Dental Marketing Strategies to Retain Existing Patients with Kelsey Halvarson
In this podcast episode, Kelsey Halvarson, Chief Strategy and Growth Officer of Roadside Dental Marketing, talks about the importance of retaining existing patients and the strategies that can be implemented to improve patient retention in dental practices.
Welcome to How I Grew My Practice, the podcast where health professionals share the behind-the-scenes stories of how they built a thriving practice. Each episode will uncover surprising challenges, victories, and life lessons learned throughout their journeys. Let's get started.
Welcome everybody. We're back to How I Grew My Practice, a 15-minute podcast sponsored by NexHealth. My name's Alec. I work on the content here at NexHealth. Today, we are joined by Kelsey Halvarson, Chief Strategy and Growth Officer of Roadside Dental Marketing. He's here today to talk to us about retaining existing patients and why that is so fundamentally important for dental practices everywhere. Kelsey, welcome to the show. How are you doing? How's your weekend?
It was very good. Thanks Alec. Um, nice to be here. Nice to be back on NexHealth and to talk to some of the practices that we work with. Just before jumping in, Kelsey, do you want to do just a quick introduction about yourself and how you got into the dental industry? Absolutely. Yeah. So I actually started in the automotive industry, which might sound weird because it has nothing to do with medical or dental at all. Um, but about 10 years ago, I made the switch into the medical industry and I found, I actually enjoyed it a lot more. There was a lot.
more fast-paced movement. There was things that were changing, technology changes, you know, the process has changed. So I found it a lot more interesting to stay up to date. I totally agree. I came from FinTech and prior to that, hospitality, and I've been having an absolute ball in the dental industry. So diving like right into the topic, I know this might be a bit of an obvious question, but why is patient retention so important, especially in 2023?
Yeah, I mean, it's easy and difficult at the same time, because really, it's smart marketing, right? It's less expensive marketing. If you can keep or retain a patient, then it's not gonna cost your practice as much. So you have more predictable finances, right? The average cost to generate a new patient is $300. So if you can keep patients without losing them to attrition, then obviously you're saving that money. So it makes it a little easier.
as well and easier to upsell existing treatment, which I'm sure we'll get into a little bit later, but going into, you know, having that relationship, building that trust with patients. And then that leads to referrals as well. So that's where that retention really comes into being super important. So you just mentioned this, but from your perspective, what are the most common reasons that practices are not seeing that retention and actually losing patients? Again, and this comes into...
It's an easy answer, but sometimes the application or putting it into practice is a little harder. So it's wait times, right? People waiting too long and nobody wants to wait anymore. They don't have patience to wait anymore, so they're gone. It could be lack of attention, right? Maybe there's just no nurturing going on within the office. So the patient doesn't feel connected to the practice. There's no surprise or delight or wow, they're not memorable enough. And...
So the patient leaves, right? They try to find a better experience. And I think that is probably the largest contributor to losing patients is in between those six month visits from hygiene and cleaning, there's nothing. It's like a marriage really, that you're gonna put a little bit more effort into things to keep that spark alive. Otherwise the patient has no reason to stay. Yeah. So when dental practice are looking at their active patient count and they're seeing that retention may not be great. What are some of Kelsey's main strategies that you immediately go to say, this is what a practice must do to fix their retention problem? Absolutely, that's a great question. And it goes back to those three words that I said before, surprise, delight, and wow. Yeah. Patients want to be surprised. They don't want to just go there and expect the same old dental visit. They want to say, wow, that's new, wow.
I'm blown away, this is something that's amazing. If a practice can build that into their strategy of once they've attained a new patient and now they're consistently reaching out to them. Some of the other things that play into that surprise, delight and wow is just nurturing, right? Having that, I know NexHealth is great with that as well, is being able to send out.
kind of emails, maybe SMS messages, maybe it's a happy birthday, maybe it's an anniversary, whatever it is, but keeping in contact with that patient so that they feel that they're a part of the family. They feel like they're a practice. It goes into that education, right? And for a long time, long time practices were just saying, I don't have time. It's just too much work. I don't have time to put that in. And unfortunately nowadays...
It's not really, it's not an excuse. You can't really rely on the, I don't have time because other practices will make the time and they're gonna take your patients if you don't do that. For sure. So NexHealth certainly does help out with the re-care part and just ensuring that patients come back every six months. But what are additional strategies in regards to like patient communication and education that are additional ways to help, you know, keep retention in a good place?
