Direct Mail Marketing Wastes Time and Money

Dr. Justin Short


Do you need more mail in your life? I didn’t think so. I can’t say I personally sit around thinking to myself, “Man, I would be so much happier if I had more junk mail to sort through.” In fact, if my physician’s office sent me a newsletter, there is a better chance it would end up in the recycling bin than in my hands sitting around the pool. Are we really that narcissistic as dentists? Why do we think our patients want to read about us? I’m going to brutally honest here—they don’t.

You may think I’m crazy for limiting my direct mail, but I can tell you right now, I’m not! Sure, I can see some benefit of keeping our practice top of mind. And if you really enjoy putting together a newsletter, go for it. What I am saying is that you don’t have to send out birthday cards, holiday cards, contest announcements, and more to have a wildly successful practice. I personally don’t enjoy doing this type of marketing. I don’t like paying someone to organize, create, and mail something that’s not going to be worthwhile for my practice and will likely just end up in the trash without ever being read. What a waste, right?

Many years ago, however, I tried it. Even though I didn’t enjoy doing it, an “expert” told me it was really important. I didn’t trust my gut, and I should have known better. But it’s okay, because I learned an invaluable lesson. Experience without reflection is worthless. Experience with reflection is priceless! I spent thousands of dollars hiring a company and coming up with nice material to send out to patients. It was beautiful. Guess what effect it had on my production and collection levels. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. No cigar.

My point is that you don’t really need it. You don’t need to waste time and money sending out mail that is not being read and is just annoying your patients rather than attracting them. If you want a good return on investment, take that same $2,000 to $5,000 and spend it on a leadership course, on a coach, or on learning how to better connect with your patients. Those things will have a tremendous effect on the success of your practice. I have never had a patient say, “Hey Doc, I don’t really like you. Your interpersonal skills are terrible. But, dang, that newsletter blew my socks off. When can we get started with treatment?” Focus on what matters. The key to success is to think like a patient, not like a dentist.

The only things I really enjoy sending my patients via direct mail are simple handwritten thank you letters, especially for writing a review or referring a patient to our office. This way they see that I noticed. They see that it made a profound impact on me enough to sit down and write them a letter, and it makes them want to do it again and again. I am sincerely thankful when my patients do these things, and these are the things that will grow my practice. I can get a lot of thank you cards with my logo on them from Vistaprint for $50. I would pay $50 for just one warm lead from a good referral any day of the week. Why not? Have you seen what the lifetime value of one good patient can be? A lot more than a whole mess of single-visit patients!

At the end of the day, maybe it is time to take an inventory of the things that you do that appear important but are only wasting your time and money. Remember, you can’t do everything. We have a finite amount of time and money for such expenses. Focus on what matters. Do the things you enjoy, and cut out the junk you don’t. There are few things I hate more than wasting money on something that I don’t like doing. Would you rather have a dentist with excellent interpersonal and communication skills, or one that sends you a cheap auto-generated birthday card or newsletter? Guess what? Our patients feel the same way!

Dr. Justin Short graduated from the Southern Illinois School of Dental Medicine in 2005. He maintains a highly successful practice in St. Louis working 10 days a month. He also is the founder of the Lifestyle Practice, where he helps other dentists profit more and work less by building their own extraordinary practices. And for more insider advice on building and growing a successful practice and improving your relationships with your patients, check out 5 Things you DON’T Need…to Have a Wildly Successful Dental Practice.

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