Part of meeting your patient's needs at any practice is understanding their concerns. Many small businesses don't provide dental in their insurance packages, and many more employers don't provide insurance at all. To prevent your uninsured patients from missing out on essential treatments due to cost, you can offer a membership program that, unlike insurance, provides transparent cost breakdowns without copays and deductibles.
If you have an established dental membership plan or are considering implementing one at your practice, you're probably interested in growing your numbers. Continue reading to learn seven essential dental membership growth strategies.
1. Provide Education on the Importance of Dental Care
Many Americans skip the dentist unless something is wrong, which can exacerbate many dental issues. You might find that your patients are skipping their cleanings and check-ups because they can't afford their insurance copay or don't have insurance at all. Approximately 100 million Americans skip the dentist each year, meaning that issues like bruxism and periodontal disease can go unchecked in some patients for years.
The first step in growing a dental membership plan is to highlight the importance of regular dental cleanings and check-ups. Through social media and blog posts, you can explain the importance of bi-yearly dental cleanings and annual check-ups for patient health. Explain how dental visits can catch and prevent issues such as:
- Mouth cancer: A regular dental cleaning could potentially save a patient's life. While checking for common issues like cavities or chipped teeth, a dentist or hygienist could catch the early stages of mouth cancer, allowing for patients to get a proper examination and begin treatment.
- Cavities: Even though many think cavities are only an issue in childhood, adults can get cavities, too. It's important to check for them as they can eventually lead to tooth decay or loss if not addressed.
- Periodontal disease: Gingivitis is a common condition that can often lead to more serious periodontal disease. A buildup of bacteria in the gums means that infections can spread to the teeth and jaw.
- Bruxism: Another common issue that can have serious consequences if left untreated is bruxism, or teeth grinding. Many people grind their teeth due to anxiety or stress, and some do it at night without realizing it.
- Sensitivity: Many people also deal with tooth sensitivity, exacerbated by hot or cold food and drinks. If patients experience tooth sensitivity, it's often a symptom of degrading enamel, which is a serious issue that should be addressed.
It's important to create a caring and compassionate approach to patients who may have avoided the dentist. Dental anxieties or phobias can be exacerbated by even the slightest off-hand comment about someone's teeth, which could prevent them from returning to seek treatment. Approach every patient with compassion, and coach staff on how to help patients with extreme dental anxiety or phobias. Market yourself as a no-judgment dental practice to help bring in patients who might find other practices more judgmental.
2. Establish Training for Staff
Your staff is the backbone of your dental practice, so training them on an office membership plan will help grow your in-house dental membership plan. Everyone from the receptionist to the office manager to the head of the practice should know how the membership plan works. They should also receive individual training on how their role relates to the membership plan.
Receptionists have direct contact with all patients, so they're an integral factor in getting the word out about the membership plan. They can verbally explain the membership plan to patients interested and hand out informative flyers for patients to take home. During a patient's check-up, the hygienist or dentist can explain the benefits of the dental membership program to each patient, personalizing their explanation to the patient's needs.
For example, a hygienist could remark that if a patient wants additional treatments such as teeth whitening, they can save a significant amount of money on that procedure with the membership plan. Dentists that know a patient will be in need of X-rays or crowns can compare the prices with and without the membership plan to help encourage a patient to sign on.
It also helps to offer tangible rewards to your team for promoting the dental membership plan. Consider offering a shout-out and a monthly prize to the employee who converts the most patients. However, it's best to avoid negative consequences for members not reaching membership quotas, as that may affect team morale.
3. Educate Patients on the Differences Between Dental Membership Plans and Insurance
Many patients may never have heard of something called a dental membership plan. Most people really only have a loose idea of what dental insurance is and how it works, so a membership program may be an unfamiliar concept to them. In addition to educating patients on the importance of routine dental care and cleanings, be sure to include information about how an in-house dental membership plan differs from a patient's insurance options.
Many dental insurance plans offer up to 100% coverage for preventative care such as cleanings, but other services like crowns, cavities, and root canals can hike up huge bills. The typical dental insurance plan includes:
- Monthly premiums
- Waiting periods
- Network limitations
- Out-of-pocket deductibles
- Differing coverage based on the type of dental care
Most people get dental insurance through their employer, but if that isn't available, they often have to purchase plans on their own. With monthly costs, yearly deductibles, and per-visit copays, dental insurance can add up in costs. Often, patients become confused as to what's covered and what isn't and how much they will end up owing at the end of each visit. Because dental membership plans simplify the payment process, patients will be able to see exactly where their money is going and how much they'll owe.
With graphics or a blog post, you can compare and contrast traditional insurance with your dental membership program to show patients how much they can save working directly with their dental provider. With transparent charges and clearly defined coverage benefits, patients can immediately interpret how much money they will pay per month and per year, as well as the cost of individual treatments.
To spread this information, consider making a blog post and sharing it on your social media pages. You can also introduce polls and surveys on your social media pages to host question-and-answer sessions. For those patients that may not be savvy with social media, especially older adults, hosting an in-person or virtual information session where they can come to ask questions and get answers is a great idea. It will also help build patient loyalty and confidence in your practice.
