Apex360 recently reported the following numbers:
• 29% of dentists are extremely familiar with their practices’ marketing strategies and their performance.
• 17% are slightly familiar.
• 9% have no engagement with their practice marketing.1
My clients often refer to me as the “professor of harsh reality” for my pull-no-punches approach to helping them reach their practice goals. Fortunately, it’s time for some tough love for you, my friend. We need to start by looking at your primary role in your business. What I’m about to say might come as a bit of a shock . . .
Your number-one job is not to be a good dentist. I’m certainly not suggesting you be a bad dentist—far from it. I want you to be a great dentist. But as the CEO, owner, and proprietor of your practice, your job is just that: to own and run the practice like a real organization. Now I know they didn’t necessarily teach you that in dental school, but your main job is to be the best CEO of your practice that you can be, and that involves much more than performing good dentistry.
Your practice is a business, plain and simple, just like a luxury car dealership or high-end salon. Your particular business offers dental services. As the CEO, you should be aware of everything that’s going on inside and outside your office. Even if you aren’t sweeping the floors at night, it’s in your best interest to know something about brooms and who’s pushing them.
Above everything else, you need to always have your finger on the pulse of marketing. Your marketing is the lifeblood of your practice’s health. Good marketing is what determines if you’ll have predictable, consistent growth or if you’ll have to fire all of your employees and be forced into working for somebody else.
If you are one of the aforementioned 71% of dentists and are not extremely familiar with your practice’s marketing, today is the day that needs to change. Let’s look at some right ways and wrong ways to change it.
Wrong: Do your own marketing
There are schools for dentistry, and there are schools for marketing. You attended dental school and most likely don’t have a marketing degree.
You’re a dentist. Your day should not be focused on learning how to create Google AdWords campaigns, learning the latest way to rank high in the Google search results, or playing around on Facebook—but that shouldn’t stop you from understanding the basics so you can oversee the efforts of the agencies you hire to perform these tasks and ensure they’re doing the job effectively.
Think of yourself as the captain of an ocean liner. The safety of the ship and everyone on board depends on your ability to manage dozens of departments. Your highest and best use as captain is not to be caramelizing the sugar on the crème brûlée down in the galley. Instead, it serves everyone’s interests if you focus on making sure those in each department have what they need to do their jobs and that they are indeed the people who are best suited for their positions.
Wrong: Pass it off to a staff member
You hired your office manager because he or she is fantastic with people and office systems. He or she is eager to work hard, gets everything done on time, will stay late without being asked, and believes in the work you’re doing. So when you implement a marketing campaign for your practice, you might be tempted to pass it off to your office manager. He or she will feel equal to the task and work really hard to do a good job.
Again, we run into a problem here. Your office manager is driven to do a good job and will go all in. However, you can’t learn effective and sustainable marketing through a two-hour online course or weekend seminar. It takes years of training, testing, and practice to master this craft. Because your office manager is so invested, he or she might be reticent to tell you if his or her efforts are falling short and burning time and money.
A major component of marketing is knowing and understanding the numbers behind it. When done correctly, effective marketing metric calculations will tell you, down to the penny, how much you can spend to acquire a new patient and remain within your desired profit margin. There are a lot of moving pieces to knowing your numbers that go beyond the scope of our time together right now, but let’s focus on one of the most important ones, which is the cost of acquiring a new patient. Acquiring a new patient is usually viewed as an expense. Instead of looking at the money you’re spending, adjust your thinking to view that new patient as an asset.
A lot of doctors look for the least expensive way to acquire new patients, but I wouldn’t recommend cheaping out here.
The way successful companies dominate any given market is through the ability to outspend the competition to acquire new clients or, in this case, patients. Maybe it costs you $50 in marketing spend to acquire a new patient. Maybe $150. But if that patient brings in $500 in the first six months or even $1,500 in a year, why wouldn’t you drop a little more cash to acquire him or her? Not to mention if you add in the number of referrals the patient will bring in, plus the amount the patient and his or her family will spend with you on dental care, that patient could easily be worth between $3,000 and $5,500 in the three to five years that follow initial acquisition.
Sometimes a patient’s value is higher, and sometimes it’s lower. But tell me this: where else can you spend $50 to $150 acquiring an asset that returns $500 to $1,500 in less than a year? That’s a 7x–10x ROI within a 12-month period. You won’t find that anywhere else. So while starting out, or when trying to hit your production goals, I strongly recommend investing as much as possible to grow your practice. Once you know the cost of acquisition, you understand how much money you’ll need to hit your new-patient goal.
And yes, it’s imperative to your survival that you understand and review these numbers on a monthly and sometimes daily or weekly basis. That’s how an effective and sustainable business is run. You don’t just continuously and randomly throw different things against the wall to see what sticks. You devote appropriate and strategic efforts toward creating a trackable, repeatable system. In order to make this happen, it is absolutely essential you have your committed CEO hat on and are turning the ship in the proper direction.
Right: Hire a pro to do it
Undoubtedly, the best method of handling your marketing efforts is to bring in a professional who does marketing day in, day out. Someone who knows how to create a system that will bring you a predictable, repeatable stream of loyal patients who pay on time and gleefully refer you to everyone they know.
This isn’t always the cheapest way to go (in fact, it rarely is). However, a good marketing agency or company will pay for itself many times over. This results in less wasted time, effort, and money, and it allows you to focus on running the practice and being a good dentist. (Yes, that’s obviously still important.)
And let’s face it—do your marketing wrong, and you could be in for some painful mistakes (not to mention heartache and thousands of dollars down the drain).
1. Get and stay involved in the mechanics of your practice. If something isn’t working, you need to know about it. Take the time to familiarize yourself with whatever elements you don’t currently keep tabs on.
2. Getting involved especially applies to marketing. Learn what’s needed for predictable, sustainable marketing campaigns and how this affects your ability to spend on campaigns to acquire new patients.
3. Ideally, hire someone more experienced than you to handle your day-to-day marketing efforts and evaluation, but remain involved in the process. Ultimately, you’re the decision maker.
If you’d like to learn more about how to structure a dental marketing plan for your practice, Dental Economics Chief Editor Chris Salierno and I sat down a few months ago and had a comprehensive discussion on how to handle marketing as a practice owner. I highly recommend you take a few minutes to watch. To view our discussion on proper dental marketing, visit localsearchfordentists.com/btcmarketing.
1. Levin RP. Data Bite: Only 29% of dentists are extremely familiar with their marketing strategies. Apex360website. https://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/2018/04/only-29-of-dentists-are-extremely-familiar-with-their-marketing-strategies.html. Published April 10, 2018.
Graig Presti is CEO of four-time Inc. 500/5000-recognized company Local Search For Dentists (LSFD), one of the fastest-growing companies in dentistry. LSFD helps thousands of dentists all over the world gain dominance in their local markets. Presti’s proprietary marketing systems have helped thousands of dentists achieve more freedom, greater new patient numbers, and the ability to reach their income goals.