Author's note: I sat down recently with Dr. Arend Klooster, owner of two, soon to be three, North Carolina practices. Since acquiring his first practice in 2016, he's expanded his team, opened a second practice, doubled his original practice size, and tripled his monthly new patient numbers. He's a longtime client, so we discussed the secret to his success.
Arend Klooster, DDS, doesn't sweat the small stuff—in fact, he loves the small stuff.
Dr. Klooster: “As a kid, I always liked small models and things that were very detailed. I realized that, with dentistry, you must be very crafty with your hands and have a lot of manual dexterity. You have the opportunity to build really beautiful things on a small scale, and that's what got me into dentistry: the opportunity to work with my hands and enjoy the craft. I knew that I wanted to help make people’s lives better and I found that perfect combination in dentistry.”
Dr. Klooster opened his first practice, Klooster Family Dentistry, in January 2016 in Holly Springs, North Carolina, a small-town-feel suburb less than 20 miles from Raleigh.
Dr. Klooster: “In 2016, revenue was around $900,000 annually when I took over. Total active patients were about 1,500 and new patients, around 15 a month, if that.”
Not bad, but nothing to write home about.
Fast forward to 2021, and Dr. Klooster has added a second location, with both practices bringing in more than 50 new patients a month. He's also added just shy of $2 million in production to his first location and nearly $1 million to his second. He even found time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and start a family.
I had to know—how did he do it? What has he done that other dentists can learn from? It turns out that Dr. Klooster's love for meticulous detail goes beyond dentistry. Here's what I learned about how a detail-oriented approach has helped Dr. Klooster conquer common practice management mishaps on his way to a thriving business:
Test and track your marketing closely to ensure your net returns justify the cost
When Dr. Klooster officially opened his first practice in January 2016, he gained a database of existing patients. But with the average attrition rate of dental patients at 17%, he couldn't afford to wait to be discovered. He dabbled in marketing and spent much of 2016 and 2017 testing different marketing tactics.
Dr. Klooster: “In the beginning, I was doing the bare minimum in terms of marketing. We tried some magazine ads early on, such as Saveur magazine. We tried a new neighbor campaign back then too, but the returns weren’t great."
As a marketer at heart, I must commend Dr. Klooster for trying, and most importantly, tracking, different marketing strategies and their effects. Through the years, I've encountered many dentists who view marketing as somehow antidental, or they begrudgingly accept marketing as a necessary evil yet stay as far away from it as possible.
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You would never ask a patient to commit to a treatment plan without first insisting on a full diagnostic workup. Marketing is no different. It's a tool to achieve a desired outcome, and tools must be tested and outcomes measured to be effective. Dr. Klooster understood this early on.
Dr. Klooster: "I was testing different marketing strategies back then. I didn't really know what worked and what didn't, but I wanted to find out, so I gave all the different tactics a try. I think I had received a postcard from PostcardMania in the mail, and I thought I would try it out.”
He first dabbled with postcards in 2017 with a seven-month campaign targeting 30,000 nearby residents. He mailed roughly 7,500 postcards each month until each resident had received his postcard twice. The campaign ran from February to August, and the outcome was clear.
Dr. Klooster: “We definitely started seeing an increase in new patients because of that first campaign. I would run reports at the end of the year, and that's when I saw that it was working because we tracked how people heard about us. If you send out 10,000 postcards and you’re 1% successful, that's 100 new patients. Look at the data and see how many new patients you’re getting, and you can adjust from there. Even a quarter of 1% is 25 new patients. It’s all about the net returns and tracking them, and postcards have worked for me."
Dr. Klooster understands that tracking is essential to success. Without it, you could be wasting precious resources, and with it, you can be empowered to invest in the areas that bring the greatest return on your investment.
Once you know what works, commit to consistency
When decisions are informed by data and not instincts or emotion, making decisions becomes easier. With the data behind him, Dr. Klooster made a big commitment to his practice.
Dr. Klooster: “At the end of the 2017, I decided to go ahead and quadruple down and buy two years' worth of postcards and start sending out more per month."
At the start of January 2018, Dr. Klooster purchased 266,200 postcards, a cool 200,000-and-change increase from his first postcard campaign the year before.
Once you know what works and you're ready to be consistent, paying up front can cut costs and improve efficiency. Dr. Klooster's cost per postcard dropped dramatically, from 0.155 cents per piece on the smaller campaign to 0.101 cents per piece. That's a savings of .054 cents per postcard, and with 200,000 postcards, he saved $10,800. With a huge cache of postcards at his disposal, Dr. Klooster was ready to get granular with his marketing.
