8 tactics to partner-and-prosper with area providers

Aug. 18, 2010
Lonnie Hirsch and Stewart Gandolf, MBA, discuss cross promotion and how it can produce results for your practice. Use these eight marketing strategies to open the door to new patient opportunities.

By Lonnie Hirsch and Stewart Gandolf, MBA

The concept of cross promotion in dental marketing has been around for a while, mainly because it works, producing results for two or more practices. We’ve been teaching this concept for years; it’s neither expensive nor difficult to do; and there are always creative new ways for dentists to pump up their return on investment.

In marketing-speak, it is called cross promotion. Essentially this means you team up with a noncompeting colleague or business to effectively reach a common target audience. For example, let’s say you and the dermatologist across the hall both provide cosmetic services for image-aware adults. The oldest version of cross promotion is to agree to put each other’s business cards on your respective front desks.

The low-key business card exchange is easy to do, but since it’s passive, it doesn’t always provide an impact. You could inch forward by also exchanging brochures or flyers, but here are some tactics to move things up a notch or two.

Tactic 1: You’re not limited to the guy down the hall. You can duplicate this marketing affiliation with several other practices and include nondirect referral sources — such as a wedding photographer, beauty salon, medi spa, and others — provided that everyone sees everyone else as noncompetitive.

Tactic 2: Leverage location and proximity. Elective and cosmetic services are a natural connection for entities that share appearance-conscious clientele. But cross-promotion partners can be linked by proximity. The public also tends to purchase goods and services where it’s convenient for them. You may find good business partners who are geographically close — in the same shopping district or neighborhood, for example — regardless of what they are selling.

Tactic 3: Send out a written recommendation. Participants can craft a mailing to their respective customers or patients with a specific reference to the other. A letter works better than a newsletter mention, and remember that you cannot share patient lists; practitioners need to mail to their own base.

Tactic 4: E-mailings are faster and cheaper. Many of us are more connected (and reliant upon) e-mail than ever. If you and your partners’ target audiences are e-mail-centric, and they have “opted in” to promotional messages, you can send your cross-promotion message electronically. Again, each partner will need to e-mail his or her own base, endorsing the others.

Tactic 5: Create special Web pages. You and the cross-promotion partners can devote a page on your respective Web sites to feature the services that would interest visitors. In doing so, create a link exchange between your sites for more information. Link exchanges can also improve your rankings with Google and other search engines. Adding a Web page is relatively quick and cheap.

Tactic 6: Create an “umbrella” Web site with multiple participants. Several kindred practices can jointly create an independent Web site as a cooperative marketing tool that embraces all — for example, the “River City Healthcare Alliance” Web site — with a page or two for each of you. It is optimized for all of the key search words, and there is a link back to each of your respective Web sites.

Tactic 7: Send in the practice reps. Some relationships may be appropriate for an exchange of representatives for a day at your respective locations. You’ll need to carefully evaluate how this option would work; it’s not always a good fit for both partners. In some situations, teaming up with cross-promotion partners at a “neutral location” (such as a health fair or community event) might be a more suitable alternative.

Tactic 8: Consider bundled offers and/or cause marketing. When you share a common purpose with a common audience — such as cosmetic or appearance appeal — consider linking offers together. A “bundled” offer provides the recipient with value from two sources — for instance, teeth whitening treatment from you in combination with a facial offer from the medi spa.

Alternatively, dissimilar businesses can link arms with the community through a “cause,” such as helping prevent cardiovascular disease, promoting good dental health (your practice), plus enforcing proper exercise and nutrition (your partner).

Of course, make sure you choose reputable partners if you cross promote. After all, your reputation is on the line whenever you make a referral or endorsement.

There are three winners in good cross promotion: first, your dental practice, and second, the noncompetitive practice (or kindred business) that partners with you. Reaching out to a common audience, you both open the door to new patient opportunities. The bonus winner is the patient, someone who enjoys the added value from the cross-promotion partners who truly value the patient’s business. Win. Win. Win again.

Author bio
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, and Lonnie Hirsch are cofounders of Healthcare Success Strategies, and two of America's most experienced practice marketers. They have worked with dentists for a combined 30 years, written numerous articles on practice marketing, and consulted with more than 3,000 private health-care practices. Reach them at (888) 679-0050, through their Web site at www.healthcaresuccess.com, or via e-mail at [email protected].