9 High Return On Investment Marketing Strategies For Specialists

June 2017
Marketing Marketing Strategies

In every specialty, more new doctors are entering practice than retiring, creating increased competition for a slow-growing group of potential new patients. In addition, patient referrals from general dentists have declined every year over the past decade.

As general dentists have expanded their procedure mix, they are treating more patients who otherwise would have been referred out. The growth in group practice has accelerated this trend, as most are providing specialty services in-house in order to better compete against corporate dentistry. As a result, fewer specialty practices reported an increase, and more reported a decrease, in new patients in 2016.

Yet, some specialty practices are bucking the trend, and growing at double-digit rates with increased profitability. What are they doing differently? Below, we discussed their high return marketing “secrets.”

  1. Sponsor CE programs for hygienists/Provide “lunch and learns” for staff of area dentists – Targeting staff members of potential referring doctors can prove a wise investment. In many cases, the hygienist spends more time with the prospective specialty patient than does the general dentist, providing a better opportunity to identify the dental problem and recommend needed treatment to the doctor and patient. Furthermore, while many general dentists routinely provide the names of several specialists for a family to pick from for a specialty referral, most patients will simply ask the hygienist or other staff member which doctor they use and/or would recommend. Moreover, hygienists and other staff members are significantly more receptive to and appreciative of marketing efforts, than are most general dentists.

    Furthermore, most states require hygienists to satisfy mandatory continuing education requirements annually in order to maintain their license. Offering this continuing education helps them maintain their skills, and provides an opportunity to promote the competitive advantages of your practice. For best results, use an outside speaker to present these programs.

  2. Sponsor continuing education programs for referring doctors – Let your actual or potential referring doctors know that you care about them, and want them to be successful, by providing the knowledge and information they need to help them reach their goals. Furthermore, this provides an opportunity to promote your practice and gain feedback as to how you can better serve these doctors and their patients.

  3. Practice purchase/merger – The fastest way to grow profitably is to purchase another practice. This can dramatically increase practice collections, while eliminating a competitor from the marketplace. The most efficient practice purchase target is a nearby competitor, so that you can merge the target practice into your practice’s existing facility, thereby eliminating duplicative facility, labor, and other overhead costs. In most cases, your practice can add 50%-60% of the purchased volume as profit to the bottom line, even after deducting the practice purchase debt service.

    If this opportunity is not available, the next best alternative is to purchase a practice outside of your current market area and operate it as a second (satellite) practice. While overhead costs will be higher, your practice will move closer to operating at full (100%) capacity, and generate increased profitability. In both cases, a proper transition with the selling doctor is critical to assure maximum transferability of the patient and doctor referral base.

  4. Upgrade practice website – More prospective patients are going to your website to research your practice before making a purchasing decision. Don’t turn them off with outdated or stock photos that don’t reflect the quality of care your practice delivers. Add original photographs of actual cases and be sure to delete any clinical terminology and graphic photos.

    Moreover, add video testimonials from 5 patients of one minute each to your website in order to help convert more potential new patients. Since video testimonials are 50 times more powerful than written testimonials, spending the modest amount necessary to produce them (usually around $5,000) creates a huge return on investment. Remember, this unique content also helps boost the practice’s search engine optimization (SEO).

  5. Increase favorable Google reviews – More prospective patients are relying on reviews these days to help them make a purchasing decision. Your practice’s goal should be to have at least 20 favorable Google reviews online in order to generate the maximum positive impact on potential patients. If you haven’t already, set up a system in your practice to ask satisfied patients to leave a review online, using their own device.

  6. Add/upgrade practice signage – Improved visibility will attract more new patients to your practice. Increase your practice’s signage to the maximum size permitted under local sign rules, and make sure to personalize it. Remember, signage is the “silent salesperson,” providing a 24/7, 365 days a year image touting your practice. While other marketing strategies involve annual cash outlays, a signage investment is a one-time cost only, while providing positive returns for years to come.

  7. Sponsor dinner/luncheon/sporting events for referring doctors – Doctors refer to specialists that they like and have a positive relationship with. While these events take time, they provide an opportunity to build those positive relationships and discuss ways that you and your practice can improve the quality of care and service you provide to their practice and patients.

  8. Win “best of local area” award – Many localities sponsor contests to select the “best provider” of goods and services, including dental care, in their area. Encourage patients and friends to cast a vote for your practice. Winning these contests provides another positive factor for prospective patients to use in making their buying decision.

  9. Give newsletter gift subscriptions to referring doctors* – Providing leading-edge information to help referring doctors improve their personal and practice finances is a great way to build and maintain the referral relationship. Make sure that each monthly newsletter is sent in an envelope inscribed “compliments of your practice” to provide a monthly reminder of the benefit you are providing.


* For information about enhancing your relationship with referring doctors and colleagues through a gift subscription to The McGill Advisory, call 888.249.7537.


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