Anatomy of the Perfect Dental Recall Campaign

This guide to the perfect dental recall campaign will help you keep loyal, and the less-than-reliable, patients on track, all while reclaiming more revenue for your practice.

Of all the systems that keep a dental practice running, patient recall is the one that separates the successful from the struggling.

Recall is the thread that runs through the entire patient experience. From making appointments to preventing no-shows, the ideal dental recall campaign will prevent and address problems that, when left untreated, normally result in emergency appointments.

The key with recall is that it's all about about working better with the patients you already have. And studies continue to show this is an investment worth making.

Keeping current patients is less expensive than attracting new ones. It makes sense — half of the marketing work is already done for you! Because you have patients’ information and know the services they need, it is far easier to effectively market to existing patients.

Not only is it cheap to implement, but creating and following a strategic recall campaign can translate to thousands of added dollars for your practice.

Still, many dental practices get stuck in a recall rut, leaving lapsed patients and lots of potential revenue on the table.

Three Ways to Win Patients Over

Within patient recall marketing, there are two types of patients.

There is the pre-appointed patient — the responsible patient who schedules their follow-up appointments at the end of every cleaning or procedure.

Then there is the unscheduled patient. That one who has fallen off your calendar or forgot to plan for their next appointment.These two types require very different recall marketing strategies.

Before getting into the details of each, there are a few important basics to go over that apply to any dental recall campaign. Every successful dental recall campaign has three key elements: message, medium, and timing.

The Message

The call-to-action for recall campaigns might seem straightforward — either make an appointment or don’t miss an appointment. However, getting people to respond and take action requires more nuance than that.

Particularly for unscheduled patients, clearly communicate why they would benefit from making and keeping an appointment.

People only do things if they know what they are getting — a bright smile, friendly staff, 10% off cosmetic work, cavity prevention.

Think personal, not prescriptive. Recall communication should always balance a sense of urgency with a feeling of community.

If a patient feels valued, they are far more likely to keep coming back.

The Medium

Effective recall campaigns use multiple methods of communication (phone, email, text, snail mail). What works for one patient might not work for the next, so switch it up!

People typically require between six and eight touches before they take action. In other words, they must be contacted (touched) at least half a dozen times before they'll schedule an appointment.

By scattering your messaging over different channels, you are more likely to get patients to remember to schedule an appointment. Different mediums also lessens the risk of patients getting any sort of recall fatigue.

The Timing

Like your own patient schedule, timing is everything when it comes to patient recall.

You have to play the long game by sending out reminders well in advance. However, you also need to balance a strategic short game with texts and email blasts.

Learn the right days, as well as the best times of day, to send a reminder. This very well can be the deciding factor between a kept appointment and an annoyed patient.

As you start to strategize, remember that patients are human. They have good intentions, but are also battling busy schedules.

Patients need a set of reminders that bring value without adding stress. Similarly, you need a system that minimizes effort and maximizes conversions.

Create a set timeline with customized messaging for both scheduled and unscheduled patients. Doing this ahead of time takes all the pressure off deciding what to say and when to say it.

A good rule of thumb is that the more effort you have to put into the message, the further out it should be in the recall campaign. So anything going out in the mail should have a runway of at least a month.

Dental Recall Campaign for Scheduled Patients

Reminder No. 1

Medium: Mailed postcard

Messaging: Include an engaging photo of your office or team. This is also a great branding opportunity!

Timing: 6 weeks before the appointment

Reminder No. 2

Medium: Email

Message: Include a personalized PSA about the importance of cleanings.

Timing: 3 weeks before the scheduled appointment

Reminder No. 3

Medium: Email or phone call

Message: Let patients know their appointment is right around the corner (ex. "One week until your cleaning!")

Timing: 1 week before appointment

Reminder No. 4

Medium: Text message

Message: Send a friendly appointment confirmation message ("We can't wait to see your smile tomorrow!")

Timing: 24 hours before appointment

Dental Recall Campaign for Unscheduled Patients

Reminder No. 1

Medium: Mailed postcard

Message: Send an engaging photo of your practice and team, your phone number, and clear instructions on how to schedule an appointment.

Timing: 8 weeks before patient is due for an appointment

Reminder No. 2

Medium: Email

Message: Include a personalized PSA about the importance of cleanings, and include a link to your online scheduling portal.

Timing: 3 weeks before patient is due for an appointment

Reminder No. 3

Medium: Email or phone call

Message: Be direct about the need for an appointment, and make it easy for patient to schedule ("It's time for your cleaning! Let's get you scheduled today.")

Timing: 1 week before a patient is due

Reminder No. 4

Medium: Text message

Message: Convey a sense of urgency, and let the patient know you can get them in ASAP ("We have an opening! Schedule your cleaning today!")

Timing: 24 hours before patient is due for an appointment

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Subliminal Recall Marketing

Recall marketing is not limited to an email, text, or mailer sent directly to a patient. It is impossible to talk about the perfect recall campaign without addressing all the subtle marketing that helps keep patients engaged.

Recall campaigns work if your patients feel like you have their best interest at heart. This is where dentists with strong branding and an active social media presence have a huge advantage.

Support your primary recall campaigns with a few subliminal marketing strategies like:

  • Social posts that promote the value of regular cleanings
  • Special offers or discounts in the mail
  • Seasonal social media posts that promote cleanings (back-to-school, weddings, holidays)
  • Semi-annual email newsletters with office updates
  • Electronic or mailed holiday cards thanking your patients

This holistic approach to patient recall reinforces your message without patients feeling spammed.

It all comes back to that balance between urgency and appreciation. Patients should feel compelled to take action — to make or keep an appointment — because you created a timely sense of value.

This recall campaign strategy is the perfect place to start, but remember that creating the perfect strategy for your practice takes time.

By investing that time, you will create a meaningful connection with your patients and keep chairs full while driving business for your practice.

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