Your recall system is rubbish

Imagine that you are called in to advise a friend on the marketing systems in her beauty salon.

She tells you that there are three targets for her marketing:

  • existing clients
  • recommendations from those existing clients
  • people who came to see us in the past but have stopped attending
  • complete strangers

and asks you with what priority she should approach each category?

I assume your answer would be:

  • existing clients first to encourage return visits and upsell additional products and services – because they already trust, respect and like you
  • recommendations because they will extend third-party trust if their family, friends or colleagues tell them that you are a great salon
  • previous visitors because you may be able to reactivate them
  • if we have any time, money or space left – complete strangers – people who will need convincing

“Crushing logic” I hear you say.

So why is marketing in independent private dentistry often attacked in the opposite order?

  • we are going to throw money at trying to convince complete strangers to visit
  • if people stop attending or take a treatment plan away and don’t return, we just let them go
  • we are going to pay lip-service to the idea of asking for referrals and offer the excuse that we “don’t have the time” and “keep forgetting”
  • we are going to invest minimal resources in our recall system

We have featured in this blog before the poor quality of recall letters:

“We note from our records that you are due for your routine examination.

Please contact the practice.

If you cancel you’ll be in trouble.”

Or the text or email equivalent, or the advance booking that eliminates the need for any communication.

I’ve seen more examples like this in my travels of recent weeks.

It misses the point.


Your recall system can be used to remind your patients

  • that you value their support and loyalty
  • of the benefits of attending their dental health review
  • of the fact that you are growing the practice and have vacancies for new patients
  • of any special offers available
  • of the benefits of your membership scheme

But no – most days of the week I see boring recalls that wouldn’t motivate me to visit.

I’ve often compared that to a Valentine’s card that reads:

“I note from my records that you are due to receive your annual protestation of love from me – this is it – a rose will follow.”

Miles of print are invested (me included) in explaining how to find complete strangers and get them in your door – it has to be done.

But my clients are frequently surprised when we begin our marketing meetings with a discussion of:

  • how they can improve their existing recall system
  • how they can increase the number of word of mouth recommendations
  • how they can reactivate dormant patients and/or treatment plans not taken up (p.s. your reactivation system is your #2 marketing system and can produce quick wins)

and they are sometimes frustrated that I won’t allow them to throw any more money at finding strangers until we have the first three points nailed.

Your beauty salon owning friend would be well advised to start with the people she knows, the people that they can introduce her to and the people that she can reactivate, before she starts on a commercial equivalent of blind dating.

Same goes for you.


Published by

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.