You’re probably running a relatively successful dental practice. You’ve got regular patients, a reasonable treatment schedule, friendly staff, and a good location. But you’re not quite busy enough, and you’d like to see a few more people come through the door.
You talk to colleagues, research online and find a good marketing agency. After a consultation, you decide to take them on at a $2,000 - 6,000 a month marketing budget. You think you’ll see a return on investment in about three to six months.
Stop right there - Marketing by itself won’t get you the results you want. "Corporate Dentistry" understands this, and it’s critical that you do too.
Why marketing alone isn’t enough
Because success isn’t about just being busier.
The issue isn’t with marketing, taking on an agency, or spending $2 - 6,000 a month. The issue is that marketing in isolation isn’t optimal, and could even cause more problems than it solves. For example:
- You bring in some new patients, but they only want low-value, low-profit dental treatments - You’re only just breaking-even on those procedures. Since these patients are always looking for the cheapest treatments, they won’t have any loyalty to your practice.
- You get lots of prospective patients but you don’t have available appointments to schedule them all in, resulting in long wait times - They find another dentist instead. Alternatively, you might try to fit them in anyway, but provide poorer services, resulting in bad reviews.
- You don’t have good business systems in place to ensure that your new patients are happy or that they follow up with treatments. This makes it difficult to build up a good core of valuable dental patients.
- You see lots of “in-network” patients at reimbursement rates that are below market. It’s next to impossible to generate a profit margin that can fund future marketing efforts.
If you want to prevent these types of problems, you need to look at marketing as an important part of a bigger picture - your whole business, and that means thinking about your dental practice differently.
Treating your dental practice as a business
Many dentists and dental practice managers still see their operation as more of a practice than a business. You might think it’s a subtle distinction, but with increasing competition, corporate dentistry, and the rise of PPO’s, running your practice as a business is critical.
The main difference is that having more patients and delivering efficient dental services and treatment is no longer enough. It’s a very competitive, hyper-local landscape out there. When you combine this with changes to marketing, treatment costs, profitability, and the cost of doing business, it’s clear that you need to look at your overall direction and strategy.
It’s the difference between just being busier (probably temporarily) and increasing the underlying value and profitability of your dental practice. That comes from:
- Creating integrated business systems that will generate sustainable, repeatable, profits.
- Measuring how your practice is doing so you can improve those systems.
- Making sure all your business functions are optimized to work together.
What does this have to do with marketing?
Marketing is the fuel you add after the rest of the business systems are in place.Good business management brings your marketing together with operations, sales, competitive strategy, and more, so you get the best bang for your marketing buck. The purpose of dental marketing is to drive growth, increase profit, and improve the valuation of your business.
The best way to explain this is to show what happens when you integrate your marketing with other business functions.
Marketing + Competitive Strategy = Winning patients from other dentists
A competitive analysis will help you understand what other dentists in your area are doing. This means understanding and benchmarking their services, rates, reviews, reputation, online visibility, and more.
When you combine competitive analysis with your marketing, you can:
- Learn about your competitors’ most popular services and advertise a higher quality or better value treatment.
- Advertise for services that your competitors aren’t marketing.
- Improve how you appear online through local search engine optimization.
- Compete on the range, quality, patient experience, and convenience of the dental services you provide.
Remember the “Alpha Predator” approach - Competing requires a shift from simply trying to “attract new patients” to acquiring new patients at a higher rate than your competition.
Marketing + Sales = Growing your bottom line
Marketing can attract a patient to your practice, but sales makes sure that they follow-up with the treatment they need. This is good for the patient and it’s good for your business. Sales should go beyond just selling. It should include analyzing your treatment plan sales to understand what treatments are performing best, why certain treatments are being rejected, and which treatments are the most profitable. When you combine sales with your marketing, you can:
- Generate a much better return-on-investment for your marketing dollars.
- Improve patient satisfaction by helping them get the treatments they want and need.
- Cross-sell and upsell complementary treatments.
- Increase profitability.
Marketing + Measurement = A good return on investment (ROI)
One of the main issues with marketing by itself is that it’s difficult to track what marketing is attracting new patients and how much they’re spending. Once you get a referral and marketing / patient measuring system in place you can:
- Understand the marketing channels that are bringing new patients to your practice and the channels that are resulting in bigger treatment plans.
- Establish how much you’re spending on various types of marketing and the return you’re getting.
- Adjust your marketing spend to get the most value for money.
Marketing + Business operations = Managing patients better
Efficient business operations mean that you have the right systems and procedures in place. This includes the proper management of staff, dealing with the practice's workload, looking after patients, following up on treatment plans, and more. When you combine marketing with good business operations, you can:
- Make sure that every new patient is treated well by every member of staff.
- Follow up on treatment plans and schedule patients in properly.
- Balance the work created by new patients across your dentists, assistants, and other staff.
Marketing + Business partnerships = The right patients at the right price
When it comes to pricing, it’s important to have good relationships with the dental insurance companies. When you’re able to agree fair terms and the best price with them, you can see the right patients on the right plan at the right price. This means:
- Greater participation in PPOs.
- Better fees for each new patient that you bring in.
- Marketing for a wider range of high-quality patients and plans.
Marketing + Accountability = Proper management and strategy
Accountability is all about making sure the right people are responsible for doing the right role, in the right way. It’s a vital part of using management and strategy to grow the business, by making everyone accountable for its success. When you combine accountability with marketing:
- Every member of staff has a chance to deliver exceptional service to new patients.
- The practice managers and dentists can see how marketing directly drives profitability.
- Everyone feels invested in helping the practice to succeed.
Marketing + Timing = Planning for future success
Good marketing isn’t just about how and why you integrate it with other parts of the business. Timing also plays a very important role. When you understand the timing that drives patient patterns, competitor behavior, and more, you can combine that information with your marketing strategy:
- Market during quiet times of the year to sustain good patient levels at the practice.
- Market at different times to your competitors so you don’t need to spend as much.
- Track your marketing spending to find the best times of year to advertise.
Why take this approach?
Ultimately, the goal of a business owner, dental practice manager, or dentist, is to grow their business (which requires sustainability), increase its valuation (which requires repeatable business systems), and build profitability.
That’s about much more than just increasing your marketing efforts to get more patients into the chair. It means having a business that is:
- Repeatable - Efficient marketing that leads to profitable treatment plans that meet patient's needs and wants at a fair price.
- Sustainable - An effective overall business strategy that provides growth at a good rate.
- Integrated - Working across the different parts of the business to bring them together and manage them centrally.
At OnwardDental, we’re specialists at helping you to integrate all of your business functions together. Get in touch to find out how we can help you work across your whole business, grow your patient base, and increase your profitability through scale. We also have a calculator, where you can visualize your practice's potential growth.