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Six Steps To Grow Your Practice Quickly

Dec. 15, 2011
John Luginbill outlines six ways dentists can more than triple the size of their practices in less than three years.

by John Luginbill

The movie “Field of Dreams” coined an interesting phrase: “Build it and they will come.” This phrase worked well in attracting baseball’s deceased players in the movie. However, it’s no longer a good marketing strategy for today’s dentists.The truth is, it takes effort to develop a thriving practice. While most dentists think there are no easy ways to quickly build a profitable practice, they are wrong. Here are six ways to more than triple the size of your practice in less than three years:1. Spend money to make money.The old cliché is true: you must invest to make a profit. This also is true for dentists. If you don’t invest in marketing, you will not bring in a growing number of new patients. How much you should spend varies by practice, but here is a guideline: when building your practice, spend up to 25 percent of your income on marketing. Once you have reached a comfortable level of weekly intake, you can reduce your marketing investment to 10 percent. If that sounds like a lot to spend on marketing, remember this phrase: “It is not what you spend, but what you make on what you spend.” Why wouldn’t you spend a dollar if you knew you were going to make three dollars back? Read on to see how to make this return on what you budget. 2. Choose the business you want wisely.Marketing is best when it is specific and targeted. Tell potential patients exactly what kind of business you want. Since patients relate to descriptions of the symptoms or problems they have and not to the diagnosis, use their words to describe their symptoms … and be specific. For example, if you want periodontal patients, your marketing efforts should tell prospective patients about the symptoms of periodontal disease in the words patients would use, and they will respond. Before you go after new patients, analyze your practice by asking yourself three questions:
  • What do I have the most capacity to do?
  • What do I make the most money doing?
  • What gives me the most energy, or what do I love doing and am great at doing?
3. Master the media mix, message and the movementUnderstanding and mastering "The Three Ms" will put you on a track to success:Media Mix: It takes a marketing recipe to drive business. Don’t get talked into spending all your money in one place. Diversify into digital, social media, newspapers, events and seminars, direct mail, or internal referral programs.If you only can do two things, try a social media program and a referral program. Do both well and you will grow your business.Message: Keep your marketing messages specific so a prospective patient can relate.Movement: Make sure prospective patients have a clearly defined path to get an appointment. This may be a phone number, a web address that leads to an easy-to-fill-out form, or an RSVP card. Make it simple and easy for a patient to contact you. I always tell dentists: opt-in marketing is not optional! That means there must always be a way for prospects to give you their contact information and get added to your marketing database. 4. Manage your reputationNowadays, no one under the age of 70 will come to your office without first investigating you online. It is essential that you manage your reputation by reducing your negative ratings and growing your positive ones. Use a listening platform and a social media system, such as RepuChek to do this. RepuChek is made specifically for health-care professionals, but there are many other systems out there. You must take control of the discussion about you, and it is easier to do than you think.5. Capitalize on the co-risksBecome comfortable with the concept of "upselling." When someone comes in, they often need additional services, but you must take the time to ask. The time to “sell” patients is when they are in your office and willing to take care of their oral health. Actively look for new ways to help patients and they will be more likely to become avid referral sources which means increased practice profitability. The best patients usually become the best referrals sources. 6. Measure and report all key metricsIt is true that “what is measured grows; what is measured and reported grows exponentially.” In fact, in addition to measuring, make sure the entire team knows the numbers they are expected to hit each week, month, and quarter.To do this you must know the value of each new client. If each patient is worth an average of $1,000, and one in 10 patients refer other patients, then a new patient is really worth $1,100 (because they have a 10 percent chance of referring a new patient). Once you and your team understand this and it is “reported” to the team regularly, they can focus on getting innovative about improving referrals. For instance, if the team can improve the referral rate from one in 10 to one in three, every new patient now is worth $1,333. That is an increase in patients and revenue of more than 20 percent just by making a game out of referrals with your team.Finally, if you do these six things just a couple of hours per week, your practice can triple in less than three years. Even better, your practice will be more profitable and fulfilling because you will be bringing in the business you want. John Luginbill is the founder and CEO of THE HEAVYWEIGHTS, an agency that offers a marketing process that helps health-care practitioners achieve rapid growth without breaking the bank. Hiss blog is available at Contact him directly at