What it Takes To Succeed at Marketing for Dentists III

Part 3 of 3

By Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA (University of Chicago) & MBA (K.U.L. Belgium)

Internal and External Marketing

Internal marketing concerns itself primarily with communication among your patients of record. In a general sense, anything, which has an impact on your patient’s perception of your practice, is a form of internal marketing.

External marketing is intended to create awareness and induce a response among people with whom you’ve not yet established a relationship.

As mentioned above, some practices need only create awareness of their existence and location to induce a response. Marketing, where the element of persuasion is absent (or subtle) is called Institutional (or Awareness) Marketing. Its sole concern is to brand the practice.

Examples of internal marketing include: treatment presentation, (patient recall and reactivation, on-hold messages, referral programs, and cause-related event marketing click here).

The distinction between internal and external marketing is somewhat blurred when one speaks about referral programs. This is because, while directed at patients of record (internal marketing), their intent is to attract prospective patients (external marketing).

Examples of external marketing include: community outreach, as in making presentations on dental hygiene to school children, speaking and networking at Chambers of Commerce, direct mail, Yellow Page advertising, and professional call handling (also called telemarketing). Owing to the fact that convenience is such a strong motivator in an individual’s decision to join a practice, most dentists should consider themselves to be local area marketers. The so-called broadcast marketing channels (advertising on radio, television, newspapers, etc.), therefore, are seldom cost-effective since they are attempting (and you are paying for the attempt) to contact people beyond your Service Area.

Telephone call handling is another area where internal and external marketing can overlap. This is because current as well as prospective patients call your office (and, yes handling incoming calls to your office is a form of telemarketing). Proper etiquette in handling these calls is absolutely crucial to the positive perception of your practice among current and prospective patients.

Use of the Internet has proliferated to the point where it is used for  everything from academic research to grocery shopping. Its use in the dental profession has increased significantly as well, both as an internal and external marketing tool. Used as part of an integrated marketing plan, the Internet can serve an internal marketing function by, for example, facilitating cost-effective communications with your patients of record (periodic emailed newsletters, appointment reminders, etc.). External marketing is facilitated both by including your website address prominently on more convention communications, such as direct mail (so called bricks to clicks marketing), and via direct Internet promotion using such strategies as search engine optimization and listing on high exposure directories, such as www.888NowSmile.com. In addition, your website can help increase practice efficiency by serving as an administrative tool to e.g. streamline the new patient enrollment process.

Links In A Chain

We stress that the programs offered here cannot work in isolation. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. For example, the success of your external marketing programs will depend to a great extent on having your internal marketing systems in place (and vice versa). This is the case because external marketing programs are best at generating inquiries. It’s what you do with that traffic (and here is where internal marketing and other essential systems enter the picture) that can mean the success or failure of your external marketing efforts.

Other “links in the chain” that are equally important to continued practice growth are: overhead control, patient financing, web site design, soft tissue management, treatment presentation, human resources management, patient communications, technology integration, and offering an array of oral-systemic health related services and protocols.

STS IV will present Tools To Make Reliable Marketing Decisions.

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