Get Schooled

Back to school promotions are a good way to attract new patients, connect with existing clients, even give back to the community

By Sophia Bennett

It seems like little time passes between the day school ends and the moment people start gearing up for it again. Most stores begin stacking backpacks on shelves and running sales on fall clothing in July.

Summer is an ideal time for dental offices to run their own back to school promotions as well. Four Northwest professionals share what they’ve done to successfully market themselves around this theme.

Mouthguard Giveaway and School Supply Drive: Seasons Dental, Burley, ID

Back to school means back to football for many high school students. With that in mind, Seasons Dental decided to fit and give mouthguards in team colors to local high school students in 2017.

Although the mouthguards would be free, Erika Bloodgood, who assists Drs. Ty and Chad Bodily with marketing, says the doctors wanted to use the campaign to pass their love of helping others on to local young people. They decided to ask students to donate school supplies when they came for their fitting. All of the supplies would be donated to local schools.

The practice promoted the event with printed fliers and on its Facebook page. Bloodgood set up a bin to collect donations during the event and delivered the supplies to schools after it concluded.

The mouthguard giveaway was fairly cost-effective because everyone at the practice donated their time to open the office and do the fittings. The school supply drive was also a great success. “We were able to give supplies to the majority of the local schools around town,” says Bloodgood.

The promotion helped the practice secure new patients too. “Once some of the kids came in and got exposed to the office they felt very comfortable,” says Bloodgood. “We ended up with three or four families that scheduled to come back because they liked the way their kids felt.”

Middle Creek Dental makes new patients a straightforward offer: When back to school time arrives, they can get a cleaning, exam and x-rays for $99. “For a certain segment of the population, they want to know what the dentistry is going to cost before they arrive,” says practice owner Dr. Shaun Christensen. “It’s a way to get people to stop shopping and come get an exam.”

Running such a promotion makes sense in the summer because that’s a time when many practices slow down. Since people are traveling or busy with activities they’re less likely to visit the dentist. “We’re a multi-doctor practice, so we need a constant influx of new patients to keep the doctors and hygienists busy,” says Christensen. “We try to keep our practice going at an even keel, so we inject some advertising into the community at specific times to keep ourselves busy.”

Christensen displays the back to school sale ad on the “new patient promotion” page of his website. He honors it year-round if people ask about it.

Dentists interested in doing a similar promotion should make it clear that the discounted price does not apply to people with gum disease. “I’d say at least half the time people will come in and they’ve been neglecting their health for years and they think they can get back on track for $99,” Christensen says. “That’s not going to happen, but at least now they know what they’re dealing with.” He offers these patients a different package of discounted services designed to help them deal with these more complex problems.

Many parents try to schedule their children’s health checkups in the summer so the kids don’t miss school. Because of that, summer tends to be a time when parents are thinking about other needs such as braces.

That’s a big reason Hays Dental Group decided to run an Invisalign promotion as a back to school special. Karena Askeland, the practice’s office manager, notes that there are other reasons a summer sale of this sort makes sense. Treatments can last for as little as three months, so students who start in the summer may be almost finished by the time they head back to school. If they don’t wrap up treatment by September, young people worried about their appearance are less likely to feel nervous about the company’s invisible braces.

In 2017 Hays Dental Group offered $1,000 off Invisalign services to anyone who mentioned the company’s ad on their Facebook page, website or in the online Yellow Pages. Askeland notes that they waited until Invisalign was also offering promotional pricing, which means there was little to no cost to the practice.

Last year’s sale went so well that Hays Dental Group plans to do it again this year. “Obviously the parent is the one who’s going to be paying for this kind of thing, so you’re wanting to promote the discount toward parents, but you also want to get it in front of that teenager thinking they may want straighter teeth,” says Askeland. “When my son or daughter comes to me and wants to feel better about themselves, that’s a good pull for me to want to be able to spend the money on them.” To reach young people, the practice is considering advertising on school posters or fliers that are distributed to local students.

Periodically reminding patients that they need to use their dental insurance benefits during the intended period so they don’t lose them is a great way to motivate them to make appointments. Rachel Brakke, lead marketing coordinator for The Newsletter Pro, says late summer is an especially good time to run these “use ‘em or lose ‘em” ads.

“Back to school campaigns are effective because families are returning from crazy summer schedules and going into their normal routines,” she says. “They aren’t going to be going on vacations at the beginning of the school year, so they are in town and ready to take care of those appointments they’ve been putting off.”

The Newsletter Pro produces four-page newsletters that dentists send their clients on a monthly basis. The company can also create 8-1/2 by 11-inch fliers with special promotions that can be inserted into the center of the newsletter. The “use ‘em or lose ‘em” message is a popular one.

“One of the keys to making a campaign like this effective is having flexible scheduling,” says Brakke. “The dental office must be prepared to get the whole family on the calendar at a time that is convenient for them. The office must also be prepared for an influx of calls to schedule and must have sufficient front desk support.”