20 Tips For Growing Your Dental Practice In 2018
Below are 20 tips to help you and your practice have the most profitable 2018 possible. But before we dive into that, let me give you some background on me so you have some context and trust what I am saying.
I’m Nadeem, founder of Connect the Doc. If you haven’t seen us at a tradeshow or heard about our company, we help dentists get more patients through reviews, referrals, and digital marketing. My dental marketing career started 7 years ago when I graduated college and started doing the marketing for my parent’s dental office with my twin brother. We spent a year learning the ins and outs of dentistry and digital marketing. The next year we executed our marketing plan with them and helped them grow from $1M to $4M. They now have 4 offices and have never been so profitable. The formula we used with our parents is a blended strategy that combines internal and external marketing.
I wrote this article to give you a framework and roadmap to make 2018 your most profitable year. Most of my suggestions don’t require you to spend any money, but rather require you to look back at 2017 and reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly. How did your 2017 go? What could you have done differently? What were your goals and did you reach them? What are your goals for 2018 and how are you going to achieve them?
Running a private dental practice in North America has never been more challenging. Dental corporations are continuing to expand and acquire more practices. Dental practices that used to be more specialized and focused are starting to offer a wider variety of treatments to compete against the corporations. Now more than ever, you need a clear road map to prosper.
If you read this article and follow my suggestions, you will have a better 2018 than 2017. You will have a strong foundation to attract, acquire, and retain new patients. Your existing patients will refer more of their friends. Your staff will be more productive, happier, and wealthier – all at the same time. Your phones will ring more and your chairs will be full of new patients, the right kind of new patients. Your practice will be thriving and you’ll be able to spend more time with your friends and family – both now and when you are ready to retire.
Let’s get into it – here are 20 tips to help your practice grow in 2018. If you have any questions about marketing or need any advice, please feel free to call me. My personal phone number is 415-287-4999.
Hope you enjoy this article and best of luck in 2018!
20 Tips To Make Your Dental Practice More Profitable in 2018
1. Do a Quick Self Assessment
Without thinking too much, what went well in 2017? What went poorly? What’s your gut feeling on what you can do better?
2. Crunch Some Numbers
Let’s see if your gut feeling is accurate. Here are some questions you should look into:
- How many New Patients (NP) did you get in 2017?
- Where did these new patients come from? (Paid Ads, Internet, Postcards, Referrals, Radio, Walk-by, Signage etc.)
- How much did you spend on each marketing effort?
- What is the customer acquisition cost for each marketing effort? (I.e. if postcards cost you $1,000/month and you saw a total of 100 patients from postcards in the year, your customer acquisition cost (CAC) would be $12,000/$100 = $120/New Patient.
- What was the average spend for each new patient in 2017?
- Is there a correlation between source of new patient and amount of money spent?
- What was the average spend for each existing patient in 2017?
- How many patients were patients in 2016 that were not in 2017?
3. Audit Your Marketing
After you’ve done step 2 and crunched the numbers, you’ll have a really good idea of what worked. I’ve seen practices spend $1,000/month on postcards which yielded on average only 1 new patient / month, where the Average Value spent by that patient was less than $1,000. Look at the numbers and invest more of your budget in the marketing services that are yielding the highest Return on Investment (ROI).
4. Set 2018 Marketing Goals
When setting the goals, think about number of new patients, how much revenue you are hoping to generate from new patients, types of treatments you want to push, overall production goals for each month, quarter, and year. The more specific your goal, the easier it is to create a road map.
5. Create a Road Map
One of my favourite quotes is “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. I have no idea who said it, but it makes complete sense. Audit your business, set your goals for 2018, and come up with a plan as to how you are going to achieve those goals. To help you with setting your goals, the last 7 tips are marketing specific tips that can be a part of your road map.
6. Consult Experts
Dental consulting is expensive – the advice is normally quite good, but the hard part is the execution. Most dental consultants, practice growth specialists, and marketing executives will give you 30-45 mins of their time for free. Block out a few hours a week in your schedule to take meetings with experts. Share your goals, your timeline, and your budget and see what the experts say. I’ll be the first to volunteer my time to help you. You can book a slot in my calendar here: https://calendly.com/nadeem/free-marketing-consultations
7. Reward Your Staff
Your team is your greatest asset. If you disagree, then you need to hire better staff. The dream for most dentists is to be able to focus on the dentistry and have everything else be done by their team. If you are involved with too much of the day-to-day and you are micromanaging, then you haven’t hired the right team or trained your existing team on how things need to be done. If managing staff is a huge challenge, I would make it a strong priority to fix this in 2018 and reach out to dental consultants who are experts in this space. As far as rewarding your staff is concerned, I’d suggest incentivizing your staff with bonuses, extra holidays, gift cards, etc. when your office reaches monthly, quarterly, and year-end goals.
