Discounts are a popular marketing strategy that dental practices often rely on to lure in new patients. Of course… Who doesn’t love a good deal? The question is, however, are discounts really the best way to attract the kind of quality patient that you want to retain over the long term? For some practices, yes, but for others, maybe not.
The truth is that offering discounts for new patients can be an effective marketing tool, especially if you have a well-organized plan for tracking and following up. There is always the opportunity to recommend additional treatments to patients who respond to a one-time offer, and sometimes, they actually stay with your practice over the long term. More often than not, though, there the practice running the special and the patient responding to it have different agendas.
While the dental practice is usually looking to attract new patients who will refer others and also continue to come back for additional treatments, the patients who come in because of a special offer are more likely to be the kind who are just shopping around and may not actually be looking for a permanent dental “home.”
Additionally, practices may feel pressure to discount services in order to compete within their market because so many other practices seem to be constantly running specials. But that may not necessarily be the right strategy for your particular practice.
Before resorting to discounting as your main strategy for attracting new patients, ask yourself:
- When I run a special, do I normally get good quality patients?
- Do patients actually show up to receive the special?
- Do the patients who come in follow through with treatment recommendations?
- Do the people who respond to my special offers actually turn into long-term patients?
If you answer NO to more than one of those questions, you may want to consider a different approach, or at the very least, reconsider how frequently and how much you are discounting your services.
Another thing to consider is how offering discounts affects your bottom line. If you feel you need to always run discounts in order to attract new patients, how does that impact your practice’s revenue? Are you missing out on profits because too many of your patients are coming in only for special offers and not using your practice as their main dental office? If you analyze your patient roster and find that a good number of them have only come in for special offers and are not coming in for regular hygiene visits or other treatments, you may be leaving money on the table.
In reality, while offering new-patient specials can be a great way to introduce people to your practice, it is not the only way, nor is it always the most effective one. If you are not seeing the results you would like by offering discounts, there are other things you can do to ensure that your practice remains competitive.
For instance, if your marketing efforts focus more on quality of care and emphasizing the things that make your practice unique, you are likely to attract a higher calibre of patient overall. It will take more time and you will not get that glut of patients at the beginning of the campaign, but in the long run, your practice will see bigger benefits.
Patients who come to you for reasons other than a low-priced procedure are more likely to come back to you in the future, and because they are less likely just to be shopping around, the chances that they will follow up on treatment recommendations is much higher. These are the patients who come to you because they appreciate and agree with your practice’s philosophy.
They will also refer others because of the high-quality care they have received.
To sum up, offering discounts does not necessarily have to be a go-to strategy for driving in new patients, especially if doing so has not historically netted the benefits you expected. You can work with your marketing partner to find other strategies that are more effective at attracting high-quality patients who will stay with your practice long term.
It may take some trial and error, but with diligence and patience, your practice can begin relying less and less on discounts.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
With more than a decade of experience in corporate dental laboratory marketing and brand development, Ms. Ulasewich-Cullen decided to take her passion for the dental business and marketing to the next level by founding My Dental Agency. Since starting her company, she and her team have helped a wide variety of practices all over the nation focus their message, reach their target audience, and increase their sales through effective marketing campaigns. She can be reached at (800) 689-6434 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.