10.23.09 Issue #398 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Self Marketing
Leadership Coaching
Model-T Dentistry

#1 Marketing Must For Your Practice
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It is the most important marketing tool you have. It’s consistently the most effective means of setting your practice apart from the others. It is the unique feature that no one can duplicate. What is it? You are it. You are the most important marketing tool in the practice, regardless of whether you are the dentist, the hygienist, the assistant, the scheduling coordinator, or the business manager.

2009 Not What You Expected?

In the eyes of the patient, dentistry may be the service delivered, but it’s the team of people who deliver that service that are, in many respects, “the product.” Patients are hard-pressed to judge the quality of the dentistry. But they certainly can and do judge what they perceive to be the quality and competency of the team, which is all the more reason you need to be marketing yourself in every interaction with patients and prospective patients. Self marketing is nothing more - and nothing less - than continually strengthening the practice’s relationship with each patient. It sounds simple, but in reality it takes a conscious effort. The key is in controlling the marketing messages that you don’t even realize you are conveying to patients.

For example, when dental assistant Ellie enters the operatory and begins her preparations without acknowledging the patient, she is subtly “advertising” that she doesn’t want to be bothered. She is not encouraging conversation, discussion, or creating an atmosphere in which the patient is comfortable asking questions. The patient, already anxious about the procedure, isn’t put to ease. It may be an unintentional message that Ellie is sending, but it is the wrong message nonetheless. Ellie is focused on her tasks, yet she’s overlooking one of her most important responsibilities, connecting with the patient.

Business employee Ruth is working diligently at her computer. She just wants to finish this one little project before she “deals with” the patient standing at the counter. She is “marketing” herself in the worst possible way, yet she is completely oblivious to the negative message she is sending. Meanwhile, the patient becomes more frustrated with each passing second. This same patient sat in the waiting room an extra 20 minutes while Ruth was busy, again working at the computer. Ruth didn’t think to mention that the doctor was running behind.

Anniversary Savings

Rather than continually reinforcing positive relationships with the patients, Ruth and Ellie are eroding them because they are not paying attention to their own poor self marketing. It’s essential that every member of the dental team consider the intentional marketing messages they will deliver with each patient in each interaction. For example: welcoming messages, calming messages, helpful messages, and concerned messages.

Your “welcoming messages” tell patients that you are glad they chose your practice. When they walk in the door they are greeted promptly with a smile and “good morning, Mrs. Smith. Thank you for coming in today.” Take a page from the big-box retailers. Everyone on the team who encounters Mrs. Smith, be it in the hallway or in the treatment room, should acknowledge her with a smile and “good morning.”

Your intentional “helpful messages” consider the patient’s time, payment concerns, their ability to get an appointment, etc. In these interactions, you are clearly and intentionally conveying an attitude of helpfulness. If the doctor is running 15-20 minutes behind schedule, apologize to the patient up front. “Mrs. Smith, the doctor is running a few minutes behind. He should be able to see you at about 10:15 rather than 10:00. I apologize for the delay and hope that this will not be an inconvenience for you.” In most cases, the patient will say, “No problem. I understand.” But if the patient is on a very tight schedule, she needs to know the situation immediately, and the dental team needs to know the patient’s circumstances as well.

Your intentional “concerned messages” demonstrate to patients that you are focused specifically on them when they are talking to you or you are talking to them. You look them in the eye. You don’t look past them to see what is happening in the treatment room, hallway, or waiting area behind them. Your focus is completely on the patient. You listen carefully to what they are saying rather than thinking about how you will respond. You address their questions and concerns with sincerity and understanding.

Ultimately, self marketing is presenting yourself in the best possible light to patients, and demonstrating this through your genuine concern, positive attitude, and delivery of excellent service every day.

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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Frustrated with HIRING the WRONG people? Remove the guesswork. Employee Testing On-Line

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Clarity About Leadership Coaching

In an email message to schedule a coaching call, a client wrote the following:

“The other item I want to discuss briefly is where you think we should be going with the coaching. I have not clued into your method as of yet. I am interested in developing a plan and working toward some goals.”

To set the context, this doctor had initiated coaching with me many months earlier. At the point when he sent this, we had spent many hours talking on the phone. He had efficiently achieved several goals we set together, therefore I was surprised to read his words. However, I had to admit my responsibility - I had not specifically verbalized the process of coaching or clearly communicated how leadership coaching works. It is my hope that this reply to him also clarifies coaching for you. I invite your comments as well as your questions.

Thanks, Bob

I appreciate you telling me how you’d like to spend our time on Monday.
As you will read later in this email, in coaching the client needs to set the direction.

As for my coaching model…
It is my job to listen and clarify the direction a client wants and/or needs to go within their current situation. Often this requires having a dialogue about what’s working and what’s not. The end result of such conversation is to establish priorities and to set goals toward those targets. Together we review options and decide on specific action steps that the client agrees to pursue before the next session. We debrief those steps afterwards and determine whether to modify/expand the existing goal or establish a new one.

I believe that you and I have been following this template since the beginning. One example that comes to mind is your desire to generate more referrals. In our conversation, you agreed that Tom was quite persistent in derailing referrals intended for your schedule into his schedule. We identified the obstacles as well as the options for addressing and changing this reality.

