After taking on a new practice and a second dentist, Dr. Newsome needed a way to increase his flow of new patients. This year, he's averaged 83 new patients a month. In this interview, learn how he did it and his approach to practice marketing.
I recently caught up with Dr. Boyd Newsome, a dentist whose practice I have had the opportunity to watch grow. I used to work for a company called Dental Intel, which many of you might be familiar with. I helped Dr. Newsome analyze his practice, Riverpoint Family, Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry, when he was first buying it, and have had the opportunity to speak with him and help analyze things using Dental Intel. This is how I was first keyed in on his practice growth. I was impressed with what he has been able to do regarding new patient numbers. Last year, he was doing pretty well and averaging 44 new patients each month. This year, he made some changes and saw a significant improvement, up to an average of 83 new patients every month. Like I said, I have seen these numbers first hand.
Interview with Dr. Boyd Newsome
Can you give a little history of your marketing strategy?
I bought my practice maybe two years ago and was able to expand it from one dentist to two. This was the first time I had ever owned a dental practice. I soon figured out that the new patient flow we were seeing last year was just not enough to support two dentists. We tried nearly everything you could possibly think of, and we took measurements of how well each marketing tactic worked. We were able to determine a few methods which were working really well. Therefore, we now focus all of our efforts on those particular methodologies because we have proven that they work.
How did you determine your methods were working?
We always gather information on how patients found us. If we are going to be spending money on marketing, we had better be able to determine what is working. The question is on the new patient paperwork, and if they don't answer it, we ask them before they are taken back for their appointment.
What are some of the marketing methods that you tried?
We have tried dozens of marketing strategies, from postcards to radio advertising to . . . you name it.
What was your first victory in terms of marketing?
Our first marketing victory happened with internal referrals. Last year, when we were trying all of those different methods and averaging 44 new patients per month, about 70% of those patients were internal referrals.
How did you decide to start focusing on internal referrals?
We always hear that internal referrals are our best source of new patient growth, so I knew we had to figure out how to implement a system that would help foster those. We had patients who told us they loved how our practice worked. They also loved the care we provided. So, we started using that information and enthusiasm in order to get new patients. We printed up a card which offered free movie tickets to both the patient making the referral and the brand-new patient, and we started to give those cards to people.
I feel like this is a major sticking point for a lot of practices. How were you presenting those cards to patients?
At the end of an appointment, our hygienist would thank the patient for coming and then say something like, "We'd really love to have you as one of our patients." Most importantly, the hygienist would make this particular statement when he or she was smiling and giving their fullest attention to the patient. The hygienist wasn't doing anything else, like looking for an open slot for their next appointment. Then the patient would usually—although not every single time, of course—say something like, "You always do a great job. I love being a patient here!"
This sort of a response then gave us an ideal opportunity to give a few cards to the patient. The hygienist would do so and then tell the patient about our great program. Usually the hygienist would say something like, "That's our favorite thing to hear from our patients. Did you know that one of the major ways our office is growing is patients telling their friends about us? Did you hear about our terrific referral program?" And then the hygienist would provide the details to the patient; the rest should be fairly self-explanatory.
You seem to have card presentation down to a science.
The truth is, we really had to fine tune our methods. The cards never changed; it was presentation that could change our success rate.
What are your new patient numbers that you see coming in from patient referrals?
Our average number of new patients coming in from patient referrals in a month is 35 so far this year.
That seems to be close to your monthly average for last year. Where are the other 50 or so are coming from?
Our new patient numbers didn't really kick up to the new level until about December of last year. We brought on a dental SEO company who optimized our website and who runs Google Adwords for us. We started seeing additional new patients immediately from the Adwords, and that number has been steadily increasing from the SEO they are doing.
I get to talk with a lot of dentists and this seems to be kind of a contentious topic. How did you decide to do SEO, and how did you decide on the company to use?
We have had a website since I bought the practice, and it had been in existence even before that. We would get reviews on Yelp, Google, and Facebook, because I had read that those things were important on some of the dental forums. However, we had never really seen those as a source of good new patient growth.
So those almost 50 additional new patients are coming from online?
It's probably closer to 90% of them. We also get a few patients per month who find us via their insurance. However, the majority of those remaining 50 do come from online. They come to us because they find us, and that's due to a combination of the Google AdWords that we run and the search engine optimization. We've done a lot of things that have helped people find all of the reviews that we had been working so hard to get.
What is the best marketing advice would you give someone just starting a practice or who wants their practice to grow?
My best marketing advice would be this: make sure you understand just how to set your practice apart. You need to learn how to get your patients excited about your practice. Give them a good reason to tell their friends about your practice. Also, get yourself a great online marketing team and create a strategy. You need to make online marketing a permanent arrow in your marketing quiver.
This might not be an overnight success story. Some people have been working on their online marketing for years! I personally know a dentist who spends over $10K per month for online marketing and has been doing so for more than three years. It has got to work as a permanent part of your marketing solution if you want it to be really successful at it. If you keep changing your strategy, you are only shooting yourself in the foot. If you keep looking for the overnight success in dental practice growth, you will likely run into issues growing your business long term.
I based some of my decisions on a friend's recommendations. I suspect it was it was easier for me to commit than it might be for others. But once you decide you're in it for the long haul, you may be pleasantly surprised about how quickly you can get new patients into your practice.
Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Apex360 e-newsletter. Apex360 is a DentistryIQ partner publication for dental practitioners and members of the dental industry. Its goal is to provide timely dental information and present it in meaningful context, empowering those in the dental space to make better business decisions. Subscribe to the Apex360 e-newsletter here.