I would have to say that marketing questions top the chart for the number of calls I get. I assume that the reason revolves around the need for more warm bodies. When someone asks me what marketing company to choose, I am conflicted in how to answer that question. I have doctors that trust my advice and I have friends that own marketing companies. There in lies the problem. I would need to know the doctor’s office, their culture, track record, and demographics, and I would also need to know the marketing company and what the doctor is hiring them to do. Let’s take a look at each side of this difficult arrangement and see if we can find some clarity that might help you become an educated consumer for marketing decisions.
When we look at the dentist’s side of the equation, we have to look at the who, why, what, and when of the decision process. I certainly can generalize by saying that every dentist I have ever spoken to has an unrealistic expectation when it comes to money invested and results received. In other words, marketing companies are dealing with an “uneducated consumer” when it comes to what they can do for the doctor and what the doctor should expect from this transaction.
- Are you marketable? Sadly, most practices are not. Having a brand new shiny office, being in-network for most insurance plans (or not), offering a wide range of services to a wide range of ages, and having consumer hours will not separate you from the pack of average dentists. You could say that these things are a given and are the bare minimum for a marketable practice. If you are not getting about 50% of your new patients from direct referrals by existing happy patients, you have a long way to go to be marketable. In a way, lack of direct referrals means that consumers do not like your office. If you have high staff turnover, lack of enthusiasm in your staff, and raging negative reviews, then you are one of those donor practices I am always talking about.
- Do you have something that potential clients want? No one is looking for another average office. Each of us is dealing with an educated consumer that will continue to compare us to any other dental office they have been in. We will be remarkable, or we will just be the last office they went to before they find a new destination. Clue: They probably don’t want what you have to sell. They want what they want. I hope you can give it to them. You can’t get better at giving patients what they don’t want.
- Where are you now? Everything you do is marketing and each and every team member, yourself, and all of your systems are designed to give you what you are currently getting. Make sure you are not spending (wasting) money on external marketing trying to fix an internal problem. While production per new patient and the percentage of direct referrals are important numbers to track, they are still just a fraction of the numbers you need to understand and act on.
- Do you have the right person at the front desk that will create the “first impression” on any new patient that might call? Every office should record and review the calls coming into the office. It doesn’t make any sense to throw money at a problem if you can’t capitalize on the opportunity.
- What is your production per new patient? Make sure that you understand what the average patient will spend if they come in. This is the only way that you can review your return on investment (ROI) when it comes to new patients. It is also the quintessential component of budgeting your marketing outreach.
- Do you have a referral outreach? External marketing expense and the results that it creates is not what drives a marketing return. What really creates the ROI is turning that externally attracted new patient into a raving fan that refers everyone they know. You have to have the systems, protocols, and scripts that will allow the staff to turn them into an unlimited source of referred new patients.
We will continue exploring the dentist’s role in the marketing relationship in Part 2 next week. Then in Part 3 we will discuss the marketing company’s part of this formula for marketing success. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. Be sure to join www.bestfordentistry.com as we are continuing to add additional Alliance Partners to lower your overhead and put more $$ in your pocket. It is FREE to join. If you’re having money struggles, this will help.