Is Stress Holding Your Practice Back?
Running a dental practice sure isn’t easy. Not only are you responsible for diagnosing and treating patients, you also must deal with human resource issues, staff training, and all the business aspects of owning a practice that you’d rather not think about. The truth is, while you love your job, it can be downright stressful at times. Stressful and frustrating. Many dentists who turn to me for help are talented clinicians, yet feel like they should be more successful – whether that means bringing in more money, having more free time or simply reducing stress.
No matter what success means to you, I can help you reach your goals. Here’s a look at what might be holding your practice back from true success and profitability, and what changes you can make to finally get there.
You’re not focusing on the business side of owning a practice
These dentists are overextended and don’t have much time to educate themselves. They know the practice needs help, so they hire experienced team members and expect them to get the practice back on track. The problem? They don’t give these team members any direction, so the practice continues to suffer.
Remember, team members aren’t mind readers. Providing guidance will improve their performance, reduce your stress and lead to greater success.
You’re too involved in the details
Does this describe you? If the answer is yes, I suggest you give up control and trust your team members to do their jobs. Ask them for updates so you still know what’s going on, but don’t feel like you need to be involved in every minute detail. This might be difficult at first, but reducing the number of tasks you have to perform or check on each day will lower your stress and make your practice more productive. In addition, you’ll have more time to do what you love: treat patients. It will also make your team members feel more empowered, which will improve their performance and grow your bottom line.
You’re constantly hiring
How to turn it around
It’s also important to keep a stable team. Your team members should be well trained, productive, and happy to come to work each day. Provide them with job descriptions and performance measurements so they know exactly what’s expected of them. They’ll perform at a higher level, helping your practice reach true success and profitability. Team members will also come to work more energized, and will constantly look for more efficient ways to complete their tasks. This will make a huge difference in how your practice operates, and that means less stress and more profits.
Success means different things to different dentists. No matter what your definition of success is, I can help you get there. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way, but if you need more guidance don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m happy to help.
Next week, 8 tips for a more successful practice
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ramp-Up Your Team for Competition
Do you think of your dental team in terms of competitiveness in the marketplace? Dental team-building is usually viewed as internal and not external to the dental marketplace as a marker for excellence. With the attitude of abundance comes the belief that there are plenty of patients for everyone. In theory that is correct, but if you have done the market research you will see that a thriving practice must have its share of the demographic to succeed.
There is a rise in competition due to a denser concentration of dentists in prime population areas. With this comes the arrival of the “big box” dental corporate magnates that come in with big marketing budgets and volume dental supply discounts that can hurt local dentists.
Corporate entities can hire professional marketing firms to develop a long-term consistent plan for communication to attract new patients. The marketing firms place a priority on branding the practice to make it a competitive stand-out in the neighborhood. In other words, they have done the homework and know what patients want, and they make sure it is in the corporate structure to consistently provide.
Many solo and small group practices surveyed do not have a consistent marketing plan and follow the ala carte notion of “been there, done that - it didn’t work.” I recently spoke with a dentist who spends $1,000 a month on a Yellow Page ad. I asked: “How many patients come from the ad, and what is the adjusted (real time) production generated?” The answer: “I don’t know.”
Marketing includes internal marketing and external marketing. “Word of mouth” is cited as the number one source of new patients by many practices, but after analyzing the numbers it often ends up being something else, such as insurance PPO lists, the practice website, or online social media reviews.
Internal marketing includes everything that you do when the patient is in the practice: Phone communication, communication upon arrival, wait time to be seen, new patient interview, introductions to staff, treatment education, insurance verification and explanation of benefits, solid financial communication and explanations about how appointments work in your practice.
External marketing is everything that you extend to the public to attract new patients: welcome letters, direct mail, website, SEO, recall cards, lectures, memberships in service clubs and the Chamber of Commerce, public office, newspaper ads, etc. Marketing information for your practice should include your demographic population, the competition, and your goals. If you're interested in marketing cosmetic or elective services, you'll need an excellent demographic and psychographic report that’s written for dentistry such as the one provided by Scott McDonald.
