As professional referrals continue to decline many orthodontic practices seek creative measures to maintain and increase patient referrals. Chris Bentson of Bentson,Clark and Copple notes: “Orthodontists are reacting to this by increasing marketing budgets and focusing on internal referral programs to bring patients into the practice.” I have outlined several strategies recently tested and tracked in Dr. William Hyman's practice which resulted in initial phone calls.
ESTABLISH A TEAM APPROACH FOR REFERRALS
Elect a community marketing team within your staff specifically for school projects. Team leader responsibilities include: organizing task lists, assigning attendees for events, approving promotional materials for events, creating goals, tracking effectiveness of each event, and conducting weekly progress meetings. Check progress on task goals weekly. A monthly meeting leaves too much room for error!
SELECT YOUR TARGET SCHOOL(S)
Create a list of schools: parochial schools, private non-affiliated schools, and public schools within a reasonable proximity to your practice. Your current patients’ schools are an excellent starting point. Several of my clients gather school information on patient forms and collate the results for targeted marketing. Another option is to conduct an 8 week drawing requesting the information from your patients.
DETERMINE YOUR REFERRAL PROMOTIONS
Prior to your first contact determine what promotions you are willing to participate in. Focusing on multiple promotions at one or two schools is more effective than spreading one point of contact throughout many schools. Suggested participation includes:
- Orthodontic Screenings
Establish orthodontic/dental screenings for students. For junior high and high school students, start with the lowest grade level and work up. Consider a screening for elementary students in grades 3rd-5th, and an oral hygiene talk for younger students. The oral hygiene presentation may be led by a staff dental assistant. A dental assistant or marketing team member will take notes for the doctor and include the screening exam sheet (sample available upon request) in a dental hygiene kit. Quantum Labs offers a hygiene kit with an external pocket for business cards. Include a special offer on the reverse side of the screening sheet.
- School Fairs
Participation in school fairs is an excellent opportunity to meet parents and potential patients. Create a tri-fold table top display. Two of the panels will focus on features of your office that will appeal to parents: open Saturdays, interest free finance plans, before school/work hours, etc. The third panel will exhibit an offer. I have had great success offering a $25 gift card for initial exam appointments made and kept, to be redeemed at the exam.
In general the principal or dean of students is the appropriate contact. The team member will contact each targeted school. Initial contact may be via e-mail, phone or you can drop by. A personal visit to meet with the head of school/principal is most effective for relationship development.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nancy Hyman is a speaker and practice growth consultant specializing in referral systems and increased case acceptance. Nancy developed the Practice Representative program for Practice Builders orthodontic division and established marketing plans for their clients from 2003-2009.She now shares this same program through Ortho Referral Systems. Ortho Referral Systems focuses on developing a marketing team utilizing current staff. All aspects of Nancy’s training strategies have been tested in the office of Dr. William R. Hyman and other orthodontic offices. Contact Nancy via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (323) 723-3535.