Few would argue that marketing isn’t essential to success in today’s ultracompetitive dental universe. Yet, this is another burden placed on the already stooped shoulders of a dentist with no training or skill in this discipline. This deficiency makes it easy to default to those who, for a fee, are delighted to orchestrate one’s efforts.
But these nondentists don’t know you or your practice. Too often, such outside leadership results in desultory efforts, blown by every wind, with no master plan created and implemented. But what’s an overburdened dentist to do?
I am an avid proponent of staff meetings. If done correctly, they can vastly enhance group purpose, clarify values, and augment the success and satisfaction of all involved by employing the power of a mastermind group (several dedicated people working together to achieve a common goal).
For over 40 years, our format varied with circumstances, but most commonly, we met once a month, first thing in the morning (donuts and coffee encouraged), for two hours. We turned off the phone and locked our door on which we’d placed a sign informing we’d open at ten.
Leadership rotated through all staff, except doctors, who tend to be verbose and complaining. If the doctor must speak, forming comments as a question allows one to lead while keeping the focus on others (you already know what you think) and encouraging broad participation.
Unique staff views will surprise you, assuming they trust you enough to be honest. Premeeting, all team members contributed to creating a written agenda, and a specific amount of time to discuss each query was requested. If a topic wasn’t on the schedule, we didn’t discuss it.
Let’s contemplate a series of meetings in which we considered the unique advantages of our office as they contributed to marketing. Any endeavor’s success requires a champion to spearhead the quest. For our example, one topic would read, “Marsha requests 25 minutes to consider the unique advantages of our office.” After placing the desired time on a stopwatch, Marsha initiated the discussion.
As brainstorming began, standing in the center of the room near a large pad of paper visible to all, Marsha recorded every thought offered. Piggybacking on others’ ideas was encouraged, and when the creative flow slowed, we evaluated each suggestion, eliminating some while enhancing or combining others.
We noted unresolved meeting issues in a follow-up column, along with the identity of a volunteer champion and the time she’d requested to complete the project. We reviewed these the next month, and if the assignment wasn’t finished, more time was assigned, or a new champion was named.
Read more from Dr. Wilde
Marsha requested an hour to continue contemplating the topic on our next agenda. She’d summarized last month’s best points and listed them in four columns. These were her conclusions:
- Providing written and signed estimates before every procedure eliminates financial uncertainty and avoids surprises.
- Cash and senior discounts are available.
- Third-party financing is accessible.
- We believe dental health is cheap, dental neglect expensive, and quality care is an excellent investment over time.
- Bright, cheery office in which a large play area creates a family atmosphere.
- Topical anesthetics, free N2O, and conscious sedation are available in an office noted for painlessness.
- Our health and refreshment bar offers complimentary juice, soft drinks, tea, coffee, fruit, and muffins.
- Virtual reality glass and cable TV in each operatory allows care to pass quickly and comfortably.
- Proper use of N2O allows the treatment of primary teeth without local anesthetics.
- Free video games, toys, stickers, coloring books, food coupons, and stuffed animal giveaways make it a delight for kids to visit our office.
- We provide warm, moist towels and a well-equipped refreshment and bathroom area for aftercare.
- Heated neck pillows enhance comfort.
- Microwaved blankets are available.
- We bake homemade bread daily to enhance our cozy atmosphere and give loaves to patients.
- Multiple dentists allow evening and Saturday hours and for every emergency to be seen the day they call.
- We submit insurance for patients at no charge.
- With an 800 number and five lines, there’s never a busy signal.
- With our combined talents, we provide every subspecialty of care, so the need to refer is rare.
- Our easy-to-reach location has abundant parking and is handicap-accessible.
- We give a written warranty for all work that demonstrates our commitment to quality and removes patient risk.
- We meet or exceed all OSHA standards for safety.
- We use the finest materials and advanced techniques.
- Staff dentists offer a combined 40 years of clinical experience.
- Wilde is a recognized authority who has published six books and over 200 magazine articles and is a past member of the University of Iowa dental faculty.
Can you perceive how our unique selling position became the nexus of all marketing efforts, as we’d completed most of the design beforehand? The exercise also clarified and codified our values. When you have a clear plan for what you want to say, it can be more achievable to keep your marketing in-house than you think.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the September 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.