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Planned marketing can put you in the Driver's Seat!

Feb. 1, 2003
It isn't enough to just talk about goals — you have to act on them. Effective marketing can help dentists plot a tangible "road map" for the future.

By Deborah Wells-Faust, MSM

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Dentists are always looking for fresh ideas to kick up the level of excitement in their practices, especially when it comes to marketing. However, when the conversation evolves to planning a marketing strategy, the enthusiasm often wanes. Why? Quite simply, to most of us, working differently means working harder.

Some practices deal with their business issues almost randomly — reacting and making decisions only as events unfold. A lack of planning, organizing, motivating, and other controls often render clinicians ineffective. Even worse, many dentists are averse to change; they tend to hang on to old values or faulty practices even when they are clearly of no benefit. Practice systems and routines often continue unchanged regardless of whether they are effective.

In sharp contrast, the dental practice that combines a strategic plan with a willingness to try new ideas, such as planned marketing, will have a sound business structure that will ultimately be successful. If your practice lacks a tangible road map for the future, then talking about goals is analogous to daydreaming.

Practices don't have to institute complicated processes or seek out the input of highly skilled specialists. Nor do they have to "go it alone." Aside from the support of their own staff, clinicians may already have access to many of the resources needed to develop and execute an effective marketing plan. The relationships you already have with surgical colleagues, sales representatives, and vendors, as well as those within various professional organizations in the community, are an invaluable resource for effective practice marketing. If a clinician has yet to develop effective partnerships within the community, then building these relationships will be an important first step in the development of a marketing plan.

Step one: Assess the effectiveness of current marketing activities. Remembering that each team member has a vital role in marketing the practice, make a list of key team members. Consider the dynamics of your practice as well as the talents and interests of each contributor. Are team members' jobs well-matched with their skills and interests?

Next, really challenge yourself. Make a list of the practice marketing activities that have been completed over the last 12 months. Now comes the hard part. See if you can write down the collective goal of these activities using both a descriptive and quantifiable goal.

Example: Increase awareness of implants as a treatment option and complete 23 percent more implant-supported restorations than the prior year.

Step two: Set an incremental growth goal for the next 12 months. It is critical to set goals for two reasons:

1. A goal represents something tangible on which to focus.

2. A goal gives you a standard by which to measure the outcome of your efforts.

Organize a meeting with your team members to discuss setting descriptive and quantifiable goals for the practice. Plan to get a consensus agreement on the incremental growth goal towards which the entire team will work over the next 12 months.

Example: Increase single-tooth implant restorations by 15 percent over the next 12 months:
Year xxxx = 200 x 15 percent = 30
Year xxxx = 200 + 30 = 230

Step three: Develop the marketing plan.Calculate the number of patients required to reach the incremental growth goal of 30 single-tooth implant restorations.

Example: Growth goal number divided by average number of procedures, per patient, over past 12 months = 30 ÷ 1.5 = 20 patients needed.

To reach that singular goal of 20 "new" patients, determine where those incremental procedures will come from. The two areas you might consider are current patient records and new patients. As in this example, a higher number of implant candidates may be reached by increasing efforts with current, satisfied patients. Additionally, the decreased costs of marketing to current patients may make marketing to them more profitable. Referrals from new patients also tend to be better qualified for treatment and more likely to accept the recommended treatment. Reaching out to new patients can help perpetuate increased awareness about your practice. It is reasonable to expect that a practice can gain patients from both methods, but the number from each area will depend on your individualized plan.

Example: 15 patients from current patient records and 5 new patients = 20 patients needed.

At a minimum, every practice's marketing plan should include comprehensive patient education materials (videos, brochures and models), easy access to third-party financing, and a practice brochure. Team members should know how to use these marketing materials effectively. Sales representatives, vendors, and surgical colleagues may be able to help with coordinated training for staff that includes talking points and scripts that will increase a patient's understanding of treatment options and treatment plan acceptance.

Finally, realize that you'll never stick to a plan if you don't have one. Planning annual activities monthly will prevent you from trying to do everything at once. Start with activities that are easy to implement and are likely to yield immediate results. Don't forget to measure the results of your efforts. The ensuing confidence, enthusiasm, — and revenue! — will motivate you and your team to continue with your plans. And it won't feel like you are working harder at all.

If you would like more information on developing a Practice Growth Roadmap, please contact your local 3i representative at (800).342.5454, or visit us on the Web at

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