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Consider the last time you walked outside of your practice and thought, “I wonder how I could get people from the coffee shop and gym nearby to come to my practice?” Or maybe, “If only I could turn residents from that apartment complex into new patients.”

If this sounds like something you've considered before, then you are already thinking about how ground marketing can bring new patients into your practice. And if you haven't capitalized on the cost-effective benefits of ground marketing yet, it's time to start thinking about how simple tactics can bring in new patients now.

What is Ground Marketing?

Ground marketing is a people-to-people approach using unconventional strategies and tactics designed to attract, engage, and invite your community to your practice.

I like to think of ground marketing as an action. You aren't left waiting on an algorithm to favor you and you don't put money into a strategy to wait for a return on investment. Ground marketing is about you physically going out there and making things happen, and includes things like:

  • Participating in local events and lunch-n-learns
  • Building relationships with nearby businesses
  • Fostering a reputation of being the “go to” practice in your community

Though ground marketing has always been crucial for practice growth, ground marketing is especially effective now because we recognize how much we need physical contact and person-to-person communication – whether they are business related or anything else. If you have been to a dental event recently, you know that person-to-person contact is essential – we crave it and miss it.

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I could continue telling you why ground marketing is worthwhile – but instead I'll share strategies you can apply to bring in new patients within the month. And with many businesses reopening and COVID-19 vaccinations on the rise, the perfect time to try your hand at ground marketing is right now.

Ground marketing involves strategy, confidence, and careful execution. It is not dropping by random businesses to drop off gift baskets or business cards in the hope patrons will call and schedule an appointment. These tactics might work here and there, but they do not represent an effective ground marketing strategy.

To create an effective ground marketing strategy, it's important to consider:

  1. Where to go for the best results
  2. How to approach the location
  3. Who to speak with and what you plan to say
  4. What results you expect and how to get there quickly

Let me show you what I'm talking about with a simple and effective ground marketing approach: The apartment complex strategy.

How to Get Started with Ground Marketing: The Apartment Complex Strategy

Apartment building

Step One: Making the Connection

In my view, this strategy is a great one to start with because some apartment complexes have over 1000 residents! These are great places to get in front of a lot of locals in one place.

To get started, find an apartment complex in your area and write down their phone number. Then, block 5 minutes of your calendar the following day to give them a call.

Once you are on the phone, ask to speak with the property manager. Here is a simple script to help you with what to say next.

  • Introduce yourself - “My name is [first name] and I'm with the dental office down the street from your building. I was wondering if you distribute new resident move-in packets?”
  • If the answer is yes - “We would love to include our practice information in your move-in packets. How can we go about doing so?”
  • If the answer is not yet “We would love to give your employees or residents free oral hygiene kits with toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste, and our practice information to introduce yourselves and help take care of your residents. How could we go about doing that?”

In either scenario, make sure you confirm a day and time to stop by so you can establish a connection with the property manager in-person.

Step Two: Visiting the Location

Sign up sheet with table

Once you get the “ok” to add practice information to new move-in packets, you should also consider how to appeal to the property manager and the employees at the apartment complex.

They probably aren't your patients yet, but that could quickly change!

When you drop off the flyers for the new move-in packets, make sure you have three important things with you:

  1. Hygiene kits. These kits are for employees or for distribution at the employees' discretion. Since these are more costly, I recommend limiting the number of hygiene kits you provide to no more than 5-10 hygiene kits (unless it's an event).
  2. Flyers or packets. The flyers or packets are for distribution through the “new move-in” packets for residents and include information about your practice as well as new patient incentives.
  3. A sign-up sheet. A sign-up sheet is a great way to limit cost by providing residents and employees a simple way to show interest even if they don't receive a hygiene kit. Plus, it provides you with new patient leads when you return.

Here is a script to help you when speaking with the property manager:

  • Establishing interest - “Just for employees and their families, I'd love to give you all a special incentive if you add your name to this sign-up sheet.”
  • Establishing expectations - “Put your name, your number, and the best way to reach you and I will personally give you a call to see when you can come in!”
  • Setting a time to follow up – “When would be a good day to come back and pick up the sign-up sheet?”

When you return, you will have a sign-up sheet with new patient leads waiting to hear from you. If you need a sign-up sheet template, you can download one here.

When you return to pick up the sign-up sheet, ask the property manager about upcoming events for residents. Believe it or not, many apartment complexes host regular events for residents – why not ask to participate? Since the property manager is already familiar with you, they are more likely to say “yes” to your participation.

Why It Works

This strategy allows you to get your foot in the door. You are not calling the property managing and asking for a favor, you are thinking of the business owner's customers. In this case, apartment employees and residents get more than just “free stuff” – you are providing items that residents use every day.

Importantly, you are also capitalizing on a program that many apartment complexes already have in place: new move-in packets. These are folders that new residents receive shortly after they move in that provide information about the community, the complex, and the nearby amenities that will help the resident establish themselves in their new home. This is a great way to get your practice in front of new families and to create a good relationship with the property manager and complex employees.

Execution – The Key to Successful Ground Marketing

The key to capitalizing on the power of ground marketing is to execute – regardless of your uncertainties or fears. Many dentists will talk themselves out of ground marketing because they believe local businesses would not welcome marketing to their customers or employees. The opposite is usually true – it's often much easier to forge strong relationships with local businesses than practice owners realize.

To establish your office as the “go to” practice for new patients in your area, don't wait to start executing ground marketing like the apartment complex strategy soon. These person-to-person interactions will help you build stronger relationships with your local community without breaking your budget.

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Michael Arias is the host of The Dental Marketer podcast and founder of a ground dental marketing firm.