Orthodontics is experiencing new competitive pressures at a level unlike ever before. Examples include the introduction of aligner dentistry that has an increasing number of general dentists providing orthodontic services, the expansion of corporate dental groups that typically include orthodontic services, and the opening of orthodontic retail stores either for referral to an orthodontist or for direct-to-consumer aligner products. These trends are creating a higher level of competition in orthodontics and challenging many of the old models for getting, keeping, and growing referrals and referral sources.
In this new world of orthodontic marketing, today’s orthodontic practices must embrace what I refer to as the FIVE FOCUS AREAS. Why FIVE FOCUS AREAS? In today’s competitive orthodontic specialty you need to capitalize on every available opportunity. Addressing only one or two is actually dangerous. Practices that address all of the following FIVE FOCUS AREAS will properly set themselves up for ongoing success.
What are the FIVE FOCUS AREAS?
- The Branded Patient Rewards and Referral Program
- The Parent Ambassador Program
- The Social Media Interface
- The Referring Doctor Driver
- The Community Full Awareness Program
It is no longer sufficient to address only one or two of the above areas and expect referrals to continue at an acceptable level. However, practices that address referral marketing in all FIVE FOCUS AREAS create a powerful effect where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Here’s how it works…
1. The Branded Patient Rewards and Referral Program
Every practice must have a highly customized brand for its patient rewards and referrals. Let’s call it your motif. As an example, one client is using the motif of a Safari Club. The entire patient program centers on the safari theme. Kids love it. The motif is then designed and created to work with a specific theme to create a sense of fun, excitement, and patient loyalty. The Branded Patient Rewards and Referral Program will motivate patients to tell other people about the orthodontic practice, refer their friends, and participate as a member of the club.
How great is your rewards/referrals program today? Is it run consistently and with exceedingly high energy?
2. The Parent Ambassador Program
Kids will get their friends involved in their rewards program, but it is the parents who are really the ones referring the children of their friends and family. Most parents don’t consciously recognize that they are members of the practice. You should rectify that.
Every parent in your practice should be automatically enrolled as a Parent Ambassador. Not only should they be awarded different prizes and rewards (eg, spa days, concert tickets, or gift cards) for participating, but they should do so while receiving educational updates about their kids.
The Parent Ambassador Program should create a sense of belonging for the parents of your patients. They need to be made to feel like it’s not just their child’s orthodontic practice, but theirs as well. This will not only increase referrals, but many parents end up considering adult orthodontics (with the Parent Ambassador discount) as they become more educated through this program. That’s an easy way to add an extra $100,000 to $200,000 in production per year. Most practices never really ask the parents if they are interested. Do you?
3. The Social Media Interface
Social media has even greater value than most orthodontic practices realize. Random posts and personal musings don’t cut it. It’s what you put online, where you place it, and when you post it. Social media is now woven into the fabric of all of the other FIVE FOCUS AREAS on a daily and weekly basis, and that’s why I refer to it as an interface. It is the glue that holds all the other areas together. It serves as the communication and outreach vehicle that encourages motivation and excitement long beyond the time a parent or patient is in the office.
The rules of social media change regularly, but the fundamentals do not. This is not simply about how many people see something you put online, but about your message and who you target with it. The message is of paramount importance so take time to create a strong one that fits the brand of your orthodontic practice. When your social media is done right, positive reviews increase as well.
4. The Referring Doctor Driver
For many years, referrals from other doctors were the primary source of new patients for orthodontic practices. Then, for some reason, things changed and many orthodontists thought they could live mainly (or exclusively) on patient referrals. Patient referrals are critical, but referring doctors have massive potential to contribute significantly to orthodontic practices—even if they are doing a few ortho cases on their own.
One referring doctor can send tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue a year, and that is a big win! Doctor marketing requires a well-thought-out and planned campaign based on building strong relationships. Orthodontists must periodically reach out and network with referring doctors; however, the marketing coordinator will handle 95% of the responsibilities that help to gradually increase referrals and acquire new referral sources from referring doctors.
5. The Community Full Awareness Program
Community outreach is essential. It creates awareness of the orthodontic practice, attracts new patient consults, and offers an almost infinite set of opportunities including marketing to schools, sports teams, community events, fitness centers, etc. The Community Full Awareness Program focuses on getting your name out in the community. But just getting your name out there is no longer enough. The key is to put together a campaign that reaches the target market for the orthodontic practice—which is often children—and encourages them to have an orthodontic consult as early as possible.
There’s an old saying that “if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you always got.” Unfortunately, that’s not true anymore. The new saying is “if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will get less than what you always got.” The first rule of referral marketing is if referrals are not where you want them, or you want more than you have, then do something differently. Practices that effectively address all FIVE FOCUS AREAS in their marketing campaigns will have the best opportunity for ongoing success. OP
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is a third-generation general dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc, a dental management consulting firm that has worked with over 26,000 dentists. Levin, an internationally known dental practice management speaker, has written 65 books and over 4,300 articles. He is also the executive founder of Dental Business Study Clubs—Dentistry’s only All-Business Study Clubs, the next generation of dental business education.