Can business-smart practice marketing lower my overhead?

Aug. 26, 2015
Of course! Not only that, we don't know of a more predictable way to keep your overhead as low as possible.

Howie Horrocks and Mark Dilatush

Of course! Not only that, we don't know of a more predictable way to keep your overhead as low as possible. In order to truly reduce your overhead, however, you will want marketing and advertising that are both effective and business-smart.

Perhaps some definitions will help you understand the difference between effective promotion and business-smart promotion:

Effective promotion: A promotion that generates an average or above-average number of responses (volume of responders).

Business-smart promotion: A promotion that consistently attracts the type of responder who will ultimately cost the practice less in administrative costs, while generating greater revenues to the practice (quality of responders).

You might be thinking: "Give me an example of a promotion that is effective in attracting a high volume of responses from dental patients but isn't really a business-smart promotion."

There are literally dozens of examples! Here are some of the most widely used in dentistry:

• Groupon, LivingSocial, and similar

• ValPak, Money Mailers, and similar

• Any promotion where a reduced fee is the primary driver of response (e.g., a postcard campaign in your local market with one or more offers)

All of these promotion mediums can be effective at generating a high volume of phone calls and responders. But if used for an extended period of time, none of these examples will prove to be business-smart.

You might ask: "Why can't they be business-smart over the long haul?"

Because when you promote your dental practice using reduced introductory fees as the primary motivator for responses, you get exactly the type of patient you are asking for-a shopper. Shoppers reduce return on investment by a factor of 11 (over the long haul), and they increase your administrative overhead.

You might ask: "How do shoppers increase my administrative overhead?"

They increase your front-end opportunity cost significantly. They are more likely to miss the first appointment. They are more likely to pay for the reduced-fee promotion and nothing else. You may have to go through four, six, eight, or more of these new patients to find one who will follow through with his or her diagnosed/necessary treatment. Talk about kissing a lot of frogs! Kissing frogs increases your administrative overhead. You are trying to decrease your overhead. Kissing frogs is expensive!

Shoppers increase your back-end administrative cost as well. If you are like most dentists, as soon as a shopper becomes a new patient, you automatically schedule a six-month recare appointment. These people only chose you based on a deal on a coupon. How compliant to that six-month recare appointment do you think they will be? You and your team purposefully reserve valuable time in your hygiene appointment book for them, and the majority will not respond. Then, someone in your practice is tasked with following up through additional written or verbal communication. Rinse and repeat. Eventually, you'll have higher overhead than you should or could have without the initial offer.

Bottom line: Shoppers increase administrative overhead and provide 11 times less long-term revenue return. Effective promotion is not enough if you want to reduce overhead. Your promotion needs to be both effective and business-smart.

You might ask: "What promotions are or can be made to be both effective, by getting the phone to ring, and business-smart?"

The short answer-and good news-is: almost all of them!

All of these types of promotions can be made to be effective and business-smart:

• Internal

• Internet

• Properly designed and targeted direct mail

• Print media

• Radio

• Television

The media choices are all the same, while both the message and targeting are different-very different. The expectation is also different, as are the volumes of responses. And, of course, the result is different (it's better!).

Of the differences, the main difference is the message. In short, instead of trying to get the phone to ring primarily by offering some kind of a deal, try offering an explanation of the benefits of today's dentistry, your conveniences, your technologies, your public relations assets, and how you make dentistry more affordable for the family.

We don't know of a better way to consistently drive overhead down than by introducing a steady stream of great new patients each month. Here's the funny thing about overhead: If you consistently produce more on the same number of patients, it automatically goes down.

Howie Horrocks is the founder, CEO, and partner of New Patients Inc., the marketing firm exclusively for dentists. Mark Dilatush serves as president and partner. Horrocks wrote and sold the first two books in the bestselling series, Unlimited New Patients, and coauthored a third book in the series with Dilatush. Together they have written articles in popular dental trade journals, published seven hours of online CE, and provided live education events to thousands of dental professionals on the topic of effective promotion of dentistry to today's consumer.

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