To achieve a steadily growing practice from year to year, marketing must be a priority. For most endodontists in established practices, the most powerful opportunity to grow is with existing referrers, which is the point of “relationship” marketing. Here are 5 core factors that should drive your relationship marketing strategy:
The purpose of any marketing strategy is to create opportunities for growth. Growth in an endodontic practice is driven by the number of cases completed, which is dependent on the number of cases referred. There are only two ways to increase the number of cases referred:
1: Have a marketing coordinator
Many endodontists are haphazard about marketing: squeezing it in when they have time and letting it lapse when they feel busy. A haphazard approach creates haphazard results. Developing strong referral relationships takes consistent attention and effort every week, which is why you need a marketing coordinator.
The marketing coordinator is responsible for representing your practice to your referring doctors and their teams. A marketing coordinator must be outgoing, friendly and joyful, and easily interacts and connects with others in a personal and empathetic way. They must present themselves well and have great communication skills when they visit your referring offices.
For a typical one-endodontist practice, the marketing coordinator will be an existing team member who is allocated the equivalent of a half a day per week to be out of the office visiting referrers. On these visits, they will drop off little referral gifts and surprises that create delight in referring offices and continually move your practice into the top-of-mind position.
Marketing coordinators must be very organized to plan marketing activities, strategically select target referrers to visit each week, and order/prepare marketing gifts, lunches in referring offices, etc. The whole focus on the marketing coordinator is to consistently implement marketing activities that create visibility and value for the GP-to-Endodontist relationship.
2: Have a marketing budget
Marketing needs a budget and most endodontists underspend on marketing while wondering why their practice isn’t growing. In relationship marketing, you’re focused on the long-term relationship, which means your marketing budget should be calibrated to the long-term value of a referral relationship. In marketing lingo, this is called the “marginal net worth” of a referrer.
Consider a GP who referrers one case every month valued at $1350 over a 25-year period. That works out to 12 months x $1350 x 25 years = $405,000. Given that lifetime value, how much should you spend on marketing to nurture and maintain GP relationships?
A good guideline is that 3% to 5% of practice revenues should be dedicated to marketing. That budget gives you the flexibility to allocate funds for new referrer outreach, for weekly and monthly referral gifts for regular referrers, for periodic lunches and dinners with referrers throughout the year, and for special gifts to acknowledge and thank your top referrers.
3: Express appreciation and gratitude
The marketing coordinator’s activities are the foundation, but the heart of relationship marketing is expressing appreciation and gratitude to referrers consistently and personally. That means that you find the opportunity for some kind of communication to thank the referring GP.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but it must be a continuous ever-present part of the tone that you and your team communicate with referrers and their team. “Thank you for sending Mary to our office!”, “We love your patients. Mary was a pleasure to have in our office!”, “I really appreciate your referral and Mary was very happy!”, etc.
Since so much of our life is digital now, you can find easy ways to communicate these messages: email, texting, social media, case summaries, whenever you’re on the phone the GP or office, etc. When doctors know they are important to you, they want to stay important to you.
4: Make referrals easy and effortless
Ultimately, when a GP makes a referral, they want to do so without any worries. They want to know their patient will be cared for promptly and compassionately, the clinical result will be predictable and at a highest level, and the patient will return happy and ready to continue restorative care.
The easier you make the referral process for the GP and their team, and the better you can return the patient meeting all expectations, then you become an obvious and effortless choice for the referrer. Here’s some tips:
5: Have great patient reviews
Finally, nothing speaks louder than a happy patient who returns to the GP. Create a wow experience for patients that exceeds their expectations in every way, that they feel privileged they were referred to you, and that they express to their GP how fantastic their time in your office was.
The details in the experience matter. You never want patients upset about a delay in getting an appointment (especially if they are in pain). You never want patients uncertain about how long treatment will take in your office. You especially never want patients confused or unprepared for their financial responsibility.
If you do these things right, and your team projects kindness, caring and confidence to help the patient through their natural hesitancy about root canal treatment, it’s pretty easy to impress them. As you know, most patients already express surprise that their RCT was so quick and painless compared to their preconceptions. That’s the perfect opportunity to ask them for a 5-star review, and give them a card with a QR code they can scan with their phone to post a review on Google or Yelp right away.