Make the Most of the 21st Century “Yellow-Page Ad”
Consider it the “Yellow Page Ad” for the 21st Century - Internet advertising. The good news: it’s far more effective in driving traffic to your practice than that tired and worn blurb in the old phone book. The bad news: between “SEO,” “bidding algorithms,” and “pay for clicks,” it can quickly become a lot more complicated than just throwing a few hundred bucks at another tired print ad. But the return on investment, say those in the know, is well worth a little extra effort.
Regardless of whether individual dentists understand the ins-and-outs of online advertising or not, in today’s market, virtually all of them are looking for an effective and powerful tool that makes the phones ring and brings desirable patients into the practice. Moreover, that tool better not be a drain on the dentist’s time or the practice’s resources. A tall order indeed.
According to the book “Local Online Advertising for Dummies” (Cunningham & Brown, 2010), the top 10 considerations when choosing a local online advertising partner are:
While many more practices have Websites today, they are competing with millions of other dental sites. The key to having an effective Website is ensuring that prospective local patients can not only find it, but are driven to it through various search engines, such as Yahoo!, Google, MSN, and others.
While various online advertising companies promote “pay for clicks,” clicks aren’t phone calls and they are not patients. It is important to rank the keywords on a practice Website that generate calls and patient traffic into the practice - not just clicks on the page. Take the word “veneers” or “fillings” for example. The click-rank technology that some online advertising companies offer can track both the number of calls and number of patients that those words generate. From there, bidding on the more effective keywords may be adjusted to allow higher placement of a practice Website on the various search engines.
I know that as the CEO of your dental practice, trying to understand all of this Internet jargon can be very foreign. But I also know that if you don’t stay on top of it, your neighbor may very well start taking your patients - very silently and without any warning.
“Local Online Advertising for Dummies” is a great educational tool for those of us that feel a little “dumb” on the subject. According to the book, people tend to use organic search engine listings when they’re researching a particular kind of purchase, and then look to sponsored listings when they’re ready to buy. I had no idea that was the trend, but the more I thought about it, I realized that’s exactly what I do! Last week I had an office that emailed to say they received a lot of “shoppers.” I think that’s the nature of the economy right now - shopping for the best value, the best care and the best price is not beneath anybody anymore.
In the current economy, many dental practices are looking to optimize their advertising resources, but few have the time or the expertise to singlehandedly make the most of today’s most reliable and cost-effective marketing tool - the Internet. The patients are out there, the key is using the right tools to drive them to your door.
The Anatomy of a Cancellation
Every ten minutes of time in the schedule represents one sixth of the hourly schedule goal. Those of you that schedule to goal are acutely aware of open time and the stress to fill these times with production that will meet goal. Goal usually represents being able to meet overhead expenses, plus getting a salary. Computer software has taken away the guesswork and now the dentist can take a few seconds to see how the production is building for the month. In the past, dentists just looked to see if lines were filled and that usually satisfied them to believe they were productive. We now know that having every line filled does not necessarily mean a productive day - on the contrary it can be a stressful, unproductive day!
No two dentists are alike in their ability to lead and to be good business managers. Some struggle just to get by, and others can give raises and bonuses to worthy staff and buy new equipment for their offices. How they view cancellations in the schedule varies from dentist to dentist also. Dentistry being a “people business” involves all of the shortcomings that human beings have, including being forgetful, getting ill, having a crisis, being afraid and just not caring enough to show up that day. Let’s be real here. Dentistry is not a favorite appointment for most people. They know they need it to be healthy, but there are times when even though we as dental professionals say and do all the right things, they still don’t show or cancel at the last minute.
The ways we try to save the appointment include charging them, scolding them, or telling them things like “The time is reserved just for you and I don’t have enough time to find anyone to take your place. Is there any way that you can change your schedule and come in today?” If patients value the time you spend and the relationship they have forged with you as a healthcare provider, then you will have fewer cancellations. You will have fewer cancellations if you explain to the patient what you expect from them. In return, you have to respect their time by being on time and not continually calling them to move their appointments to a more convenient time for you. Of course, no matter what you say or do you will still have cancellations and no-shows, but you can make them fewer and farther between.
Shore up the cracks in this system and weed out those patients who are continually non-compliant by having a face-to-face discussion on the importance of them showing up. Charging for broken appointments doesn’t work if the patient has the money to pay for the broken appointment. They will continue to break and pay the measly fee that you charge. Charging for broken appointments will eliminate those patients who do not have the money to pay, as they will never return to your practice. Bottom line: charging for broken appointments is punitive and does not build good will.
Jane from Dr. Goodtooth’s practice recently emailed me to say:
Negative energy directed to the staff because someone is not there is felt by the patients who are there for treatment. If you want more cancellations, keep up this behavior, it works every time. Want to learn how to set up systems that work? Contact McKenzie Management for business training today.
Dr. Rodgers owns a 10-year old practice. He employs a small team comprised of 2 hygienists, 1 assistant and 1-2 business employees. To clarify the “1-2 business employees” - he wants 2, but has found it difficult to “keep” the second employee.
Dr. Rodgers employed Sharon when he opened his practice. Sharon was instrumental in assisting him and his wife in getting his practice off the ground. For the first couple of years it was just Sharon and his assistant running the show, with some support from Dr. Rodgers’ wife. Shortly after, a hygienist was added to the team. At this point, it was one happy “family.”
3 Years Later
Over the course of the next couple of years, part-time Hygiene Coordinators come and go. They seem to enjoy working with Dr. Rodgers and the rest of the clinical team, but don’t enjoy being micro-managed and treated as though they are non-existent by Sharon. Sharon has no intention of teaching them anymore than they absolutely need to know about the practice management software, systems in the office or anything else that would be helpful for another business person to know. It’s as though she is afraid that if she teaches someone else how to do what she does, she will not have a place to work anymore.
And here is the rest of the story…
Dr. Rodgers and I sincerely hope that you never have to experience this in your career. At the same time, if you feel that this hits home to you, don’t be afraid. Your team will rally behind you, as Dr. Rodgers did. Unlock those shackles and free yourself!
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