Karen and I just got back from our 16th year exhibiting at the Chicago Midwinter. Yes, we experienced the crazy Wednesday weather, cancelled flights, standby, Karen boarded one flight but was deplaned 2 hours later without moving from the tarmac… more delays and reschedules, but we made it!
We spoke to many dentists and their teams, from solo to mid-sized group practices, and your current challenges are all very similar. And there has been a significant shift in team perspectives. Gone are the days where practice staff say, “We don’t want any more patients.” Now teams (hygienists in particular) recognize that patient flow is down and at the same time they are concerned that they are not aware that their practice has any dental marketing plans in place to improve the situation.
It’s important for dentists and marketing managers to take note:
Hygiene teams, roaming the exhibit halls to gather their own CE, very consistently commented that they are experiencing a decline in patient visits and they want the practice to amp up marketing to attract more patients.
Staff members, from front office to hygiene, are really unaware of practice marketing plans. Many didn’t know if there was a website or if the practice was engaged in any type of new patient marketing, referral programs, or other dental marketing initiatives.
The impact of group organizations and increased competition is being felt across the board and most dentists recognize that they must act now to secure their position. That means even more competition for marketing awareness.
Mid-sized group organizations are popping up all over the map and they’re also looking at ways to improve their transition processes and new-patient acquisition programs. More competition.
Practices that are marketing are attacking it bit by bit and don’t have a comprehensive marketing system in place. This provides a huge opportunity for practices that “get it” to grow.
Clearly it’s not going to get any easier to hold and/or grow your market share. In addition, there seems to be a general lack of understanding by dentists themselves about:
- New patient marketing as a system
- Area market influencers and opportunities to grow
- The importance of consistency in a multi-channel program including print, web, and e.
As a dentist, or marketing manager, what can you do with this information?
First, start by scheduling a full staff meeting. You need everyone on your team to be aware of the business brand, core messaging, and to be aligned with your growth goals. You can start with the following agenda:
A. Review of practice marketing. Read all materials aloud and discuss the goals of each initiative. Are your programs representative of your practice quality and attributes? Are they generating the results you want? Do you have proper tracking processes in place to ensure your investments are providing the return you need?
B. Competitive advantages. Identify each one and confirm that they are front and center on your marketing campaigns. Can everyone who has patient contact easily and clearly communicate your top practice attributes – and the benefits these provide to patients?
C. Practice concerns. Has your hygiene team noticed a reduction in visits? Is your front desk team faced with new objections or a competitive offer that’s posing an obstacle to conversion? Could your team benefit from training to support your dental marketing efforts?
D. Threats. What is the competition doing? What dental marketing is your team receiving at their homes or seeing as they drive into work? How does your practice stack up?
E. Opportunities. Is every chair at capacity? Does your dental marketing plan include targeted direct mail, retention, referral and reactivation programs? Are you offering the hours of operation that patients prefer?
F. Brainstorm. Get everyone involved in practice growth! Talk up your newsletters, promote your referral bonus … give hygiene a goal to add “one more” elective service each day, give front desk a goal to book “one extra” new patient on each new-patient call.
It all makes sense. The ADA has confirmed that adult dentistry is in decline. Industry surveys indicate that more than 90% of dental practice revenues are declining. You might not be feeling it right this moment, but your back-of-house is noticing and that should get your attention.
Run the analysis for yourself. Are you losing a few more patients than you’re gaining each month? What level of profit you are forfeiting this year, next year, and beyond?
Take action now. Your Account Manager would be happy to run a professional profit analysis for you so you can view your potential strategy to increase your return on investment. It could be time for you to add fuel to the flame on your dental marketing systems to keep your practice out of the 90% that are losing cash now.