Are your lead follow-up procedures adequate?

Are those “golden nugget” patient enquiries being followed up diligently by the practice team?

confused dentistAny competent digital marketer should be able to generate new patient enquiries from web, typically using the main Google and Facebook channels and via a mix of paid ads and “free” organic mechanisms.

It’s also relatively straightforward for a diligent marketer to set up a suite of management, monitoring and reporting tools which allow you, the business owner, to easily see how the campaigns are performing so appropriate investment decisions can be made. (Hint – if you are paying for services like these and don’t currently get this type of advice and reporting, then it’s probably time to move on!)

Whilst it’s reasonably straightforward to report on the front-end of the lead-acquisition process, i.e. counting the leads and showing where they came from; managing the back-end of the conversion process, i.e. which leads actually resulted in treatment, is much harder and to a very large part relies on pro-activity and diligence from the practice team. Sometimes this is done well, but more often it isn’t – and therein lies some considerable frustration for us digital marketers who’ve worked hard to gain the leads in the first place. To be fair, it should be a top-priority for dental practice managers and business owners to make sure these in-practice “conversion” procedures are robust and work well; but in reality, way too many practices are failing quite miserably with this important aspect.

What typically goes wrong and how do we know?

Primarily as part of the paid ads campaigns we run for dentists on Facebook and Google, we have a procedure where we ask for a nominated contact at the practice who our team can speak with to get regular feedback regarding the success of the campaigns. The feedback we get is sometimes quite startling and perplexing and includes some pretty scary stuff as follows:

  • wrong email addresses being monitored – so no enquiries actually being seen, let alone responded to
  • no job cover assigned – so enquiries going unmonitored/responded to, often for a week or more (hint – don’t bother if you’re late, you’ve already lost them)
  • no responsibility and accountability assigned for the procedure
  • no systems developed to record enquiries and the result of follow-ups
  • no, or half-hearted follow-ups – a complete over-reliance on the enquirer following up, rather than the practice

These are just some of the debacles we’ve encountered over the years and frankly, the picture doesn’t seem to be getting too much better. Of course where we see this, we try to feed back to the business owner diplomatically, but you need to be cautious as quite often the owner/manager thinks that everything is hunk-dory and so such conversations can sometimes be a little tricky. But often “tough love” is the best way forward.

What should you do?

I could probably write a book about converting leads to treatments at dental clinics, but please don’t expect “the manual” here. However, here are some of the key characteristics we see at our clients who do manage the “in-practice” lead conversion process very successfully. With these headlines you should be able to examine each aspect much more closely and build your procedures accordingly:

  • agree a suitable and competent contact who will liaise with the marketing company – regular feedback to assist with the optimisation of campaigns is important
  • ensure you as the business owner or manager are suitably involved
  • proceduralise – make sure that the process is ingrained in your day-to-day operations, is audited and reviewed periodically
  • ensure you have efficient recording systems and that they are used – ideally invest in a CRM (please contact us for more information)
  • follow-up and then follow-up again. Way too often we hear that someone from the practice has “tried” to call to follow-up an enquiry but failed and then didn’t bother again! The class-leading practices will not only follow-up once or twice, they will also send additional correspondence e.g. case studies etc. to really encourage the uptake of treatment. CRM systems will help with this but your team will need appropriate training and time to do this – but it is well worthwhile and something to aim for.

Summary

New patient acquisition from the web relies on competence and diligence from the marketing team AND the staff at the dental practice. It is so frustrating when we find that the second half of the process hasn’t been completed and when hard-won enquiries are only followed-up halfheartedly or worse, not at all. We understand that many enquiries, particularly the speculative type which come from Facebook, will not bear fruit. However, in amongst them will be the golden nuggets which really are worthwhile and can be extremely profitable, but only if you follow-up diligently!

If you are reading this as a practice manager or owner and you think that your in-house procedures for these marketing follow-up activities are robust and working, it may be worth having a closer look. You may be surprised and possibly disappointed with what you find – we have been on too many occasions unfortunately.

If you need help with this or any aspect of your practice marketing systems, please call the Dental Media team on 01332 672548. We have over twenty years of experience in helping dentists with their marketing campaigns, both on and off-line and we’ll be pleased to help.