Beat dental competitors with defined marketing goals

By Melissa Busch, DrBicuspid.com assistant editor

September 9, 2019 -- SAN FRANCISCO - Whether a dental office wants to double profits, gain more referrals, or expand into a multidisciplinary practice, it needs to know its objectives and the strategies that should be used to get there, according to a presentation at the 2019 ADA FDI World Dental Congress.

Within the past decade, dentistry has changed radically. Thanks to the rise of dental service organizations and corporate entities, the industry is stuffed with competitors.

Currently, more dentists than ever are in the field, and dental service organizations own or control about 15% of total practices in the U.S. By 2021, that number is projected to rise to 30%, said Wendy O'Donovan Phillips, CEO of the healthcare marketing company Big Buzz.

Wendy O
Wendy O'Donovan Phillips, CEO of Big Buzz.

To get a leg up on the competition, dental practices must know their goals, develop objectives that define their overarching visions, and then implement strategies to reach them.

"It's not about new patients, production, fees, or getting out of (network) insurance, but fulfilling your big why -- why you started or joined the practice in the first place," O'Donovan Phillips said.

First, a dental practice must define a goal. The goal should be specific and even make the dental team feel a little uncomfortable, O'Donovan Phillips said. It's good for staff to feel a bit uneasy because the best goals are high-stakes ventures with big payoffs.

A good goal, for example, would be to increase profits from $3,000 to $6,000 per month by the end of the fiscal year. This goal is much more attainable than one that states the firm should get 20 new patients per month, she noted.

Developing objectives

Next, the dental team needs to outline its objectives, which should be concise written statements that detail how a practice will reach its goals. When writing objectives, dental firms not only need to take ownership of what they are, but should be sure not to take on more than three objectives at one time.

"Whatever is killing your goal the fastest, lay those objectives out first," O'Donovan Phillips said.

The following are good examples of well-written objectives:

  • We are a premier family dental practice.
  • We have a team that maintains a positive attitude and clearly communicates with patients.
  • We are a practice that offers consistent service.

These are good objectives because the statements own what a practice is or does, she said.

After developing objectives, O'Donovan Phillips said it's time to begin strategizing. She admitted this is not the simplest task for practices.

"It's very easy when working on our practice to hang out and keep doing what's not working," O'Donovan Phillips said. "It's easier to focus on the problem. We're comfortable there or we wouldn't stay there. That's why setting strategies isn't as easy as it sounds. The key is to identify the problem. If I want no more no shows, then our strategy is to keep chairs full, not that we are going to have a robust marketing strategy."

When it's time to strategize

To reach their goals, dental practices need to hone the following strategies:

  • Develop a coaching culture in which teams encourage nonjudgment and power of choice.
  • Develop a strategic marketing plan by leveraging data to market across the right media channels to gain a stronghold in the marketplace.
  • Use rewards and strategies to encourage the team to take bold actions that will help reach the practice's goal.
  • Implement a profit-first strategy to ensure doctors get paid first and the practice turns a healthy profit.
  • Create a business mastery strategy that uses operational tenacity to gain competitive edge.
  • Encourage team empowerment so that leadership tips can make solid business decisions with and without the dentist's involvement.

Additionally, practices should develop patient persona and content marketing strategies.

Practices need to ensure that all marketing and dental team communications speak to and attract preferred patients, which is why teams need to articulate in writing their ideal patient profiles.

A content marketing strategy should help position a dentist as an expert and build trust between patients and practices. Content should identify and address the challenges patients and their families experience.

Most important, teams should hold weekly accountability meetings so that practices can see where they have progressed and where they need to make more efforts, O'Donovan Phillips said.

"Subtle insanity is having a really big dream and wanting to get there but not doing anything differently," she said. "If you are not clear about who you need to be and how to get there, you won't get there. You have to hustle."


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