Are You Really Marketing To Your Existing Files?

What if I told you there were a way to get more New Patients/Clients,  greatly increase Collections and Production and it is sitting under your nose waiting to be used right now?

Well, I am telling you that.  There is.  It’s in your existing files.

The problem is that many practices don’t take full advantage of their files because they don’t know what to do with them.

There are a couple things every practice has to know about using their existing patient/client files.

First let’s quickly go over the theory of marketing to existing files.  Another word for this is “reactivation.”  Some people call it “internal marketing.”  Whatever you call it, it means marketing to people who have already bought things from you–not just new patients or clients.  Over the period of a person’s life they will need your services over and over.

For a dentist, a person will continue to have a mouth their entire life.  So will their kids.  Thus they will need dental work for the rest of their life.  For a vet, a person will likely have many pets throughout their lifetime.  So will their family.  Thus they will need your services for years.  And so it goes for all sorts of professions.

That new patient who came into the practice is going to keep going to a doctor.  In fact, he’s probably already gone to many other doctors.  The trick is not how to GET a new patient.  It’s how to KEEP him.  This is where the practice really will see the bulk of its gain–from repeat regular business.  This is how a practice really develops into a juggernaut that grows and grows.  This is the subject of marketing to your existing files.

Below are five things every practice should be doing to market to their existing files.  If you’re not doing these right now, pick one that you know you can do and keep it going consistently while you work toward getting the others in one by one.

1.  Send out a monthly newsletter.

This is profoundly important.  A newsletter tells everyone that you still exist.  Without a monthly newsletter your practice starts to disappear from people’s minds.  The newsletter doesn’t have to be fancy–one page will do.  It doesn’t have to be clever.  It just has to be regular.  Every patient you have ever had should receive a newsletter once per month.  It may seem like a waste of money, but consider this: they will all need treatment in the future.  Where will they be going?  To you or someone else?

2.  Send out reminders.

This one is a no-brainer.  People forget to come back, they don’t come in for check-ups, they get tied up with life.  In the back of their minds they know they should be coming back in but are procrastinating or trying to put it off until the last minute, or maybe they’re just busy and plain forgetful.  The way to address this is to do two things: first always schedule their next visit before they leave the office and get their firm agreement to show up then.  Next, make sure they receive a reminder notice so that they don’t forget about it once they’ve scheduled.  It’s that simple.

3.  Reactivation calls

Each file in a practice should be called on a rotating basis to keep in touch with them and get them coming back in to complete their treatment or start new treatment.  It can be quite a project, but if it is kept in as a routine action, you’ll rapidly see results.  Reactivation calls require someone with a good phone presence–easygoing and nice to talk to, but at the same time interested in filling up the practice.  If they are afraid to tell people what to do, they’re not a good choice.

4.  Personal letters

This one is not as frequently done as it should be.  The concept here is just to regularly and routinely cycle through the files, writing to each former patient in order to get them back in touch with the practice.  This is very different from a newsletter, which is mailed in bulk.  These are actually personal letters from someone in the office–can be anyone.  It doesn’t matter whether they’re hand-written or typed.  The way it works is you just pull the file and write to them about whatever is relevant from the file.  If they completed a big restoration five years ago, you would just ask how it’s going for them now.  If they are mid treatment that they never finished, then ask them how they are doing with their problem and what happened on finishing their treatment.

Same as with reactivation calls, an office should regularly and repeatedly cycle through all of their files.  This is a flood of personal letters going out, for sure.  However, it really keeps the practice in touch.  These people end up coming in again and either finishing the treatment plans they started or getting started on new ones.

5.  Personal Notes and Cards

This takes some organization to do this one, but it really adds a nice touch to all your marketing efforts.  Work it out to send everyone in your files a holiday card in December.  Send them all birthday cards throughout the year.  Send them congratulations when a kid finishes college or someone has a baby.  These don’t have to be from the doctor; they can be from anyone and can be on behalf of the office as a whole.

Holiday cards are easy–you just send a card to every single person in your files as a bulk mail.  This is once a year.  Simple.

Birthday cards are a little harder.  It takes a regular action of the office to stay on top of these and requires a system of organization.  Still not too hard if you’ve got a good office manager.

Congratulatory cards really put the icing on the cake but you have to get pretty clever in order to stay on top of them.  One simple way to do this is just to have a supply of all different types of cards on hand and any time someone hears the good news, they personally sit down and write a card out and drop it in the mail.  Another way to do it is to keep a central database so all staff can jot down notes to a single staff member when they hear something.  This staff member is the one in charge of staying on top of it and they collect the information and send out the cards.  The best person for this is usually whoever does the marketing already.


The key to marketing to your existing files is organization.  You really have to stay on top of who should be getting what type of card or letter or call at what time.  This takes organization.  This is the main reason why offices can’t do it.  They simply don’t have the organizational systems in place.  Without ways to easily keep track of every patient or client you’ve ever had, without ways of easily mailing to them or calling them, it is nearly impossible.

The main reason this doesn’t get done is because there isn’t someone in charge of it.  One person needs to be assigned to marketing.  This person does whatever marketing is realistic for them–don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Really get one type of marketing worked out and organized so that it is smooth.  Then, as your practice expands you can put a full-time marketing person on and work out systems for each one of the different types of marketing we talked about–and more!


This is one of those fundamental actions it takes to run a practice and can be a real bear to sort it out.  The key is to figure out what you can do right now and have a plan to develop toward the ideal in the future.  This will, of course, require increased organization and resources which you will get along the way as you grow.

If you have any questions about this or want to know how to address something specific to your practice, write us.  We’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.


Have a question about your practice?  Try our free “Ask a Consultant” service.  Just send us your question in the form below.  We’ll email you back as soon as we can.




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