Take Your Practice on the Campaign Trail
Ours is a “campaign” culture - political campaigns, military campaigns, advertising campaigns, educational campaigns, and the list goes on. You’ve likely been involved with a few campaigns of your own over the years, but how familiar are you with “search campaigns”? Simply put, a “search campaign” is an effort to ensure that when patients are searching online for a dental practice using popular search engines such as Google, yours appears at or near the top of the first page.
As you probably know from your own Internet search experiences, placement is critical. Those products, services, and businesses that are listed high on that first page are likely to be the links that you click on first to learn more. The same is true of patients who turn to the Internet to find a dentist or to learn more about you when a friend has recommended your office.
If you search for your practice online, where does it appear in that list? How do you improve its placement? This is where your “search campaign” comes in. The first step is to ensure that your practice website is optimized. Search engine optimization, or SEO as it is often referred, is the process of improving your website’s “organic” or natural visibility on search engines. The listings are ranked according to what the search engine considers to be most relevant to users.
If you take the effort up a notch by integrating a social media campaign, such as creating a Facebook page and adding a weekly blog to your website, the likelihood that your practice will appear higher in the search engine listings increases exponentially. Search engines like what they interpret to be “fresh” or new content, thus your site is more likely to rank higher if it appears to be active. It’s not just a website that has been sittingdormant since 2009.
As for Facebook, as I discussed in last week’s article, this is where people are gathering. It’s important to note that your practice’s Facebook page must be a “business” page and not a personal Facebook page. What’s the difference? On your personal page, you have “friends” and you see what they post on their status updates as youscroll down your “newsfeed.” Your business page is different in that patients and others can “Like” your page, and they can post comments on your page. When they “Like” yourpage, essentially they are giving your practice permission to appear in their daily newsfeed. And that means you can post practice-related news, information, and updates on your business Facebook page that are seen by those who “Like” your page. Thus, the more people who “Like” your page, the more people your practice can engage.
Once you have created your business Facebook page that reflects your practice’s brand, it’s important to maintain your practice’s social media presence. That means posting something of interest at least once a week. Sesame Communications offers dental offices 365 days of posts that they can copy and paste directly into their own Facebook accounts. You can plan your posts according to the calendar, such as new school year reminders for parents, holiday greetings and the like. Your posts might also include individual accomplishments, such as completion of a marathon or participating in a community volunteer effort. If your team dresses up for Halloween, a photo of the group makes for a fun post that is sure to get multiple “Likes.” And the more “Likes” your page attracts, the more likely your practice is to appear higher on the search engine listings.
One of the most effective means of generating “Likes” is to offer a sweepstakes. Sweepstakes are jet fuel for your social media strategy. Sesame Sweepstakes drives in particular have the potential to attract a lot of attention to your Facebook page. Consider the numbers below, which reflect an average sweepstakes drive:
When you combine a fully optimized website, a practice blog and an active social media strategy, the results of your practice’s search campaign can be powerful. According to Sesame Communications, practices with three Sesame search services receive an average of 93 calls per month with 21 specifically identified as new patients. With numbers like that, maybe it’s time your practice hit the search campaign trail.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Holes In The Schedule?
Students are heading back to school, and this means a lot of additional costs for families as they buy clothes, school supplies and furniture for college dorm rooms. The last thing they are thinking about is getting in for a hygiene or dental appointment. Many practices are looking at open time in their schedules, as historically these months tend to be slower for dental offices. Hopefully your practice is tracking production, open time, cancellations, and no-shows in order to determine when the slowest months are, and preparing ahead in order to prevent this from happening.
Sending out a letter, email blast or newsletter to your patients is a great way to contact people. However, you want to get this out before the slower months arrive. Making contact with your patients about a month before may help increase revenue. If your slow time is the end of August or beginning of September, you may want to send this communication out at the end of July. You want the patient to receive it not too early, but early enough that they will have time to call and get on the books before school starts.You want to remind patients to get their kids in for a hygiene appointment before school starts, and also remind them to maximize their insurance benefits. If you have patients who are about to be college students, remind them that they should get in before leaving for school in order to maximize insurance benefits and help maintain good oral health. Many of them will not be back until December to visit, and as long as there are not any plan limitations, they will be able to get their second hygiene appointment in over winter break. By stating this, you are also helping to fill the schedule in December and January when they are back home visiting.
In addition to written communication, the slow months are a great time to increase the number of people who are working the recall system and “dialing for dollars.” Every hole in the schedule that is filled will help to keep the practice profitable during slow times, instead of just surviving. The recall system is one of the most important systems in the practice, and yet it is one of the most under-worked areas by the majority of all dental practices. Many practices that have a designated recall person end up utilizing that person in other areas, instead of concentrating whole-heartedly on the recall system and filling hygiene and the doctor’s schedule. The employee who is accountable for recall should be concentrating all of his or her time on recall, and nothing else.
Remember that it is also always a good time to remind your patients how much you appreciate their referrals, and to ask for more. Word of mouth referrals are some of the best patients, as they are entering your practice with a different level of trust than a person who walks in off the street. Your practice earns that trust by providing quality care and customer service to your referring patients.
Hopefully your employees are well aware of where money comes from in order to meet payroll. There should be goals set based on the overhead of the practice. Having the hygiene schedule full is important, not only to keep the hygienist and dentist busy, but to continue employing the current support staff that you have. If there are not as many insurance claims, then there is not as much posting and follow-up on insurance needed. This frees up time for other staff to help work the recall also.
This is the time for staff to get going and work the hardest on filling the schedule. The time to do this is before there are a lot of holes in hygiene. As we all know, prevention is much easier than trying to recover.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
Accountability - What Are You Communicating?
"I don’t understand why I have to keep reminding my employees to do their job. They're not hearing what I'm telling them. All I get is finger pointing.” Unfortunately it’s a common phenomenon in many offices. Things don’t get done. Complacency and mediocrity are accepted. As a result, more and more of the responsibilities weigh on the shoulders of the dentist, who acts like a superhero carrying the burden and feeling overwhelmed…as well as frustrated and angry.
Of all the things we expect of leaders, the single-most shirked responsibility of “the boss” is holding people accountable. Accountability is essential to achieving results. If you find yourself addressing the same issues in the same manner time and time again, you have a lack of accountability in your team. And the root cause is a failure to communicate clear expectations.
It doesn’t matter where I go or what I do, whether coaching, consulting, or training, the topic of communication always plays a part. It makes sense - we are all trying to influence other people by what we say and how we say it. But the nuances of communication are complex, and most of us do not communicate as clearly as we think or intend. For example, have you said any of these phrases during a morning huddle or the monthly staff meeting?
These are the typical ways to avoid making a clear request. In each of these, it’s uncertain who is being asked and what they are being asked to do. There’s no commitment from anyone. In many cases, the requestor walks away feeling good about bringing up an issue that’s been gnawing at him/her, but the communication has been too vague. The probability is nothing will happen.
The most successful requests follow a common pattern. Use first person language. Specify observable conditions of satisfaction, including deadlines. Explain your purpose for asking. If there is a designated person for the request, address her/him by name with direct language. Get agreement. Here’s a basic issue about office cleanliness and how it might sound:
A clear request demands a clear response. There are only three possible answers:
If you hear anything else, beware. The other person is likely to ‘weasel’ out of any promise. Here are some examples:
Clear commitments don’t mean that everything will work out. Life is unpredictable, so even the most impeccable commitments can break down. As the dental leader you are accountable to model the way. That starts with your responsibility to keep promises. As Yoda said, “Do or do not…there is no try.”
Next Time: How to communicate when commitments aren’t kept.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
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