Is It Really As Bad As You Think?

Dentists. You Are Not Alone.


Holy smokes! It was hard to sit down today and write this blog. It’s such a scary time for dental offices right now. I feel total pressure to say the right thing, to be helpful, to be insightful, but it’s hard. Who has the answers? What should I share?

So then I settled myself down. Right now, even the smartest business leaders don’t have all the answers. None of us have been through anything like this before.

So maybe just being here and being honest and sharing some of the insights we have will have impact enough.

We do not know what the long-term “post-covid” reality will bring. Will it be hard to get patients back in, will it be harder than ever to attract new patients, or will there be pent-up demand as some suggest?

Is there going to be a new consumer, a new reality, and difference in behavior? Who can be sure? Many people are predicting it to be so but honestly, change is hard for people. You know how hard it is to get your patients to floss consistently! Will people simply change for a minute (think diets in January) but then slip back into the comfortable norm? If you’ve read Who Moved My Cheese, you’ll understand.

However, the world has never been through anything like this so we better prepare to move with the cheese so that we can have less stress and more success.


“It would be all so easy if you had a map to the maze. If the same old routines worked.” – Spencer Johnson, MD


We must accept the change. Face the change. Choose our attitude. With hundreds of clients across North America, we are working with dentists in every state of shutdown, from emergency and urgent dentistry to full closure. No doubt, when things open up, it will be very different. Many patients will lapse away, not necessarily due to a competitor threat, but just because they were looking for an excuse to move on, new patients may take their time to schedule, more people may be looking for affordable dentistry, possibly having lost insurance. It’s unknown.

How do you feel about your practice security? According to an ADA poll, some dentists don’t think they will survive closure to end of April. And 46% will consider selling or declaring bankruptcy if this extends to August. Talk about scary. You might not have liked the competition, but this is a hard life truth. We don’t wish this on anyone.

I hope everyone can make it through safely – the question is how to navigate right now.

Karen Galley, President, reminded me that it comes back to goals. And we have the data (via Practice ZEBRA™) to assist with understanding what will need to be done. What strategies you’ll want to implement.

Start by performing a reality check. Do you just want to move on without worrying about lost revenue and simply to get back on track within two to three months? Do you want to look for new opportunities to expand your patient base and improve practice performance to offset the closure? Or do you really want to ramp up and gain market share while others sit idle?

If possible, let’s connect you with Practice ZEBRA so you can review your metrics. Once you have clarity around your pre-pandemic revenue trends, scheduling, patient numbers and values, etc., you can better plan, act, and recover. Practice ZEBRA can give you the insights you need and we’re providing a free connection and demo now.

  1. Compare year-to-date production versus the same period last year. How far are you down? Is it as bad as you thought or is it worse?
  2. Do you just want to get back on track, make up the loss, or beat last year’s numbers?
  3. How many patients did you add last year? How many more will you need this year?
  4. What is your patient value? Could you increase the average spend? Would adding a dental membership plan program (in the US) assist in driving production? (Yes.)
  5. How can you improve practice performance? Will you add hours? Will you adjust marketing?

Just getting back on track will take effort, and it’s going to require some investment. Once you benchmark your numbers, you can identify your goals.

To give you an idea of some of the data you can pull from Practice ZEBRA, here is a review of an actual client. If you can’t easily get this data for your practice, please call and we’ll set up a free demo with your own actuals.

Year over year, this practice is only down by $33k. Ah yes, “only” I say as the owner is panicked because they had been rapidly growing and the decline in revenue from February has been dramatic – but when you look at where they were this time last year, there are a lot of positives to work with right now.

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By looking back, you can see that recovery is available. The practice has 370 more active patients today than they had at this time last year. The practice had been steadily onboarding a consistent number of new patients monthly for the past 18 months or longer, so isn’t it reasonable to assume that new patients can get back on previous track – if not more with a concerted effort? 

Look, I know, you know, the next couple of months are going to be tough. The point is to get a handle on where you are. How bad is it. What do you have to work with? What can you do? Nail your benchmarks and then set your goals.

With a look at the actual data, you begin to see a picture from which you can build a plan. In this model we took new patients up to the end of March, assumed three months of zero new patients (they are accepting emergency and urgent care now), and calculated only 6 more months of new patients at their previous averages. That means zero new-patient flow for April, May, and June – and still the practice should get back to 600 new patients. This is an amazing number for a lot of practices, and a strong place to start. If they are able to open sooner, that could be better. If they change their investment strategy that could be better. That’s the point. With this data in hand, the practice can make decisions about how to invest now to secure active patients, and plan to take action to attract more new patients as soon as they can fully reopen. They grew before. They can grow back again.

As I look at data from several practices in Practice ZEBRA, most of our clients have more active patients today than they had this time last year. That is a strong position to be in. For some, however, who haven’t been paying attention to growing that base number, the push to come back strong will be harder. It might be ugly, but one thing is for sure, don’t ignore your numbers. Facing the facts puts you in control. It might feel deeply personal, but it will help you make more informed decisions. It will help you focus on winning.

When it comes to winning out of this thing, it is important to consider how your brand acts and communicates with clients and prospects now and in the coming weeks and months. This will soften the blow to your bottom line. It’s also important to determine what your situation truly is.

Now you have the data, now you know exactly who your active patients are. ZEBRA can even give you your top-value patients and patients in danger and lapsing. We can help you connect with them. Secure their loyalty.

However you do it, plan to communicate “well” to patients-of-record. Trust, something dentists have needed forever, is said to be the new brand capitol coming out of the pandemic. You need patients to feel valued, you need them to appreciate you, and you need them to know that you’re the dental expert they can trust by being there – even when they’re not in your office.

When it comes to dental marketing and pulling out of all of this, we have put together a number of recovery plan programs to help stimulate growth back to your practice. Please contact us for a FREE strategy session. Please stay the course. Stay safe.


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