8 ways an associate can supercharge your dental practice

How can associate dentists make the best use of their downtime? One idea that this dentist has seen work well in practies is to put associate dentists in charge of the practice's marketing efforts. They have a real interest in seeing the practice succeed.

Feb 1st, 2018
Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 02 Marketing Dental 1
How can associate dentists make the best use of their downtime? One idea that this dentist has seen work well in practies is to put associate dentists in charge of the practice's marketing efforts. They have a real interest in seeing the practice succeed.
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Getting through dental school took sweat, tears, and a whole lot of focus. Along with that focus we deployed tactics such as repetition, memorization, and persistence that helped us become successful. When we got into practice we became beasts of focus and tactics. Our business strategies went out the window and we focused only on how to get the dental tasks done. It is the nature of what we do and who we are. We’re dentists and our job is to do dentistry.

Some dentists are business owners who wear two hats—one as an owner and one as a dentist. BUT ASSOCIATES CAN ALSO WEAR A SECOND HAT—THE COLORFUL HAT OF MARKETER. Associate dentists are expected to remain busy. They want to perform lots of dentistry, but they don’t have the concern of how the owner obtains patients. The owner wants the associate to be busy but believes that he or she should also have some skin in the game. The reality is that associates and owners often do not see eye to eye on this topic, and yet it requires alignment between the two.

I feel like I can speak to both sides of this issue because I’ve been an owner and an associate and I know how it feels when a practice is not running the way it should. As an associate, I viewed my situation as if I was building my practice within a practice. If I wasn’t busy then I needed to be proactive about it. Here are eight ways that an associate can supercharge the practice, add value, and get busy and productive by promoting a comprehensive marketing strategy.

Marketing management

All marketing strategies need to be managed. I’ve worked in offices where an owner tries to assign a busy assistant with the marketing manager job. This simply does not lend itself to an efficient system. It’s better to assign someone who is directly affected by new patient flow and the reputation of the practice. The associate wants to be busy and needs to connect with new patients. He or she knows what the practice needs. Who better to manage the marketing process?

Management does not mean busyness. Once the strategy is developed, implementation can be performed by delegation, hopefully to a team member with marketing experience. The associate should prepare and present a monthly report to the practice owner. It should contain a review of the plan and an analysis of the tactics. In other words, what’s the plan? What are we doing, and how is it working? Do we need to change anything?

Website design

With the importance on an online presence for the practice and current trends in SEO, the practice website needs to be dynamic. This means having someone who can post to the blog and update photos, video links, and information. The associate is in the perfect position to do this. While the team will contribute, having the associate drive the process and keep it moving forward is essential. The associate can meet with professional web designers to keep the site dynamic, relevant, and engaging.

Offline integration

For our marketing efforts, I create themes for each month. Every activity, promotion, blog post, and photo is integrated with the monthly theme. For example, April is oral cancer awareness month. I make sure that we have four blog posts during April that focus on oral cancer. We have one community outreach day, or an event that involves free oral cancer screenings. All of our Facebook and Instagram posts feature information about healthy choices, healthy mouths, oral cancer information, oral cancer prevention, and more.

I try to come up with as much information in advance as possible so that I can plan accordingly and preload the calendar. So, if I know that April’s theme is oral cancer awareness, I can plan appropriately and order ribbons, oral cancer diagnosis kits, and pamphlets. I can also plan how to integrate the themes and ideas into all of our different forms of marketing.

Social media

When it comes to social media, go deep, not wide. Dominate your presence on one to three platforms. Your homerun should be on Facebook, followed by Instagram and YouTube. Social media is like a big backyard barbeque. Imagine introducing yourself to people and making friends. Social media is no different. If it’s going to work, it must be authentic and it will require some effort.

Many marketing companies will try to sell you on how they can get your practice Facebook “likes,” but what you really need to be striving for are friends and followers. Invest in developing relationships with people by commenting on their photos and posts, and building trust and relationships. Also, use photos with as many patients as possible for what Dr. Robert B. Cialdini refers to as “social proof” in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. The more pictures you can post with happy patients (with their consent, of course), the more people will be persuaded to come to your practice.

Traffic building

Marketing is about impressions, and not the kind you make with poly vinyl siloxane. The idea is to get your name and brand out as much as possible. Focus on marketing and advertising opportunities that allow you to make as many impressions on your demographic as possible in the form of cost per impression. For example, Facebook advertising opens up some of the most laser-focused marketing tactics available. You can select gender, age, interests, universities attended, terms that people search for, pages they follow, or where they live. Never before have we had the ability to concentrate our advertising like we do now.

