Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 09 Drowning

Who's in your dental chairs?

Sept. 7, 2018
If you're feeling overwhelmed by your dental patient load, you might have brought on the problem yourself. How, you ask? Here's what dentists can do to get more "quality" patients in their chairs.
Colin Receveur, CEO, SmartBox

This article originally appeared in the Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative twice monthly practice management ENL here.

I talk with dentists just about every day. Do you know what they tell me? They tell me that they’re drowning in patients.

Really. They describe themselves as practically roller skating between rooms, trying to keep up with their ridiculously packed schedules. Some dentists have extended their hours to meet the demand, while others are staying open a half day on Saturdays.

You think they’d be happy about this, right? They’re not, by a long shot. They’re overwhelmed, exhausted, and incredibly stressed. They’re working too long and too hard for too little, because what they’re seeing are streams of routine, low case-value patients.

You get what you market for

This may be hard to read, but these dentists are almost certainly responsible for their own dilemmas. The majority of dentists still market to the lowest common denominator in their areas, prospects who are primarily concerned about low price or dental insurance acceptance.

Those prospects—up to 70% in any given market—are looking for minimal dentistry at minimal cost. That’s not to say these prospects are not entitled to dental care. Rather, this is to point out that dentists won’t make much money treating them. They’ll work themselves half to death in high-volume, low-case-value practices.

Aim higher

The other 30% of prospects have the ability and willingness to pay more for the right dentist. They’re not overly concerned with price or insurance. They want a solution to their dental problems from someone they can trust and relate to.

You’ll spend yourself broke on TV and radio spots, newspaper ads, and direct mail campaigns trying to convey that you’re the trustworthy dental expert for those prospects. Besides, your prospects aren’t looking there.

Today, people overwhelmingly begin their searches for a dentist online. That’s both good news and bad news. The good news is that, handled correctly, internet marketing is about the most cost effective approach you can take to get better dental patients in your chairs. The bad news is that the competition for eyes in the online space is fierce, and it’s only getting worse.

But let’s say that you decide to market to patients who can and will pay well for your services. Here’s a brief but by no means complete list of what you’ll need to do.

1. Website revamp

Too many dentists make their websites about them, their training, their experience, and their memberships. Your prospects don’t care about any of that. They don’t know the difference between a DDS and a DMD, postdoctoral training programs, or 10 and 30 years of experience. They’re looking for the dentist whom they can trust, relate to, and believe will solve their dental problems.

Your website, along with the rest of your marketing, should convey that these better prospects will find all of that and more in you and your staff. In short, your website needs to be about your patients, their dental problems, and how you can make their lives better. Credible video testimonials from patients will provide the social proof that prospects need.

It practically goes without saying that your website needs to be continually optimized for local search. If your prospects don’t find you, they won’t choose you.

2. Strong social media presence

It seems like nearly everyone is on social media these days. The big three for dental practices are Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. You’ll need to create and maintain a regular posting schedule for each of these platforms. You or your staff will also need to respond to comments and questions within a reasonable time frame, and this varies by platform. Social media is your main opportunity to establish rapport with your prospects and to demonstrate the qualities that will lead them to choose you.

3. Content marketing

Content marketing goes beyond social media by providing longer-form educational content. Your blog is the optimal venue for content marketing, but you can also add your dedicated YouTube page that contains podcasts created and hosted by you. Both of these venues need regular infusions of fresh content.

4. Paid advertising campaigns

The competition for first page listings on Google is tremendous. Google still holds about a 70% market share, which means you can’t ignore getting your practice seen on that platform. Pay-Per-Click advertising is a good way to go broke, unless you take the time to research the best keywords for your needs and maintain strict financial discipline.

5. Follow-up email campaigns

The decision to choose a dentist is a process that leads to an event. During that process, you and your practice must stay front and center in your prospects’ minds. “Drip” email marketing delivers a stream of problem-specific emails to the right prospects at the right intervals.

Writing those emails for each revenue stream is a tremendous time suck. But it’s nothing compared to the time needed to manually track the due dates for each prospect and to send the emails out at the correct times. An email automation program is an investment that will pay big dividends, but it requires considerable research to make sure that the one you choose has the features you want, and also has a relatively short learning curve.

6. Phone tracking

Dental patients are notoriously unreliable when it comes to recalling the specific marketing vehicle that led them to your practice. Unless you have a means to accurately track which parts of your marketing are producing what, you can waste a huge amount of money. Phone tracking assigns a unique phone number that is forwarded to your practice and then records the source of the call (and sometimes the call itself) automatically.

You really should focus on doing dentistry

Everything discussed here is beyond the capabilities of most dental practices. There are a number of disciplines involved with this kind of marketing approach, and those disciplines are evolving at light speed compared to dentistry. Should you choose to retain a dental marketing firm to take your practice to the next level, be sure to perform your due diligence to ensure that the company is experienced and capable in all of these processes. Ideally, you’ll choose a firm that offers comprehensive dental marketing services and that has the data to back up their effectiveness.

Colin Receveur, a nationally recognized dental marketing expert and speaker, is the author of several books on internet marketing, including the recent release, Rise UP! The Keys to Ultimate Dental Practice Success. His company, SmartBox, helps more than 550 dentists on three continents thrive by providing a steady stream of better dental patients. Reach him at [email protected].
For the most current practice management headlines, click here.
For the most current dental headlines, click here.
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