7R Marketing Strategy

Find Hidden Value in Reactivation of Dormant Patients

Reactivation is pretty self-explanatory. Sadly, too few marketing dollars are allocated to reactivating patients who are no longer coming in and need to be romanced and reclaimed. Research has shown that most unhappy customers won't complain; they just won't come back.

pyramid reactivate

Reactivation is extremely easy to bake into any systematic marketing program. It’s inexpensive to execute as a funnel. Done right, the number of dormant patients dwindles as people are automatically continuously engaged (Retention). They stay longer and longer and, of course, refer others – their friends, family, and acquaintances – to you.

Let’s take a minute now to drill down into some of the reactivate funnels that your practice should consider spinning up.

“We Miss You” Campaign Funnel

The first funnel – the easiest one and the one that most practices immediately know about, even if they’re not doing it – is the “We Miss You” campaign, where messaging is timed to coincide with the patient’s birthday and/or the anniversary of their first visit.

The “We Miss You” message can be communicated in a letter or phone call. It can also be sent as a “lumpy letter.” This is a letter that has some sort of dimension to it because inside is, maybe, an empty glasses case that says, “We miss you, and we want to put your new eyeglasses in here.”

Or it can be something from aesthetics, such as a gel face mask to put on puffy eyes in the morning. Maybe it’s a small sample of eye drops or face cream or wrinkle cream. It’s something that makes them want to open the letter because they don’t know what your practice has sent them.


The beauty of the "lumpy letter" is the curiosity factor.


Once they open it, you need an entreaty that reconnects them to you, re-establishes your value, abjectly apologizes, if necessary, for doing something that may have caused them to lose their gusto for setting regular visits, and otherwise delivers a pointed call to action and an evocative message.

The medium is the lumpy letter.

The message is “We miss you. We want you back. What will it take? How can we make things better? Did we do something or say something?” Then “Thank you for bringing us your business in the past. We know that everybody is trying to get your business, and we’d love to qualify for staying your provider.” A tight, bright message is always going to have to come via a curiosity-evoking medium.

Special Event Funnel

The next reactivate funnel is where you invite your past patients to a special function. It’s normally a barbeque or something similar, not an educational event per se. Invite them because you’re entertaining at a round-up on the weekend. It’s free food, free games for the kids, free goodie bags – something where you want them to be part of the fold again.

You want it not just to be an event for random past patients, because that could potentially turn into a contest where they tell their anger stories to each other. You want them to interface with selected patients who are happy and who are glad to be there.

Take the effort to make the invitation special – not a normal “Hey, it’s our annual patient thank you luncheon. Come on down,” but more like “Hey, we didn’t see you at the last patient thank you lunch, and we sure were sorry that you couldn’t make it. We haven’t seen you in the office, either. We were wondering if maybe you could find time on your calendar next Saturday to come in for a bowl of chili at the annual patient thank you barbeque luncheon.”

Some kind of event is always a good thing because then they can be around people who believe in and support you. As patients see you, your staff, and other patients enjoying each other’s company, hopefully they’ll ease back into setting up that return appointment.

Themed Postcard Campaign Funnel

The next way to reactivate is simply to be in their mailbox once a month, not in a salesy or smash-mouth way, but with oversized marketing postcards that are more thematic. They are not calling the recipient out as a past patient or badgering them to return. They are simply letting them see that there are activities going on at the practice.

“It’s New Year’s. Do you want your new look this year without glasses? Check out our LASIK offers this month.” “We’re doing a special sun worshipper makeover in March because bathing-suit season starts soon.” “Halloween’s coming. We don’t want to scare you, but ...” and you could warn them about letting their grandkids buy novelty contact lenses from the Halloween store that might put them at risk for infection.

So, have a monthly notice that is themed to tie into a holiday or seasonal calendar, and maybe just some general conversational topics. It doesn’t have to be all about eyeballs all the time; it can simply be a short anecdote.

Remember, you’re communicating with patients as people. When it comes to reactivation, the better the connection, the more likely they are then to actually reactivate and prefer you again.

Email Patient Reactivation Drip Campaign Funnel

Of course, again we have to bring in the idea of email drip campaigns. These reactivation sequences should follow a few rules. One is that you want to acknowledge that you miss them and that there are things that might pertain to them that they should know about in terms of their eyes, as in “We’re not sure if you’re getting any kind of care, so if you don’t pick us, although we’re sad to lose you, we still encourage you to take care of your vision and find someone.”

Be diplomatic but professional in conveying the idea that their eyes are your priority, regardless of whether they come to you or not.

If you can’t salvage the relationship by being magnanimous and totally professional, then you can contact them with email offers directed to people who reactivate literally: “It looks like you haven’t been here in three years. If you call our office within the next 10 days (or by the end of the month), we’ll provide you with this discount” or this add-on, or this upgrade to free transition lenses, or free lenses for your next three prescriptions when you get your eyes tested, or 20% off frames the next time you buy them.

You can invite them to literally reactivate with an offer if it’s well-crafted. And don’t forget to always have a call to action and tracking numbers. 


Key Takeaways:

  • After Retention, Reactivation is the next most cost-effective strategy
  • Without an ongoing relationship (nurturing), patients either forget to return or may feel taken for granted
  • The more patients feel appreciated, the more likely they are to refer others to your practice


Read More