Gearing up your reactivation campaign

May 26, 2010

By Denise Ciardello and Janice Janssen

Well, you got through ’09 and have been waiting, ready for things to return to normal in ’10. You were told it would get better. New patients would be knocking down your door with money in hand and ready to accept that long-needed treatment. So where are all those new patients? The recall patients coming in have had their treatment completed, except for those few who will NEVER get it done unless it breaks, hurts, or falls out. It’s time to stop wringing your hands in worry and start rolling up your sleeves.

Let me take you back in time ... Remember when you first opened your doors? Possibly you were right out of dental school, or heading into an established office as an associate, or maybe you’d moved your practice. How did you get the new patients then? Did you and your staff sit around in hopes of new patients walking in the door, money in hand, ready to accept that long-needed treatment? I dare say NOT! You busted your tail putting out fliers, meeting the neighbors, visiting community schools, going to Chamber, Rotary, or other area meetings. Every patient that walked in the door was like gold to you and you treated them that way; everyone on your staff did as well. You knew each new patient by name, who had referred them, what their fears were, and you catered to those fears. You sent them welcome letters and thank-you notes. All became right in your world.

So now here you sit today, one, 10, or 30 years later, looking around, wishing you had more new patients. Why? Where did they go? Those patients that you had acquired haven’t stuck around. So why not? Were they stolen from you – possibly by some other dentist with a new practice that is now treating them like gold, knows them by name, who their children are, and what fears they have? They are sending out welcome letters and thank-you notes. At what point did your practice become so full that it was no longer necessary to know your patients by name and show them appreciation?

It’s time for your reactivation campaign to gear up, and the organization of this campaign needs to be methodical and systematic. You have a database full of patients who have not crossed your threshold in years, and chances are they haven’t been to another dentist since they last saw you. Find them, call them, and welcome them back. The first step is to get your resources all working in the same direction. Your software contains reports to tell you who these patients are and how to locate them. Depending on the size of your report, your staff may need to divvy up the list and tackle it as a team. Each patient has different needs, personalities, and attitudes, so your team will need a standard script for approaching these patients. It’s not that they have to say the exact same words but the meanings need to correlate with each other. Goals need to be set to carry out this campaign effectively, and the entire team needs to be onboard with those goals. When implementing a plan of any kind, the critical, most important step is to put it on paper. It seems overly simple, yet those that do it understand its power.

Here are some steps to get you started:
1. Set goals – Specific, measurable, and defined: how many calls, letters/postcards are going out each day/week/month.
2. Actions – Define the exact steps you must take to get to the goal.
3. Deadlines – Realistic, but achievable.
4. Routine review of results – Don’t leave this step off; this is how you determine the success of your campaign.

The methods you take to perform this task largely depend on the size of your report. Phone calls are invaluable when trying to reconnect with patients; however, they may not always be possible. If unable to reach a live person by phone, drop a letter or postcard in the mail. There are many services available that will attempt to reactivate patients in your database using electronic means. It doesn’t matter what your process is; it does matter that you begin – today!

Roadblocks will arise and, as a team, those should be predefined and dealt with according to your guidelines. For instance, a patient’s phone number has been disconnected. Do you:
1 – Delete or inactivate the patient and move on? Or…
2 – Go to and try to find at least a valid address?

Dig through the file; there may be a spouse’s number or an emergency number that is usually a parent or close friend. What if a patient can’t be reached by phone? Do you drop a letter or postcard in the mail? Do you have e-mails in your patients’ files? If not, you should begin gathering those today. Ten years ago, you would never have dreamed of not acquiring a patient’s phone number. E-mail addresses are just as significant, or possibly more so today.

In the morning meeting, when reviewing today’s patients, it is just as vital to mention the reactivated patients as it is the new patients. Treat them, as you do all your patients, like gold – call them by name; know who their children are; send them handwritten thank-you notes; show them that you appreciate them. When trying to deal with the state of today’s affairs, sometimes it’s as simple as looking back to the beginning.

Denise Ciardello and Janice Janssen are the founders of Global Team Solutions, a practice management consulting firm specializing in team training, team building, and employment law compliance. Janice can be reached at (314) 644-8424; and Denise at (210) 862-9445.