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What we can learn from McDonald's and other wildly successful companies -- Part 2

March 16, 2014
In this three-part series, Sasha Burau, MBA, analyzes what dental professionals can learn from McDonald’s and other wildly successful companies, and explains how these concepts can be applied to the dental practice. This time, she looks at Direct TV and its “Refer-A-Friend” Program, Zappos and same-day service, and Frito-Lay and how the company markets to its audience.

Read Part 1 of this series: Fillings and Fillet-o-Fish? … Drive thru dentistry … Did you know that you could order a grilled cheese at McDonald’s?

Direct TV and its “Refer-A-Friend” Program

There are some patients we love to see come into our office, and there are some we love to see leave! And, we would all agree that we want more patients like the ones we enjoy treating.

ALSO BY SASHA BURAU |The top 7 mistakes of high-performing practices

Now, I’m always intrigued by the marketing that large companies do, mainly because they have such a large marketing budget. They don’t waste their time or money on ineffective marketing, because they have already spent a lot of time and money on research. Dental offices should be spending anywhere from 3% to 5% of their monthly production on marketing, but I find that many aren’t spending anything close to that. In fact, many aren’t doing any marketing at all. When offices don’t know what to do, they should look at what other companies are doing that works for them.

Direct TV has started a Refer-A-Friend marketing campaign that it refers to as “$100 Gift for You.” As a Direct TV customer, for every new customer you refer, the company will give you $100 off your bill and the person you refer will also receive $100 off their bill.

Internal referrals are one of the cheapest, easiest ways to get good, quality patients in your chairs. Don’t reinvent the wheel here; copy something that already works!

On another note: I talk to practices every week that are bringing in 25 to 30 new patients each month, which means that at the end of the year, they are gaining 300 to 360 patients. The average office with two hygienists sees 12 hygiene patients each day. This means that there will be 25 to 30 new days of hygiene added each year. Over a 30- to 40-year career, you should eventually need a new hygienist (or two or even three!). You can do all of the marketing in the world but if you cannot maintain your existing patient base, your marketing is completely wasted.

Zappos and same-day service

What makes Zappos different from every other online retailer? They sell the same shoes, clothes, and accessories that many other sites have, but the difference between them and everyone else is their service. Zappos is known for its next-day shipping and fantastic customer service. Most online purchases are impulse buys, and when someone orders shoes or a pair of jeans, they want them immediately.

So what can we learn? When you can offer same-day service, patients are more likely to say yes. When they are already sitting in your chair, primed and ready to go, after doing everything that they needed to make it there, chances are that the last thing patients want is to make another appointment. If you have a patient who has traveled a long distance (which, in our office we deem as 30 minutes or more) and they come in to hygiene and need treatment, we do the best we can to accommodate them that day. If someone comes in for an emergency, we try to fix his or her problem that day, if possible. The key isn’t an open schedule (most days we fit them into a very full schedule). The key is a system that focuses on getting patients in, assessing their problem, and getting financial arrangements taken care of quickly so that the doctor can get started.

Frito-Lay: marketing to their audience

When companies have a new product, they market heavily to their target audience. Some companies offer different types of products, which they market to different areas of the United States. For example, there are 22 different types of Lay’s and, chances are that there are only four to five types sold in your area of the country. Have you every heard of Tapitio Limon Lay’s? What about Southern Heat Barbeque? Food companies are very knowledgeable about the likes of their customers in different areas of the country.

Do you know your target market? Are you offering your target market what they need and want? Here’s the easiest way to find out:

Run a report in your software to find out the age and gender breakdown of your existing patients (if you use Lighthouse 360’s portal, you can access this easily from your home page). Then, run a report of your patient breakdown by zip code. Next, go to and type in the zip codes where most of your patients are from. This will give you a lot more information than you need, but the main areas you’ll want to focus on are demographics by age, household income, and occupation.

You can use this information to find out what types of procedures you should be offering and marketing to your area. For example, if you are living in an area with a large population of people over age 50 with a higher income level, you’re going to want to make sure that you are marketing and offering implants and implant-supported dentures. If your population predominantly lies between 25 and 45, you’ll want to market and offer procedures such as Invisalign, Six Month Smiles, and whitening. If you are doing direct mail marketing, you may want to segment what you market by zip code to make sure that you only target areas where potential patients are looking for the procedures that you offer.

Next month: Staying in front of your audience … Dare to do something differently … Getting a cleaning is just like getting your oil changed.

Sasha Burau, MBA, is a practice coach who has worked with Excellence in Dentistry’s Dr. Woody Oakes, Steve Anderson of the Crown Council, Ralph Laurie of Practice Works and CAESY, Dr. Todd Shatkin of Shatkin F.I.R.S.T., and Dr. Nathan Dallas. She currently coaches offices on systems and implementation. You may contact by phone at (810) 569-9587 or via email at [email protected].

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