So having sequences put into place for every time someone even just expresses interest in the practice. Maybe they've downloaded an ebook or a lead magnet on cosmetic dentistry or on implants. Instead of just sending them the ebook and being done with it, if you had that sequence, right? That educational program built in, now when that patient's actually ready to make a decision, you're top of mind. So they're automatically going to be choosing your practice because they remember you, they know who you are.
Another huge aspect would be video. And I know some doctors that we talk to, they hate getting on video. They hate being the face, but they are. They're the face of the practice. It's their practice. So it's a huge tool that can be used to build relationships, to nurture. And it can be crazy, crazy quick to do that. And much like...
what you're doing, what we're doing right now is building that, that library of content. Then you can kind of batch it, right? You can, you can splice, you can use it and you can, and mix it out. And that, that's huge for practices. So those are a couple of probably the easiest tips to implement. Specifically, is there, um, if we're doing a promotion, do you want to give a little bit more on how a video component might play into upselling a specific service?
Absolutely, so let's pick a really high ticket service, for example. I mean, a lot of practices wanna push dental implants, maybe they wanna push Invisalign, Smile Designs, some of the cosmetic treatments. If a patient is interested when they first reach out to a practice, it's kinda like kicking tires, right? They're not ready to lay down $40,000, $50,000 for treatment, but they might wanna know a little bit more about the treatment, right? Like what it entails, what's included.
How long is the process going to take? And having a dentist or a doctor make that video that then you can cut that into, you know, six, seven, eight different portions and have that go out as education to the patient. Now they know, okay, hey, okay, it's gonna take around six months. We need the crown to heal, the implant's gonna heal. They're gonna put this on top. Now they're educating themselves. So now they're ready and they're more adept or, you know, kind of ready to part with their money because it's a lot of money to invest into their smile.
So instead of just expecting it to happen, educate them. And the biggest thing that we always recommend is use a CRM, have a platform that can track going into the different stages. So this is where they entered, this is where they started. Here's the videos that we've sent out, how many times they've opened them, how many times they've interacted with these emails or these messages, and then where are they in that stage?
That's awesome. Is there any specific tool CRM that you're most bullish on or enjoy using the most or recommend the most? Absolutely. This kind of maybe sounds like I don't want to be tooting our own horn, but we actually built our own tool, our own platform. It's called Roadside Connect. It's a complete patient closing software and it actually integrates with or is using the NexHealth API. So it kind of goes back and forth.
were able to look into the practice software, but then at the same time tie in every point of contact. So what page they came in on, where they first become a lead, what have they seen or not seen, what have they been sent or not sent, what's their value, what's their status? It's everything all in one using not just a CRM, but with SMS and phone tracking and marketing and everything else. Cool. I guess I kind of went into another question that I had.
Um, which you've kind of just laid out, which is all part of the CRM type solution, but what are some of like the key, uh, pieces of information that you must measure around retention strategies? Like what are the, what are the metrics that must be tracking? Yeah. A couple of the ones that you absolutely need to know is what is your treatment acceptance rate. So of all the treatments that you've been presenting to patients, what is the actual acceptance rate?
What's the hygiene rate? What's your attrition? Right, so how many patients are you bringing in versus how many patients are you losing? So is your practice actually growing or is it just kind of treading water? Are you just stuck in chaos mode where you're making enough, you're busy, but you're not actually getting anywhere? And then using those metrics or those statistics and now figuring out what is the patient's lifetime value? You'd be surprised at how many practices we talk to.
where they say, well, what is a patient worth to you? And their response is, oh, you know, $300, which is nowhere even close to the actual number because if you're working on retention and if you actually have that patient stick with your practice, they're gonna be there seven to 10 years, right? They're gonna come in for regular cleanings. They might accept other treatment, cosmetic treatment, restorative treatment, and they're most likely gonna refer family and friends if they're happy with the practice. So...
finding out what the actual LTV is or the lifetime value, and then putting that into now figuring out what your cost per acquisition is. So kind of going through all those different stages, those are the metrics that really need to be tracked. So it sounds like there's a ton of data in order to get those key metrics in place. And I know that that's data that can be found in a patient experience solution, like in ex-health, it could be in a CRM solution, some of which is even in your PMS. How are, what are...
you guys recommending, given that you have data in all different systems to kind of create this picture, how do you guys work with practices to kind of create that single vision to help practices understand where they are at with things like retention? So our personal preference, and like you said, there's multiple avenues where you can get that data and you can pull it in. The way we love to do it is if a practice is already using NexHealth.
then if we can get a login to that platform, right? So we can be able to log into the backend, we can see all the data there. And then marrying that with other platform that I mentioned with Roadside Connect. Cause then you have everything in just one dashboard. Everything is there from what the patient is actually worth to the practice, how long they've been there, where they came in, how much you've spent on them, how many patients you've lost versus gained, everything is there in the one area. Very cool.