8. Communicate More
Even though you went to dental school, you are a business owner first and a dentist second. The chain of command is so important. Most dental practices have a “office manager” but the reality is that most office managers don’t have the “ear” of all the staff. Communicating with your team both as a group and individually is crucial. Share your goals, your ideas, and your road map. Schedule weekly and monthly team meetings to review your production. Compare your numbers every week and every month. Find out what went well and what the challenges were. Something I learned a few years ago was that it was always my fault. If a staff member was not performing, it’s my fault for not training them – or maybe I made a mistake hiring them, but it was on me. By communicating with your staff regularly, you’ll know what their challenges are, and you’ll be able to resolve them before they escalate.
9. Find the Leaks
Let me tell you a short story – Earlier this year we spent more than $10,000 on a paid Google Ads campaign over 2 months to generate new patient leads for one of our clients. In that month, we generated more than 300 leads by phone, online request, and website chat. Everything was being tracked: trackable phone numbers, trackable bookings, trackable online chats. So to us, the marketers, it looked like we were doing a great job. When we did our monthly follow up call, the practice told us that they only saw 50 new patients. When I asked what happened to the rest, they told me they couldn’t get ahold of the patients – and that was it. It was my fault for assuming that the office staff would be diligent in following up with their new patient leads even if they were unable to get through to them on the first call. So, lesson learned here is to track everything, find the leaks, and always think “how can we be more effective?”.
10. Nurture New Patient Leads
This is a pretty simple one that connects to the point above, but it’s amazing how many practices lose leads for either asking the wrong questions on the phone or not nurturing a prospective patient. If someone calls you to learn about a service and says “I’ll think about it”, you need to follow up with them. By rewarding your staff for hitting production goals (Tip #7), they will be more motivated to follow up and not let patients slip through the cracks. My suggestion is to treat prospective patients like sales organizations would treat a prospective sale. Keep a master list of “leads” and follow up with them until you get a YES or NO. If they say no, for any reason other than “I already found another dentist”, then put them in a list and nurture them with bi-weekly emails and follow up calls. You can even create a variety of “email sequences” specific to a particular type of service and nurture them that way.
11. Train Your Staff to Qualify & Schedule
Your prospective patients are (or at least should be) calling your your practice every day with questions. Your front-end’s job is to qualify patients, and schedule those qualified patients through the door. Put together a cheat sheet of the best questions to ask. Get advice from dental scheduling experts (like the Scheduling Academy) on how to best qualify patients and get them through the door. Here are some tips that I have found to be helpful for the staff that we have trained.( I know they may sound a bit cheesy, but they’re effective):
- Smile before picking up every call.
- Answer each call with a pen in hand.
- Always get the patient’s name and use it during the call.
- Request the patient’s phone number and email early in the call.
- Have a few questions to qualify them right from the beginning…
- Are you a new patient or an existing patient?
- Is there a specific insurance provider you work with?
- When was the last time you saw a dentist?
- Is there a specific service you are interested in or do you just need a exam and cleaning?
- Don’t be afraid to discuss pricing, but don’t give all the details. Use the word “typically”. I.e. “Everyone’s mouth is a bit different and we’d need to book your in for a free consultation to diagnose you, but typically XYZ service would range from ___ to __ depending on your coverage”.
- Assume the appointment with the “alternate close” technique. Continuing from the example above.. “I’m looking at the doctor’s schedule and he’s filling up pretty quickly for this week but I can schedule you in on Thursday at 11am or Friday at 3pm, which time works better for you?”
- If you cannot get the patient to book in, add them to a call sheet and nurture them with phone calls and emails.
