It’s easy to spend money. It’s fairly easy to make money. But, there’s much to be done before investing a single penny on marketing, to prepare for and ensure the odds of a great return on your investment remain in your favor.
Here are a couple areas to consider, review, focus on and “clean up” before you embark on any marketing to generate new patients:
1. Is your team “trained up?”
2. Do you have optimum phone coverage?
3. Do you and your team understand the cost of an empty chair?
4. How much does an average new patient cost you to acquire?
5. Do your have buy-in from your team?
Failure to understand or pay attention to these five areas can make or break your marketing campaign. Non-performance or failure in any one of them in fact, has the ability to tank your investment like the stock market on bad earnings news.
Let’s address each of these from the bottom up. First, and most important, #5, team buy-in. Enrolling your team in and helping them understand the reason why you’re needing new patients is critical. It all starts with sharing your financial story, as it is now (your current status), and where you’d like to go (your goals) and the role you’d like each to play (delegation). For this, I’d suggest one of the best books ever written about full disclosure in business: The Great Game of Business, by Jack Stack. This book could well change your life.
You see, unless you honestly share your financial story with your team, they will have no idea why new patients are critical, as a key component to your success is having a team behind you that supports and understands your mission. Ideally, you want them pushing you. Because, if you are the only Motivator-In-Chief, you’ll soon burn-out and fail to achieve your goals and objectives; sharing also enables delegating. Your team must understand your overhead expense, the cost of marketing and the amount of work required to get your phone to ring with someone interested in scheduling an appointment. This bridges nicely into #4.
The Average Cost of a New Patient
From a number of sources, (to include my own 20+ years helping dentists with patient attraction and retention), I’ve determined the average cost of a new patient across all media, considering all states, cities, and factoring in dental demand (high or low), costs associated with advertising, etc., the average practice pays roughly $250 for a new patient. Some are far higher and some are well below.
If you want a place to start, to determine a budget for generating new patients, that’s a number you can use. Be pleased if your own results are lower (it’s not uncommon for our ClearPath Society® Members at Jerry Jones Direct to be well under $100 per new patient acquired). And, if they are higher, it gives you a benchmark to shoot for to lower your expenses if possible.
The Cost of an Empty Chair
Here’s the thing: When you’re investing $250 per new patient that schedules, theoretically, each and every phone call from a prospective new patient who does not schedule or fails to have their call answered, could be costing you $250 or more! You and I cannot afford to miss calls from new patients. It’s not only expensive, when you consider the cost associated with a lost opportunity and, our next category, it’s particularly hard on the wallet. I’m talking of course about #3, the cost of an empty chair.
I was speaking to a really great group of Dentists in Parsippany, NJ recently, Members and Guests of the American Academy of Dental Practice, the AADPA (aadpa.org), and the subject of “free or discounted exams” was brought up during Q&A. I love that topic. Conventional wisdom (which is oddly almost always wrong) holds that all free or discounted exam patients are shoppers and will never schedule or get any treatment completed. So, one doctor asked the question, “Do I really want those kind of patients in my practice?”
My answer was simple: “Doctor, once you consider the cost of an empty chair, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour and the lost opportunity cost, I believe you’d rather have a rear-end in the seat so you can potentially diagnose some treatment and potentially sell some treatment. It beats the alternative: no butt in the op and no one to diagnose or treat.”
Aside from the fact I personally know of numerous practices which have been successfully built and operated for decades using the free or discounted exam marketing model (to include my own – 14+ years and counting), the above remains a simple, valid question to ask yourself: Do you prefer an empty chair to a patient who’s scheduled for a no-cost or discounted exam?
If you had a board of directors running or advising your company, what would they want? What do your shareholders want? Maximum attainable ROI, right?
To help you through this question and put some dollars and cents to it, let’s consider an office with $80,000 a month in collections with 65% overhead. That means at that level of collections, that practice requires a total bank deposit of $52,000 per month to cover expenses. And, if this theoretical practice had 4-ops, each op has $13,000 of overhead/month associated with it. Or, $3,250/week, or, $928/day on a 3-½ day work week. If you’re open 8 hours/day, that’s an overhead expense of $116/ hour, or $1.93/minute.
When you have an empty chair, you’re spending $116 an hour with no potential to get that money back once the hour is gone. So, would you rather have a butt in the chair or have an empty op? Most, sadly, end up accepting an empty chair. And, you and I both know there is no dentistry to be done on an empty chair no matter how great of a clinician you are. It really boils down to making a sound business decision, not a philosophical or one ensconced in theory.
Optimal Phone Coverage and Training
This leads me to my final two points, where I find most offices fail miserably. And, the thing is, it just doesn’t have to be that way. As you’ve perhaps read and learned before: phone coverage and scheduling training to schedule for maximum effectiveness can almost immediately change that four letter word “fail” to that all important word, “success!”
This isn’t new. In fact, nearly 20 years ago, we were conducting mystery calls and phone training to help the front office team be more effective and schedule more new patients. Yet, 20 years later, the problem is just as bad if not worse and it’s all easily revealed through the use of call tracking numbers on specific ads, where inbound calls can be recorded, scored and then used for training to help the front office team improve. There are a number of resources that provide call tracking numbers. For the last 5 years, we’ve used MessageMetric.com and I’d encourage you to check them out. Their systems has some advanced features your front office team will really enjoy and you’ll profit from. (I’d also encourage you to check out their ReviewWave.com service, too. It can easily boost new patient numbers by encouraging online feedback.)
Another spot that, more often then not, has room for improvement is live coverage of phones during off or expanded hours. At my Wellness Springs Dental® office in Salem, we answer calls 7:30am until 7pm, live, Monday-Friday and on Saturday, 9am until 3pm and Sunday, 10am until 2pm. And, even when phones aren’t answered “live” for some reason with a person from our office, we are actively calling back missed calls. A surprising amount of texting also takes place between our person handling the phone and our Guests (patients).
If you and your team are not engaged in this basic level of Guest/Patient service, and you’re about to invest a large amount of hard-earned cash in marketing your practice, please be sure these areas are covered and understood by you and your team. Skimp or be stubborn at your own peril.
Now that you’ve finished this brief article, and you’re on your way to attracting new patients with as few hurdles as possible, be sure you claim your FREE DVD/CD program titled, 7 ADVANCED Strategies for Marketplace Dominance, at EasyDentalPatients.com where I’ll literally hand you my 7 most effective strategies for generating new patients for any practice in any city, any state and any country.
Being a good steward of your money and making sure any investment in marketing returns an acceptable ROI (2:1 or better in the first 90 days at a minimum), will ensure you can grow your practice at the rate you wish.
Mr. Jerry A. Jones is a two-plus decade industry veteran, practice marketer, speaker, author and dental office owner. His dental office franchise, Wellness Springs Dental®, offers solo and small groups a solution to commoditization. Information is available at www. WSDFranchise.com. Reach Mr. Jones via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 503-339-6000.
❝You’ve completed your checklist… Now get ready to promote yourself and your business!❞