Find Your Dental Marketing Return Are your marketing programs working?

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Find Your Dental Marketing Return

Are your marketing programs working?

By Jill Nesbitt, Mission 77, LLC
How many new patients are your marketing programs bringing in? What kind of production and collection do they generate? Do you know which dental marketing programs are performing well for you – and which ones you should kick to the curb?
You can find out.
Most dental consultants recommend a dental practice spend 2% - 5% of their income on marketing. Let’s say the income is $500,000 – that means you have between $10,000 and $25,000 to invest to generate new patients. Today, how do you decide where this money should be spent?
Quickly, let’s create a list of some marketing choices that dentists often choose:

  • Yellow Pages directories

  • Sponsor a local baseball team

  • Newspaper ads

  • New mover direct mail

  • Website

  • Google AdWords Pay-per-click advertising

  • Sign up for insurance plans

  • Booth at a local festival or health fair

  • Referral thank you programs

  • Radio

  • TV

With all these choices – and only a limited budget – which method should you choose? We hear all the time about the latest & greatest marketing strategy that is “guaranteed” to bring us 30-40 new patients every single month. But, for now, do you know which of your existing marketing programs is working today?

Start with the numbers
First of all, let’s start with the goal that our marketing programs generate more income than they cost. We want the return on investment (ROI) to be positive. Let’s say we would be satisfied with a ROI of 3:1 – meaning that for every $1 we invest in this marketing program, we have revenue of $3. Obviously, the higher the return the better, but now that we have a goal, the next step is to start tracking our current performance.
Choose one of your existing marketing programs – let’s say a yellow pages ad you ran last year. Hopefully, you set up this yellow pages directory as a referral in your practice management software. For example, if you work with Dentrix, you would go to the Family file, open the Referred by box and then select Add Referral – you can add a new referral right here. Once you enter this referral, it is available for all patients and once selected, provides regular tracking for how your new patients find out about your practice.
Ask every patient
Your secretary should ask every new patient “Who should we thank for referring you to our practice?” – this automatically suggests that there was an individual recommending your office (the strongest kind of referral) but patients will also tell you if they found you online or through another channel. This gets documented in your dental practice management software for every new patient.
I also recommend that you run a report at the end of the month to find all your new patients by name and to make sure that you have a referral documented in the computer. Then, if you find any blanks, assign your secretary to call each new patient to touch base saying “Hi Mrs. New Patient, this is Jill from Dr. Smith’s office. I see that you were here for your first visit to our practice just the other week and I was calling to make sure that everything went well and all your questions were answered.” – pause, while she responds – “That’s great, I’m so glad to hear it. By the way, I wanted to follow up – Who should we thank for referring you to our practice?” Now you have a referral documented in your computer for every new patient.
Gather the data
At the end of the year you will run a dental practice management report to find how many patients were referred by each source. In Dentrix, go to Reports, Management, and select Referred by Doctor/Other – here you can choose the production and referral dates for the year and then generate this report. Now, look at each of the referral sources and you can count two things. First, count the total number of new patients. Second, add up the total production from these patients.
Now you have the data needed to evaluate performance. Just fill in the boxes (here is a sample):
Yellow Pages Directory A




Number New Patients


Total Production NPs




*To calculate ROI: (Production – Cost) / Cost
You should create a tracking box for each and every significant referral source. Then, each year, just add another column so you can compare year to year. This is a great way to spot trends – for example, my practice’s return on investment for all our yellow pages directories went from 11:1 to 5:1 to 1:1 in just a three year span. So I knew for a fact that investing in yellow pages advertising was no longer working for our practice – I saw the numbers.
You can do the exact same evaluation.
Make informed decisions
Once you see the results for each referral source, now you can start to make good decisions. Drop the marketing programs that aren’t providing a positive return. Try out a new marketing program with the money you would have invested in the failing program. Track this new program as well – and then see how it stacks up in 6 months and 1 year intervals.
By taking the time to document in your dental practice management software how each and every new patient was referred to your practice and then running reports to determine how many patients and what production they generated, you have a system to manage your marketing budget. You can confidently know how your current marketing programs are performing and you can look for opportunities to replicate this success. You can also drop programs that are failing and avoid being talked into renewing a program by a good salesperson when the bottom line dollars just don’t make sense. Finally, you can speak candidly with new businesses that promise truckloads of new patients by focusing them on measurable results.
For other ideas on dental practice management, please visit

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