Archive for Dental Office Marketing
I hear so many doctors complaining that their number of new patients is down. Here’s a fact: the #1 way to grow your business or practice is through referrals from word-of-mouth.
So, here’s the question: What are you doing to acknowledge your referral sources? How many gifts and notes of acknowledgement have you sent out this past week? What is your protocol for asking for, tracking, and gifting referrals?
How closely does this describe you:
- That’s too much work.
- My staff does all that for me.
- We have a program whereby someone who refers to us gets a $50 credit on their dental bill (don’t kid yourself, this has proven to be nearly useless in generating referrals, in spite of what all the gurus tell you).
- 50% or more of my referrals come from my current patients/guests.
Take this assessment: Expanding Your Practice Through Dental Referrals, to evaluate where you may be doing well and where you may want to focus more time and attention to grow your referrals.
How much have you budgeted annually to referral gifting and acknowledging? I would love to hear about your patient referral strategies in the comments below.
On a recent coaching call, my client excitedly explained to me how a well-spoken, energetic patient offered to share ideas to help market my client’s practice. The gentlemen presented a list of discussion points such as branding techniques, how to target specific niches, adjustments to his website to make it more interactive along with SEO suggestions, in addition to other initiatives. To my horror, my client was enamored with the gentleman’s synopsis.
Why was I horrified you might ask? After all, the gentleman was offering up valuable and helpful advise to my client.
What I came to realize was that this list of ideas for implementation were specific strategies I currently provide in supporting many of my other clients. However, he was unaware that these kinds of marketing tools were part of my routine coaching.
How could that be? How would he not know of my ability to help him?
I missed the boat! I failed to educate my client(s) of my scope of expertise and, unfortunately, he thought he needed to reach out and find support elsewhere. BIG MISTAKE by the Coach!
- “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I want to thank Dr.Tom for reminding me I need to do a much better job of informing all my clients on the range of services I have the capacity to provide.
- You may want to learn from my oversight and you and your team may want to take an inventory of ALL the services and talents you have available to your patients. Then make it a point to tell them, through every available medium you have at your disposal, of how you can better help and support their needs.
What steps are you prepared to take?
I very much enjoy referring my family, friends, and contacts to other businesses that have the potential to help them. I do that because I want them to experience the same service excellence I received…NOT because there is some “reward” for me aimlessly sending them the business. My reward is that they are well taken care of and my reputation for being a discriminator for positive personal service is still in tact.
While I do not need or want lavish gifts for my referral, I do appreciate a Thank You and an acknowledgement that my friend or family member has been ‘taken care of with panache.’
You know how often I receive any acknowledgment? Less than 2% of the time!
Sad commentary yet, unfortunately, the way the world turns. Too busy, no system for acknowledgment in place, forgot, and the litany of “disguises” goes on and on and on.
A simple letter with a personalized note is all it takes, and adding an unexpected gift certificate is a nice touch.
What protocol do you have in your office that you’d like to share with me? I’d love to hear them.
A common team goal in successful dental practices is to make selling everyone’s job. Selling is about being a positive Ambassador for the practice, in and out of the office. Every member of the team is responsible for selling themselves and the practice. It is through communicating the value and benefits found in your practice that the business grows and flourishes.
Here are my top 2 tips on how to make each member of your team (yes, even the hygienists) on board with selling your practice:
- List every type of service you provide. Once you have the list, answer these two questions: What will your team do to let your patients know what you have to offer? How will you measure your efforts as a team?
- Enroll in a sales training program. Every member of your team will benefit. This program should include learning how to sell/recommend dentistry, asking for referrals, and how to deliver service excellence.
What is your distinctive competency? How do you appear different than the practice down the block? What makes your practice so unique that people want to come to you for dental care?
The more similar a business to another, the more important the distinctions. The more dental offices there are in your neighborhood, the harder you have to work to stand out.
Action step: Set time aside at your next team meeting for this activity. With your team, stand in front of a large mirror and ask yourselves these questions:
- How does our team go the extra mile?
- What do we do to encourage patients to seek us out?
- How are we different?
Play off of each other’s answers: tag onto what someone else said, encourage contributions. Above all things, record your responses.
When your list is completed, share it. Because what you’re looking for is looking for you.
As a lifelong learner, I often find myself reading business and personal development books. This has made a tremendous difference in my life. Each month, I gift my Full Contact Coaching© clients with a book that I know they will love; one that will improve their practice.
Kindergarten teachers are always trying to make reading fun for their students; I used to see my wife, a Kindergarten teacher for 36+ years, do this every day. So, what about business books?
Here are my 3 tips for reading business books and making them fun – believe it or not!:
1. Notice the key points or best ideas and jot them down in a notebook. Later, list how you plan to implement those ideas in your dental practice. By writing the steps down, you are subconsciously setting the intention that you will get it done. Set time to formulate those ideas into a typed up, formal plan. Turn this plan into your own personalized “toolbox” of business tips for your dental or healthcare practice.
2. Ask for recommendations from other professionals that you respect. They will be flattered that you thought of them. Remember to surround yourself with those who are “smarter” than you are; it will inspire you to be better and you will learn from them.
