What would we do about attracting new patients if the internet didn’t exist?

An interesting conversation this week with a 57-year old dentist who is opening a new private squat in his post code, having sold an existing business on the termination of a previous business partnership.

My first question was “why?” and he quickly responded that dentistry was his vocation, not his job, and that given he felt he had another 10 years clinical to give, the challenge of building a new business was stimulating him – his new “quest”, of course.

There’s a bar-out clause on the sale of the existing business and so he truly does have to start again – no approach to existing patients or team members (fair enough – the new owners have bought that goodwill).

So my advice was as follows:

  • Get a great team of advisors around you – accountant, solicitor, banker, asset finance broker, web and SEO developer, graphic designer, architect, practice designer, plan provider (to start with). I shared with him some of my favourites in these categories and so there are few people out there whose ears must have been burning;
  • Find a first class business/clinic manager and PA. We actually went through the Unique Ability download from the Resources section of my web site and identified what he is best at and then what he could delegate, automate and eliminate. I regard finding that Robin for his Batman as being mission critical. I also advised that connecting with his existing social network would be the best approach;
  • Think about your pre-opening marketing activity (projected opening in April 2019)……..which prompted an interesting conversation that gives rise to the title of this morning’s post.

You see, my client isn’t overly savvy when it comes to all the social media stuff that you and I talk about most days. Getting to grips with digital advertising and internal human interest marketing is going to be a steep learning curve (and, in the case of a private squat, I can’t simply ask him to start collecting selfies, check ins and reviews).

What I don’t want is for him to get sucked into the smoke and mirrors of Google and Facebook advertising on a limited budget, only to find that his enquiries are too few and that his reception team cannot cope with the demands of a price-shopping audience. He’s just not that kind of person and I fear for his time and money.

So we speculated as to what he would do if the internet simply didn’t exist?

To put it another way, if he had opened a private squat in 1995 (but with all the products and services available in dentistry today and with the self-awareness of the public that exists now) what would he have done?

The list we created is my food for today’s thought:

  • Create a very distinctive brand name, logo and strap line (that explains exactly what outcome you deliver and for whom);
  • Consider a leaflet drop in the post code to announce your arrival and set the tone for the type of patient you want to attract and the level of service you intend to provide;
  • Get some really eye-catching posters in the window (oh – by the way – he is a ground floor, shop front location with walk and drive by) and equally eye-catching A-Boards for the pavement outside;
  • Personally visit every business location (large or small) within a mile radius, to deliver a pack and explain how you can help reduce the down-time of employees, offer an emergency service and flexible hours (no discounts please);
  • Take a look at www.findnetworkingevents.com and identify as many Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) events in the area – then SHOW UP with your 60-second intro polished to perfection and some nicely designed business cards;
  • Create a 30-minute slide show on “how to improve your business/personal confidence” (using golden proportion, digital dentistry and case studies) and offer every B2B and B2C group the chance to hear your talk;
  • Consider selected local advertising for special interest groups, demographics and particular treatment modalities;
  • Ensure that when you do start seeing new patients, every single one of them has a perfected onboarding experience and an even better end of treatment review, so that you CAN start building a word of mouth business.

I’m sure you could come up with some further ideas – I’m reminded of the two brothers who dressed as tubes of toothpaste and stood outside a SW London underground station handing out leaflets!

All of which begs a question that I want to leave you with this Friday morning:

“Internet or not, why wouldn’t you do all those things anyway?”


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.