INTRODUCTION: MARKETING THE SUPER GENERAL DENTAL PRACTICE
In the last two blog posts, I proffered the idea of going for it this year by dedicating $4,000-$5,000 a month, or about 5% of your collections, whichever is higher, to super charge your schedule and profitability. The second post posed the question: Are you marketable? I wanted to add this next addition by saying that it is the introduction to my newest book called Marketing The Super General Dental Practice. I hope that this will reinforce the first two posts while expanding your view of what you will need to do. I hope you find this helpful.
This is the fourth book I have written in an effort to help the everyday wet-fingered dentist view Dentistry in a different light: A consumer driven business that can be consistently profitable through your entire career. Code Breaker was a short book dedicated to young dentists just getting out of Dental School. It gave them a real-world view of the business of dentistry from the perspective of what a great practice looks like and what they should expect in their first job. The Super General Dental Practice was written to give each of you the philosophy, culture and practice management tools to have a 50-57% overhead while maintaining a 15-20% growth each year in your practice. It attempted to create a culture of service to your patients while maintaining a sound business strategy for your practice. The Roadmap to Wealth & Security (Your Complete Guide to Dental Transitions) systematized the strategy of growth using associates and partners to expand the range of patients and services that we offer our clients. This latest book, Marketing the Super General Dental Practice, attempts to create a “marketing faucet” so that you can literally control the flow of new patients at will. This book takes the strategies and systems that I have used in my own offices as well as those of hundreds of Summit Practice Solutions clients to insure their success and sustainability for any economic change we might see.
Before you begin this book, I would like you to take the time to determine if you are really marketable. Yes, there are practices that no matter how good or how much they market will still not succeed. In an effort to help you see the blockages in your practice, I would like to offer some help. If you will just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I would be glad to forward you a Growth Analysis Spreadsheet along with an hour-long phone call to help you determine the great and not so great areas in your practice. After the call you will know exactly where your blockages are and how to begin the process of correcting them. I hope that each of you will take me up on this offer to improve your practice.
Secondly, I would like to help you see the future. Corporations and insurance companies are taking over our industry as they did with pharmacies, vision centers, and medicine. It is important that you understand the challenges you face. I want to help you see what you should have already learned from successful corporations so that you will be able to take the good things they do and incorporate them into your practice, while keeping the relationships with your patients and staff intact. Success is often dependent on the questions you ask, so as you read on consider this:
Will corporations win the dental business model?
I guess there is no way to be sure, but if we look at pharmacies, vision, and medical models it seems to be a sure thing. The only thing in question now is how long it will take. I think the independent practice of the future will have to take on the things corporations do well while also adding the consistency and relationships of an independent practitioner. The first place to start would be to take note of the things corporations do well. When taking on an opponent we need to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
USAF colonel John Boyd introduced a process of observation, orientation, deciding, and acting, called the OODA LOOP. This process is a flow of information that can be interrupted by outside stimulus that may cause a bad decision that restarts the process. If a decision cannot be reached, action is never obtained. To increase the percentages for survival, preplanning and skills streamline the process reducing the possibility of mistakes. We have observed the consistent growth of national corporations and the inherent movement of patients into this style of dental care. By now we should have oriented to this development and now we need to decide on a strategy to act on. Let’s take a look at what we should have already learned from corporations.
1. Corporations understand the Commoditization of Dentistry: Over the last two decades we have seen the face of Dentistry drastically change. With the heavy emphasis on cosmetic dentistry, heavy marketing from TV, Radio, and print for a brighter smile and fresher breath, and the influx of dental insurance companies pushing plans and in-network dental practices it is no surprise that the public sees dentistry as a commodity. They believe a crown is a crown or a cleaning is a cleaning. Once that transforms the consumers mind, they will use price and convenience to dictate where they spend their hard earned money. It would be foolish to not consider that impact on how you should change the way you practice.
