Horrifying, isn’t it?

The number of patients that are inactive in your database.

If you’re like most dentists I work with you have a database of patients. Hundreds of names and addresses of people who visited your practice.

Many of these patients walked out the door with every intention of returning but never did. If you don’t have an effective process in place, these people can get lost in the system and be lost to you forever.

And if you don’t have an effective process to reactivate these people it’s just like leaving money on the table. (Click to Tweet)

“Conventional business wisdom contends that it costs 10 times as much to obtain a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer.” ~ John L Daly

Some research indicates that it costs anywhere from three to thirty times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to retain and existing one.

Can you afford that?

If not, you need to implement a successful reactivation campaign.

What Is A Reactivation Campaign?

A reactivation campaign is a marketing technique designed to invite inactive patients to make an appointment or series of appointments.

Patients who haven’t see you for their annual check-up, or did not attend an appointment or stopped attending a series of scheduled appointments. The reason for non-attendance is often unknown to the practice.

The theory behind a reactivation campaign is that every patient should have either an appointment or a structured method to reconnect with the dentist. The method may be a delayed treatment slip or some other system that the patient has agreed to.

In short, the purpose of an appointment is to book another appointment.

A reactivation campaign is more than just sending a letter to a patient you haven’t seen in a while. There may be a few who make an appointment based on your letter, but if you are looking to increase patient flow, this won’t have them lining up in droves.

A reactivation campaign is a series of communication pieces. It is the combination of the communication pieces that drives patient flow.

The success of your reactivation campaign depends on how well it is planned out. If you take the time to plan your campaign in detail – before you commence – you will increase your success.

The number one tip for reactivation is to reactivate early and often. The longer a patient is inactive, the harder they will be to reactivate.

There are five steps to creating a successful reactivation campaign.



Step 1: Launch

Let staff know of your intentions and what you want to achieve with the reactivation campaign. Allow them to ask any questions so everyone is on the same page.

Give them a script to follow when speaking with each patient. This sets your team up for success by providing a formula that’s likely to get the best possible outcome.

Determine the reasons why each patient should schedule an appointment with you, for example, fillings, root canal and gum disease. Create a script for each of these scenarios.

The overall structure of the call should include the following elements:

A. Review

“The dentist and I have been going over your file…”.

B. Reference

“At your last appointment…”. Outline the patient’s condition and the treatment (or lack thereof) that was prescribed. This phone call is about creating urgency, so it is important to be concerned with the outcome of not having treatment and the consequences surrounding that first and foremost.

If there is no restorative work, mention their gums and book a hygiene appointment).

C. Consequence

Describe the worst-case scenario to the patient about that particular dental issue. For example, if left untreated what will happen with decay? Or gum disease?

D. Concern

Express the dentist’s concern about the worst-case scenario. You can use different words to convey different levels of concern. For example, try using the words concerned, worried, anxious or fretting.

E. Appointment

Give the patient two appointment options on different days and times.

Here’s an example of the script in action:

“Good morning Mr Smith, this is Carrie calling from Bespoke Dental Practice, Dr Green’s surgery. Dr Green has asked me to give you a call as we have been reviewing your file this morning. At your last appointment, Dr Green diagnosed a crown for a tooth in your lower left quadrant as the tooth was cracked. He is concerned/worried/anxious that this is a severe fracture and left untreated may result in a root canal, which is a costly procedure. So he asked me to get in touch with you to schedule an appointment. We have an appointment available at 9.30am this Wednesday or Thursday at 2pm. Which one of those suits you best?”


These scripts would be different depending on the dental reasons why a patient would see you (decay, cracked teeth, gum disease, etc).

Step 2: Team

Every one of your staff needs to be on board for this reactivation campaign and therefore, each needs a task.

Whether it is dividing the database up between each person and having them be responsible for it, or having one person look after the initial letter and another person look after the follow-up letter and so on.

You will know the best course of action to take for your own practice.

Step 3: Plan

Plan out exactly how you will reach people, how many times you’ll call, and how many letters will go out. Also, establish how long your campaign will run.

For example, you might leave two messages within one week of each other. After that, you might send the first letter by mail and three weeks after that the second letter.

You might also decide to remove people from your active database list if they do not respond to any of your actions.

Once you have worked out your plan, establish the process after patients have been contacted. You’ll need to consider:

  • How staff will record where they are up to in the campaign with each patient
  • Where the scripts will be kept
  • Whether each relevant script should be associated with the patient file
  • Whether the letter and email templates have been created


Step 4: Record

Ask everyone to keep a record of their phone calls, messages, and outcomes. A simple spreadsheet or a CRM system can be used for this task.

You and your team need to be able to see where the campaign is up to, particularly if staff are on leave.

Here is an example of what your reactivation campaign log might look like:

Step 5: Enjoy

Find a way to make the process fun, so you gain buy-in from your team.

Consider launching an incentivised game with rewards.

You might decide each staff member has to contact and reach five people a day, with the goal being to get appointments. Each appointment is worth a point and at the end of the campaign, the points are redeemed for a reward.

Determine what the goal and final outcomes are of the campaign, then determine the points systems and the rewards, and how competitive the game will be.

Remember, to get staff buy-in the rewards must be of value to them, so it may be in the form of a gift voucher or money or individual rewards for each staff member based on their interests.


Don’t Leave Money On The Table

Your patient database is a business asset.

If you use it right, you can mine it to boost your patient flow and prevent sleepless nights.

If not, you really are leaving money on the table.

The choice is yours. You can use your assets wisely, increase patient flow, and stop worrying about filling your book.

Or continue as you are, letting people leave your practice, and investing time and money acquiring new patients.

The question is: can you afford to do that?