Surviving and thriving in Michigan

April 6, 2010

Editor’s Note: I recently had the chance to interview Drs. Kurt Doolin and Jeff Haddad of Rochester Advanced Dentistry in Rochester, Mich., an area hit hard by the automotive industry’s tough times. They have a thriving practice, and have come up with a unique marketing tool called “My Body Network.” You can see more about it by clicking here.

Kevin Henry: During the recent economic troubles in Michigan, how did your practice not only survive, but thrive?
Dr. Doolin: One of the keys is building relationships. You have to spend time with patients when you can. Jeff and I work well together, and our professional relationship has evolved over time. He has much more of an interest in marketing than I do, and our practice continues to evolve with marketing. The key is that we evaluate what works and what doesn’t, and then we don’t hesitate to discard what doesn’t work. Part of marketing is obviously letting people know you’re there, but also letting them know what you can do. We believe you have to lead people down the path to your door, and then you have to shine once they’re there. We know that if we can get patients through our door, we’ll make them happy.

Dr. Haddad:
Dentists are afraid to market themselves, and I think they’re missing an opportunity to let people know how they’re different from their counterparts. We are constantly changing things in our practice, no matter how well things are going. If something doesn’t work, at least we know we tried. The risk is worth it. If you’re the first to establish a niche, people will perceive you’re an expert. We don’t wait for things to happen in our practice. We make them happen.

KH: Are things in Michigan as bad as we’ve been seeing in the media?
Dr. Doolin: Absolutely. The area is full of automotive industry executives and their families. I’ve seen executives who have been in the industry for 25 years sit in our chairs with tears running down their cheeks because the next round of layoffs is coming and they don’t know if they’ll have a job. All of us in this practice have friends who have lost a job. But despite that, people are still making money and we have to cater to their needs. People are still walking into our practice and telling us they’re ready to proceed with veneers.

Dr. Haddad: We’ve been doing a seminar called, “Increasing Your Exposure: The Key To Success In Today’s Economy.” It’s sold out because it’s such a hot topic right now. People are looking for answers. When you talk to other dentists, you realize how bad things really are in some areas. Deep down, these dentists know they need to do something besides just hope things get better. We’re telling them to make a change. Do something different. We give them ideas and tell them to incorporate them into their practices. We want to share what has worked for us and we don’t want to hold anything back. There are enough patients to go around.

Dr. Doolin: In 2008, we were up 20% in our practice. In 2009, we were a little flatter. That was a real kick in the teeth for us, so we found ways to work smarter. That made us more profitable despite being flatter. We were watching our gross not grow, but we saw our net keep climbing. That was a real “hooray” moment for us.

KH: My Body Network seems like a very interesting concept. Readers can see more about it by clicking here. How did My Body Network start?
Dr. Haddad: It was originally built for our practice and our patients. The original idea wasn’t to have it explode like it has, but it’s had the best ROI of any marketing approach we’ve taken. We’ve gone over the $200,000 mark in direct revenue from this platform in the first year.

Dr. Doolin: That revenue has come from very few cases. We get a few new patients per month, but they are quality patients. The trust in us is already built in because they are being referred from their own doctor. They enter our practice prequalified for our services.

Dr. Haddad: We’ve concentrated on attracting the right patient, and that’s why our practice hasn’t been hit as hard by the economy as others in the area. Patients are looking for what we can offer and they value what we can provide. They stay loyal to us. We don’t have to be salespeople because patients know what they’re looking for and they know we can provide those services.

KH: Can dentists and physicians work together in a referral network?
Dr. Doolin: We tell other dentists all the time that to truly build a network, they have to look outside of dentistry. With all of the research on the links between oral and systemic health, it makes sense to have these relationships. We should already have them, and we should be willing to work together.

Dr. Haddad: Our office has made several referrals to doctors and we get even more referrals back from those doctors. It really benefits us in the end. We’ve started to become the “go-to” dental practice for doctors in the area, and the MyBodyNetwork platform facilitates this process. If any patient is in need of anything dental, we are the first choice and already have their trust because we have a formalized relationship with their doctor.