2. Location, location, location: Corporations know that if they have the best location, the most visibility to women (they make 92% of all dental appointments), with the convenience of being on the way to everything, they will capture the lion’s share of dental patients. The sad truth is that if you have been in the same location for more than a decade, it is almost certain that you are now in the wrong place. Everything has changed: Demographics, competition, race, income, etc. Go to www.zipwho.com and type in your zip code and look at the profile or demographics of the people outside of your practice. Now look at the demographics inside your practice. The greater the difference in the age, income, and educational levels between those in your practice and those outside of it the greater the likelihood of a slow death spiral for growth and profitability. This demographic should define what the consumer wants and what you should be trying to give them. It is a huge mistake to always think that patients want what you have to sell them. If you are not growing, you are trying to give people something they do not want, such as: hours open, days open, mix of services, acceptance of all ages, being insurance friendly, and on and on.
3. The Business of Dentistry: Corporations have created a business model, understood the numbers, created protocols and executed well to insure an ever-increasing profit margin in markets where the independent dentist struggles. They have the ability to purchase goods and services at 20-40% less than the independent dentist can. They run their practices in a 50-60% overhead range and use spreadsheets and sophisticated financial analysis to make decisions. For the most part, well-run corporations have the business of dentistry down.
4. Marketing: Corporations have taken the marketing acumen of commercial business and applied it to dentistry. They outspend the independent dentist and raise the bar on execution and follow through when it comes to marketing. The numbers don’t lie: Corporations are increasing 7% a year. Corporations don’t look at marketing as an expense as much as it is an investment that has paid huge dividends for their business. Reading this book is the first step in a commitment to re-engage your practice in successful marketing.
5. Range of patients: Unlike a large number of independent dentists, corporations offer dentistry for the whole family in every location they have. Women rule the world and make 92% of all dental decisions. Wake up, and understand that working on kids is the fastest way to grow a practice, and expanding the range of clients you can attract is the secret sauce for success in Dentistry. Their marketing targets the low hanging fruit and their services target a wider range of patients and ages.
6. A wider range of services: Corporations clearly understand that the public wants all dental services in one location. Corporations bring specialty services to the entire family six days a week. We as independent doctors need to add new services to an ever-widening age range of patients.
7. Consumerism: Giving people what they want, when they want it, at a price they can afford is the foundation of any successful business. It just appears that corporations have figured out a way to push this to the front of every potential client’s wants list and then deliver. It’s not just enough to market, but you have to deliver a product or service that patients will show up for, pay for, and then refer everyone they know to your practice. The proof is that millions every year migrate to corporate dentistry and never return to private practices. Corporations are doing something right, and we need to sit up and take notice.
8. Insurance: Learning to win at the insurance game by being in-network has driven the overall success of corporations for years. Every patient with insurance will eventually gravitate to an in-network doctor. Corporations have figured out how to deliver insurance driven dentistry at a 50-60% overhead by integrating staffing, delegation, and technology to do dentistry faster and more consistently. The magic formula is to become a Tarzan in a Managed Care Jungle by delivering results that are as good or better than you are doing now, at a pace that is 25-35% faster or offering services or products that insurance companies do not pay for.
If we are going to compete, we are going to need to change. So the question is: WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO DO to save the independent practice of Dentistry? As for me, I have founded a group buying organization that does not have profit as a motive. We have attracted the finest alliance partners we could find who supported the independent practice of Dentistry. The organization is called BEST for Dentistry, where the “best” stands for Building Everyone’s Success Together. For the first time you and I can buy supplies, equipment, lab services, products and just about everything under the sun at the prices that national dental corporations pay for their products and services. BEST is an attempt to level the playing field for each of us. Bottom line is that we need everyone to sign up with BEST so that we can attract more alliance partners along with a wider range of services and deeper discounts. Size matters, and your membership shows that you support the independent practice of Dentistry. Just go to www.bestfordentistry.com and sign up today, and begin to stick thousands of dollars of savings back into your own pocket. You can either pay to have your dental supply guy send his kids to private schools or you can send your own.
If you have not gotten your copy of Marketing The Super General Dental Practice yet, just go to the Summit website (www.summitpracticsolutions.com/products) and order. We are now one month into the New Year. The clock is ticking and the ball is in your court. Take the challenge and change your future. This is how you Summit: Practice management done right.
Michael Abernathy, DDS