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Freebies for Newbies Can Cost You

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Here's another one.
'Scan this card in our office by May 7, 2010 for your chance to win $5,000 cash!' The mailer also includes a gift card worth $200 off 'Full Treatment' and states 'New Patients Only.' OUCH! Just think of the impression that makes on a patient who may have spent thousands of dollars over the years, loyally visiting you for dental care. Sort of slap in the face, isn't it?
Or perhaps you've seen the commercial by Ally Bank'dramatizing how so many banks reward perfect strangers for opening an account but exclude their longtime depositors from their generosity. The Ally ad uses kids who are welcomed with an ice cream ' but one child is told he doesn't qualify while a new child who enters seconds later is granted a big chocolate ice cream cone. 'Well I'm new too,' says the first child. 'Yeah,' the banker says, 'but he's new-er...'  (Click on this link to see this for yourself; you might see your own office depicted in this ad).
The lesson is clear: don't forget the folks who made you a success in your rush to bring in the newbies. It's fine to reward new patients, but don't only reward the folks you've just met without taking equally good care of the folks who've taken care of you all along.
And be careful about discounting fees to attract new patients. You may undermine your own pricing integrity (your patients might think 'if he can discount for new patients, maybe his prices are too high to begin with'), and upset the patients who've been loyal to you all along.
Cultivating patient loyalty requires a thoughtful process that considers all your patients, oldies and newbies. Patient loyalty is too hard to come by, and too valuable to risk it on an offer that brings short term benefits, the potential for resentment, and long term losses.
Ryan Schwendiman DDS, MBA, is a practicing dentist in Georgia and an advisor to Loyal Patients, Inc, a company specializing in dental practice loyalty marketing solutions. He is also a Product Evaluator for Dental Product Shopper.

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