Don't let your practice get 'Amazon-ed': 4 tips for thriving in the new economy

Here are four marketing strategies to help dentists keep up with changing market trends.

Dec 5th, 2017
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Graig Presti

As the founder and CEO of a nearly 10-year-old dental marketing company, I’ve developed a unique perspective on the dental industry. I’ve had the opportunity to watch it change from the inside out as I’ve worked with dental practices across the globe. As a result, I’ve seen a few things come to pass . . .

I’ve seen trends come and go, including some of the tough ones. I’ve watched practices open, then fold. I’ve seen doctors discover the secret of running a successful, profitable dental practice . . . then rest on their laurels as if they’ve discovered an endless fountain of wealth. I’ve seen the fountain dry up. When this happens, the “magic formula” stops working. After six to eight months, these dentists lose their mojo. They’re forced to cut costs. When that doesn’t work, they purge staff. When that doesn’t work, they make the tough decision to shut down their practices altogether, or to sell their practices for far below market value. These doctors have to keep working instead of retiring when they wanted to.

But there’s a moral to the story here. Dentistry is not an isolated industry, as many want you to believe. That’s because the principle of “evolve or die” happens in every business vertical. Don’t believe me? Well, you don’t have to look far to find parallels. Let’s take the most obvious one: mass retailers, such as Sears. Back in the day, this industrial Goliath had a market cap around $18.47 billion.1 Today, Sears’ market cap has fallen to less than $1 billion.1 You can’t even give their stock away.

Which tiny website led the charge to dethrone this titan? Amazon.com.

The rise of Amazon is similar to the same disruption we’re seeing in the world of dentistry. Amazon watched consumer trends, tastes, and desires, and then leveraged new technologies to deliver products faster and cheaper to hordes of gleeful consumers. Meanwhile, Sears sat on their thumbs, dumbfounded, and wondered why profits (and stock prices) were tumbling out of control.

The message here is quite simple. If you don’t stay ahead of the curve, the curve will pull you under and eat you. Whether it’s Sears, Kmart, or Blockbuster, all represent the vested protagonists in cautionary tales of woe and defeat. They all believed they would stay on top forever.

Changes in the world of dental marketing

The Journal of the American Dental Association reports that fewer dentists own practices now than a decade ago.2 While there are many causes, one is the rise of corporations in dentistry. With their advanced business systems and large marketing budgets, corporations are changing what dental practices look like. Couple that with changing demand for dental services and a steady flow of new dentists into the market, and you’ll understand that the time is now to differentiate your practice—or else go the way of Sears.

One of my clients, Brian Gilbert, DDS, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, just shared with me a terrific revelation. (Listen closely, as he’s one of the top docs in his area despite strong competition.) He related that after owning his own practice for multiple decades, the market is getting more competitive. Dr. Gilbert is seeing new, millennial-aged docs jumping in and investing heavily in technology. Specifically, they’re leveraging the internet. They’re already in tune with the new dental economy, the way consumers behave, and how consumers choose their “go-to” dentist. This new breed of savvy and ambitious doctors is making inroads without having the same experience and know-how as older dentists. And they’re picking up patients, one-by-one.

However, after so many years of running a successful practice, Dr. Gilbert related a secret that has kept him thriving: When it comes to patient acquisition and retention, he takes his ego out of the equation and never settles for “what used to work.” Dr. Gilbert saw the writing on the wall a long time ago. He realized that patient and consumer behaviors were shifting. That’s how my team came to work with Dr. Gilbert and reevaluate his traditional marketing techniques, such as word-of-mouth advertising and the Yellow Pages.

Savvy, in-the-know practice owners have seen that they need to have a keen eye on current dental marketing strategies such as these:

Positive Google reviews—You absolutely need to have your entire team strategically soliciting five-star Google reviews. They will impact your production, new patient flow, and referral rate like you can’t imagine. (At the time of publication, Dr. Gilbert’s Google-review count was nearing 500.)

Consistent branding across web properties—You want the same “look and feel” across everything you do, and that includes your website, Google, Google Plus, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.

Video—It’s time to use video on your own site and powerful channels like YouTube and Vimeo. You also need proper branding, SEO, and meta descriptions for these videos that will help them reach their intended market. Any 10-year-old these days can load a video online, so for a dental practice, ranking and branding these videos are critical.

Easy booking and communication—Patients should be able to easily book an appointment with you and send you a message, and you need to respond promptly. This applies to Facebook, Google, your website, etc.

Tactics such as these represent the new pathway to success. They are helping doctors like Dr. Gilbert rise to the top of ever-evolving markets. Take these four strategies to heart and implement all of them immediately.

What’s the bottom line? Don’t let your practice get “Amazon-ed.” Stay on top of what is working now, and always expect what’s working to change. This approach results in a long-term success that is bulletproof in any economy. But the bigger overall lesson here is one of indecision. Remember, more harm is done by indecision than bad decision.

References

1. Sears market cap history (SHLD). Macrotrends website. http://www.macrotrends.net/stocks/charts/SHLD/market-cap/sears-hldg-cp-market-cap-history. Accessed October 1, 2017.

2. Vujicic M. Practice ownership is declining. JADA website. http://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(17)30546-9/abstract. Published September 1, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2017.


Graig Presti is founder and CEO of four-time Inc. 500/5000-recognized company Local Search For Dentists (LSFD). Located in Austin, Texas, LSFD helps thousands of dentists all over the world gain dominance in their local markets through the company’s proprietary dental marketing systems. LSFD’s systems have helped dentists achieve more freedom, greater new-patient numbers, and the ability to reach their income goals. Learn more at localsearchfordentists.com.

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