How to Guarantee Your Summer Schedule is Like Swiss (Cheese)

Many years ago, a client approached me in early June and asked, “Should I scale back my postcards and cancel sending out my patient newsletters during the summer?”

I think I shocked him with my response when I said, “Sure. It’s the best way to guarantee you’ll struggle all summer and have a heck of a time in the fall re-gaining the momentum you’ll lose from not promoting your practice during the summer.

I continued on, against the silence on the other end of the phone…

“…Basically, your schedule will look like Swiss cheese and you’ll be pissed all summer long.”

I’ll be the first to admit that summer time slows direct mail response – a bit. It doesn’t kill it. Just sort of mutes it.

Instead of getting 7 to 10 responses per 1000 postcards mailed, you might get 4, 5 or 6. Worst case, maybe 3 or 4.

Why should that not discourage you?

If your new patients are averaging $500 to $750 or more spent in the first 30 days they are with you, that’s still $1500 to $2000 at a minimum…far more than you’d have had, had you not mailed the postcards. At least a $600 or more profit per thousand postcards mailed. STILL far better than a money market account. And, you’ll keep your team employed, busy and engaged (and not looking elsewhere for more steady hours).

If your new patient spend in the first 30 days, on average, is far less than $500 each (as in the $200 to $400 range), you’re doing other things wrong. (Nothing I can help you with from a distance. You need help selling. Yes, sales training. Your team needs to keep you from unselling treatment.) My friend, this is especially true if these patients are coming to you loaded down with insurance benefits of $1000 or more annually!

Then, there’s another factor to consider: The Cumulative Effect.

I don’t talk about it much. I know I should however, so let me give it a little recognition in this post.

If you are mailing to say 10,000 people around your office, and you hit 2500 each month you mail, that means that every 5th month, you start the group over again. And, then you hit those same 2500 people again.

Your message will penetrate a little deeper with each mailing to that group of people – in other words, this second mailing to this group of 2500. Every time your postcard, newsletter or other direct mail piece nails 2500 of that group of 10,000, you’ll peel off a few more people that are in fact, part of that group that requires multiple hits (offers, invitations, etc.) from you to get them to take action.

And, if you don’t mail to that group of 10,000 on an ongoing basis, that penetration, that effect of repeat mailings, disappears, and your long-term investment in marketing weakens, because, basically, you lose or lost momentum reaching out to those who are a little harder to crack – a little more difficult to get to move off dead-center and get to take action.

Think of it like Chinese water torture (or at least what has been explained to me as Chinese water torture – I guess I could always look it up on Google, eh?). You’re lying horizontally. Your arch enemy is above you, looking down on your head, and then, slowly, he starts to drip, yes, drip, water on your forehead.

The first couple minutes, no big deal.

But, after about 4, 5, 8, 10, or 24 hours of this constant dripping and you are going to lose it. Big Time. You’ll freak out. Blow a gasket. You will RESPOND and tell the torturer what he wants to know. Unless you’re some Jason Bourne-like dude.

In the case of direct mail, sans the “torture” aspect, eventually, those without a dentist already, those who secretly know they need a dental exam, but for some reason, fear, money, loathing, past experiences, etc., they’ve put it off; or, they need to part with some of that moldy money in their money market account, and they realize, their overall health is tied in with their oral health, they will eventually “crack,” call your office, and make an appointment.

But, just one exposure to you via a postcard or other direct mail piece, isn’t going to do the trick. It might take, as some experts in direct mail claim, 8, or more “hits” by your postcard to get them to act.

I think 8 is extreme. I think you’ll go broke “hoping” that 8th time is a charm.

(If you are not at a 2:1 or better ROI on your first mailing to any group, at least in my world, your mailing’s got a problem, of which there can only be 3 different problems: your message didn’t resonate with the market, the market you chose to send your mailings to was inappropriate, or, the media you chose was not what the folks you seek are reading, viewing, etc.)

I think more likely the case is, it’s the 8th exposure and finally, something in their life has changed enough so that they are convinced it is time to call you. You just happened to be in front of them at the time of their life change, and over the last 5, 6 or 7 mailings, you’ve softened the bulkhead a bit.

Moral of the story: Summer is for time off, sure, but it’s time to market like gangbusters. It’s time to plan for the fall. And, if you played your spring right, your summer should be plenty busy!

(Tip for Spring 2011: mail big numbers in spring – April & May – so your summer will be fuller of more comprehensive treatment being delivered and you’re not struggling to put butts in ops! Pregnant question: Bust your butt this coming October with marketing, too, so your November and well into December will be super, super productive. The better you get to know the ebb and flow and patients and response to marketing pieces, the better you can predict how often and how much you’ll need to mail, in advance of natural downturns.)

Jerry Jones Direct Newsletter

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