“Driving” Your Dental Marketing: Part 1 of 4

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Patient Attraction Episode 843

All right, welcome to another edition of Back in the Saddle driving podcast here.

I’m excited to be doing a few more of these than … Haven’t done anything in the last couple years, so got some big thoughts here that I want to share with everybody and going to do it here on the way home today and keep this pretty brief.

We’re going to do actually a series based here over the next few days and I want to talk about “Driving” Your Dental Marketing. Where things are at, where I see things going, what’s going on because there’s a lot of changes, turmoil, uprooting corporate dentistry, there’s a whole lot going on in our industry that has never happened before in dentistry. Want to cover everything that’s going on and talk about where I see things going and how you can still have a private fee for service practice even in this economy that we’re in today.

Let’s look at some of the facts, let’s start off with where we’re at today 2016.

Dentists are deferring retirement, these baby booming dentists that practice through the golden ages, the 90s, 2000s that the golden ages. If you practiced in the 90s and the 2000s you know what I’m talking about, you literally hung out your shingle and business came in and patients came in and things were good, it was very easy to practice. You had a very minimal corporate presence, you had an abundance of availability in the marketplace and things were a lot different than they are in today’s world.

Today with the recession on the outs still the nest eggs just aren’t quite there for a lot of baby boomers, a lot of dentists haven’t put away or the retirement that they had put away has gone up in smoke. Dentists are deferring retirement right now to make up for that. Let’s look at dental graduates, dental graduates right now they’re expected to outpace retiring dentists through the next almost decade, through 2025 it’s projected right now. These dental graduates coming out, they’re coming out into a lot different world than you came out of when you opened up your private practice 5, 10, 20, 30 years ago.

These guys are graduating, I talked to a dentist last week that is graduating with a half million dollars in debt. Walking out of school with a half million dollars in educational debt, just walking out of school, no practice, no build out, no equipment, nothing, just educational debt, educational student debt walking out with a half million dollars. It’s insane what’s going on right now in the educational system that the expenses to become a dentist, the bar has never been higher. We have these dentists that are coming out and then you go okay, what do I do now?

Well I can go into corporate dentistry, I can make anywhere from $100 to maybe $200 a year at a corporate dentist. If you go be an associate or buy into a partnership as an associate, a good associate may have an opportunity to make $150 to $250 depending on compensation plans and type of practice.

If the dentist wants to go out and open his own practice or buy in, of course he’s got the earning power that the banks will loan money if you’ve got some business chops and if you’ve got your business plan put together. To go out and open your own practice, to go out and buy in you’re talking about a minimum of another $300 or $400, $500,000 dollars. It’s not unheard of for a new grad coming right out of school, opening up their own practice to be a clean million dollars in debt before they ever actually work on their first patient, and that’s just crazy different from the environment that my dad graduated in back in the early 80s, than what it was even in the 80s and 90s and 2000s. These expenses have just kept going on and up and up and up, and the amount of competition that the private fee for service dentist is going to face in the next decade is astronomical, astronomical.

One of the things a good friend of mine, Mike Abernathy, always says is he tells these new dentists coming right out of school, he says, “Go to a little city that nobody’s ever heard of before.” Of course nobody wants to go to Podunk, Nebraska and practice dentistry and set up shop, but what you find is that consistently the guys that go into these little market areas, these little niche markets floating around are the guys that perform and have practices that really, really thrive. You go out into Dallas and LA and you go set up these practices in these big cities with big huge amounts of competition and these are the guys that struggle, these are the guys you can’t compete when there’s 100 other dentists in a quarter block radius that are competing with you, it’s impossible to overcome that amount of competition unless you’ve got deep pockets like corporate dentistry does. And let’s talk about corporate dentistry a little bit.

The Aspens, the Clear Choices, the Mortenson Dental offices, the corporate dentistry chains that are opening up. These guys have buying power, these guys have the power of economics that the private fee for service dentist is never going to be able to match. There’s no way you’re ever going to match the prices, the buying power, the scales of economics that the corporate guys have. You can’t compete on price, if you’re still trying to compete on price in today’s world with all the astronomical amounts of competition with the corporate dental chains that are running around out there you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

The corporate chains are viewed as commodities and that is what you’re going to be viewed at is if you try to compete on price. The race to the bottom with price is a slippery slope and you start discounting, you start cutting your prices you’re going to get what you pay for. You’re going to attract patients that appreciate that kind of dentistry.

