by Evan Franklin


Dentist and patient
[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/4″][gem_youtube width=”100%” height=”350px” video_id=”MIPTmaAT01Q”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Where does your mind go as you strategize about hitting your practice’s production goals? Likely to “new patients.” Attracting new patients would appear to many as the most direct method of driving production dollars, but consider the time, cost, energy and effort it takes to convert someone who doesn’t know of you or your practice into a new patient. As your practice continues its 2020 rebuilding trajectory, acquiring new patients should remain a part of your strategy, but it shouldn’t be the sole focus.

While the industry is recovering and saw substantial strides toward pre-COVID-19 patient volumes between May and June (a jump from 38% to 65%), it is still marred by the absence of over one-third of typical patient volume rates. Some people are scared to risk infection by traveling to a small, confined office space, while others have lost their jobs or insurance plans and simply can’t afford an appointment, particularly with fee-for-service practices.

For this reason, the industry must shift its paradigm. There is a source of untapped revenue within all dental practices: existing patients.

“The basics of dental marketing still apply, even in a crisis. Your dental practice is a business, and in most healthy dental practices the 70% rule applies: At least 70% of your income should be coming from existing patients, and it’s 70% easier to market to existing patients than to new ones.”

– Kristie Nation, Marketing in a Crisis, Dental Economics, June 2020

Marketing to existing patients can help drive production dollars now, but it’s critical to approach it with tact and strategy. Here are two we regularly recommend:

Referral Strategy

Despite the prevalence and effectiveness of digital marketing and advertising, word-of-mouth remains one of the leading ways to attract business.

First, consider how confident you are in asking patients for a referral on a scale of 1-4. If you said 1 or 2, that’s understandable – most dentists are there since it’s their name on the door and they want to preserve patient-doctor decorum. Yet, if a significant percentage of your patients aren’t coming from referral, it’s time to step outside of your comfort zone. Patients are generally more receptive than you might think.

Next, think about your best patients, the kind you’d like to replicate. Perhaps they’re punctual, reliable, good listeners, appreciative or cooperative; focus on the qualities that every patient would possess in a perfect world.

Once you’ve identified this patient, think back to a moment of connection you shared with them recently. Perhaps they complimented you or a team member or shared how their treatment had improved their life. Many practice owners encounter these moments of connection so often they don’t even realize they’re happening. Keep your radar up for them. When patients get vulnerable, you can reciprocate that vulnerability by asking for referrals.

Look at this moment of connection like an open door. This patient has chosen to open themselves up to you, from a simple thank you to a passionate story of how you’ve improved their life. It would almost be a disservice to them not to reciprocate this openness. If you’re a 1 or 2 on the confidence scale, remember that this person is clearly happy with your services, so asking them to help spread the word is perfectly reasonable. In fact, their friends and family deserve the same level of care you extend to them. It’s wise to have a statement in your back pocket ready to go when you encounter one of these moments of connection. Something like “Thank you. The greatest compliment you can give us is the gift of a patient referral,” can do wonders, or even something simple like “We’re accepting new patients.”

Humans are creatures of routine, so give yourself grace when implementing a referral system. It can be easy to slip back into old ways after a strong initial push on this strategy. In order to stay on track, be sure to implement a team-wide system to keep your referrals coming in. Create a realistic goal for monthly patient referrals and appoint a team member to keep track of the practice’s performance each month. Create a reward for achieving goals like a catered lunch. Keep the system top of mind by mentioning it in weekly meetings or huddles, and display the progress where everyone can see it, like on a whiteboard in the break room. A solid referral strategy will help your practice grow exponentially.

Promoting Cosmetic Dentistry

Build awareness around and excitement for cosmetic dentistry services using a series of tools and marketing efforts aimed at your current patient base. A patient education seminar informs them of the many ways that cosmetic services can improve their lives both in the short and long term, and it doesn’t need to be put on hold due to social distancing.

Plenty of the dentists we are working with have successfully transitioned the patient education seminar to an online delivery, complete with virtual office tour, meet-and-greet with the staff and a question-and-answer session with patients. In fact, the overall vibe can be much more personalized in this setting.

If you’ve never conducted a seminar or need a refresher, look for training opportunities to set you up for success. Next, you can build both print and digital case presentations, and supplement them with a content marketing strategy that targets your ideal patients and addresses any concerns or hesitations they may have in opting for this kind of treatment. Promoting cosmetic dentistry can boost production without a single new patient.

Get a free, no-obligation assessment of your current marketing strategy to finish 2020 strong. Email our CEO now at to get scheduled.

Big Buzz is an agency delivering focused marketing efforts for dentists and dental teams nationwide. CEO Wendy O’Donovan Phillips is the author of KABOOM!: The Method Used By Top Dentists for Explosive Marketing Results, has been published in The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry magazine and has been quoted in Forbes, The Washington Post, ABC News and Chicago Tribune. The American Dental Association hired Phillips as an expert consultant in marketing. She regularly lectures for dental organizations and associations in front of audiences ranging from 25 to 5,000 attendees. Agency awards and accolades include recognition for excellence by the American Marketing Association, Best Advertising Agency and Best Web Developer in Denver by Expertise, and Top Advertising and Marketing Agency by Clutch.


by Evan Franklin



Join the 13,000+ care professionals who read our weekly insights.

Get actionable learnings to apply now to attract warmer leads.