What is a Patient Funnel and Why You Should Care

In marketing, people are talking a lot about funnels these days.  Marketing funnels are not new, but with digital marketing, it’s easier and easier to automate many of the steps of a marketing funnel to make it more effective with less work.  While most of the business world has embraced marketing funnels, private practices have yet to do so like they could.

What is a marketing funnel?

Before we dig into what a marketing funnel is, let’s consider a regular funnel.  If you’ve ever had to put windshield wiper fluid or oil into a car, you know that a funnel can help you out big time!  A funnel has a larger diameter at the top and is cone shaped with a small straw opening at the bottom.  It allows you to gather a lot of material at the top and fit it into a smaller opening without losing a lot of that material.

So, let’s replace the word “patient” into that last sentence.  “It allows you to gather a lot of “patients” at the top and fit them into a smaller opening without losing a lot of those “patients.”  A practice funnel helps you handle a lot of patients and qualify them into the smallest group, which is often your most loyal group of patients.  

Getting People Into A Funnel

Digital advertising is the first way you can get people into your initial funnel.  Whether that be with Google Adwords, Facebook advertising, or other digital advertising, you are reaching a huge quantity of people.  And while digital marketing allows you to qualify your audience, there’s still a lot you don’t know about the people you’re advertising to, so some will be excellent fits for your practice, and others will clearly not be ideal.  However, the goal is to get traction and traffic in the early stages of a funnel.

Qualify Them

Most practices qualify patients over the phone.  However, landing pages on your website to claim a free gift or just to gather information could be enough to turn away people that aren’t fits.  For example, if your practice doesn’t take insurance, you could state that on your landing page.  When people fill in an entry form, or call from that landing page, only those that don’t care about insurance will probably call.  This saves your front desk staff time and effort trying to schedule someone who probably will cancel anyway.

Nurture Them

Once you get them on your schedule, you can follow up with them and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  Creating a series of emails that explain who your practice is, who the team is, what to expect at the first visit, and even a follow up email after their visit are all great types of emails that can be made once, and repeated for every patient.  Patients WILL notice when you’ve gone out of your way to make them feel important and nurturing them with a few automated emails can go a long way!

Funnels for dental practices look drastically different than those of other typical sales models.  However, you can learn a lot from them and take a lot of the same characteristics from them as well!  Remember, the goal is to turn new faces into lifelong patients who will tell their friends and family about you!  Patient funnels are a great philosophy to do this!

Valerie Morris