12. Focus on the Foundation
If everything above is addressed, there are really only two reasons why you are not getting enough new patients. You’re either not getting enough prospective patients to find you (both online and offline) OR they find you but you have poor conversions online. Just like “Finding the Leaks” (Tip #9) within the actual practice, we also need to find the leaks online. 92% of people looking for a dentist go online, why should they choose you? Having a strong foundation online means having the best website, strong call-to-actions, great Google reviews, and a clean, consistent overall presence. Google your practice name or your name and see what comes up… Google your city + dentist to see what your competitors are doing. When you play the “If I were a patient, what would I do” game, you’ll be able to find the leaks with your online presence and fix them up.
13. Ask Your Patients to Refer Their Friends
When you “crunch your numbers” (Tip #2), how many new patients did you get from referrals and how much revenue was generated from patients that were referred? Most of our top dental clients say that word of mouth referrals still generate the best quality patients. If you are going to spend money on digital marketing, why not turn 1 patient who has a high customer acquisition cost into 2-3 more new patients with very low customer acquisition costs via WOM referrals? There is no better ROI. But for some reason, practice owners have such a difficult time getting their staff to ask for referrals. If you are not asking every single patient to refer a friend when they leave, you’re losing out on opportunities to get new patients for pennies on the dollar. At Connect the Doc, we have a software specifically designed to help you get more word of mouth referrals. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you with this component, check out our website.
14. Get Google Reviews Automatically
If referrals are the number one way to grow the practice, why do Google reviews matter? Good question… Things are different now. We Google everything. So when a patient of yours refers their friends to your practice, the first thing the referred friend is going to do is Google you to get your phone number. Doesn’t matter if they do this on their phone, tablet, or desktop. If they are using Google, your “Google Reviews” will show up in the tile that Google gives you – which is connected to your Google My Business Account. If you only have a handful of reviews or your reviews are negative, prospective patients that were referred to your practice will do their homework and find another nearby dentist with better reviews. Vendasta, one of the more trusted hubs for online marketing statistics did some research and put out a great article on 50 crazy review stats. Here are a few that really jump out to me and should grab your attention if you are not on the review bandwagon yet.
- 94% of consumers would use a business with a four star rating
- Star rating is the #1 factor used by consumers to judge a business
- 86% of people will hesitate to purchase from a business that has a negative online reviews
- 48% of people reading reviews will visit that company’s website if the reviews are positive
No matter what your scenario is, getting more reviews online, especially on Google, is a no brainer. Shameless plug – we have an amazing review platform that syncs directly with your dental software or patient communication software.
15. Have An Amazing Website That Converts
Stat D in Tip #14 above tells us that people who find you online will also visit your website if they “approve” of your reviews / reputation online. It takes a website visitor 7 seconds on your website to determine if they are going to stay and browse for longer. That’s not a lot of time to get their attention. Your website needs to be easy to navigate through, visually appealing, have relevant information, and convert well. In a few seconds, your prospective patients need to be confident that you are the right dentist for them. Almost always this can be accomplished by mentioning 4 things:
- Your practice direct bills insurance (if not, mention something about affordability or payment plans)
- Your practice is accepting new patients
- Your practice has great offers to bring patients through the door
- You and your practice have glowing testimonials
Even if you are a high-end practice offering cosmetic dental services for thousands of dollars, highly qualified prospective patients are still going to want to book a complimentary consultation.
To make sure your website converts well, you need to really focus on having strong call-to-actions so that the patients can move through the consumer decision making process.
Here is the typical consumer decision making process in a nutshell:
- Recognition – “I have a toothache”
- Search for Information – Patient searches Google or asks a few friends who their is dentist
- Evaluation of Alternatives – Patient reads reviews and checks out different dentist’s websites
- Purchase Decision – Patient takes action by calling, emailing, requesting appointment, or booking online
- Post-Purchase Evaluation – Patient reflects on their decision and writes a review
So when a patient is on your website in stage number 3, you want to do everything you can to get them to take action and move on to stage 4. On websites that we build for our clients, we typically have 4 different call-to-actions that will help boost conversions. These 4 call-to-actions include: phone number on every page and in the header (duh), online appointment bookings via Connect the Doc’s calendar widget, live website chat, and a contact form where prospective patients can submit a request. If your website is awesome and has strong call-to-actions, you’ll get more online conversions and subsequently more new patients.