But this is just one way to build traffic. If you have an active blog make sure that you dedicate some time to reading other blogs and making comments. For example, if you’re trying to attract young mothers, you need to be reading and commenting on blogs relative to their interests. Engage them where they are. Also, be sure that part of your traffic building involves community outreach efforts and events. Make it exciting and keep your focus on increasing impressions to your brand. You want the most impressions for the lowest cost.

Optimization process

If you really want to supercharge your SEO, hand it off to professionals. But that will cost you. If you want to have a more authentic approach, optimize your web presence yourself. But keep in mind that this takes time and effort. If you want to optimize your website and web presence, you’ll need to keep your content relevant and updated. The best ways to do this are with a blog, videos, photos, and links.

The good news about blogs is that they can contain videos. This means less writing, and you can crosslink to your blog as well as to other videos. Videos do not need to be complicated; they can simply be about things that you already talk about with your patients. For example, I’ve done videos about cracked teeth, laughing gas, and why we spray cold water on teeth. If you plan to hire someone for this, I recommend two companies: PPC dental and Optimized 360.

Conversion analysis

Would you ever perform a root canal without taking a radiograph when you’re finished? Would you ever cement a crown without checking the margins? Then why do people place advertising and perform marketing tactics without measuring the conversions? I often ask doctors how their marketing is doing, and their response is nearly always, “Pretty good.” When I follow up with, “How do you know?” they often say, “Because my front desk tells me we’re getting a lot of calls from the ad (or campaign).”

This information is too vague for any type of scientific analysis. You’ll want to know how many people call and how many schedule appointments, and what they spend at your office. One of the best ways to analyze conversions is to tape a piece of paper to the desk so that those who answer the phones can write down how people heard about the practice and whether they scheduled an appointment. It is vital that the practice track conversion rates in order to monitor return on investment (ROI) in each marketing category. Conversion analysis determines where efforts are placed during future marketing efforts.

Planning

The planning aspect of marketing can be a lot of fun, and it’s important that it be done as a team. While the associate may be the manager of the marketing program, the team offers tremendous input both creatively and experientially. There are three components that you should consider when planning your marketing approach. First, decide on your budget. Too often doctors assign marketing a minuscule budget. After visiting hundreds of dental offices over the last five years, I’ve observed that dentists spend 1% to 3% on marketing. Yet their biggest complaint is that they do not have enough new patient flow. I've also noticed that the top 2% of dental practices spend on average at least 5% to 8% on marketing. This is a good starting point and the first component that should be considered when planning your marketing approach.

The second component is your demographic. In my Dental Economics article titled Marketing Mojo, I outlined who the specific demographic should be when marketing dentistry. In a nutshell, your marketing should be geared toward women in their mid 30s to 60s, depending on what type of dentistry you’re promoting and where your practice is in its growth.

The third component you must consider when planning your marketing is to have a comprehensive marketing approach. This means that you don't put all your eggs in one basket. You want to get your name and brand in front of as many people as possible, as many times as possible. Imagine your marketing represented by a wagon wheel, and each spoke as a different type of marketing. Your efforts should be evenly distributed among each of the spokes so that the marketing wagon wheel rolls smoothly.

Since most associates at dental practices are paid based on a percentage of collections or production, it only makes sense that they should be actively involved in the process of promoting the practice. Associates tend to have a bit more time to focus their attention on managing the marketing strategies of their practices, which gives them an opportunity to be more engaged in the growth of the practices. The incentive for the associates is that they will be more productive and have an opportunity to help grow the practice, which benefits everyone. Practices in which the associates manage the marketing programs are supercharged and everyone thrives, including the patients.


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Andrew Goldsmith, DDS, graduated from the University of Nevada Reno in 1992, and Marquette University School of Dentistry. He then completed a two-year general practice residency at the University of Colorado, where he was a part-time associate professor and established a successful dental practice in Colorado Springs. After 11 years in private practice, Dr. Goldsmith sold it to help establish a group of dental practices dedicated to preserving independent practice dentistry, a group that now has over 500 locations. Dr. Goldsmith has published articles in multiple journals and spoken to dentists around the world. He currently operates Process23.com, which offers online CE and practice management education.

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