Gone are the days when dentists relied only on their reputation and practice record to attract new patients. The idea of building your practice has grown dramatically over the years. In today’s competitive market, promotion strategies have become extremely sophisticated. We have zeroed in on the best practice building strategies to help dentists make the most of their opportunities:
1. Systems Dependant Practice – It is important for your practice to be systems dependant rather than staff dependant. One of the biggest mistakes private practices make is to recruit the most experienced team they can afford to and allowing their staff to come up with their own systems for running the practice. This might work well for a brief period, but if you find yourself in a situation where your staff moves on and leaves your practice, the systems they established go with them.
It is a better strategy to take a more proactive approach to systematize your practice and to clearly define the duties and roles of every single position in your business. Once all the positions are defined, draft an accountability agreement. This agreement will act as a contact between the employee and the owner and will ensure that the employees maintain the necessary standards for effectiveness and order regardless of who is in charge of the position at any given time.
This structure also removes the pressure from the owner of the practice to hire the best players for the job. If the system you have in place is strong enough, the position can also be filled with eager and enthusiastic employees who do not have a lot experience. Experienced performers are great for your practice and if they are plugged into the right systems, they can help your practice scale remarkable heights. But the biggest advantage of systematizing the entire protocol is that you are no longer held hostage by your star players.
2. Track the KPI’s aka key performance indicators – Make sure that you ruthlessly track the key indicators of your practice. A lot of the dentists walk around with a very basic and rudimentary understanding of their business’ financial standing. Most of the dentists are commonly aware of only three numbers – new patients, production and collections. This is definitely a good place to start, but without an intimate knowledge of many other key indicators, no business owner is completely aware of the true reality of his/her business’ performance.
The following metrics have to be tracked regularly for you to get a full understanding of where your practice stands – total staff salaries; facility; lab fees; marketing; dental supplies and other operating expenses. Once these expenses are paid for, the doctor-owner should be able to pay herself or himself a quarter of the practice’s production. Once the doctor has been paid, whatever is left over is the practice’s profit. Once you have an idea of where your practice stands compared to the industry standards, you have taken the first step to take it to the next level.
3. A foolproof patient acquisition system – Create a consistent and predictable system for acquiring new patients. Here is the bottom line – no single marketing media, strategy or campaign will work in all target markets. What works in San Francisco or Manhattan may flop in a mid-western small town.
A lot of the supposed marketing experts who prey on dentist will have you believe that they have the secret ingredient for bringing a flood of new patients irrespective of your location. That is simply not true.
As entrepreneurs and dentists, businesses rely on the influx of quality new patients who pay for the services. The most qualified among these are the ones that are referred to by the existing patient base.
The standard internal trifecta includes generation of referrals, reactivation and efficient recall systems. By having a preprogrammed protocol to outlines the steps of all these systems within your practice, delegating a part of all the systems to your team, and holding the team members accountable for the specific responsibilities that have been assigned to the, the number of reactivated and new patients will increase exponentially.
Moreover, while the internal systems of reactivation and new patient acquisition should make up around 50 percent of your patient flow, external marketing is still vital to attract members in the community who are looking for a new dentist.
Tips to Design Your Marketing Piece
1. Keep your ideal patient in mind. It is essential to have a very clear picture of who you are trying to attract when you are creating your external marketing promotion. Where do they live and how much money do they make? What is the average age of the group? How many children or grandchildren do they have? Where do they go to socialize? Answering these questions will help you craft a message that reaches out to them more directly. If you try to attract everyone, you will end up attracting no one.
2. Make sure that your plan is unique. Leaving the design of your marketing campaign to an ad rep who sells you the advertising air-time or space is a waste of money that will yield no results. Their goal is to make you look as similar to your competitors as possible (who they sold advertisement space to as well). This gets them more revenue. Make your advertisement strategy community based and as different as possible from the all the bland, white noise out there.
3. Track and measure the results. The biggest mistake dental practice owners make is the failure to track their results. If you want an acceptable return on investment for your marketing dollars, you have to be disciplined and track the results of every promotion in your campaign. If you are placing different ads across a variety of media, you should have system in place to measure the performance of each one. This allows you to improve upon ads that are not performing well, and do away with the ads that are not making a decent return. A web based practice management software will allow you to track new patients by referral source and will also perform the necessary analytics to provide you with market performance reports.