The $99 New Patient Special is a phrase that sends chills down the spine of many dentists. It’s cheapening undertones and blatant use of money in an ad headline make it feel like a slightly more attractive Groupon offer. What “dental marketing specialist” could possibly suggest doing this?
I would love to publish a long list of reasons dentists cringe at the $99 new patient special. In reality, it’s not a very long list. The reasons are universal.
- “It cheapens dentistry.”
- “I’m only going to get people that come in once and never return.”
- “The quality of patient is not what we want.”
- “I’m going to lose money if they need SRP.”
- “My associates will complain about their production.”
But my favorite is- “We’re just not that type of practice.”
This is what I mean by “cursed.” I feel like this call to action is talked about almost like it’s a conspiracy. It’s heavily debated on dental forms, talked about on podcasts and it’s certainly something we get feedback on from webinars.
The reasons above explain why it’s so controversial but why if people despise it so much is it so widely used? Below I will discuss its merits. I wouldn’t suggest it for every practice but for practices needing rapid growth it’s worth exploring.
Depending on what research you look at cost is generally the number one reason people don’t go to the dentist. This isn’t always because they think it’s going to be too expensive. It’s more that they don’t know what the costs of dentistry are.
Knowing they only have to pay $99 means they won’t have surprises when they check-out. If you look at negative reviews for dental offices most result from a lack of clarity about charges.
There actually are a lot of instances where I have seen offices get numerous patients who have dental insurance call about the $99 special. Again, they are unsure of costs and what their insurance is going to cover. They like to have a cost in mind before they go in.
I’m not saying they don’t exist, but I have yet to see a review where someone complained about the cost and mentioned the $99 new patient special.
Increase Fee for Service Patients
Another top reason people don’t go to the dentist is because they feel their mouth is healthy and they don’t need treatment. These people tend to opt out of dental plans and will avoid going until there is an issue.
The $99 new patient special is effective in getting these people in over time. They may not see an ad and respond right away. It may be years before they act on one of these ads but there’s a big opportunity when they do.
It Helps Sell More Dental Savings Plans
You can certainly have success marketing a dental savings plan, but your pool of prospects will be much lower. The $99 new patient special creates an opportunity for people to “sample” your practice.
If you deliver a great patient experience you now have the opportunity to move them into a dental savings plan.
In my consultations I always recommend my clients have a $99 activation fee for their in-office plans. It makes it easier to sell when you can say “If you sign up today we will use the $99 from your visit and waive the activation fee.” Then get them set-up on a monthly recurring payment.
Most practices want a youth movement. I certainly think that’s important but don’t forget about Baby Boomers. That generation is retiring with money and no longer has the coverage on dental like they did before.
Seniors used to be a label put on people about to head to the nursing home. From what I’ve seen of the baby boomers they’re more likely to be headed to the swim-up bar.
They are still conscious of price and want to know what they are getting themselves into, but they also care about their health and their appearance.
Like the example listed above, use this special to get them in and sell them into your dental savings plan.
It Builds Trust
We encourage each of our clients to be practices focused on relationships not transactions. This is why many don’t want to do the $99 new patient special because they feel most people come in once and leave.
There’s no doubt that 50% or more of the patients that come in from that special may not come back. But I feel like there’s more opportunity to build trust with the 50% that do because you eliminated one of their biggest barriers.
These are generally patients that rarely ever go to the dentist. You have an opportunity to service them well, make them believers in recurring dental care, and regain their trust in dentistry. This can lead to the best by-product of this special
You will see a lot of reviews that state “I was nervous about going to the dentist because I hadn’t been in a while… they did a great job calming my nerves and making me feel comfortable.” The people that write these reviews are the ones that trust you.
This means they are more likely to accept treatments plans and ultimately refer you to their colleagues and friends.
So, look at it this way: If you get ten people in from a $99 new patient special and half sign up for a plan or return, that means five quality patients. If these patients each refer two people to you that’s ten more quality patients.
Those numbers begin to add up over time. The dentists that use the $99 New Patient Special effectively don’t use it long-term. They use it long enough to build the patient base they want.