Patients that are looking for value, that need large elective care that have big dental needs, they’re not going to come in based on price, they’re not going to come into your office because you offer them a discount exam and cleaning and then all of a sudden after you offer them this discounted dentistry to get them in the front door, that discounted cleaning, they’re not going to turn around magically and say, “Oh by the way, let me lay down $5,000 or $10,000.” Why would you do that? If you’re a patient that’s interested in the best price out there and the best deal you’re not going to turn around and immediately flip and be a value based patient.

You’ve got to make sure what you’re advertising is aligned with what you’re actually doing in the marketplace. The best example that I have ever seen of this, I had a client up in Boston, outskirts of Boston, suburbs of Boston and he said, “Colin, I’ve been doing this direct mail but I’m not getting anything out of it. I’m trying to find implant cases and all I’m getting is these Medicare and these state-run healthcare exchange type people.”  This was a couple years ago before all the Obamacare stuff happened.

I said, “Well send me your postcard, I’ll look at it and send me your mailing list and demographics and all that good stuff.”

I took a look at it and soon as I saw it I realized what was going on. I called him up and I said, “ Doc, if you don’t want Medicare and Medicaid and these state-run exchanges how come on the back of the postcards you have Medicare accepted?”

He said, “ Well every now and then you get a good patient that comes in through it.” He gave me this roundabout double talk about why every now and then you actually get a patient that’s worth something off welfare, Medicare or whatever he was accepting. I said, “No, no you don’t.”

You attract what you put out and realize by putting Medicare or Medicaid accepted on the back of your postcard you’re doing two things.

One is the people that are looking for Medicare and Medicaid are going to call your office because you put it’s accepted on there. The second thing you’re going to do is that you’re going to literally repel patients that will not be seen in an office that accepts Medicare or Medicaid. Right, wrong, or indifferent we all have our preconceived notions of what that office probably looks like and what the kind of people that go to that office might look like. Right, wrong, or indifferent we do it, we do it unconsciously, and people that have that block are not going to go into a Medicare office, it just is what it is.

This is Cialdini, this is psychology, this is how people are, this is who we are. People want to be around people they deem to be more like themselves and they’re not going to be seen around Medicare, Medicaid people if they don’t identify with that group of people.

You’ve got to go after the types of patients that you want to attract, and in today’s more competitive world than ever a lot of these new grads are going to come out of school, they’re going to go into corporate dentistry, they’re going to feed that corporate dental machine and it’s a big machine, it needs a lot of cogs in it to drive it. That is going to increase the competition for you.

I’ve got a friend that graduated dental school a couple of years ago and went to work for a corporate chain here in the Louisville, Kentucky market. He tells me that him and the two other dentists that are in this location actually strategize and play games with who’s going to get the new patient in the waiting room versus doing the hygiene check, because they have to meet a quota, they got a quota to get. That hygiene check is worth $30, that new patient in the waiting room could be worth $500 and they actually play shell games with waiting and trying to make the other dentist take that hygiene check so they get the new patient.

What’s that do for patient care? I mean we all know what that does for patient care. Patients that don’t care about the level of care they get are going to go to corporate dental centers, that’s where they’re going to go. They’re going to get shit service, they’re going to get very bad treatment, they’re going to buy into the Wal-Mart mentality of dental care.

Let’s look at this from another angle, six states right now in the US have laws that are passed that have created a mid-level dental provider. Think of your nurse practitioner or your midwife in the medical circles, six states right now have created and I don’t recall what the name of it is offhand, if you know please reply to the video and give me some more information on this because I just started reading the laws about it. Six states have already passed legislation that allows for the creation of an entry-level dentist that is going to be like a midwife or a nurse practitioner in your dental office, in the dentist.

This is coming, this is not stopping, this degradation of care to lower healthcare costs, to provide bigger accessibility of care, to meet demand of what the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has done for this country it’s coming, it can’t be stopped. This is the world we live in and to deny what’s going on right now, to deny reality is not going to get you back to where you once were.

Unfortunately where we’re at now is not your fault, it’s not anybody’s fault, it’s not your fault you’re in the position you’re in with respect to the dental community as a whole and with what’s going on in the dental industry. You have to embrace reality for what it is, you have to take what it is, you have to make the lemonade out of the lemons, and right now dentists are being dealt lemons.

To create lemonade out of that, to accept the reality and move forward with the plan of how do we take this and how do I take my fee for service practice, my cosmetic, my implant dentistry, my niche silo practice if you will, or maybe that’s not your deal but let’s talk specifically about that because these are the guys, these are our elite clients that I work with day in and day out, these are the guys that are the most worried because they have the most to lose. They get to practice how they want, they get the freedom, they of course have the profits and the revenue more.