You'll need measurement tools to determine your return on investment so you know what is working and what is not. If you're in a highly competitive area, you also need to look reasonably at the effectiveness of your marketing dollars and expect to spend more to compete with your colleagues. If your long-term goal is to purchase a larger practice, bring on an associate or build your practice value for retirement, then you will have a more focused need to market.
To build a patient base, you need to spend about 4% or more of your collections annually. PPO participation is one way to start. As the practice grows and you want a gradual shift away from PPO dependency, you need to market and learn to schedule to meet the needs of all of your demographic base, being careful not to limit access in favor of one over the other.
Dentists want affordable, high quality marketing solutions. In order to work it has to be easy, staff-driven, and set you apart from the competition. Evaluate your practice from top to bottom and ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is the new patient experience like in your practice?
McKenzie Management can help with your strategic marketing plans. Call today for more information.
Why Your Practice Needs New Patients (And How to Get Them)
Improving case presentation is a great way to get more patients to say yes to treatment, which will improve production numbers and your bottom line. But increasing case acceptance within your current patient base is only part of the equation. If you want a truly successful and profitable practice, you have to focus on attracting new patients to your office as well.
Even if you have a strong patient base, eventually you’ll run out of treatment to diagnosis. Sure, these patients will come in for their regular cleanings and periodontal maintenance appointments, providing you with dependable passive income as long as your recall system retains 95% of your hygiene patients. But they’ll no longer need more comprehensive work done if you’ve already treated it all. That’s why new patients are so important for achieving practice success and profitability.
Fifty percent of your production comes from the hygiene department during exams, and the rest comes from treatment needed by new patients and emergency patients (who will hopefully become new patients after you’ve helped them through their emergency). If the number of new patients walking through your door is less than 20-25 per month per doctor on average, practice production will decline and your bottom line will suffer.
Many doctors feel they don’t need to attract new patients because they have a “mature” practice with loyal patients. The problem is, without a healthy number of new patients, the hygiene department is the only thing keeping the practice alive. When it’s time for you to retire and sell your practice, the numbers won’t show significant growth. In fact, they might even tell the story of a declining practice, which won’t be favorable when establishing a selling price.
While word-of-mouth is one way to attract new patients to your practice, I recommend you consider investing in a marketing campaign. And I’m not just talking about a one-time marketing event or special to get new patients in the door. This might help boost new patient numbers for a little while, but what happens when that special whitening deal you’re promoting is over? The phone will stop ringing and your new patient numbers will start declining.
Marketing is not a one-shot deal. To bring you the positive results you’re after, it must be repetitive and meet as many needs of the potential patients as possible. So how much of your budget should go toward marketing your practice? If you have an established practice, I suggest setting aside 3-4% of projected production for marketing maintenance, and 6-10% if you’re looking to aggressively grow your practice.
I understand most dentists don’t like the thought of marketing, but when you see the results you’ll be glad you did. This is an important practice system, and should be a priority. Marketing is an investment in the success of your practice. Continually market and monitor your efforts to determine what works and what doesn’t, and you’ll have a steady stream of new patients coming through the door.
Remember, for your marketing efforts to be successful, everyone in the practice needs to be on board. Involve your team and make sure they understand that marketing takes place in every patient interaction, from the first time patients call the practice until they’re ready to leave the office after their appointment. If you provide exceptional customer service and a great patient experience, these new patients you’ve spent time and money to attract will become loyal patients who accept treatment and boost your production numbers. They’ll also be more likely to refer you to family and friends, increasing new patient totals and production even more.
Another tip? Not only do your marketing efforts need to be ongoing, they also need to be consistent. For example, I don’t recommend using multiple companies to design your ads, website and brochures. Go with one dental-specific company to make sure your materials and messaging are cohesive. Develop a brand that is recognizable, and understand the demographics of your market so you can target your materials accordingly. Don’t just put together a bunch of ads and hope for the best. Instead focus on developing a brand, understanding your market and delivering a consistent message.
Attracting new patients to your practice is key to enjoying true success. Focus on marketing to new patients and you’ll soon have more new faces in the chair and more treatment to diagnose – and that means increased production and a more robust bottom line.
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