How I successfully market Sleep Disordered Breathing in my practice
By Dr. George Jones
It seems that many dentists fall into the trap of thinking that marketing is in poor taste, or something sleazy. They feel that to market a procedure or service means to stoop to the level of used car salesman using “hard sell” techniques. Thus they never maximize their true office potential for that service. Many also have the preconceived notion that marketing must involve a “campaign”, media professionals, and therefore require a significant financial commitment.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MARKETING
For me marketing is simply a way to bring awareness to our services and to ultimately start a conversation. When I began treating Sleep Disordered Breathing in my office the first thing I did was to create a word document using information I had culled from my Sleep Group Solutions seminar notes. I included information on the risk factors, signs and symptoms, comorbidities, and what we at Sunset Dental were doing about it. I added a couple of pictures and then I took this document to a local printer and had it printed into a poster.
SILENT MOTIVATORS: OFFICE POSTERS
We framed it and hung it in our lobby so our patients would read it and begin asking the staff questions (Marketing).
Questions frequently asked by my patients:
“What can a dentist do to treat Snoring and Sleep Apnea?”
“Does the oral appliance replace a CPAP?”
“My husband has many of these symptoms! How would we know if he has sleep apnea?”
It is important to note that for this to be effective my staff had to be trained to properly answer these questions. This poster, a subtle silent educator was wildly effective in bringing an entry level of awareness to our patients because we had begun screening all patients as they presented for their hygiene appointments. I think the total cost of my poster was less than $120 and it hangs there in my lobby today. My poster is certainly a more effective promotion than a pretty art poster. You can see a copy of it here.
ENGAGING HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS TO “MARKET” FOR ME.
After I had documented some successful cases using my patients I made a simple excel spreadsheet showing the Before and After results- tracking such things as AHI, Oxygen Saturation Nadirs, Time spent below 90% SaO2, etc. I then began asking to meet with the local Primary Care Physicians whenever we had a mutual patient that was either recently diagnosed or demonstrated that they were high risk. My approach was simple: call them on the phone and ask if we could arrange a 5-10 minute meeting regarding a mutual patient. How could they refuse that? Most were very accommodating. I typically would ask to come by at lunch or on my day off- promising this would be to the point and beneficial to the patient.
During the meeting I would take great care to explain that we were interested in the overall health and wellness of our patients. That we were not trying to talk patients into switching from their CPAP over to oral appliances, and in fact, that we likely spent more time trying to convince CPAP compliant patients that an oral appliance may not be a suitable for them. But with every meeting I had 3 things I wanted to emphasize:
- I made a point to show them my documentation, as many PCPs were not aware how effective appliance therapy could be.
- I asked them to consider using my office and Appliance Therapy for any CPAP noncompliant patient they saw.
- I offered to treat them, their spouse or any staff member in their office for free, so they could “experience” our process, and the benefits of Appliance Therapy. I didn’t matter if they had insurance or not because I would do the whole case as a professional courtesy in order for them to see how professionally and effectively we would treat any referred patient.
Points 1 and 2 cost me only a little of my free time and an occasional lunch. Point 3 had the potential to cost me about $300-500 per “free patient”. But I determined that it would be worth it to gain a potential referral source or just to build some general “good will” in the local medical community. And it certainly did that. Most were shocked at the gracious offer! Do you care to guess how many have actually taken me up on my offer? Exactly 1! In over 4 years only 1 doctor has taken me up on my offer. He and his partners are one of my best referral sources now. From a total cost about $500 the return on my investment was 300% after his first referred patient! He’s since sent me dozens of them!
Lastly, consider taking some pictures and thoroughly documenting one of your successful cases. Use the documentation to present a “case study” to the local medical community. Present them with the following information:
Pretreatment AHI, SpO2 spent below 90%, SpO2 nadir, mean heart rate, maximum heart rate
Then show them the post treatment values of the variables mentioned above. Take the time to explain the method for finding the appropriate bite that maximizes the airway opening (pharyngometer), the appliance you chose and any other information that makes the case interesting. Be sure to provide your practice contact information, have the case printed in color and simply mail to the local medical community.
PRESENT AN IN-OFFICE SEMINAR TO THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY
Invite key members of the medical community for a DSM presentation after hours in your office. ALSO invite city officials and the public. Let them all know who they will meet at this educational networking event. The town mayor, chiefs of police and fire departments will see the meeting as beneficial to their public standing and some health care professionals will see it as an opportunity to raise their image (and maybe learn something). Plan out the details, make the date long enough in advance and advertise it in local media and in your office. You will be recognized as a “thought leader” and a caring public servant.
These ideas are a little time consuming to put together but cost very little. So it doesn’t take much to see a very significant ROI.