If you are like most practices, you shouldn’t spend another dime on marketing. In fact, if you do, you will probably have fewer patients next year than you have today. Ever try to diet? Statistically you will weigh 3-6 pounds more after finishing the diet than you did before. Why? Diets, by themselves, do not work. You need one more thing to make a diet work. If you add exercise, you can literally change your metabolic set point so that as your muscles grow, you are more likely to burn all of the calories or more than you eat. Diet and exercise along with the consistency and persistence to work your plan always works. Marketing works much the same way. Marketing alone will not fix your ills. A lack of patients is a symptom, not the problem. The problem is that you are failing to inspire your clients to come in and refer everyone they know. If you are not growing, you are not giving patients what they want. Failure to give patients what they want means you no longer have a viable business. The problem is that many of us look externally (marketing) for an internal problem. When we do this, we contact a marketing firm that is ill equipped to really diagnose the true problems. They deal with the symptoms.
When was the last time you contacted the newest greatest Dan Kennedy wanabe marketing guru for the “never before heard of, never existed before, marketing what-cha-ma-call-it to turn your practice around by adding multi-millions to your private war chest”? I bet when you did, they were willing to let you attend their secret marketing seminar by lowering the price from thousands of dollars to just $165 by extending to you the never before offered scholarship so that you can attend. They will even let you meet with the founder of the group for 15 minutes (translation = the guy who gets all of your money) and number one consultant for as long as it takes to sell you something (translation = their number one closer who could sell popsicles to Eskimos) to make sure you are well taken care of (translation = where they get a commitment and a credit card to drain your already marginal accounts). Once you’re under the thumb of their organization they will want you to go from just a member to the “silver, gold, or platinum” level of participation in which you receive all of these value added newsletters and phone calls as you sit at the feet of your personal swami.
When it comes to marketing, Good (Recipient) practices don’t need to market, but they should, and Poor (Donor) practices need to market but they shouldn’t.
Bet you never heard that from a company that wanted to sell you some marketing That they have Beta site tested, done marketing samplings to fine tune the message, and custom designed a brochure or direct response marketing piece just for you, even though hundreds of other doctors were told the same thing and sold the same design. Bet they never took the time to sit down and explain the demographics of the population and competition while comparing the relative wisdom of trying to expand your particular type of outreach to a public that will never buy what you’re selling. They never take their eyes off the symptom. You need someone to fix the problem and then all of the symptoms will go away.
Good practices are doing everything right. They have “consumerized” everything: their outreach, systems, hours, services, and staff. They give patients what they want while helping them to understand what they need. They listen and come off as caring, compassionate, competent, and consumer oriented. Their best referral source after their own patients are the two or three dentists down the street who are Donor practices. These doctors down the street do have 100% case acceptance, problem is this Good practice is actually doing the work they diagnosed. If this Good practice did market, it would keep every new patient. Their front door is wide open and their back door is solidly closed. Every day they continue to deliver the goods by giving patients what they want and embracing change so that they will be in the same position next year.
The Bad practice is just the opposite. Their back door is wide open by not recognizing what patients want. They fail to listen to their patients and their perceived needs. If they marketed, they would only run off more patients who would tell everybody they know not to go there. Marketing for them would only speed up their predictable demise. Since space for articles is limited, I have created an expanded recording on this topic called: Has Your Marketing Got A Pulse? I want you have it. Email me and I will forward it to you so that you can become a Master Marketer and a “Good” practice.
Michael Abernathy, DDS