Because is there any stories of practices that perhaps had not so great retention? Uh, and you've seen and helped really turn that around for a practice that you think is worth sharing with our audience? Absolutely. So there's, there's two that actually come to mind. One was actually just recently featured on NexHealth channel is Dr. Turnwold. Um, he's one of our clients as well. We've had the privilege of working with him for basically since he took the practice over and he's used NexHealth.
to dramatically decrease the number of no shows and dramatically increase the number of patients that have stuck with the practice. Instead of just paying all that money to get them in for one cleaning and one exam, now they're there. They've become part of his dental family, which of course means more money for the practice. And that's a big thanks again to NexHealth with their programs and being able to have the automated reminders going out. So that was one success story.
Another one is kind of tied into using the API more than the actual platform of NexHealth, but there was one practice where we actually ran a hygiene reactivation campaign. So these were existing patients that just went inactive. They just stopped coming back to the practice. They were still technically there. So what we did is we set up that nurture sequence. We sent out emails, we sent out messages, welcoming them back to the practice. And
for an initial investment of say, you know, under $5,000, I think it was like 4,500 maybe is what they actually output. They generated $50,000 in revenue and they reactivated 125 patients. So just being able to have that base number now, and they didn't really have to spend anything on ads, but they were able to retain those patient numbers and be able to reactivate them. Very impressive.
Yeah, we also see a lot of practices who are scared to put in that initial investment, just nervous that might go to, I don't say zero, but you're not going to see that ROI. So that's a really great story just to hear. Not only did they immediately get the return, but almost sounds like a 10x. We're coming up just the 15 minute mark. Just last question to you, if there's any final tips that you don't think we've spoken about today that are additional just
really easy tactics that any practice could install to improve their attention. There's a couple. So just be awesome. Be yourselves. You know, patients choose you for your personality. So make that personality stand out. Don't be afraid to go beyond what you're used to or what you're comfortable with. Start offering online services, start offering text reminders, start offering online scheduling, get kind of get out of that comfort zone, and it will definitely pay off because it's
It's all about relationships. That's what marketing is all about. It's, it's being memorable. Just, just go for it. Don't be boring. Just be brilliant. Um, surprise, delight, and wow, that's what patients want. I love that. That does bring us to the 15 minute mark. Kelsey, thank you so much for joining us and sharing all of your tips on retention with the NexHealth community. Um, we'll definitely be in touch. So it was a pleasure to have you here. Thanks Alec. My pleasure.
In this 15-minute podcast presented to you by NexHealth, Kelsey Halvarson, Chief Strategy and Growth Officer of Roadside Dental Marketing, discusses the importance of retaining existing patients and why it is crucial for dental practices.
Patients oftentimes don’t go back to a practice because of long wait times, lack of attention, or absence of nurturing in the office. That’s why you need a solid retention strategy to prevent them from never returning.
Why is patient retention important?
Kelsey explains that patient retention is crucial because it is smart marketing and costs less than generating new patients. Retaining patients leads to more predictable finances, and it is easier to upsell existing treatments. Moreover, it helps to build relationships, trust, and referrals with patients. The main reason why practices lose patients is due to waiting times, lack of attention, and not nurturing the relationship between six-month visits.
Strategies to improve patient retention:
Kelsey recommends three key strategies for improving patient retention: surprise, delight, and wow. Patients want to be surprised and delighted and to feel that they are part of the practice family. Practices should focus on nurturing relationships through communication, education, and building trust.
Practitioners can send emails, SMS messages, happy birthday or anniversary messages, and keep patients engaged with the practice. They should also create sequences for every time someone expresses interest in their practice and provide education through newsletters, blogs, and social media.
Finally, they should be proactive in addressing negative reviews and feedback and show empathy and understanding toward patients' concerns.
Retaining patients is vital for the success of dental practices. Kelsey emphasizes the importance of building relationships with patients, nurturing them, and providing exceptional care. Practices should focus on providing a personalized experience that surprises and delights patients and makes them feel like part of the family. By doing so, they can improve patient retention, increase referrals, and save on marketing costs.