Marketing plays a vital role in attracting new business. Cleverly designed mailers and strong online SEO strategies can put your practice name in front of hundreds of potential patients. Glowing reviews and testimonials tell website visitors that you provide quality care and have a friendly team. However, when it comes to driving new business, marketing – even great marketing – is only part of the story. No matter how effective your campaign, one of the biggest factors in gaining new patients is scheduling.
Many dentists find it difficult to think about their practice as a business. It is likely that you chose dentistry due to a passion for service and healing, not bookkeeping or sales. Yet nearly any successful retailer will say that the only way to gain business is to give customers what they want, when they want it.
What do your prospective patients want? Convenience, first and foremost.
Consider this: patients have lives of their own. Many work outside the home, many have children. Most working people have limited time off, and may have to schedule their time carefully to leave room for the chance of illness or emergency. Many jobs dole out time off slowly over the course of weeks. Others restrict employees from missing any work at all during certain times of year.
Does your office offer any same-day scheduling? Do you have next-day scheduling? Shift workers may not know what hours and days they will be working more than a few days in advance. In addition, patients who are experiencing pain are unlikely to wait longer than 24-48 hours for an appointment before trying somewhere else.
Do you have office hours covering mornings, evenings, and Saturdays? Patients do not always have the luxury of choosing their shifts or days off. Parents may be reluctant to have their child miss school for an appointment. If you do not have openings during the times that are needed, potential patients will find an office with more flexible hours.
No matter how impressive your practice appears, patients will look elsewhere for an appointment if you are unable to work with their scheduling needs.
Making the changes to provide better scheduling flexibility will take time and may require an investment in your practice. You may want to consider adding an associate or hygienist to help cover additional time. Talk to your dental CPA about what options will best suit your practice needs, as well as the needs of your community.
Why do we resist change?
Change is scary. Change forces us out of our comfort zones and into the unknown, often into situations outside our control. We are afraid of change because we are afraid that this new challenge might make us look foolish, feel less capable, or even fail.
Change is also necessary. It is impossible to grow your practice, increase your service offerings, or stay competitive without change. Dentistry is a dynamic field, with new technologies and creative techniques being explored continuously. It is critical to be open to exploring these changes and to implementing the ones that will best improve your practice.
Unfortunately, one of the realities you may face is that your most loyal and long-term team members may be the ones who are most resistant to accepting these changes in your practice.
Over time, people tend to develop routines to perform their tasks. On one hand, this can be beneficial, as it can ensure consistency in job performance and can simplify the training of new employees. Often, these team members take pride in mastering the routine of their position and equate this with mastery of their role in the practice.
On the other hand, routines can lead to complacency, which can be devastating for your practice. Complacency can cause team members to “go through the motions,” putting less thought and effort into their routine, and may make their work become sloppy over time. A complacent employee is unwilling to change their routine to embrace the new ideas, methods, or technologies that you need to better serve your patients and grow your business. A complacent employee can even harm team morale and slow the adoption of the changes you seek to implement.
How do you protect your office from complacency and promote change as a part of your practice?
First, create an atmosphere of change. Start small, but design a series of changes to be implemented over the next few weeks or months in your practice. Make the idea of change something that is a normal and accepted part of your routine. This will make bigger changes easier to implement when the time comes.
Second, talk to your team. Make sure every team member understands the changes you want to implement, your reasons for making the changes, and your expectations of their compliance. Be open to answering questions, but do not allow “that’s not how we’ve always done things” to be a reason to slow or avoid changes.
Finally, make your team and yourself accountable for the changes. Track that your changes are in place and that every team member is on board. Meet with your team and discuss the outcomes of the change and how everyone feels about the change. Celebrate victories and strategize improvements. When your team is able to own the change and its outcome, it will be easier to implement the next and to suggest new ideas for future change. Contact our team today.
Regular effective team meetings can play a crucial role in the health of your dental practice. That one simple-sounding factor can impact every aspect of your business. Your people, your patients, and your practice all benefit from regular effective team meetings.
Your people need team meetings. The core of your practice is your vision, your goals, and your strategy for achieving your goals. Each member of your team needs to understand all of these things and, just as importantly, needs to understand their part in your plan. Without that understanding, your team is working blindly and is unable to actively contribute toward reaching your goals for your business.
A team meeting is an ideal format for open discussion about your vision, goals, and strategy. Not only can you use this discussion to ensure every member is clear on your expectations, but you may find that their unique perspective creates an exchange of ideas on more effective ways to reach your goals and how each person can best contribute.
While not every team meeting needs to include high-level discussion of vision, goals, and strategy, it is a good idea to include this at least once or twice a year and when bringing a new employee into the team. Additionally, many successful dentists find that it is highly useful to touch on how the strategies are being implemented and to discuss any measurable progress toward goals on at least a monthly basis. This helps to keep your team engaged and motivated toward achievement.
Your patients need team meetings. One of the most common components of an effective team meeting is education. Your team needs to know what the policies are, what is on the agenda for the day, if there are any specials being offered, if anyone is sick or on vacation. Any new ideas, training, or techniques that can be shared should be. Your patients need to know they will be given correct and consistent information from any member of your team. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
Your practice needs team meetings. Teach your team how to ask patients for referrals. Word of mouth can have a huge impact on your new customer base. Even happy, satisfied patients rarely refer anyone unless asked to do so, according to a recent study. Your team members should be engaging your patients in every interaction to ensure a positive experience and should be able to ask for referrals when patients are pleased.
Only you can review your practice, your time, and your schedules to determine when and how frequently you should hold team meetings. Whether you meet daily, weekly, or on some other timeline, make your meetings regular and effective. You will see benefits to your team, your patient experience, and your practice.
By the end of 2015, a reported 73% of Americans were using the internet on a daily basis. This level of digital interaction has changed the business landscape that we face today. Of all internet users, more than 70% use online searches to find information about health. This includes finding and selecting a doctor or dentist. Your online presence, or lack thereof, can have a profound impact on the success and growth of your practice. Consider how these three aspects of online marketing are currently working for – or against – your practice.
First, 21st century business success requires the use of 21st century tools. Your practice needs to have a modern website, with accurate information and a responsive, mobile-friendly design. To today’s consumer, your website is a reflection of your business. Potential patients have a wealth of options to consider, especially in competitive markets. If your website is slow to load, looks outdated, or is not mobile-friendly, most visitors will move on to another practice with greater online appeal.
Second, you should have an active presence with social sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others. Social media has replaced simple word of mouth for how people share information. By maintaining one or more active social media pages, you engage your community by sharing photos, videos, special offers, personal stories, community events, and more. You may even get patients and staff to share your posts, leading to greater visibility and interest.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of online reviews. According to a recent survey, 92% of people read online reviews. 80% believe that the reviews they read are as accurate as personal recommendations. If you are not monitoring your online reviews, you are allowing others to control your online reputation. Reviews can also lead to valuable constructive criticism that can help you improve your business and your team.
Ask your patients to post reviews on sites like Yelp and Google. Unless asked, many people will only consider posting when they are unhappy with the service they received. However, patients who are pleased with your practice are usually happy to share their feelings when asked. Consider using some of the more glowing testimonials on your website.
The work involved in successful online marketing can be daunting. However, the cost of hiring a professional online marketing consultant can be more than offset by growth in new patients and case acceptance.
For more ideas to help your practice grow, contact our office.