Marketing to existing patients and improving your worth as a dental assistant

Aug. 25, 2010
Your best marketing tools are the patients already in your dental chair. Tija Hunter, EFDA, tells you several things you must do to successfully market to existing patients.

By Tija Hunter, EFDA

We’ve all heard that our best marketing tools are the patients already in our chair. We already have their trust. They believe in us, so they send us their family and friends. Marketing to these people is easy, right? It is if you’ve got what it takes!

There are several things you must do to successfully market to existing patients:

  • Education, education, education — Educating patients on their oral health, and what treatment options are available, is our most important job. The same treatment won't work for every patient. Make sure you present them with every option, and guide them through the process. Let them know you take their treatment very seriously, because if you don't, why should they? When my physician gives me a work order to have blood work done, have my cholesterol checked, or get a mammogram, he doesn’t give me a choice. He tells me to go do it! Too many times we give our patients a "choice" on whether they should have treatment done. We need to remember we are the caregivers for the oral cavity. We've been to school, we're educated, we know what we're doing, so let’s do it! This all starts with educating patients. When patients see our level of confidence and knowledge, their trust in us grows.

Team members must have the knowledge to be able to properly educate patients. I believe that attending continuing education should be mandatory for all team members. If you don’t want to attend meetings and grow, you’re not living up to your potential. Dentistry is ever evolving, and everyone on the team needs to be on the same page. Has your team attended a dental convention together? If not, it's time for a road trip! Meetings are a wealth of information, plus your team gets to spend some out-of-office time together, not to mention just plain have fun together. It's a great team-builder, so go out and enjoy!

Your dental supply rep is your best friend. Use the rep’s knowledge and network of manufacturer reps to enhance your practice and product knowledge. Take advantage of lunch-and-learns. It’s a great way to get the entire team together and on the same page about products. It’s important for your front office team to be just as prepared to answer questions as your back office team. There is a vast selection of products out there that can make your life easier. Make sure you have the products and services available to your patients when they need it. Invest in yourself by investing in technology and products. Don't just “do” the lunch-and-learns; find the products that will fit your office best and use them. If you're not using intraoral cameras at each hygiene appointment, then you’re missing out. Many people are visual learners. We can talk all day about what is wrong with a tooth, but when patients can actually SEE the problem blown up on the computer monitor, it becomes real to them. Get that camera out and use it as a visual tool.

  • Utilize your dental lab! Lab techs (or lab rats, as I lovingly call them) are very informative and can give you and your team much-needed guidance. Communication with them is key to success. They can open up an entire world of products and services that can help your team understand the importance of what they do. Talk to your lab techs, and invite them to educate your team. Go over procedures with them. You will be amazed at how knowledgeable these people are and the world of services they can offer you. If your lab won't do this for you, then you're using the wrong lab! There are great labs out there. Do your homework and find a lab that stresses the importance of communication, and watch how easy things fall into place. It will be a giant step in the right direction!
  • Studies have shown that appointing patients while they are still in the operatory makes them more likely to show up for their next appointment. Reappoint patients while they are still in the chair. Keep appointment cards in the operatories. If questions arise about upcoming treatment, find a private place to discuss their needs. Patients must feel comfortable and confident about impending treatment.
  • And last, we must stress the importance of treatment. Your biggest competitor isn't the dental office down the street; it's the 50-inch big screen at Best Buy. People will find a way to buy what they want. Don't let your emotions dictate to you what your patients can and cannot afford. Remember, we are the ONLY ones looking out for their oral health. Hopefully with proper education and knowing the products and services available, patients will make the investment in themselves.

Now, do you have what it takes?

Author bio
Tija Hunter, EFDA, is an expanded functions dental assistant/office manager in O'Fallon, Mo., and an independant dental consultant specializing in team building, assistant training, and office organization. She can be reached at (618) 917-1012 or [email protected].