Anniversary Savings

During that discussion it was clear that your beliefs were a part of the problem. You felt uncomfortable asking for referrals; I phrased it as “giving your needs a voice” (which is a broad theme across your professional life as I’ve come to know you). We broke this down into a manageable plan. The goal was for you to meet with several referring doctors and request greater specificity when they called the office. In our next conversation we reviewed what you did and felt, then set the next goal: Select five more doctors for referrals goal; explain the office situation and request more diligence when they refer patients. 

Another aspect of my coaching model is to assist clients in gaining greater awareness. Frequently this means making shifts in perceptions and thinking. Because you find reading to be helpful, I have suggested several books which aligned with the issues we discussed. Of greatest importance is that the client – in this case you – drives the direction we take in coaching.

You said, “I would also like to discuss what your plans are for my coaching.” In truth, I do not have any plans per se. That would be different if you were engaged in coaching to improve performance deficiencies. For example, I once worked with a doctor who threw instruments. It was very clear what behavioral changes needed to be made. However, you have not disclosed any potential derailments. In fact if you did nothing different, you would still be a successful doctor. Perhaps not as fulfilled personally, and therein lies the overarching goal of your coaching – to gain greater work satisfaction. This is a common goal for many of my clients. After all, coaching generally is about striving for peak performance.

Here’s another way to look at coaching. Think of me as a travel agent. I don’t tell you where to go, although I often make suggestions based on what you describe to me. Then I guide you on the “journey” you wish to take. Along the way, I will point out various landmarks and make recommendations about the sites you should see. However, ultimately the direction we take is your decision. It would be beneficial for us to talk about this further so let’s dedicate time to do that on Monday.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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David Clow
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Model-T Dentistry

Henry Ford was the industrial giant whose mighty assembly line created a new Model T every three minutes. The first car built with interchangeable parts, it was everyman’s vehicle, an affordable taste of luxury previously available only to the wealthy. In its day the Model T owned America’s roads, with millions of them instantly recognizable thanks to Henry’s firm policy on color: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants,” Ford said, “so long as it is black.” It goes without saying that there’s vast utility in assembly line thinking, uniform procedures and cost-cutting measures that streamline processes and make them more economical for everyone. But it’s also worth mentioning that there might be some things - dentistry, for one example - that might not lend themselves to the ruthless task-oriented focus of the assembly line.

Online Dental Auctions: How Should We Feel About Them?
Online auction sites like eBay invite competitive buyers to outbid each other in pursuit of something they want. Reverse auctions work in the opposite way, permitting sellers to compete in offering the lowest bid for a product or service. One of the latest is a site that dentists can use to offer any number of dental procedures from simple drill-and-fill to root canal, gum surgery, braces, etc., all with a price tag listed beside them. Patients can comparison-shop to see which of their local dentists offers a given service for the lowest price, and then, with just a click of the mouse, buy that service and set an appointment to have it done.

Welcome to the 21st century. On one hand it’s impossible to argue with it - patients like me want that pricing transparency, and I like getting a chance to set dentists up one beside the other so I can compare. But that’s the problem - I can’t compare them except on the dollar cost. I’m not a dentist, so I’m not competent to diagnose myself, nor to understand the differences between one dentist’s quality, training and skill and those of any other dentist. Some procedures might sound simple - a “Fluoride Treatment” seems innocuous enough, and I might safely guess that it’s more or less the same from practice to practice. But a “Bone Graft?” “TMJ Services?” Am I, or is any average patient, competent to assume in the first place that I understand these things, in the second that they’re all alike, and finally that I can choose a provider based only on the dollar cost?

Does “One Size Dentistry” Fit All?
Obviously, the inference of Web services like this is that all dentists can provide these procedures with uniform skill and outcomes, and that patients can rely on the absolute minimum of information to make a sound choice. No sensible dental patient would believe that, not completely anyway. Dentistry very quickly moves out of the realm of mechanical tasks and into craftsmanship, even into art. Block to block, street to street, a patient can avail himself of a very wide range of skills, experience and raw talent among the many providers, so imagining that it’s all just about the dollars and cents is a fantasy that might be painfully dispelled at the hands of an inexperienced practitioner. There’s no mention on the Web sites I looked at about the dentists’ education, CE, certifications, years in practice, etc. They look as uniform as Model Ts. One color might be enough for me when I’m picking out a car, but I know that not all dentists are the same, and moreover that involved dental procedures - even fluoride treatments - don’t suit themselves to assembly line thinking.

Tempting as it might be to bargain-hunt, patients need to keep in mind that price must be one of the least reliable indicators for quality dental care. And this presents a dilemma for both dentists and patients. This trend isn’t going away, especially in an economy more attentive than ever to squeezing dollars for every penny of value. Dentists have to find ways to communicate what real value means, and patients have to find the time to learn more as vigilant, responsible consumers.

We’re looking at the future here, and we all need to adapt to it because it’s not going away. Caution is called for from both sides. Dentists don’t want to be mechanics; patients don’t want to be machines. When you look at these Web sites, you can’t help but feel as though you’re looking at a massive thoroughfare jammed with Model Ts. They’re all the same color, all the same under the hood. But the drivers at the wheel aren’t machinery. Some of them drive like experts, and others not quite so well. In which of these cars would you want to be the passenger?

On behalf of McKenzie Management, David Clow consults with dental professionals on practice culture, case acceptance, and patient expectations.

David Clow is a writer/consultant for Fortune 100 companies. His book, A Few Words from the Chair, is the first book written by a patient for dental professionals and students and is available here.

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