A fun and inexpensive way to generate new patients is to become a pillar of your community.
Imagine having hundreds of people in your area, even people who are not currently patients, who know about you and what you do for the community. That is powerful advertising.
So how do you build your reputation as a celebrity? Here are my top three ways:
(1) Purchase Services from Your Community
Is it time to replace those broken chairs in your reception area?
Just get some Super Glue and we'll be fine.
Don’t shop online for goods and services that you can purchase locally. Meet the owners of your local stores and introduce yourself. One of the best ways to cultivate a relationship with your fellow businesses is to buy their products first. When they see you as a good customer supporting the local community, they’ll be more likely to want to return the favor.
Here’s a tip: this doesn’t always work well with franchise stores that are part of a larger chain. The employees there may not have as much of a sense of pride in their community, so your loyalty to them may not be returned. Instead of going to the big hardware chain store for some light bulbs (sorry, Home Depot), visit the smaller one owned by the two brothers who live and work in your community. Instead of going to the big home decor chain for new artwork (sorry, IKEA), check out the local art gallery owned by the struggling artist.
(2) Make Local Restaurants Your Best Friends
I love to eat out at a nice restaurant. Over years of supporting my local restaurants, I found that I was starting to get the owners, bartenders, and waiters as patients, just like I described in the section above.
But restaurants are a special kind of local business. They see a high volume of people, sometimes on a regular basis, and they get to chat with them over the course of their dining experience. A captive audience of members of your community! A bartender with regular customers who loves my office is a very powerful form of advertising.
I'm pretty sure Norm and Cliff need a lot of work.
I now go out of my way to take extra good care of restaurant employees. Discounts, package deals, you name it. They typically don’t have dental insurance, so I help them out however I can.
Aside from frequenting the restaurant myself, I’ll have parties with the staff as well. Let the restaurant employees see that my office likes to have fun.
And here’s a great idea: when you complete a big case for a patient, give them a gift certificate to one of your favorite restaurants.
(3) Become Active Within a Networking Group
Local networking groups are a terrific way to meet other people that are savvy about business. I’ve written another post here about why I believe BNI groups are excellent. A Chamber of Commerce can also be beneficial, but you’ll probably run into other dentists there.
I recommend local activist groups as well. I just joined the Young Adult Alliance, a committee of Action Long Island. This group speaks out on issues related to preserving my community as a great place to live and work. Their current focus is creating housing for young professionals that is more affordable than the current options. Even if I don’t get a lot of business out of this group, I am happy to work towards a noble cause.
Networking groups can be a terrific source of new patients, but they will require a big time commitment. Don’t just show up and hand out business cards; you have to get involved and build meaningful relationships.
So the recurring message here is to be visible and support the businesses of others. Get active in the community and become outspoken about causes that matter to you. It takes a lot of time to make a splash in your area and become a local celebrity. But if you’re doing it the right way, you’ll have a lot of fun along the way.