Practice Marketing: Filling Your Book

There are several strategies practices can take to fill empty time slots and increase bookings.
Filling Your Book

Every practice has a slow season, typically in the late summer or fall. For Dr. Kazin, August is her slowest month for appointments, so that is when she and her staff schedule their vacation times. “We take time off when it’s not too busy,” she says.

She views slow days as an opportunity to spend more time with each patient and introduce them to procedures or products that may be of interest. “When it’s really slow, you should pay more attention to those patients who do come in,” says Dr. Kazin. “Sometimes you can augment your revenue that way.”

For filling last-minute cancellations, Wendy Lewis, founder of The Knife Coach, a consultancy for cosmetic surgery patients, recommends keeping a wait list of people who are interested in getting in earlier than their scheduled appointments. “There are always going to be cancellations. There are always going to be no-shows,” she says. “Keep a waiting list. People appreciate that. It shows patients that you are going the extra mile for them.”

Dr. Williams sends text messages to his nonsurgical patients, alerting them to open appointments. “We’ve filled many slots that way. That certainly has had a positive effect on our bottom line,” he says.

Dr. Williams also keeps a list of his top 50 patients and rewards their loyalty with special discounts or events. Similarly, Dr. Guanche keeps track of her highest-spending patients and bestows them with a “platinum card” that allows them discounts or special offers every quarter.

For instance, she may offer $100 off every $300 they spend for products, facials, laser treatments or Botox injections. When patients take advantage of one of those specials, it is not a loss for the practice. “It kind of gives them permission to spend, and they spend more than $300. I guarantee you that,” she says.

Cancellation fees are another tactic for ensuring that patients respect a physician’s time and schedule. Dr. Guanche charges $25 for patients who don’t provide 24 hours notice that they are going to miss an appointment.

“We were worried about it the first time we did it,” she says. “We didn’t want to offend anyone. But it’s also a sign of growing confidence. People are okay with it as long as you’re nice and not inflexible about it. It lets them know, ‘You can’t just walk all over me.’”

For a patient who has missed prior appointments, Dr. Kazin recommends asking for a deposit. “If someone is a repeat offender you can consider taking a deposit,” she says. “That’s better than having to argue with them over whether their excuse for missing or canceling an appointment is good enough.”

Increasing Bookings

A surefire way to fill your schedule is to increase the number of patients coming to your practice. But while many practices focus on reaching out to new prospects, a better strategy may be to strengthen your relationship with existing patients. Catherine Maley, founder of Cosmetic Image Marketing, finds that physicians can be too focused on attracting new patients at the expense of a much easier win—their existing patients.

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