The American Dental Association has officially predicted a rise in the supply of dentists in the United States through 2035. So, now more than ever, dental practices across the country need to make dental patient reactivation efforts to remain competitive and continue to thrive. And every dentist knows how detrimental losing a patient can be to the success of their practice.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about inactive patients and why they’re an opportunity to improve your practice and marketing methods.
Breaking down dental patient reactivation
Essentially, reactivating a patient is re-energizing a dormant patient to schedule an appointment with your practice. This occurs when a patient from your inactive database converts into a patient with an active status again.
Active vs inactive patient
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), an active patient is someone who has received your dental care services in the past year. Now, an active status may also be deemed if the patient has received care from your practice in the past two years but was a recurring patient before their last appointment.
Conversely, an inactive patient is defined by the ADA as someone who was once a recurring patient at your practice but hasn’t received your dental services in the past two years. Inactive patients are the ones who need a little extra encouragement to make that next appointment with you.
How does a patient become inactive?
Knowing the reason behind a patient’s leave is necessary for developing an effective dental patient reactivation strategy. How can you convince someone to come back to your practice if you don’t know why they left in the first place? You need to understand what their pain points are so you know how to sell your services to them.
There are a couple of reasons why patients leave that fall outside the scope of your control, such as if they move away or change insurance providers. But here are a few common reasons why patients become inactive that fall within your control to reactivate.
- The patient had a poor dental experience at your office, leading to dental phobias and a lack of trust.
- The patient wasn’t happy with the treatment they received in your care.
- The patient can no longer afford your services.
Each one of these reasons can drive a patient to either find a new dentist or discontinue dental services altogether. So once a patient becomes dormant, it’s up to you and your staff to win them back.
Reactivation attempts: How often is too often?
There’s no magical number here, but most dental practitioners agree that dental patient reactivation attempts should be made two to four times per year, evenly spread out. Spreading out attempts will ensure your dental inactive patients don’t forget about you and don’t become irritated by your efforts to reach out.
Why dental patient reactivation is vital to the success of your practice
Did you know that roughly 36% of adults haven’t been to the dentist in the last year? Yikes! This means that over one-third of your patients could be inactive. And, when you don’t make an effort to convert your dormant patients, you cost your practice more money than you might think.
Losing a patient is costly
It’s pretty simple: A pattern of empty chairs in your dental office will lead to a decrease in profits.
The average value of a dental patient throughout a lifetime typically ranges from $12,000 to $16,000. Moreover, practices with diminished dental patient retention rates can lose up to 10% of their yearly revenue. Thus, the importance of dental patient reactivation cannot be understated.
Retaining is cheaper than acquiring
Reactivating inactive dental patients means you’re retaining patients rather than acquiring new ones. And there’s no doubt that retaining an existing patient is cheaper than seeking a new one. Forbes has revealed that it can cost up to five times as much to acquire a new patient than to convert an inactive one.
Patient acquisition cost is the total dollar amount required to bring in a new patient to your practice. It includes staff wages, taxes, and any additional fees you incur during a set period. Thus, reactivating an old patient will always be less money out of your pocket.
Launching a dental reactivation campaign
A reactivation campaign can help you bring back lost patients by targeting them and encouraging them to visit your clinic again. These campaigns are excellent for keeping your practice top-of-mind, as they promote engagement from your inactive patients. Not only do they have the power to improve the oral health of your patient roster, but they also keep money coming in, boosting your annual profits.
So, let’s go over the steps to creating a successful reactivation campaign.
Identify who’s inactive
The first step in employing a dental patient reactivation campaign is determining your target audience. You’ll need to look through your patient database and make a list of the inactive ones.
An inactive patient may be filed with closed patient records, but most practices are legally required to keep health records for seven years after the patient was last seen. Thus, you should have no problem finding dormant cases.
Set your goals
Once you know the patients your dental patient reactivation campaign will target, you’ll need to set goals to achieve patient conversion. Your goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) so you can ensure a successful outcome. While the overall objective of these campaigns is to increase your practice’s revenue, it’s important to make specific goals as well. This way, you’ll know exactly what to gear your actions toward.
To carry out your campaign, you can take actions you may be more comfortable with such as mailing overdue dental recall letters or making phone calls. But, there are better actions that have been proven more effective in converting inactive patients.
Thus, we’re going to talk about the three most powerful mediums behind reactivation efforts: Social media, email, and text.
Leverage the power of social media
Businesses spanning multiple industries, including the healthcare sector, have realized that embracing social media as a marketing tool is essential to surviving the evolving digital era we’re living in. Facebook ads, Instagram posts, and blog pages are all smart ways to get your patients’ attention and keep them engaged.
A couple of examples of retention and reactivation strategies are creating a contest for teeth whitening vouchers or offering discounted cleanings to patients who refer a friend to your practice. Both of these strategies can be carried out via Facebook or Instagram by simply making a post that notifies your patients of the contest and how they can enroll.
Send compelling emails
Emailing marketing is cost-effective because you don’t have to pay for envelopes, flyers, or ads like you do with other advertising efforts. To send an email for a dental patient reactivation campaign, all you need is a list of your inactive patients’ email addresses.
But, an email won’t be successful if it merely says, “Hi [Name], you should book another appointment with us.” That’s not convincing at all and will likely get ignored. Your email needs to be compelling. It has to not only encourage a dormant patient to come back; but has to make them believe they need to come back.
This is why every email you send out must have a CTA.
The CTA affect
In marketing, CTA stands for Call To Action. A CTA acts as a signpost that tells a consumer the next step they need to take to sign up for your service or buy your product. When you see ads that have links that read, “Sign up today!”, “Get started” or “Book now”– those links are all CTAs.
CTAs also reinforce humans’ psychological sense of reward because they correspond with our reward behavior. Thus, the CTA you put in your emails can prompt your inactive patients to take action based on what the perceived reward for taking that action is.
Get down with texting
In today’s world, phones have practically become a fifth limb. In fact, over 90% of adults keep their phones within arm’s length 24 hours a day. And text messages have an astonishingly high open rate of 98%— much higher than the open rate of an email or an inactive patient dental letter.
Measure your success
It’s crucial that you keep notes in your reactivation database so the next time you need to make reactivation efforts, you know what works and what doesn’t. The most important metric of your campaign to keep track of is your “win-back rate.” This tells you the number of inactive patients who converted to active status after directly engaging with your campaign.
Start making dental patient reactivation efforts today
Now and then, a patient will inevitably fall off the track of regular preventive care. These patients need some extra motivation and incentive to re-engage with your services, as you can’t afford to forget about them.
Making plans for your next reactivation campaign may just save your practice while helping patients who need care along the way.