While driving around most cities you can see dentists all over advertising discounted services like new patient exam and cleaning or teeth whitening. While I understand why they are doing this they are creating a problem for themselves down the road.
Discounting professional services like dentistry only serves to devalue the service in the long run. After months of advertising teeth whitening for “only $50!” the public starts to see the service as only having that value. You will never be able to charge full price for that service again.
And, what happens when your competitor decides to set his price at $45? Now it is just a race to the bottom and nobody wins. Plus, do you really want this type of patient anyway?
There is a better way.
To know how to handle your offers you first need to understand who is seeing or hearing the offer.
Your prospective patients are in 4 different categories:
- Satisfied with their current dentist and are not looking to change.
- Not satisfied with their current dentist but do not know it could be better somewhere else.
- Not satisfied with their current dentist or do not have a dentist and are actively gathering information on finding a new dentist.
- At the point where they are ready to pick up the phone and call to book an appointment at a new dental office.
The only one of these 4 that can be influenced by a discount offer is the last one. All the others are not ready yet.
#1 is the hardest patient to get and I wouldn’t start trying to lure them over as that will cost you the most money.
#2 and #3 are the people you want to target and they make up about 98% of your target audience anyway.
If people could fix their own teeth they would, but they can’t, so they are looking for an expert. How do they figure out who is the expert? The dentist who educates them about treatment options becomes the expert. Once positioned as the expert you will win most of the business.
So, what kind of offer should you use to help educate these people?
Because they are not ready to pick up the phone and call, you need to use some form of risk lowering offer. A risk lowering offer gives the patient an opportunity to interact with you without calling your office. These can come in the form of things like checklists, patient guides, and reports that can be downloaded from your website by simply filling in an email address.
Now you have a way to communicate directly with them on the exact topic they requested information about.
Right from your initial advertising to follow up material, your communications should be educational and not “salesy”. Provide information that helps facilitate the patient’s decision making process and you will not need to sell them on your practice. They will already know it is the right place to call because all your competition is saying is, “give us a call because we have the cheapest exam and cleaning.”
This is also the reason most new patients call and ask the question, “How much for an exam and cleaning?”. The don’t know what else to ask so they make their decision entirely on price. When a dental office takes the time to educate the patient during their information gathering they know what to ask about because you’ve educated them on what is important. Even if they call your competition they ask the questions you told them to ask!
This doesn’t mean you should forget about the 2% that are at the point where they are ready to pick up the phone and call. They may also respond to educational offers but they might need a promotional type offer to push them to call you.
I would always recommend using a value-added offer instead of discounting a service. Throw in an electric toothbrush or take home whitening with your new patient exam and cleaning rather than cutting the price. Your patients will feel like they are still getting a deal but you won’t have to devalue your service.
Having trouble coming up with good offers? Ask your patients. They are usually more than willing to give you ideas.
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