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9 ways to grow your practice

March 21, 2021
In this recent survey conducted by Vyne Dental, dentists revealed the real impacts of 2020 on their practices, and how they’re feeling moving into 2021.

Last year presented unprecedented circumstances to the dental industry due to COVID-19. With a new year upon us and the lingering impact of COVID-19 a reality, your practice must find ways to stand out to potential patients and to maintain your current patient base.

With more than 200,000 dentists in the US, the competition is fierce. Everyone needs dental care, but that does not mean patients can find you or will select your practice if they do find you. These are ongoing challenges you’ve likely faced for years, but with the pandemic, the stakes are even higher.

A recent survey from Vyne Dental, the State of the Dental Industry” study, sought to understand the impact of 2020 on dental practices and how dentists are feeling as they move into 2021.

●  The greatest impact of COVID-19 on dental practices was financials (42%), followed by patient volume (32%).

●  Patient volume was identified as the top challenge that practices anticipate for 2021 (44%).

●  Dental practice leaders said marketing was the top action they felt would help their practices be more productive or profitable in 2021.

While you may anticipate patient volume being a challenge this year, there are ways to help your practice attract more clients. Here are nine strategies to help grow your practice.

Build a strong web presence

Today’s consumers use the internet for everything. If you do not have a credible and up-to-date website, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. According to Stanford University, 75% of people judge the credibility of a company based on its website design, so having a strong one is of the utmost importance. At a minimum, it should include your credentials, experience, what insurances you accept, office policies, hours of operation, services offered, and contact information.

When evaluating your website, think about whether you would be proud to send the link to a prospective patient. You might also take the time to research your competitors’ websites and adjust your online presence accordingly.

Invest in SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) means ranking highly for search terms that are used frequently by your patients. Even if you spruce up your company website, if you’re not optimized for search engines, your efforts may be lost on prospective patients. Think about how you search for information online. Do you browse past the first page of search results? Probably not. Your patients are wired the same way.

If done correctly and your website ranks in the top five search results, you can almost guarantee more website traffic and new patients. The best way to ensure successful SEO efforts is to hire an SEO company to implement a strategy for your practice.

Don’t underestimate the power of online reviews

The next step prospective patients will likely take is to look at your business’ reviews. It’s important to understand your online reputation and manage it appropriately. At the end of a visit, ask patients to leave a positive review on Yelp or Google. Encourage those reviews by creating an incentive, such as a $5 Starbucks gift card. Some reviews will be organic—a positive (or negative) experience can lead a patient to leave a review—but it never hurts to ask!

Patients looking for a new dentist will check your online rating. If the reviews are negative or if you don’t have any, chances are prospective patients will keep moving.

Understand customer communication preferences

The Vyne “State of the Dental Industry” study revealed that 53% of practices use texting as their preferred patient communication method. Consider implementing a text (SMS-based) reminder system so that patients can engage in the manner they’re using the most. Remind them to confirm or reschedule appointments and send timely reminders to schedule regular visits.

Some practices communicate with patients in more traditional ways, such as phone and mail, but you really need to connect with clients in a variety of ways to meet their communication preferences. Ask how they’d prefer to receive reminder information—text, email, or mail—and then use that to refine your communication strategies. Setting up your practice’s digital communication operations not only makes you more efficient, it also shows patients you’re innovative and trying to meet their needs beyond the treatment room.

Consider automated technology

The dental industry is constantly changing. It’s best to stay up to date on the latest technological advances or appoint someone in your office to do this research. You can use the internet or listen to webinars or attend conferences. Think about new technologies such as email encryption or electronic claims attachment. Adopting automated technology makes your practice more efficient and gives staff more time to focus on other projects, such as marketing.

Keep in mind you can’t revamp your practice overnight. Focus on updating one thing at a time and promote these advancements to your patients. This builds credibility and confidence in their care and your commitment to advancing your knowledge.

Count on referrals

Word of mouth and people sharing their experiences, both positive and negative, impacts your business. Capitalize on this by creating an incentive program for patients to refer their family and friends. Make asking for referrals a part of each visit and tell them what’s in it for them. Incentives can be a gift card for each referral that schedules an appointment, and prizes can go up from there. Each new client can help bring in big revenue and will create a bigger network of referral possibilities.

Expand your services

Think about how your practice can improve the value provided to patients, what will attract new patients, and how you can beat the competition. There are endless options, so focus on what you do well without overextending your practice. You could focus on accidental dental services or assisting the uninsured or underinsured, which is an often untapped but growing market.

Offer flexible financial options

Every successful dentist provides patients with a wide range of payment options so they’ll be more inclined to accept treatment recommendations and return for ongoing dental care. In addition to insurance coverage, convenient financial options include debit, credit, personal check, and cash, plus special financing so that personal financial circumstances don’t interfere with dental health-care decisions.

Get involved in your community

To establish awareness and credibility, become involved in your community when it’s safe to do so again. In addition to traditional marketing, you may want to sponsor and attend community events. You might also be able to partner with local schools to educate students on the importance of dental health. These events may not result in many same-day bookings, but your participation, which is typically low-cost, could lead to more patients in the future.

With these strategies for growth, your dental practice could see big results in 2021. Adopting all of these strategies may not be feasible, so identify a few opportunities that can make the biggest impact and start there. Keep your eye on the prize. Putting the hard work in now leads to payoffs in the future—more loyal clients and referrals, a strong presence in the industry and community, and maximized revenue.

Steve Roberts is the president of Vyne Dental.

Author’s note: This communication is provided for convenience as general information and is not intended to be used as legal advice. Vyne does not guarantee reliance on the aforementioned information. For verification, please seek counsel from an appropriate legal or agency professional. Vyne Dental’s objective for conducting the “2021 Dental Practice Outlook Survey” was to identify opportunities to better support current and future Vyne Dental customers. The informational data aforementioned are the results from active Vyne Dental customers who agreed to participate in the survey conducted between November 19 through December 9 2020. The data provided is for convenience and informational purposes only.