to making suggestions.
- Train your staff to ask for referrals from existing patients.
The most important thing of all is to emphasize the importance of building an emotional connection with the patients who come in. We’re not talking about forcing a relationship, but it’s important to be warm, friendly, and compassionate. These things go a long way to building patient loyalty.
It would be ideal if you could count on your staff to jump enthusiastically into marketing. However, it’s important to be realistic. Incentives might be a way to motivate and get your dental staff invested in marketing your dental practice.
I like the idea of tying any bonuses or incentives to the performance of the practice. In other words, instead of incentivizing individual performance, you’ll be incentivizing group performance. If the practice succeeds, you all share in the rewards.
For example, you might say, “If the practice attracts X new patients between now and the end of the year, I’ll treat the staff to a spa day.”
Here are different metrics to determine the success of your marketing program:
- Attracting new patients
- Exceeding last year’s revenue by a certain amount
- Being fully booked when you’re open (no open appointments for you or any of your dentists)
- The percentage of patients booking their next appointment before they leave your office
You get the idea.
You may also decide to provide some individual incentives. If you ask patients to fill out a Patient Survey after an appointment, you can offer special incentives for staff members whose names get mentioned in a complimentary way.
The main benefit of offering incentives to your staff is that you’ll be giving them a reason to be invested in the success of your practice. The more you emphasize teamwork and an “all for one” attitude, the more likely it is that your in-house marketing efforts will be a success.
More and more, patients are turning to social media to find local service providers, including dentists.
It’s important to have a written social media policy that dictates how your staff responds to comments and complaints. Every time you post or reply to a comment on your Facebook page, Twitter feed, or Instagram account, it’s a chance to reinforce your brand and attract new patients.
Items to include in your social media policy:
- How quickly you expect staffers to respond to comments and direct messages
- The tone you want them to use when writing on behalf of your practice
- Your policy for dealing with negative comments or complaints
- Guidelines for selecting content to share
- Anything your staff is authorized to do to resolve problems and help people who are upset
- Putting a policy in place can help prevent confusion. Make sure that only staff members you trust to adhere to your guidelines have access to your social media accounts.
What Happens If Your Staff Isn’t Marketing
You know why your staff should be marketing your practice, but what happens if it doesn’t work out that way?
The truth is that you could lose out on more than you think if your office staff isn’t a part of your ongoing marketing efforts.
First, you might be losing out on prospects. If a prospective patient calls and isn’t treated well, they might choose another practice in town – or in the next town over. That first phone call to your practice is an important one and might make the difference between gaining a new patient and losing out to someone else.
Second, you can miss opportunities to turn a one-time visitor to your practice into a long-term patient. If your staff doesn’t bother to schedule future appointments and talk about your services, then the patient might not come back to you for their next cleaning.
Third, you’ll likely miss out on potential referrals from your existing patients. Patients who are well treated and feel that they’re important to you and your staff are going to be eager to recommend your practice to others. Those who feel that they’ve been treated perfunctorily, on the other hand, probably won’t be enthusiastic about referring patients.
Fourth, the money you spend elsewhere – including money you have budgeted for SEO and online marketing – may go to waste if your staff doesn’t know how to qualify leads and book appointments.
When you and your staff operate as part of a coherent marketing team, you’ll be able to expand and grow your dental practice.
Let Your Staff Help Market Your Dental Practice
Marketing your dental practice is important – and including your dental staff will make your marketing much easier. When your staff is an integral part of your local marketing, your practice will start to grow naturally. That’s the missing ingredient in your local marketing mix – and it’s one you can easily provide with a bit of training and guidance.
If you’d like to learn how Titan can help you with your marketing, please read more about our marketing services.