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In many practices, it’s something of a tradition to provide dental bags for patients once the procedure is over. However, given the costs and time involved with producing them, many dentists are starting the question its value.

This can be problematic if the patients are accustomed to receiving special items after their treatments. So, in an effort to find some kind of middle ground, some dentists continue to provide the bags, but only after putting minimal effort into this promotional endeavor. This can come across as not much more than the dentist saying: “Here. Have yourself some floss with our logo on it. You like that, right? You still like me, right?”

It’s true that when it comes to gift giving it’s the thought that counts, but you need to think about dental goodie bags in a slightly different way.

Creating Goodwill

We’ve talked about using promotional items to encourage loyalty in a previous article. Dental goodie bags fit right into that category. While they aren’t designed to directly acquire new patients, they are a great way to build goodwill and give your current patients a reason to remember their experience in a good way.

Tangible products are a great way to build lasting impressions, which is why these giveaway bags have been so popular. They’re filled with items that patients can see, touch, and, most importantly, USE.

Assuming you can tie these products to a great experience, it will encourage your patients to speak highly of you to their friends and family, and that’s where these bags can indirectly lead to new patients.

Choosing the Best Bags and the Right Contents

What goes into the bag? Obviously the contents shouldn’t look like a lot of cheap junk, but you still need to keep it at a reasonable cost. That means there needs to be a balance between promoting your office and providing quality dental care products.

There should also be more than one “recipe” for your bags. You can have a different recipe for kids and adults – since they each require different types of dental care – and you can even provide different bags for new and long-term patients, with an emphasis on making sure your regulars know you appreciate their business.

As you think about what you might put in them, you should always consider the character of the practice. Do you focus on a fun and lighthearted environment? Then why not put some fun, less-serious things in the bag? If you’re creating an image of elegance and experience, then your gift bags should reflect that.

Even the bag itself can say a lot about what you’re trying to accomplish. It should be imprinted with your name and logo, of course, and possibly some contact information (though it’s unlikely people will hang onto bags any longer than they have to). What they shouldn’t be is a blank, sandwich or brown paper bag. Although, if you really do feel compelled to go that route, at the very least you should put a sticker on it that says where it came from.

The bag can include a wide range of items, including:

  • Brushes, floss, mouthwash – These are pretty standard gifts, but they can be effective when they’re given with a reminder to floss and to change brushes every few months.
  • Business cards and referral cards – This is something to keep for referrals and for contact information.
  • Sticker books and coloring books – Get your younger patients interested in better dental health.
  • Tongue scrapers – This is something many people may not have.
  • Coupons – Give your patients a reason to come back for specific services.
  • How-to manuals – Simple little guides to help your patients improve their home dental care.
  • Random silliness – Sometimes, an item is just so “you” that it absolutely has to go in the bag. It may not have anything to do with dental care, but it’s fun and memorable and that counts for something.
  • Calendars – Remind them when it’s time for their next appointment.
  • Dental timers – Sand timers or small digital timers can help make sure everyone is brushing the full 2 minutes.

Make Dental Gift Bags Part of Your Overall Marketing Campaign

Once you’ve chosen the items for your bags and created the appropriate recipes for each recipient, you still run the risk of it being perceived as little more than a random bag of corporate swag. Some patients will use the items inside, while others will just toss it all because they have their own preferences for toothpastes and tongue scrapers.

They’ll see these bags as little more than a token gesture on your part and not give it much thought.

However, when you combine this kind of promotional strategy with the rest of your marketing efforts, you’re more likely to see some better results (and your patients are more likely to use the things you’ve given them).

There are some simple ways to incorporate your overall marketing efforts and your gift bags. Consider a themed month about better general dentistry at home. You can use that as a reason to send out email updates and social posts encouraging people to come in and get a checkup as part of their routine care, and then send them home with a bag full of everything they need to improve their oral health routines.

With a little creativity, you could theme them for a wide range of services, from the strictly cosmetic to the fully restorative treatments.

Give the bag a little purpose, then even the same old things will seem like they have a reason to be there. Once your patients recognize that, they’ll stop seeing these handouts as a token gesture and really start to see how they can use the items inside.