Dr. Klooster: "I learned how to tweak and optimize mailings, where the best territories were, and the ideal radius around the practice—kind of finding the sweet spot. I went from that initial list of 30,000 down to a list that's closer in perimeter. Instead of having four lists, I got down to two and alternated monthly so that everyone would get a card every other month. For me, that's really been the sweet spot."
By closely tracking his results and where he spent his marketing budget, he was able to optimize both. By the end of 2018, his scrupulous testing and consistency yielded results.
Dr. Klooster: "What really makes a difference is the consistency; every single month to really try to engage the community, and get our name out there and in front of the potential customer. We have a steady stream of patients coming in thanks to postcards. At the beginning, a lot of patients told us they hadn't heard of us before. Maybe they threw that first postcard in the trash. But now, they see the consistency. Some patients tell us they've been getting my postcards for two years and they've been waiting to come in. They just got another postcard last month and they’re like, 'OK, now I'm going to come in.' That kind of consistency is built up over time. If you send three months' worth, you may not get that traction, but if you put in consistency, it ramps up and you’ll have a steady, consistent group of people coming in."
At the end of 2018, after doubling his new patients, Dr. Klooster was ready to acquire a second practice.
Optimize your gains to continue growing your bottom line
Dr. Klooster opened a second location in Raleigh in March 2019. He spent most of that year consistently marketing his original location and setting up his newest practice for success. With his marketing strategy largely honed, it was time to optimize lead capture. In other words, how could he start getting more out of the leads that were constantly being generated? The answer is usually twofold—your phone and your website, with a big advantage for the latter.
Your website is the first place consumers will learn more about you. Dr. Klooster knew this when he selected LocalMed, a tool that connects your practice management software with your website, at the end of 2019. Prospective patients can now book appointments directly online, speeding up the conversion process.
Dr. Klooster did not become complacent and allow his practices to grow on autopilot. With 2020 on the horizon, he doubled down again on postcard marketing, increasing his stockpile from 266,200 to 502,365 postcards (an extra $8,500 in savings) with two practices that required monthly mailings. He continued to improve his marketing, switching from a single design to seasonal messaging. At the same time, he discovered a little secret sauce he was kind enough to share.
Dr. Klooster: “My most successful offer is a free Sonicare toothbrush. We're trying to attract insurance patients, but what can you give an insurance patient when a cleaning and exam are already covered under their insurance? What's going to motivate them to come in? We decided to offer a free Sonicare toothbrush to set us apart, and that's what we've been doing. That’s my personal trade secret that I’m sharing.”
Like most dental practices across the nation, 2020 was unkind to Dr. Klooster's revenue and new-patient numbers, but unlike many practices, he still saw growth for the most part. His Raleigh location increased collections to $1.54 million and new patients to 576. Holly Springs also did well, increasing collections by just over $1K but with a slight dip in new patients to 482, down from 520.
Yet Dr. Klooster kept mailing every month, and in 2021 that consistency paid dividends and growth exploded. His Raleigh location collected $1.86 million and 635 new patients, and his Holly Springs location rebounded immensely, collecting $2.73 million with 676 new patients. That's an average of 53 and 56 new patients a month. He's added associates, hygienists, operatories, and new procedures. Appointment books are full, and patients wait a month for an appointment. After years of consistent marketing, Dr. Klooster is riding a wave of momentum.
Dr. Klooster: "New patients can create a compound growth that's so important to growing a business. It's vital to find the best way to get those initial new patients, because those initial patients, whether they came from postcards or Google, will hopefully have a great experience and refer their friends and family.”
Today, Dr. Klooster's number one source of new patients is referrals, a hallmark of a great dental practice, and he has no plans to pull back. In fact, he has a third location in his sights. The surest route to even more success for Dr. Klooster is to continue on the path he rode in on: closely testing and tracking his marketing; making informed, data-driven decisions; and staying consistent. He sums it up best.
Dr. Klooster: “Direct mail is a good thing to have in the marketing scheme. It’s good to have a combined approach to marketing and to do a few different things and track each one. Once you have your top three strategies to grow the business, stay with them. Postcards have done well for me, and I have the data to back it up.”
Watch Dr. Klooster talk marketing strategy at postcardmania.com/dr-klooster today.
- The most important number—The active patient count. Henry Schein. https://www.henryschein.com/us-en/images/dental/activepatientcount.pdf
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.