Probably every dentist has had months when the phone just wasn’t ringing. There’s a reason for that, and it has nothing to do with people’s dental needs.
Medical doctors can count on certain types of problems arising at particular times. Fall and winter is cold and flu season. Summer brings a wealth of poison ivy/oak/sumac cases, allergies, and sports-related injuries. Medical doctors are busier at some times than at others, but it’s rare to hear of a medical practice that has bad months.
Dentists can’t count on a “seasonal” impact on their numbers, with the fairly minor exceptions of vacation season and Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. People’s teeth aren’t more prone to decay or breakage in any particular season. Gum disease isn’t more prevalent at a particular time of year. Teeth and gums just keep motoring along until something happens, and there’s no rhyme or reason to when the people they belong to will need your services.
And yet, unlike medical doctors, dentists have bad months.
Where Dentists Go Wrong
How often do you see medical practitioners advertising specials, coupons, or freebies? Probably not often, if at all. The exceptions might be for LASIK procedures, minor plastic surgery, and maybe school sports physicals.
How often do you see dentists advertising the dental equivalent of those things? In fact, most dentists advertise like that month after month after month. And that’s where they go wrong, because all their competitors are doing the same. Everyone is fishing in the same limited pool of dental prospects using the same lures.
All it takes for you to have a bad month is for a couple of your competitors to have a good month. And if your competitors have a number of good months in a row, your practice could be in trouble. You won’t be getting the new patients you need. In fact, your patient base may well decline.
Dentists often cut their prices even further to try to compensate for a declining patient base. Their competitors follow suit, and soon most of the market is engaged in a race to the bottom. The only ones who can possibly win that race are the ones with the deepest pockets.
Along the way, dentists will find their margins decreasing and they’ll be working harder than ever on a stream of low-value cases: one-and-dones, price-shoppers, and insurance-driven patients.
Stop Casting Lures
If you keep doing what your competitors are doing, the odds are that you’ll eventually lose. You’ll lose operating capital, you’ll lose revenue, and you’ll lose patients. Depending on the depth of your financial resources, you may lose your practice.
If you break down most dentists’ marketing practices, you’ll find that what they’re not doing is more important than what they are doing. Dentists aren’t giving their prospects reasons to choose them over the competition, because they continue to “chase” patients through their advertising rather than positioning themselves as the preferred choice.
Many dentists tout their education, publications, and continuing education on their websites. It might surprise you to learn that your dental prospects don’t care about any of that. They won’t distinguish one dental school from another. They won’t take the time to read your publications if you have them. They don’t care that you had a fellowship. And they expect medical professionals to stay current on developments in their professions.
In short, patients assume that dentists are competent. You’re not going to impress them or attract them by your credentials or training. This is another area where dentists keep trying to do what everyone else is doing. In the game of “me, too,” no one stands out.
The Solution to Bad Months
If you want to distinguish yourself from your competition, you have to become more than the low-price dentist in your prospects’ eyes. You have to give them reasons to like you and to trust you.
You won’t accomplish that through traditional advertising because your space (or time, if you’re doing broadcast advertising) is limited. “Gentle” or “pain-free” dentistry is the norm. “Convenient” is a buzzword that everyone uses.
Instead of chasing patients through your advertising, you need to attract them through the rest of your marketing: your social media, your blog, and, in particular, your website. Your marketing becomes an ongoing system—a patient attraction system—rather than an endless series of monthly one-offs.
You attract new prospects by “dropping the mask” and allowing them to get to know you as a person and as a trustworthy dental expert. You do that by providing engaging, informative, and expert dental content that’s written for your prospects’ level of education and their understanding. Skip the technical terms or explain them. Focus on the benefits to your prospects rather than on techniques. Far too many dentists write to impress other dentists rather than writing for their patients.
You also need to do the optimization work to ensure that your website, social media, and blog are easily found by your prospects. And since more online searches now happen from portable devices like smartphones instead of desktop computers, you need to be sure that everything you put online will load quickly and display properly.
Patient Attraction Takes Time
Shifting from monthly advertising to a patient attraction system is not a quick process or a quick fix. You’re unlikely to see a boost in your new patient numbers in the first few months. What your system will do is increase your number of appointed patients over time so that you have a steady stream every month.
For dentists who have the time and inclination to pursue setting up their own patient attraction systems, there’s a wealth of information available at smartboxwebmarketing.com. With enough patience, time, and effort, you can achieve some level of the same outstanding results that SmartBox Web Marketing achieves for more than 550 dentists on three continents through its industry-leading Patient Attraction System.
Colin Receveur is a nationally recognized dental marketing expert and speaker. He is the prolific author of a number of bestselling books, DVDs, and articles on Internet marketing. He’s also an ongoing contributor to Dentistry Today. His company, SmartBox Web Marketing, publishes The Patient Attraction Magazine monthly and works with dentists to help them get more patients, more profits, and more freedom.