4. Use Direct Mail to Reach Local Businesses and Organizations
While most businesses are putting their time and energy into electronic marketing campaigns, the power of direct mail marketing can lie forgotten. Almost 76% of people trust mail advertising over digital ads, such as through email and online platforms. Most people have become inundated with marketing and ads popping up everywhere, from their social media feeds to their email inboxes. To grab the attention of your patients more effectively, consider implementing an effective direct mail marketing campaign.
An effective direct mail marketing campaign can help you reach your patients to advertise and promote your practice's dental membership program. Fortunately, a direct mail marketing campaign can be a cost-effective option, which is an especially great feature for small practices. If you want to use direct mail, be sure you have a plan in place that includes:
- Your target audience
- A cost breakdown
- Your marketing goals
- The services you want to promote
- A simple call to action
In a direct mail campaign to grow your dental membership plan, you'll want to target your uninsured patients in particular, as they will be more likely to sign up and benefit from your program. Having a targeted audience can keep costs down because you only have to send physical marketing to a select portion of your patients. The cost breakdown of direct mail marketing most often varies between 30 cents to $10 per recipient, so it can be as expensive or as cost-effective you want.
Another great strategy to gain more conversions is to create a simple call to action your patients can take to get more information or sign up. One way you can do this is by including a postage-paid postcard so patients can fill out their info and send the postcard back to register. Additionally, you can include a QR code, which patients can scan from their brochure or letter to complete their sign-up and registration online.
5. Utilize Digital Channels to Promote Your Membership Plan
Some of the most popular methods of advertising include digital channels such as social media, email marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO). Combining this strategy with direct mail covers tech-savvy patients who may prefer digital marketing over physical mail. Discover all the different ways to grow a dental membership plan through digital channels:
Whether you're a small individual practice or you're part of a large dental group, having a social media presence can be a great asset. If you want to gain new patients, social media can help get the word out about your services and make it easy for current patients to recommend you to their friends and family. Since most social media has location-based technology, anyone who's recently searched for dental work in your area could see your posts on their feed.
You can also use social media posts to educate and promote your dental membership plan. Utilize stories, live video feeds, and surveys to get the word out, answer questions, and connect with current and potential patients.
Setting up an email list for your patients can help with a variety of services. Having an email list can:
- Help remind patients to schedule appointments
- Remind patients of upcoming appointments
- Provide opportunities for patients to make appointments
- Offer specials for new patients
- Promote your dental membership plan
Most people check their email around 15 times each day, so sending an email at the optimal time can greatly benefit your dental practice. While most people will be busy with work emails during the day, they often check their personal emails in the mornings and the evenings. If you're hoping to get your patients to sign up for your membership program, sending a message in the evening might increase the likelihood they see and act on the email.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a great strategy if you want to gain more traffic to your website. It involves using writing on your website and blog posts that target certain common search terms. For example, to advertise your dental membership plan, you could choose an SEO strategy that targets terms like "affordable dentist near me" or "dental membership plan."
When you use SEO strategies, you can increase the likelihood you'll appear in searches, boosting your website traffic and generating more conversions on your site. For small practices, location-based SEO strategies can target patients searching for dental services directly in your area.
6. Collect Patient Testimonials and Reviews
If you've ever searched for a restaurant while traveling, one of the first things you may take note of is the reviews. If a restaurant has bad reviews, you're less likely to choose that one compared to the other options nearby. Similarly, having good reviews can make or break your dental practice. Because 90% of customers rely on reviews to make their decisions, including positive reviews and patient testimonials can play a big role in growing your dental membership program.
If you are introducing a dental membership program, consider offering incentives to the early customers who sign on to leave reviews, including collecting a discount or a gift of some kind. When promoting your membership plan, include short testimonials and reviews to encourage patients to sign on. You can also dedicate a page on your website to post reviews and testimonials.
7. Use Kleer Software to Build, Manage, and Grow Your Dental Membership Program
With Kleer's industry-leading membership plan technology, your dental practice will have complete control of subscription prices, fee schedules, and treatment protocols. Using Kleer's software has enormous benefits for both practices and patients. Practices can offer an alternative to insurance that will eliminate waiting periods and ensure they get direct payments — instead of waiting on insurance companies. It can also differentiate your practice from others in the area.
Patients benefit from being able to bypass the hassles of insurance and getting a transparent cost analysis. Uninsured patients will be more likely to take advantage of membership programs because they offer a cost-effective alternative to purchasing insurance without deductibles or waiting periods.
Kleer's dental membership plan software can help your practice easily design and launch a membership program. With our dashboard, you can get a full picture of your membership metrics, including the total number of members, renewal rates, and total earnings. You can also get data on how your membership program is growing, with the ability to see trends in renewals, sign-ons, and cancellations.
Achieving the goal of improving patient access to affordable dental care is closer than ever when you partner with Kleer. Contact us to tell us about your dental practice and request a free demo of our software.