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How not to grow your dental practice

July 11, 2023
To take your practice to the next level, you need to focus on what’s not working and change that. Here's what could be keeping you from taking your practice to the next level.
Colin Receveur, CEO, SmartBox

It might surprise to learn that the basic principles for growing your dental practice are no different than for any other business. I know—that’s heresy, or something like it. But I’m completely serious, and I offer my own experience as an example.

I started remodeling houses as a kid. I worked for my dad. When I was 18, I went to college and tackled remodeling my first house, one that I bought when from the estate of an older gentleman. After remodeling the house, I lived in it for a few years. Then, I sold the house and part of the ground it sat on to the city as part of an eminent domain action. I kept the remaining one acre of the ground and ended up selling that to Porter Paint for a significant profit five years later when they wanted to put a retail store in. Sounds like a total success story, right?


I ended up flipping 8-10 other houses through the years. Let me say right here that hidden problems are the absolute bane of the flipper’s existence, and I missed a bunch of them on several projects. I learned really fast that cockiness is not an asset in the real estate game.

Some of the properties I bought were quick flips. Others were a remodel and then a rent or sell. I did okay on some, and others I broke even on. Along the way, I figured out what mistakes I made. The nice thing about real estate is if you buy right, or even just okay, your worst-case scenario is "break even."

Now I've found my sweet spot to be multiplex residential apartments, and I've really honed in on that as part of a "kids college plan" and "retirement plan" for myself. I told you all of that to tell you this: I made a lot of mistakes. I learned what worked and what didn’t work. I changed what didn’t work, and I got much better results. But I didn’t stay married to my mistakes.

You started your practice with the idea of helping dental patients. If this is your first attempt at running your own business, you’ve probably made a lot of mistakes, too. Maybe you’re still making them. If you’re going to take your practice to the next level, you’ve got to focus on what’s not working and change that. Here are some ideas about what you might be doing that’s keeping you from taking your practice to the next level.

Mistake No. 1: Drinking the marketing Kool-Aid

A lot of what passes for conventional marketing wisdom is past its “use by” date. The traditional approach to dental marketing is to chase patients by advertising low price, insurance acceptance, specials, and discounts. The problem is that these aren’t traditional times. Today’s dental prospects have more choices available to them than ever before. Just by going online—which is where most people begin their search for a dentist—prospects can easily and quickly price shop between almost every dental practice in the market.

If you’re not the low-price leader, you won’t get those prospects. And if you do get them, you’re shaving your margins—maybe to the bone—so you won’t get what your services are worth. You’ll need to see a lot of those low-value patients to make enough money. And since price-driven patients don’t often have any loyalty to a practice, you’ll have to keep spending big bucks on marketing to get new patients in your pipeline.

Mistake No. 2: Making it all about you and your practice

Way too many dentists still market to impress other dentists. Your prospects don’t understand dentistry, and they don’t care about the fine points of procedures or the training you received. What they do care about is how their lives will be improved by what you do—that they can laugh freely, smile broadly, and eat without pain again. Have a look at your website. Chances are that it’s all about your practice. Put another way, it’s all about “we.” “We” provide this service, “we” offer this technology, “we” have doctors with training that you don’t understand and don’t care about.

If you want more and better patients, all of your marketing has to provide the solutions to your prospects' dental problems and the benefits of those solutions. All of your marketing has to be easily understandable by people who don’t know a lot about dentistry.

You might also be interested in: 12 social post ideas for your dental website

Mistake No. 3: Being disengaged

You know why they call it social media? Because it’s supposed to be social, which means people interact freely (and hopefully agreeably) in the online world. Dentists who want to attract more loyal patients with discretionary income absolutely must engage those prospects online.

That’s the opposite of the traditional wisdom that dentists hang out their signs, take out a few ads, and wait for the patients to call. There’s more competition than ever before, and dentists who don’t proactively reach out to prospects online are going to lose.

Mistake No. 4: Doing it all yourself

There are very few dentists who are naturals when it comes to marketing their practices. And even the naturals are wasting their time and their talents by doing a job that specialists could do better.

You went to dental school to learn to solve patients' dental issues and you get paid handsomely for doing it. Your hourly rate is almost certainly higher than the rate that any marketing firm would charge. Handling your own marketing is a lose-lose proposition: you’re losing quality time with family and friends, and you’re not getting all the new patients you could be.

Change your perspective

This entire idea may go against what you believe. But if what you believe isn’t getting you the results you want, you must change your perspective if you’re going to take your dental practice to the next level. It’s not easy. It can be uncertain, scary, and intimidating. But if you’re a determined entrepreneur, you won’t let the difficulty stop you.

Editor's note: Originally posted in 2017 and updated regularly

About the Author

Colin Receveur | CEO, SmartBox

Colin Receveur, a dental marketing expert and speaker, is the author of several books on internet marketing, includingThe Four Horsemen of Dentistry: Survival Strategies for the Private Dental Practice Under Siege. His company, SmartBox, helps more than 550 dentists on three continents get more patients, more profits, and more freedom. Reach him at [email protected].

Updated October 27, 2017