Help Your Clients Attract New Patients
Identify potential partners and facilitate relationships
By Nick Azar
Building a strong partnership should be the goal for all sides. When the needs of business parties align and a good relationship is born, business can flourish. Yet, the process for growing this relationship is never ending, requiring the partners to constantly balance their needs.
Aligned needs translate to success and effort in the partnership, whereas being misaligned results in one partner having to either work hard to correct the problem or end the relationship. One powerful way for a laboratory to assist a dentist-client is to help attract more patients by using a ready resource—local companies interested in having healthier, happier, more productive employees.
Most businesses have a list of favorite companies to which they refer others; a dental laboratory is no different. If your dental laboratory is looking to build a good partnership with a dentist-client by helping them attract new patients from local companies, you should consider starting with a list of targeted local companies and their key decision makers. These would be your vendor-partners, who benefit from such a relationship with a dentist because healthier employees mean less absenteeism and more productivity.
A helpful way to build that list is to utilize information on each prospective vendor-partner such as identifying social groups and community activities. Usually, chambers of commerce and local publications are good sources of information. Also, you can solicit the help of your laboratory employees, family, friends, and trade vendors to identify potential targets.
Once your list is populated, you can start the process of qualifying targeted companies for potential partnerships. You may begin with a phone call to explore the possibilities and assess their needs. This could be a conversation with the human resources department, if it is a large company, or the office manager if it is a smaller one.
Through this process, you should learn the potential partner’s needs, the name of the decision maker within the organization, and the process they like to follow in evaluating new relationships. The next step is usually a face-to-face meeting.
Below are some ideas to explore:
Lunch-and-learn programs: The key benefit to your dentist is the ability to present and highlight the practice’s services to a group of prospective patients all at once. The key benefit to the vendor is the opportunity for its employees to learn and ask questions in a non-selling environment and possibly receive special offers. Lunch-and-learn programs help create transparency, build a sense of community, and foster learning and growth.
Editorial contribution: Some of your favorite local vendors may have corporate newsletters in which your dentists may have the opportunity to contribute an editorial article for consumers. Articles are extremely useful if they appeal specifically to the target audience and help establish trust. Readers may seek articles that provide a new or cutting-edge angle on the changing dental healthcare environment, promote community dental health improvement, and offer insights from a healthcare provider’s prospective.
Social media and Web: Both partners could take advantage of each other’s websites and create a special page just for employees. They can also consider creating a referral webpage where they link to each other’s businesses. Search engine optimization on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google Plus with links to both partners’ websites is essential to a successful social-media plan.
Education: Your dentist could provide brochures to be placed in vendors’ common areas or posters for bulletin boards. If both partners have a good relationship, they may consider inserting the materials into paycheck envelopes or mailboxes with special offers for employees. The dentist may want to hold a free oral health screening day or classes discussing geriatric oral care, women's health, and diabetes.
Open house: Arrange an open house of the dental practice to bring everyone together. An open house provides an excellent opportunity to grow both partners’ businesses and gain recognition, but those aren’t the only benefits. As dentists and their staff members are very busy during the work day, they have limited time for recruiting potential patients. An open house gives them the chance to have some fun, reveal their personalities, and make new and prospective patients feel at home.
Co-op marketing: Engage other local businesses that work with your target vendors. They may be a valuable resource for special offers or provide sample products for open houses or presentations. Some local businesses to target are urgent-care medical centers, medical emergency rooms, pharmacies, car dealerships, restaurants, gyms, theaters, cafes, and bookstores. Why not reward and incentivize their local purchases? This can be accomplished by offering a mobile discount program to your dentist’s patients and to your vendor’s employees and their families. They don’t need to carry a special card or remember to check in on a website to redeem rewards. Instead, with the mobile discount program, when they are near a participating local business, they will get a smartphone alert about a discount from the dentist.
If a vendor is a source of new patients for your dentist and you want to attract them, target them specifically with the message that your dentist considers to be worthy of their special attention. Keep the message—in talks, flyers, or websites—focused on how they can benefit. It’s not about generic “oral health,” nor is it about “what your dentist can do.” The message is the value for the vendor and its employees.
Nick Azar is a DAMAS consultant, business strategist, executive coach, and founder of Azar Associates in Santa Clarita, California.