Dr. Robert G. Marx began practice in 1977 in a suburb of a large Midwestern city. Early on, he realized that marketing was necessary to grow his practice. I joined him in 1994 as marketing director, and over the years our staff has grown to 25, including an associate and three hygienists. We have thirteen operatories and we see patients for everything from restorative to cosmetic dentistry.
We have used a professional referral service since 1995. The first service we used was Dental Referral Service, and we liked the patients it produced. In fact, we liked them so well that we wanted more! That led me to explore other referral services. In 1996 we added 1-800-DENTIST to our marketing repertoire.
We love 1-800-DENTIST for the patients it produces. When a 1-800-DENTIST operator calls us with a direct connect, we know we are about to speak with a “pre-heated” patient. That is, one who has been screened, qualified and pre-sold on our practice. They are typically eager to appoint and open to treatment.
The process begins when a potential patient sees an ad, whether it’s on TV, radio, billboard or the Internet. The ads are very professional, clever and compelling. Typically, if a person who has been putting off a dental visit sees one, they are motivated to call 1-800-DENTIST or visit their website. When they call, they reach an operator who has received professional training on how best to handle dental patients. The operator introduces her or himself and gets the caller’s name. The patient’s concerns are addressed, and the operator expresses such a level of interest that often the caller volunteers all manner of information, all of which is received with respect and total attention. The operator then states that they know of a dentist who would be a great match, based on the patient’s concerns and the dentist’s profile. They describe the dental office, emphasizing the aspects that make it a good fit. When the patient responds positively, the operator places the caller on hold for a moment while she or he calls the dental office. After providing a quick but thorough summary of the call, the caller is brought on line with the dental office. Introductions are made and the operator rings off. Shortly thereafter, the office receives a fax containing all the info.
It is then up to the office to establish trust and to schedule the patient for treatment. When done successfully, these patients are very productive. They’ve been “storing up” their dental needs. 1-800-DENTIST got them to seek treatment. When the operator establishes her or himself as a concerned friend, the patient is open to their recommendation. When the operator then recommends us we have instant credibility, the same as with a patient referral. The patients nearly always arrive for treatment. They become patients of record and they bring their family, friends and associates with them.
We have been impressed with the level of professionalism exhibited by 1-800-DENTIST. Their handling of patients is outstanding. In fact, their “patter” is so effective we have adopted it (e.g. “Mrs. Jones, are you having pain from that cracked tooth yet?”). We have benefited from a number of their ideas. But what benefits most is our bottom line. Encouraged by the guaranty, we tried 1-800-DENTIST back in 1996. The volume and quality of new patients it produces keeps us renewing our contract.
Most of my time is spent with numbers, not patients. I constantly track and evaluate referral sources, and I have reams of data going back for more than a decade on all of our marketing channels. In writing this review, I looked at the 5-year period from 2004 through 2008. Unequivocally, 1-800-DENTIST has been a significant source of new patients for us, with more than 450 arriving for service. Those patients were more productive than other patients, by 12 - 33% (on an annualized, average basis). Overall, our return on investment with 1-800-DENTIST is compelling. For every dollar we invested, we received between 3.3 and 4.4 dollars in return. Few of our other marketing channels were this profitable. None of them were as pleasant or professional. We are pleased with 1-800-DENTIST and would not hesitate to recommend their services.
1-800-DENTIST Patient Referral Service
The referrals are screened, qualified, and typically eager to appoint and open to treatment.
Prepare yourself for an uptick in challenging cases with all the new patients who've been "storing up" their dental needs.
The Bottom Line
For every dollar we invested, we received between 3.3 and 4.4 dollars in return.