Written by: Danny Bobrow, MBA
Accurately tracking your practice’s marketing efforts can help you determine what brings new patients to your office and what doesn’t.
Dental professionals, out of necessity, must pay close attention to detail. It is surprising, then, to learn how little attention is paid to monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of dentistry marketing tactics.
The good news is, with a little planning and preparation, the process is simple and the benefits are huge. When it comes to marketing your practice, the more complete, timely and accurate the tracking, the better equipped you are to capitalize on opportunity and minimize cost.
Why anecdotal doesn’t work
Asking your patients “Who may we thank for referring you?” is an unreliable, risky way to assess marketing tactic efficacy. Here’s why:
- The lag between exposure and response to a message means the new patient may not know or remember what prompted him or her to contact you
- Because people often need to be exposed to multiple instances of the same message before they respond, it is likely you will only hear about the last thing they saw or heard that caused them to respond
- It takes up team member time
- It risks alienating prospective patients by interrogating them instead of selling them on practice benefits. People are contacting you to make an appointment, not to tell you about your marketing.
Monitoring quality, not just quantity, of response
Automating your response tracking allows you to identify opportunities to improve the quality of your communication with prospective patients, as well as eliminate obstacles to success. Because telephone calls can be recorded, you actually hear what scenarios are playing out at the front desk. This allows you and your team to work together to find better ways to field inquiries.
Perfection remains elusive
It is important to recognize it may never be possible to completely track the benefits of a marketing program. Do not expect your tracking system to monetize the benefits from increased name recognition and contribution to brand awareness. But remember it is possible to establish, implement and maintain a reliable tracking methodology (see, “Have a plan“).
Tracking with TTNs
Tracking most strategies is greatly enhanced by using tracking telephone numbers (TTN). TTNs make it possible to monitor and evaluate response quantity and quality. In choosing a TTN provider:
- Make sure the area code and three digit prefixes are as close to the practice’s as possible. This helps reduce any confusion in the minds of prospective patients who may wonder why they are being asked to call a number that appears to be outside of the area.
- Avoid using toll-free numbers, as any benefit from offering the caller toll-free service is overshadowed by the perception that yours may be a large, impersonal entity. Do everything you can to convey a local flavor to prospective patients.
- Be sure the tracking telephone numbers are new or, if recycled, have been inactive for at least 60 days. Otherwise, you run the risk of being interrupted and distracted by (and paying for) wrong numbers
Your TTN provider should have the ability to notify you via e-mail whenever someone uses your TTN. The provider should also have an online portal that enables you to access the quantity and quality of response, for instance:
- Quantity of calls generated by each campaign
- Day and time of calls
- Ability to listen to the calls
- Disposition of calls (hang up, voice mail, disconnect)
On more than one occasion, this monitoring has identified disconnects as a malfunction with the practice’s voice mail, or voice mail not picking up until the eighth ring. These problems, left undetected, can be costly.
The outgoing message
In one case, a client discovered through her monitoring system that an inordinate number of callers were hanging up without leaving a message. It was subsequently discovered that the outgoing message was more than two minutes long. The solution was to provide callers with the option of bypassing the remainder of the message by pressing 0 or #, as well as shortening the message by omitting office hours and other extraneous information. Because nearly anyone who wants to make an appointment with your office needs to speak with you first, having office hours on your outgoing message is unnecessary, and only serves to try the caller’s patience.
Remember the purpose of your outgoing message is to convey sincere enthusiasm and appreciation that the caller is contacting you, your regret for not being able to speak with the caller personally, and your assurance that you will return the call as soon as possible.
Make it work for you
Now that your data gathering system is in place, what do you do with it?
Schedule weekly sessions to evaluate and discern any patterns such as hang ups, extended rings, one staff member converting more patients than another, etc. The interval between sessions can be extended to monthly, or even quarterly, once the practice is well along its learning curve. Regular monitoring helps ensure inquiries are handled promptly and appropriately.
You should also calculate your Return on Investment (ROI), and to do so, it is helpful to streamline the data evaluation process. Here’s one approach:
Each month, print out or display an alphabetized list of all new patients who have enrolled in the practice in the month just ended. Include name, first visit date, zip code and e-mail address. Most practice management programs can easily do this.
Print or display on screen your master leads list. Be certain to include all lead sources and to look for matches. You will be amazed at how this number differs from your subjective tracking system.
Do this each month and continually add leads to your master lead list. Again, the reason for this is the time interval between when someone responds to your marketing tactic(s) and when her or she becomes a patient. You will be surprised at not only the time lag, but also the number of touch points some people need before they bite.
While it may never be possible to completely identify and attribute the return on investment from a particular marketing tactic, a reliable tracking methodology offers the twin benefits of confirming much of the return, and early identification of mid-course corrections necessary to increase ROI. It also arms the practice with a reliable tool to test variables, which can further improve your ROI.
Your tracking may never be 100 percent, but a little knowledge goes a long way. So stop flying blind and starting tracking. Knowledge is power, and accuracy means more profit.
Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA is President of American Dental Marketing, a health care marketing consultancy based in Chicago, IL. He is also Executive Director of Climb for a Causetm and The Smile Treetm, and Founder of 888-Now-Smile.
He holds two MBAs, one from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and one from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. He is also a sought after motivational speaker, marketing and sales coach.