Create a bold, new patient plan!

Dec. 1, 2003
Assessing the impact of economic changes during the recession and recovery is subject to a wide variety of opinions and the direction of the wind.

Bill Blatchford, DDS

Assessing the impact of economic changes during the recession and recovery is subject to a wide variety of opinions and the direction of the wind. However, there are some solid indications that conditions have changed and the impact on dentistry will be felt. Smart dentists will make new plans for continued success.

One prediction is that the 2.7 million jobs lost since 2001 are a result of permanent changes in the American economic structure, and that the majority of these jobs will not be returning. As the economy slowly recovers from the recession, the changes include more jobs going overseas, more automation and more productivity, while employing fewer people. America has a 94 percent employment rate and consumer borrowing is up. The structure of the last 10-year boom is over, and the new economy has a different face.

How will these changes impact your practice? How can you take advantage of these changes? The community you practice in may be rural or urban and growing, it may be stable or diminishing in size, and your practice itself may be old or new, small or large. No matter what your individual demographics, generalities prevail. Whether your community has a new Wal-Mart Distribution Center being built, or a T-Mobile store moving to town, a majority of the workers will come from the surrounding areas.

Americans move at a rate of 20 percent per year. While this means 20 percent of your practice leaves every year, the departing clients are replaced by an equal number of new residents. In most cases, the majority of new patients in a practice come from another practice in the community. This may be due to a move within the community (a new home purchase), dissatisfaction with a previous dentist, or marketing by your practice which appeals to the new patients.

Marketing is a must for dentists! It is done not to attract people who are new to your community, but for existing residents who are looking for a new dentist and identify with your message. In Oregon, the largest in-state bank is coming to Bend. Banks, just like dentists, admit "banking is a commodity."

How do you create a positive experience? Umpqua Bank of Roseburg offers fancy coffee, chocolates, MSNBC, and cushy chairs. What do you offer that makes you unique? How eager and effective are you in reaching out to the community? Dentists can no longer hide in their operatories. They must be participating members of the community. Approximately 10 percent of your budget will be to attract new patients.

Work with a reliable marketing agency to create an overall plan. Does your Web site look like your brother-in-law's friend may have taken a Web class? Choose your marketing avenue and make it classy, special, and long-lasting. You can't afford to do less in these times!

Existing practice opportunities are available if you look. Adding a second practice to your existing practice is still the most effective marketing move. The "pig in the python" of boomer dentists are facing retirement choices. Some practices may be quietly available in your community. Don't be the one to hear of the transition six months later! Be the instigator and innovator. Be a networker to find out what is available.

Address your fears about purchasing a practice. Be bold and make it work. In some instances, a new facility may be available, more attractive, and in a better location than your existing facility. What if the selling doctor has equipment you don't want? Let him think it is terrific ... and then donate it to a charity or free clinic! What if he does lesser-quality dentistry? See it as a tremendous opportunity! What if the selling doctor is an older man and you are a younger ethnic woman? It will work out fine if you are open, a good listener, and welcome people warmly to the practice. How do I know this will work? There are no guarantees in life, and it is time for some bold moves. In working with dentists on practice transitions, I've learned you are successful when you seek the opportunity, request the right information, evaluate it with your dental advisor, and then make an offer.

Economic times have changed for dentists. Create a new, bold patient plan for success. Commit the necessary budget dollars and work with the experts.

Dr. Bill Blatchford's Custom Coaching Program is now available anytime, anywhere. Utilizing 18 years of practice-management experience with over 1,100 offices, Dr. Blatchford's custom program involves minimal travel and maximum personal time with the coach, interaction with other doctors and tons of support. Leadership, systems, case presentation skills, communication, and profitability are emphasized. He can be reached at (800) 578-9155 or visit his Web site at

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