When buying a dental practice, one final piece of the transition a seller is involved in is sending an announcement letter to patients. The message is pretty simple: “Hey! There’s a new dentist at your office!”
And…these letters are usually pretty bad. Often really, really bad.
There is a fundamental misunderstanding about what the purpose of these letters really is.
Sellers think these letters are their last official act as ‘acting dentist’ and final chance to communicate to their patients. Sellers think this is their chance to say goodbye. Like they’re the captain of a battleship being relieved of command giving a farewell speech.
The letter to sellers is actually the first marketing piece for a new owner of the practice. It’s your chance, as a buyer, to make a positive first impression to a patient base and reduce or eliminate any patient attrition.
Sellers think that they are sending a message to “their” patients – but those patients don’t belong to them anymore, do they? You – the buyer – just bought their records, right?
I recommend your letter to patients include the following elements:
- The letter is written with the patient in mind. Not the seller. This letter isn’t about what the seller wants to say, it’s about what the patient wants to know. Communication is what the listener does! The patient wants to know who the doctor will be in the office they’re used to going to and they want to know a little bit about them. Yes, they’re curious where the seller is going, too – but mostly they want to know who they’re going to see on their next visit. Put the bottom line up front!
- The letter has positive, enthusiastic language. The practice is “welcoming” the new doctor instead of something with a more negative connotation of “I’m leaving” or “I’m retiring.”
- The letter is short. It gets to the point and doesn’t bloviate.
- The letter includes a big picture of both the buyer and seller (with staff), together, smiling. Obviously everyone likes each other.
- The letter mentions the buyer’s ties to the community. Patients will want to know why you, the buyer, chose to buy this office. They’re looking for common ground on which they can build a new relationship with you.
Here’s an example of a really good letter to patients that included all these elements.
Sellers predictably push back on my advice on letters to patients. “This is my chance to say goodbye to patients I’ve worked with for decades!”
If these relationships are so important to you Mr. or Mrs. Seller, is a mass-mailer really your best option?
If you want to stay in touch with a portion of your patient base and let them know how much you appreciate being their dentist, why don’t you give them a call and tell them? Or send a hand-written note just to them?
When the sellers drive the process of these letters, it can lead to some pretty bad examples. Most of them include some common elements that make me shake my head:
- The focus is on the seller and their thoughts and feelings – not the patient or buyer.
- Negative, sad language: “I’m leaving” “I’m retiring” “What will I do without my hundreds of thousands of dollars a year of your money?”
- Waaaay too long a letter with big blocks of text that feel like homework to read.
- No picture of the buyer.
Here’s an example of a middle-of-the-road bad letter, anonymized to protect the guilty:
Take one last look at the bottom of my bad example above. Do you notice the invitation to the patient?
I didn’t the first three times I read the letter.
The patient is being invited to meet the buyer at an open house! And that’s the last thing in the letter?? Talk about burying the lead…
Bottom line: put some thought into these letters to patients. If the broker or seller on your deal is really turning the screws on you, look up this email/blog post, send it over to them and blame me. “This Brian guy says I shouldn’t send your letter because…”
Totally throw me under the bus. And then tell me which broker it was.