10.16.09 Issue #397 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
15 Marketing Tips
New Practice Start-Up
Dealing With Conflict

Turn Your Luck Around: 15 Low or No-Cost Marketing Tips
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. The immortal words of the Roman philosopher Seneca are as true today as they were a couple thousand years ago when he first spoke them. I suspect many of you are looking for something of a turn in your own luck, particularly when it comes to keeping the schedule full. 

Hygiene

If we are to believe the economic forecasters, we are certainly in a better place today than 12 months ago. And if during this economic slowdown you’ve been preparing your practice for an increase in patients during the coming year, then I believe you will find that “luck” will soon be smiling upon you. The past year certainly was challenging, but it was also your opportunity to clean up practice systems and retool your staff into a highly functioning team. It was the time for training and for analyzing what can be improved and enhanced. It was the time to dig in and tackle those areas that have long needed attention, but were never given it when everyone was too busy to bother with system details and the practice seemed to be functioning perfectly fine on autopilot. 

If your focus over the last several months has been on what is happening internally in your practice, now is the opportunity to begin looking externally, specifically at your external marketing. It’s time to get off the sidelines, dust off the marketing plan and get your name back out to the soon-to-be-buying public.

While I never advocate a total shutdown of external marketing, I recognize that this is precisely what some practices did during the economic downturn. However, the patient/consumer market is shifting and it is time to once again educate your community about what you do best: dentistry. Below are 15 tips to get your name out to those who can benefit from your services. Best of all, most of them won’t cost you a dime.

1. Join your local chamber of commerce and your local dental society. Both are excellent for networking, continuing education, and getting your name into the community.
2. Hand out your business card to everyone you meet, and give your employees business cards with their names on them to hand out as well. On the back consider offering a financial incentive for new patients.
3. Offer to write an article on the impact of oral health for your local newspaper.
4. Contact your local talk radio hosts and offer to come on their shows as a guest from time to time to discuss advances in dentistry.
5. Offer to speak to local organizations.
6. Make sure that everyone in your building or business complex knows you are a dentist and that new patients are always welcome.
7. Advertise in your church bulletin regularly.
8. Give parents of small children a laminated card that explains what emergency measures to take if a child suffers trauma to the mouth, along with an extra copy to give to a friend.
9. Send a congratulatory note to those recognized in the newspaper for special accomplishments or deeds, be they adults for a business announcement, students for an academic success, or athletes for an athletic achievement.
10. Volunteer to speak at your local high schools during career days, to the science classes, etc.
11. Continually educate new and existing patients on the services you have to offer.
12. Send congratulatory notes/cards to patients for major life events, graduations, weddings, birth of children, and condolences.
13. Send out news releases to small local papers about continuing education classes that you and your team have completed, services offered, new products available in the marketplace, the link between oral health and overall health, etc.
14. Identify your top 10-20 patients and send them a special thank you gift. Next time they are in for an appointment, ask them why they chose your practice.
15. Never let your patients leave your office without something in hand that educates/reminds them of you, your team, your practice, or your services.

Next week, the number one marketing tool for your practice.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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Belle DuCharme CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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The Case of the Million Dollar Practice

Dentist Start-up Files #206

Dr. Harvey* had worked diligently, smartly and with an extraordinary understanding of the real estate market when he purchased and began his practice in the 1990’s. He became known by word of mouth from satisfied patients as a clinically excellent dentist and a great guy. His practice grew and flourished. With his eyes on the real estate boom of the 2000’s, he leased a bigger space in a fast growing upscale neighborhood. His practice flourished and he invested his profits in real estate. Spending more time traveling and being with family became a new goal for him and after twenty odd years of success as a “cosmetic” dentist he decided to sell while he was at the top and while the practice had its highest value. There was another reason too, but he was not going to mention that to a prospective buyer.

Dr. Wong* worked just as hard trying to make his quota as an associate dentist in a large dental clinic. His dream of owning his own practice where he could make a six figure income constantly occupied his thoughts and plans. Taking many courses, he was proud to say that he was certified in Invisalign™, mini implant placement, oral sedation, orthodontics for the general practitioner and more. He planned on offering all treatment in house and would not refer to specialists unless he deemed the treatment would not be successful.

When he inquired of Dr. Harvey’s practice, the dollar signs popped in his head as Dr. Harvey told him of his success in the location and the type of clientele that he serviced.  Showing him the accounts receivables and the profit and loss report, Dr. Wong wanted to buy on the spot. There was one catch and Dr. Harvey assured Dr. Wong that it would not be too much of a concern because the population of the area would surely make up for it in time. The “catch” was that Dr. Harvey wanted out now. There would be no transition period. No time to send out a letter to all the patients informing them of a new dentist and no working in the practice a couple of days a week to introduce Dr. Wong to his patients and tell them what a great replacement choice he had made. Dr. Harvey offered to “mentor and coach” Dr. Wong and assured him all would be great.

