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Veneers: The road to success (the sequel)

Feb. 1, 2007
I’m back. Two years ago I wrote an article for the March 2005 issue of Dental Economics® titled, “Veneers: The Road to Success."

by Alan R. Grodin, DDS

I’m back. Two years ago I wrote an article for the March 2005 issue of Dental Economics® titled, “Veneers: The Road to Success.” In it, I took readers on my three-year journey with porcelain veneers. In 2001, I wasn’t doing veneers, but by 2005 I was doing as many or more of these beautiful restorations than anyone in the country. Since the article was published, more exciting things have happened to my practice and me. I asked the powers-that-be at Dental Economics if they thought a sequel to the 2005 story would be appropriate, and they gave me the green light.

For those of you who missed the first article, here’s a quick recap: I went from doing zero veneers to doing hundreds with a jump-start from Dr. Joe Blaes, Editor of Dental Economics, who teaches a clinical porcelain veneer course several times a year. I was able to integrate Joe’s knowledge and use it to quickly take my practice (and life) to the next level. I’m always thankful that I had the insight to attend his course, and I’d recommend it highly to any dentist reading this now.

Now, on with my story. The past two years have been exciting. I’ve maintained a steady stream of veneer cases that always end in a gorgeous smile. Although I practice in a small town in Michigan (a state with one of the worst economies in the nation), I never seem to lack these types of cosmetic patients. I hear all the time about the “down days” of dentistry, and how many practices are suffering, but I never really seem to be affected. I attribute this success to two things: the confidence I have in doing veneers, and the marketing campaign I initiated in 2004.

I’ve become a big believer in, “It takes money to make money.” The return on investment from the money I’ve spent on creatively marketing my practice and branding myself has been huge. I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. I now avoid strategies that don’t work. By starting my marketing campaign slowly and then using my increased veneer revenues for an all-out marketing “blitz,” I have been able to pull back on the advertising a bit without a loss of revenue.

One of the biggest changes I made to my marketing portfolio in the last two years was the addition of a heavy Internet component. I’ve become a true believer in the power of the World Wide Web. People who live several hours away from my office now routinely contact me; people who are willing to drive the distance to have me perform their smile enhancements. They undoubtedly pass many other dental offices on the way, but they don’t care. They did their research and are happy to come the distance to be treated by my great staff and me. The smile makeover is very important to these people, as is which dentist will treat them. It’s a fact that more and more potential patients are using their computers to find the dentist of their choice. My new patients (I have several daily) arrive at my door extremely well informed, not only about cosmetic choices, but also about my practice and me.

I hired an Internet company to help me with all Internet-related issues. Jamie Lynch (my Internet guru) of EZD Consulting makes me feel like I’m his only client, when in fact he serves many dentists across North America. The money I pay his company is some of the best money I ever spend. I feel much more knowledgeable about the Internet, which is good considering how important it is to the success of my practice.

I now know that it’s not enough these days to have just a simple Web site for your practice (it blows my mind that some doctors don’t even have a Web site). Internet-savvy consumers are used to the glitz and flash of the Web. In fact, I have two different Web sites that serve two different purposes. The result of this is a constant flow of Internet inquiries to my practice. Many of these inquiries lead to consultations, and many of the consults lead to large cosmetic cases. It’s a beautiful thing!

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I now put most of my marketing dollars into the Internet. I’ve removed my presence from the Yellow Pages, although in the beginning of my “blitz” I had a large Yellow Pages ad to further my name recognition in the area, which worked. Although I think that radio advertising is great, and I’ve done quite a bit of it, at this point I want to concentrate on attracting patients who are actively looking for a cosmetic dentist and are searching for one on the Internet.

I’ve traveled around the country signing up dentists and their staffs for my veneer course, the “Total Veneer Experience.” I talk to dentists from all over the world about porcelain veneers. It’s definitely my favorite topic! Virtually every dentist tells me that they do veneers in their practice, but when I ask them if they are doing as many as they would like, I get a unanimous, “No!” I like to call this phenomenon “all dressed up with nowhere to go.” What I mean is, what good is it to have all this knowledge and ability about veneers, yet not be able to fully use these talents because the patients aren’t there?

It seems that I’ve heard just about every excuse, from “My patients aren’t interested in that type of dentistry,” to “I don’t practice in that area,” to “My patients could never afford to pay for a smile makeover.” One of the best excuses I hear frequently is, “I don’t want my patients to think that I’m selling cosmetics to them. They won’t like it.” I have to laugh to myself when I hear these things, because as I’ve said, I have plenty of veneer cases to do without having to “sell” anything. In fact, prospective cosmetic patients actually seek me out because of the way I’ve marketed my practice. Because of all the media attention to cosmetics, from the TV show “Extreme Makeover” to all the stories in the Hollywood tabloids, porcelain veneer patients are plentiful; they are out there trying to find the right dentist to do the job.

I decided years ago that I wanted to be the “go to” dentist in my area for porcelain veneers and smile makeovers. Through trial and error, I believe I’ve achieved that goal. I now know that marketing a cosmetic dental practice is a sensitive process and should be done carefully and strategically. I’ve made my share of mistakes and blunders over the last five years. That’s why a big component of my veneer seminar is dedicated to marketing. While I spend part of the course lecturing on the clinical aspects of veneers, the majority of the two days deals with how to get the patients to your office, how to get them to say yes to the treatment, and how to get them to pay you up front. I realize that these are the topics most budding cosmetic dentists are eager to learn.

Although I believe that a great veneer prep is the foundation of the success I’ve had with smile makeovers (Thanks, Dr. Blaes!), and a great cosmetic lab is crucial (Thanks, David Block, of Aesthetic Porcelain Studios!), there is so much more involved in doing a consistent number of cases month after month. I spend a lot of my spare time thinking of different ways to market my skills, and have been successful at radio, television, print ads, DVDs, and good old networking. I recently formed an alliance with a well-respected plastic surgeon in town which we’ve trademarked “Body & Smile.” The surgeon and I constantly refer patients to each other. The possibilities are endless!

In conclusion, the past five years have been truly amazing. At an age when many of my peers are complaining of “burnout” and are looking for a way out, I’ve never been happier with dentistry and my practice. Every day is an adventure, and improving people’s lives by improving their smiles is genuinely rewarding. I recommend that any dentist reading this should seriously consider making porcelain veneers and smile makeovers a normal part of their repertoire. My confidence and self-esteem are now sky-high because I made that fateful decision to become the cosmetic dentist I always dreamed of becoming!

Dr. Alan R. Grodin was featured on the cover of Dental Economics in January 2004. Dr. Grodin lectures on the “Total Veneer Experience” (visit www.TotalVeneerExperience.com). This is a two-day extravaganza March 16-17 at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas. Participants learn all aspects of porcelain veneers including clinical, marketing, staff, Internet, cosmetic consultations, and lab knowledge. Call (248) 219-7873 to register.

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