On the surface, the idea of offering a special discount to new patients seems like a sound investment: Offer a great deal the first time, get a new patient for life, right? And for years, it’s been a tried-and-true new patient acquisition tactic for practices of all sizes. Clearly a good thing for your practice.
But … is it?
The myth: New patient specials are a great way to increase your practice’s revenue and patient base.
Let’s bust it.
Here are the two major reasons those discounts aren’t making the difference you may think they are.
1. New Patient Special ROI leaves something to be desired.
Will new patient discounts get some fresh faces through the door? Probably. Will they be people that would never have come to the practice otherwise? Probably not.
A discount isn’t usually enough to entice someone who has no interest in changing practices to switch to yours. It also is rarely going to incentivize someone who has long avoided the dentist altogether to come in. So who is taking advantage? It’s the person who has had their eye on your practice already. Maybe they need a filling, or just moved to town. Maybe they want to get their teeth whitened...and they heard about you through a friend, Facebook, or the like.
Chances are, they would have come in regardless. Your discount just got them there faster. But is that worth losing actual revenue? Debatable...but our take is No.
Because there are some patients who might be persuaded by a discount, but aside from a few exceptions, they aren’t likely to be the patients you want. They’re probably going to be practice-hopping coupon hunters. There is a subset of patients who comb through papers and Google searches alike to find lucrative coupons. They will go to your practice for a discounted cleaning and then to another the next time … wherever the coupon wind blows them, there they’ll be.
2. There are much better ways for your team to use their time.
Instead of sending out email campaigns, postcards, and flyers advertising a new patient special and then following up with anyone who has shown the remotest interest, your team could be pursuing any of the following much-more-effective (if you ask us) marketing approaches:
While new patient specials don’t have a track record for improving patient loyalty, referral programs do. People appreciate being given a small discount in exchange for telling their friends and family about their pleasant visit to your practice. They already like and trust you, so this little financial bonus feels like a very personal thank you, and thus, has bigger impact than it would for a new patient.
This can sometimes look similar to new patient discounts, but the difference is in the control you have. You set the parameters. New patient discounts don’t have a great ROI because new patients are often coming in for a cleaning—not a big ticket item. And they aren’t always retained as long-term patients. But limited-time offers could involve more costly procedures – for example, a big discount on crowns or implants. This way, they entice new and current patients alike to undergo them at your practice.
Dental membership plans
You knew this suggestion was coming from us, right? Dental membership plans really are a good thing for your practice. In fact, we’d argue they’re one of the best steps you can take to improve your processes, patient experiences, and finances. They save your practice time (and time is money too, remember) by reducing the number of patients for whom your office managers have to track down insurance claims and payments. Dental Membership Plans keep visits quick and money-talk free.
And, they give you the opportunity to help those without insurance keep up their dental care in a way that is fiscally manageable: one smaller payment a month instead of a huge surprise bill. They aren’t the only ones who will reap financial benefit from a dental membership plan, though. With a steady stream of payments that aren’t connected to patients’ schedules, you will find your revenue positively changed after a few months of running the program.
Learn more about how dental membership plans can benefit your practice’s financial health in our recent blog post.
So, are new patient specials really the way to go? You can decide for yourself, but we give them a thumbs down. Every practice hopes to find loyal repeat patients, and offering new patient discounts is not the way to get them. The return on investment isn’t what it might seem, and there are so many other ways to build on your existing patient base.