The two dentists differed in their dental skills, communication skills and physical appearances. Dr. Wong, though very educated, spoke with broken English and was from a different culture than the patient base surrounding his new practice.  When the patients began meeting Dr. Wong at their recall appointments, they were dismayed that they had not been told of the change. About 50% of the practice did not return after their first surprise encounter with Dr. Wong. He began giving all new patients very comprehensive treatment plans and decided that he would charge the same as Dr. Harvey or more because he was a “great” dentist. Patients that did not know Dr. Wong were a bit suspicious of the treatment and began shopping around – only to discover that he charged more than the UCR of the area. Dr. Wong did not have the charisma or the communication skills of Dr. Harvey so was not able to persuade the sale. 

Discouraged, Dr. Wong signed up for five PPO insurance plans. Not happy with the reimbursement scale for crowns, he required an upgrade on every crown of every patient that was on a PPO plan. If they didn’t pay it, he had his business coordinator send them to collections.  Within less than two years, Dr. Wong had more people on his past due accounts receivable report than he had on his active patient list. Patients who owe you money do not return until the balance is paid, and many decide to go to another dentist.

When the recession hit, Dr. Wong had positioned himself as an expensive dentist without loyalty who sent his patients to collections for dishonest charges. Given the still thriving demographics around his practice, he should have been busy and growing.  Turning this practice around will take as much work now as Dr. Harvey faced when he first built it. For Dr. Wong, unless he changes his view of patient relationships this is the end of the road.

Practice goodwill is a very delicate thing. It is hard to measure and certainly cannot be captured and transferred to a stranger unless analyzed as to how best to preserve it and nurture it. The Dentist Start-up Program offered by McKenzie Management can prepare you for this process, before you make one of the biggest purchases of your life. 

*names have been changed.

If you would like more information on Treatment Acceptance Trainingto get more patients to say “yes,” email training@mckenziemgmt.com

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Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Ways People Deal With Conflict

Conflict is an inevitable part of life and it does find its way into the workplace. No matter how hard you try, sooner or later your office will have some level of conflict; it’s inevitable. Conflict is not an easy subject to discuss, even when team members are getting along well. Nonetheless, unaddressed conflict will wreck havoc on your practice if you don’t prepare for it. As the dental leader, you need to be aware of and be ready to deal with disputes when they arise among your team members and patients.

There is not a “best” way to deal with conflict. It depends on the current situation. But you can improve your leadership effectiveness by becoming more aware of your own conflict style. In turn you are able to recognize the conflict styles of others and manage problems before your office becomes a war zone.  There are generally five key ways (or modes) for dealing with conflict:

1. Avoiding
We tend to use this mode when it simply is not worth the effort to argue. Behaviors such as withdrawing and sidestepping are signals of avoidance. In the short run, avoiding does reduce tension and it can buy you time. Unfortunately, this approach tends to worsen the conflict over time. Decisions are made by default and issues fester.

2. Accommodating
When we give in to others, we show reasonableness and create goodwill. Accommodation also helps keep the “peace.” However, this style needs to be used sparingly and infrequently. For example, in situations when you know that you will have a better approach in the very near future, it might be wise to accommodate. Over time, however, accommodating tends to worsen the conflict, and causes conflicts within you. People who repeatedly give in to others have limited influence.

3. Competing
Arguing or debating, using rank or position, and standing your ground are all competing behaviors. So is asserting your opinions and feelings. As with all the conflict styles, there is a benefit to competing. For example when you have a very strong conviction about something, competing may be appropriate. Unfortunately this style prevents clarification or discussion because the goal is to get your own way no matter what. If you are overly competitive there will be a lack of feedback, reduced learning, low empowerment, and you’ll be surrounded by “yes people.”

4. Compromising
This is a mutual give-and-take process. The intention is to get past the issue and move on. Negotiating, finding a middle ground, and making concessions are reflective of compromise. When you compromise you give something up. In this respect, too much reliance on compromise is only a shade away from accommodation.

5. Collaborating
The main goal of collaboration is to work together. Use it when it’s important to meet as many current needs as possible with mutual resources. This approach cultivates commitment and esprit de corps. Examples of effective collaborating skills are listening, understanding and empathizing. Underlying causes of conflict can be identified through mutual input. However, over-use of collaboration can result in spending too much time on trivial matters and diffused responsibility.

The reasons we use different styles varies. We often avoid when we don't want to get involved or we decide it's not worth the effort to pursue. It's important to pick your battles, since they can't all be fought and won. We accommodate when we want others to like us or we like things to run smoothly or we don't feel like we have the right to remind others of their responsibilities. We compete when we strongly believe in our ideas. We often compromise when we are in a hurry. We use collaboration when we want everyone involved to feel ownership for the outcome.

Each conflict situation offers a wide range of choices - choices in how you choose to frame or interpret others’ actions and behavior, and choices in how you will respond. With awareness and foresight, you can choose to act from a rational approach based on an objective evaluation of what is happening and what is most appropriate, rather than on reflex or just the pure emotion of the moment.

What are your conflict mode reflexes? That is, which of the five modes do you automatically go to first and/or most frequently? Which mode(s) do you seldom use? Which mode(s) do your employees appear to use to deal with conflict? When you recognize how you and your employees deal with conflict, your effectiveness as a leader will increase. Encourage your employees to acknowledge, deal with, and appreciate their disagreements. Don’t let your office become a battleground. Dealing with conflict up front leads to open communication, conscious cooperation among your employees, and increased productivity!

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like information about any of her practice-building seminars, contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

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