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Why you might want to wait on marketing your dental practice

April 11, 2022
What’s the most economical, easiest move you can make to immediately kick-start revenue and cash flow? Jay Geier says it’s there for the asking.
Jay Geier, Founder, Scheduling Institute

Should you be marketing your practice? Definitely, yes. Well, maybe not yet.

New patients are the lifeblood of any practice. Attrition occurs for many reasons beyond your control, so you must always be marketing to attract new patients. If you doubt this, imagine if you had retained every new patient you ever had for their lifetime and all the referrals they made for their lifetime. You would have grown and been more profitable than you ever imagined possible. But that’s not reality. You constantly lose patients, so you must constantly generate new ones.

The crucial question is whether it’s wise for you to implement a marketing strategy at this time.

Initial considerations

You wouldn’t invite guests into your home without cleaning first, so don’t invite new patients into your practice until you have your house in order. You never get a second chance to make a first impression; if you don’t get it right the first time, you’re unlikely to get another shot.

Even when given the option to book online, most new patients will call to schedule their first appointment. Like it or not, that first phone interaction with your team member is that potential new patient’s first impression of everything about your practice, including the caliber of care they can expect from you and your team.

If your people aren’t trained to deliver the right experience that satisfies the caller while also capturing them as a new patient with a scheduled appointment, you’ve wasted marketing dollars. The call will end, and your potential patient will become a competitor’s new patient.

Also by Jay Geier:

Ring, ring: Practice growth and profitability calling

How do you find quality job candidates?

If the call does result in a scheduled appointment but the new patient has a disappointing experience with any of your team members, your processes, or even the look and feel of your office, most likely they won’t be back. They won’t refer others and may even go so far as to tell family and friends specifically not to go to you (and possibly a lot of others via social media). You not only wasted money to get that new patient but also did the practice more harm than good. You would have been better off not marketing at all.

You need a steady stream of new patients, but you can’t grow your business with a revolving door of one-time patients. You make your profit on subsequent visits, not only through that one patient but also by all the referrals they will make and the referrals those new patients will make.

Preparing your practice for new patients

Until everything about your practice and your team is prepared to deliver the kind of experience that will keep patients coming back, hold off on your marketing. First, invest in your team, which must encompass implementation and training on patient-focused processes, teamwork, and accountability.

Every touchpoint of the end-to-end experience should be patient-centric—engineered to satisfy and ideally wow the patient. At the very least, the experience should make patients want to stay with your practice. At the very best—which should be the goal—they will be so impressed that they can’t help but mention your practice to a friend because the visit and everything leading up to it was such an unexpectedly positive experience.

One of the biggest misconceptions independent practice owners have is that their clinical expertise and certificates of continuing education are what impresses patients most. We have extensive interview data that proves that’s not the case. When’s the last time a patient asked you anything about your credentials? What matters is this: Do they feel cared for and cared about by every team member? Is the office a pleasant place to be? Are processes handled efficiently and without hassles from the patient’s viewpoint, including that first phone call?

Capitalize on your human capital

With exceptions, new clients come to us because they need immediate help increasing revenue and cash flow. We steer them away from marketing strategies until we’ve worked with them to address the necessary human capital strategies.

Every human has the potential to do better, and most want to be engaged and feel good about doing a good job. They’re already doing the best they can based on the training and development they’ve had. To perform better, they need elevated skills and to understand what it means to deliver the kind of experience that will bring patients in and keep them coming back. Training the team on how to capture potential new patients who call is the most economical investment you can make to immediately kick-start revenue and cash flow, which then gives you more resources for other profit-building strategies.

We liken team training to drilling for oil. Once the team is trained and accountable for providing an excellent experience on the phone and at every touchpoint throughout the end-to-end experience, you know your house is in order. You can implement marketing strategies, confident you will achieve the expected long-term ROI. Suddenly you will have struck oil and have a gusher of new patients on your hands. Then you will have to address capacity issues to keep up with growth . . . and what a great problem to look forward to!

Editor's note: This article appeared in the April 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

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