At its core, dentistry is a business like many other businesses. And like other businesses, your practice can reach a point where you’re not growing, but you’re not shrinking. Your earnings are either flat or are growing just enough to keep pace with increased costs.
You’re going, but you’re going nowhere. Your business has plateaued.
Yours may be a very comfortable plateau. Your revenue may be more than enough to provide you with a good living and to fund your retirement. Your staff may get occasional raises. Maybe you can occasionally invest in new imaging equipment or update your CEREC technology.
Overall, life is pretty good. If this is true for you, and you’re not bored to tears, quit reading now. This article isn’t for you.
Or maybe your plateau isn’t all that comfortable. Your margins are shrinking as costs rise, but you’re pretty well stuck at your current price points due to your competition. Depending on your stage of life, you may have the added expense of children entering college, or maybe you’re looking a little anxiously at your retirement savings.
Or maybe you’re completely bored with your plateau. You’ll make it financially, but the dentistry you used to love is now looking like an unending conveyor belt of “same old, same old” patients. This is not how you saw yourself living life.
Or maybe, just maybe, you miss the thrill of driving your own success. You remember what it was like to roll the dice, to take the big gamble figuring out your market and what would give you a leg up on your competitors, and the satisfaction of seeing your waiting room go from deserted to full.
If you’re in any of the last 3 categories, this article is for you
The decision to leave your plateau requires considerable courage. There’s a very human tendency to fall back on what’s worked in the past when we’re stressed. To take a flyer on something unknown or unfamiliar to you can seem like madness because basically you’re risking everything you’ve built. It’s easier, if unrewarding, to stick with what you know.
But if you have the courage, the possibilities are vast.
There’s an old saying credited to Benjamin Franklin: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. When you’re ready to get off your plateau, it pays to map out things first.
Step 1: Define Your Goal
Exactly where do you want to take your dental practice? If you want to maintain a solitary practice, are you after more patients, higher average case value, or more interesting cases? Or, if you’ve been bitten by the expansion bug, do you want to open more locations and hire affiliate dentists, or would you rather expand a single location?
Defining your goal gives you a roadmap of sorts. You have a starting point and an ending point. What remains is to figure out the best route to reach it. If you’re going to indulge in wishful thinking, this is the place to do it. Aim high. Once you determine the steps required to reach your goal, you’ll know whether your plan is feasible.
Step 2: Look for Maps
When you’re thinking of leaving your plateau, it may feel like you’re entering uncharted territory. That might have been true in the 18th century, but it’s not true any longer. Unless you’re planning to revolutionize the practice of dentistry and the delivery of dental services, someone has done what you intend to do.
Define your ideal patient, and then look for a proven marketing system that will help you get the numbers of patients you need to reach your goal.
Here’s a hint: There’s practically no amount of price-shopping or insurance-driven patients who will take you to the next level. Corporate dentistry is making big inroads into those patient segments, and they have deeper pockets and greater economies of scale than you do. Even if you do manage to attract enough of those low-margin patients, you’ll work yourself to death trying to grow your practice.
If you believe that’s true, exactly what are you looking for in an ideal patient? I’d suggest that you’re looking for patients with discretionary income, with the resources to be choosy about their dentist, and who are willing to pay more. Quite often, those patients are the ones who will significantly drive your average case value.
So, what patient attraction system can you use as a roadmap to attract those better patients?
Step 3: Forget Traditional Dental Advertising
Establishing yourself as the preferred dentist for the patients you want to attract requires you to differentiate yourself from your competition. You won’t accomplish that through the sound bites available through radio, television, newspapers, or billboards.
Given that the vast majority of people in the United States begin their search for a dentist online, you absolutely must establish a strong and vital online presence that your prospects will find. Look first to your website. How long has it been since you refreshed its content? Google is death on websites with dated content. If you want to be found, you need to make sure that your website features fresh content that speaks expertly to your patients’ concerns. You’ll also need to write to be understood. Forget the dental jargon and focus on how what you offer meets your readers’ needs better than what your competitors are offering.
Plus, you’ll need to make sure that the back-end programming for your website is brought up to date.
Your website is a good place to start, but people and Google will find you faster if you have another online outlet. Think about starting your own blog if you don’t already have one, and make sure that your blog posts also appear on your practice’s Facebook page.
You’ll need a way to stay in front of your prospects until they’re ready to choose you too. That means having sequences of informational emails that you can segment for your patients’ and prospects’ dental concerns. Those emails have to be released with a frequency that will keep you top-of-mind without overwhelming the patients you want to attract.
In the meantime, you’ll still need to see patients every working day and handle the thousand-and-one never-ending tasks that small business owners know all too well.
Yes, It’s Possible, But…
I know a number of dentists who have used the principles of patient attraction to grow their practices. Those dentists are the exception, not the rule. You don’t make money by creating and posting content, doing search engine optimization work, and sending out emails. You make money by seeing patients and solving their dental problems.
And that brings us to Step 4: Find a dental patient attraction company that does everything listed above and more, and have it do it for you.
Step 4 probably requires the most courage. Forget about running the marketing aspect of your dental practice. You didn’t go to school for marketing, and it certainly wasn’t included in your dental school curriculum. Get back to doing what you do best, what you studied and love to do, and let the right dental patient attraction company get you off your plateau.
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.