by Nancy Hyman
As patient referrals decline many practices are reaching beyond the standard professional relations approach to practice growth and promoting directly to the source…potential patients! I have outlined below several community projects that result in active referrals and a healthier practice outlook:
- Consider a child-oriented charity project such as a coat drive in conjunction with an established group such as Coats For Kids. Coordinate with schools, churches and referring offices for maximum exposure and assistance to the community. Involve your referring offices; announce the drive and pick up the coats at each office, conduct a staff drawing for participating offices, award a modest grift card to each participant. This project is an excellent subject for a newspaper article.
- Create specific offer cards for participation in health fairs, business expos, community and school family fairs . Bring a schedule and offer complimentary exams and x-rays along with a special date-limited offer card. Consider offering an extra bonus for attendees booking at the event. Collect contact information ( name, address, cellular phone, email) on an entry slip for a drawing held every 15-30 minutes. Prizes may include gift cards to Target, mall cards, movie tickets, etc.
- Participate in health fairs, walk-a-thons, and other community sponsored events. Wear matching logoed shirts and create a special offer for each event for tracking purposes.
- Distribute referral cards to local businesses or offices within close proximity to your practice. Offer a cooperative approach: prepare discounts and offers for participating businesses and distribute to your patients in a community packet. Select establishments willing to display your practice information. Excellent sources for participation are salons, day spas, restaurants, boutiques, dermatologists and plastic surgeons.
- Participate in Chamber of Commerce meetings with an offer card exclusively for Chamber members and their employees. Your local Chamber may offer a networking group within the Chamber which allows participation by one business per category. Assign a specific staff to attend the weekly networking meeting. At each meeting prepare a “benefits of using our office” message. Utilize services when able (i,e. printing, catering, florists, etc.) for mutual referral opportunities.
“Taking part in community events is an excellent extension of your practice brand,” says Jessi Swift, founder of J. Swift Marketing. Ms. Swift encourages her agency’s orthodontic clients to donate their time and resources to community events whenever possible. “Speaking at schools, civic events and charitable functions allows an orthodontist to communicate with key audiences who can positively affect their practice, whether by enhancing brand awareness or acquiring new patients,” says Ms. Swift. She adds, “Community involvement champions your brand, enhances your reputation and helps you gain a true competitive advantage. It shows your friends and neighbors that you really care about the community where you practice.” Lastly, bringing professionally produced marketing materials to your speaking engagements is very important according to Ms. Swift. “Informative material such as a custom written and designed practice brochure can continue to speak for you long after the community event has ended, and also help generate new patient starts down the road,” she says.
Create a community involvement plan with three key points in mind:
- Select a project and thoroughly involve yourself in several layers of promotion.
- Prepare professional materials to communicate your message and a “call to action” to create urgency with contacts
- Include engaging staff members in events.
Potential patients will be alerted to your practice through several layers of contact from the community fair to school screenings, to a charitable promotion and beyond. An entrenched and well-planned approach to community relations will help your practice stay at the forefront of awareness for potential patients.
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.