3. Know that some books will change your life. And that’s a good thing! The feedback I received from my aptly titled book, Killing the Practice Before It Kills You: How Throwing Out My Business Model Saved My Life, has been an eye-opener in terms of how many lives I’ve changed.
Remember that the more you read, the more you learn and digest and improve.
What happens when you implement a new strategy into your practice? Kindergarten teachers always start with the basics and start slow when implementing a new lesson to their class. As healthcare professionals and Dental CEOs, we should also constantly evaluate how we communicate and how we implement new practices.
Just as it is a Kindergarten teacher’s responsibility to use “easy language”, simple methods and techniques that students understand; it is for business leaders, too. Building this commonality in your practice will completely eliminate confusion, frustration and stress.
So how can you implement new strategies into your practice “the easy way”? When I killed my practice after my heart attack, subsequently fired and re-hired some of my staff, there was a large learning curve for my team. Things were going to be different, and they knew it. How did I avoid overwhelming them and creating a tense environment?
Use these three strategies:
1. Create a bond and alliance with your team: Create a strong feeling of “team” so that they know they can always rely on you.
2. Use easy-to-understand terms: Use Open-Book Management practices, explain slowly and never be in a rush. Let them know you have ample time to answer questions.
3. Listen and adapt: Pay attention to what they say, and what they don’t say.
In Kindergarten, this meant for us to use our words instead of picking a fight. But, what about in dentistry? How can we use our words for the success of our practice?
Dental practice and marketing experts suggest that we learn how to use the right “language” when speaking with our patients to ensure that we get the results we want. This goes for us and our dental office team, as well.
As dentists – and business owners – sometimes we unintentionally “steer” our patients away from doing what we want them to do. We may say things like:
- Would you like to make an appointment for that [cleaning, cosmetic procedure, etc] now or just let me know some other time?
- Did you want to go ahead and pay today, or do you just want us to send you a bill?
- If you need to cancel, please just let us know.
When you speak in language like that – flexible, subconsciously ‘weak’ language – you are actually giving patients a choice. You are saying that it’s okay to make an appointment another time, pay when they can, cancel if they remember to or avoid an important procedure.
If you believe in the service and value that you are providing your patient – and have confidence – patients notice that. Consider making this “word adjustment” in your practice and see what benefits come about for you. You are the healthcare professional; if you are confident in what you have to say and request of your patients, they will listen. For example, change those sentences to be:
- I have Tuesday at 2pm and Friday at 4pm.Which of these two days works best for your next appointment?
- Mrs. Cuomo, your total investment is $1,500.00. How would you like to pay for this? We accept cash and can offer you a 5% pre-payment bookkeeping courtesy; your credit card (Visa, MasterCard or Discover); or we can arrange third-party financing. Which do you prefer?
- I wanted to remind you, Mrs. Stanich, we expect a 48-hour notification if you cannot make your appointment so that we can provide that time for another patient that is in need.
Sometimes our dental offices are not unlike kindergarten classrooms – tears, tattling, teasing. What about playing a game with your staff that allows them to be more perceptive of negative and hurtful behaviors?
This is a unique Kindergarten game that can be easily adapted to a dental practice as well. How about using this at your next Morning Huddle?
1. Bring a bag of good quality chocolate candy, and a supply of tokens (poker chips work well) which the staff can barter.
2. Gather the staff at a table and distribute 10 tokens to each member. 1 token is worth 1 piece of chocolate.
3. Going around the table, each staff member makes a statement and the presents a token. The statement should thank someone for helping or for a special kindness that week, and then give a token to the person who performed the thoughtful act.
4. After everyone has taken a turn, the Dental CEO allows the staff to cash in their tokens for chocolate. (To make it even more interesting, use the tokens as points for gift cards or other small, nice gifts)
Happily, most staff members will love recognizing and acknowledging the kind contributions of their colleagues. Hopefully – you will even see some staff members volunteer “extra tokens” if someone made an especially kind gesture!
This may seem like a silly kindergarten game, but you will notice how you staff clearly enjoys the role of giving praise. They will also be more motivated to receive it from others!
Remember in Kindergarten when being graded, and the teacher would say “Children, neatness counts!” It counts in your dental practice, too. When a patient reads your marketing material or comes into your office for an initial cleaning appointment, they are making observations about you. These can be unconscious observations; they may not even know they are forming them. But the fact is, they are. And your kindergarten teacher was right – neatness counts!
1. Make it a habit to keep the reception area in your dental practice tidy, warm, clean and welcoming. While a pleasant reception area alone isn’t going to make a patient come back, it’s a sure bet that a messy and dirty one will make them not return!
2. In all of your marketing materials, pay close attention to grammar and spelling. Have several people proofread the final versions. First impressions count!
3. According to a 2010 study by Brother International Corp., office workers lose the equivalent of almost a week of work each year looking for files, online documents and office supplies. You do the math. The cost to your dental practice is astronomical. Makes sure that your own office is neat. If that’s not your area of expertise, bring in a professional organizer.