16. Install Google Analytics & Set Up Conversion Funnels
This is a bit more technical and you’ll have to get your webmaster involved. Basically you should know exactly what is happening on your website, which pages are converting the highest, and which pages result in prospective patients leaving the website. What would it tell you if 90% of people who went to a “Testimonials” tab on your website ended up leaving your website? To me, that means that the testimonials are not strong enough, not recent enough or there are not enough of them. Install Google analytics on your site if you don’t already have it and track the behaviour of your website visitors.
17. Clean up Your Directory Listings
This is pretty self explanatory. Basically, make sure that all your listings online have the same Name-Address-Phone (NAP). If your dental practice is called “Beautiful Smiles Dental” on Google but on Yelp is shows up as “Dr. Smith DDS”, the search engines get confused, and so do prospective patients. To see how your practice is stacking up online, you can visit bit.ly/ctdscan and do a scan of your listings. If you notice errors, contact us and we’ll chat about about different ways to clean them up for you.
18. Claim Your Google My Business Page
If you have not already done this (and you’re not fully booked), that’s not good. Claiming your Google My Business page is crucial. You get notifications when new reviews are posted on Google, you can respond to reviews on Google, you can update office hours, add online appointment booking links, etc. etc. Basically, by claiming this page you are telling Google “I care about my business and I want it to grow”. Updating your Google My Business profile (which translates into an updated Google tile – the first thing prospective patients see about your practice) is the first step to ranking higher on Google in the Local Maps Search Results.
19. Be Involved in Your Local Community
Most of our clients use charities as a way to break the ice on the discussion about getting referrals. Instead of “refer a friend and get a $10 gift card,” which may be against the college guidelines depending on the State you’re in, try something like “refer a friend and we will make a $20 donation to XYZ charity.” We’ve found that patients are much more likely to get engaged when everyone is working together to achieve a common goal. It’s also a great way to keep patients in the loop. It’s pretty easy to send out a newsletter every few months thanking all your patients for referring their friends and that those referrals resulted in a $500 (or whatever it may be) donation to charity.
20. All the Other Tips Without Too Much Detail (Bonus Tips!)
When I started writing this article, I thought it was going to be difficult to come up with 20 tips to help your practice grow in 2018. Now that I am at Tip #20, it turns out that I have a lot more ideas than I thought. If you made it this far, congratulations, I have no doubt that you are going to have a prosperous 2018. If I lost you along the way, well I guess you aren’t reading this anyways, right? Here are the last few tips that I don’t think need to go into much more detail.
Slow to Hire Quick to Fire – Rule of thumb is that if you’ve thought about firing a staff member, you should probably just fire them. I know there is a shortage of great staff, but don’t be afraid to let go of staff who have a poor attitude and could be negatively affecting your bottom line.
Get a 24/7 Phone Call Answering Service – Not many people leave voicemails anymore. It’s better to pay for an after-hours phone service than to let a missed call go to Voicemail. And if you are getting voicemails during the day, then you definitely need to hire more staff or bring on an answering service so that you don’t lose more leads.
Do Quarterly Reactivation Campaigns – It’d be best to do this automatically or monthly, but it’s important to have a strategy to reactivate patients. Don’t forget the importance of promotional offers when you are trying to bring someone back through the door.
Track Everything & Reallocate Funds – Marketing is expensive and time consuming. Don’t sign up for marketing services on a contract or term. Everything that you do should be tracked so that you can determine the ROI and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Automate Reminders and Confirmations – Most practices have this already, but having a communication system in place for reminders and confirmations will help to reduce no-shows and cancellations. Most importantly, it will save your front-end staff time so they can focus on providing patients with the best possible experience at your practice.
Beware of Social Media – Marketing companies will try to sell you social media packages where they update your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Do the math… How many new patients did you get from a Facebook post? Probably not too many. Posting content on your own Facebook page is a bit silly because typically the only people who like your page are existing patients.
Collect and Update Email Addresses and Mobile Phone Numbers – It’s important to constantly be updating and confirming patient information within your Practice Management Software.
About Connect the Doc:
Connect the Doc is a technology company that provides a combination of software and services to help dentists to grow. Flagship software include the review platform and the referral platform. Together, you can expect to get 10-15 new Google reviews / month and 10-15 new patients / month (these numbers are based on seeing roughly 400 patients / month). Connect the Doc also provides its clients with a wide variety of digital marketing services including SEO, Paid Ads, Social Media Ads, and Email Newsletters. For more information, visit www.getconnectthedoc.com