Our docs that don’t worry about insurance reimbursements are our favorite clients because they collect money up front, they don’t have cash flow problems, they’re performing and have continued to perform and grow through the recession. They’re not looking for the scraps the insurance companies are handing out. They’re going direct to market and finding patients that need care, have disposable income and bringing them into their office.

These are the guys that are really the shakers and the movers in today’s economy. They’re the guys that are making things happen and they’re continuing to grow and their numbers support it.

We did an interesting study last month, we have started our Quality Analyst Division here at SmartBox and what that means is that we are actually listening, I’ve hired a whole division of people in my company that all they do, the only thing they do is listen to the phone calls that our clients generate from our marketing. When we’re doing, when we’re marketing for a practice, when we’re building a patient attraction system for our practice we’re also listening to every phone call that that system generates and then reporting back to the practice on how many patients were scheduled, how many patients were not scheduled or ultimately how many phone calls were not answered, which is a huge, huge opportunity when you think your front desk is answering the calls and they’re not.

I guarantee you your front desk, if we only have two clients, two clients, we ran the numbers, two of our clients out of 550 actually answered more than 90% of their phone calls during business hours last month. Two out of 550 actually answered more than 90% of their business hour phone calls. That’s just phenomenal, data we’ve never had before, we’ve never listened to all the calls, we’ve never seen the volumes that come in during the different times of day and seen all the problems that dentists have in their front office with answering the phones, with staffing them, with converting into appointments.

The amount of data and the ability that we have now to help dentists, not only to build marketing systems that attract new patients, but now to translate that into hey we can guarantee this. This month we’re rolling out our $10,000 guarantee which there’s nobody else in the marketing space that does it, nobody else has the kind of data that we do that proves the marketing systems, the patient attraction systems work.

We’re putting a $10,000 guarantee behind all the marketing systems that we offer and that $10,000 guarantee is very, very simple. If we don’t deliver the new patients calling your practice that we say we’re going to deliver, we’ll cancel your contract and write you a check for $10,000. I don’t know anybody else in the dental industry, I’m not trying to sound arrogant saying this, nobody else puts the time and the investment into the data that we have. Everybody else does marketing or they do this silver bullet or they do the website or the SEO, or they do this or that and then they send you these reports of clicks, and hits, and impressions, and oh this pay per click.

All that stuff’s fine and great but those are technical indicators. When you trade stocks you got technical indicators and that’s all stuff that you got to watch, but if your phone’s not ringing as a dentist, if your phone’s not ringing you’re not getting new patients out of it, it’s not doing you any good. You’re spending money and not getting anything back in return.

You’ve got to look at new patients but in the chairs, and that’s what we’ve made our Patient Attraction System™ is absolutely the system for our doctors in that we handle everything in the marketing, we listen to the calls and we report back to you, you scheduled this many new patients last month, you didn’t schedule this many new patients last month, let’s give Susie some remedial training on the phone. Hey you didn’t answer 24% of your phone calls last month doctor, let’s figure out why, let’s see what happened that caused this huge miss, this huge opportunity for next month with scheduling and appointing new patients.

Most doctors’ offices I find their phones are ringing, there’s some, yes there’s some that the phones aren’t ringing and that’s a problem, but the majority, over 50% they’re dropping the ball somewhere else. They’re not appointing, they’re not answering, of  course there’s a significant portion that their marketing simply isn’t generating the phone calls. If you’re not looking at the phone calls that are generated it doesn’t do you a lot of good.

With this $10,000 guarantee, with our data, with our Zetetics®  call tracking system with our call analyst team, this is the nuts and bolts of what we’ve been trying to put together for the past 10 years with accumulating and building a patient attraction system that we can stand by and guarantee. That’s what dentists are after, dentists don’t want to do marketing and SEO and pay per click, they want to do dentistry, that’s why you became a dentist. That’s why my dad became a dentist because he wanted to help patients, to treat patients, to help them to smile and chew and eat again, and to be able to enjoy their life and that’s our goal is to help dentists enjoy their life, to get more patients, more profits and more freedom and that’s what we’re doing.

Our elite level dentists, the data that I told you that we were coming across last month, our elite level dentists have produced on average 110 new patient phone calls a month coming into their practice which is just phenomenal.

Check me out tomorrow, we’re going to continue this segment on “Driving” Your Dental Marketing. I got some more really awesome thoughts, I got some great ideas and information.