In this article, I will give to you the exact plan I used to create not one, but multiple dental practices I owned over the last 15 years – all doing in excess of the median revenue for a GP (according to an Aug. 26, 2015 article by Dr. Roger Levin appearing online at DentalEconomics.com). Not only did I use this plan, but hundreds of other solo practitioners all over the U.S. have replicated it for their own benefits – most of them coached and directed by me and my team here at Jerry Jones Direct.
Some background to get you up-to-speed: I invested 15 years and started three of my own dental practices to have real R&D “labs” to test my advertising and marketing ideas. As you know, that was no small investment (The first practice was the most expensive. I later learned how to equip offices on a shoestring budget and could teach a weekend seminar on doing it the right way.)
I’ve spent the last ¼ century all working through every imaginable sort of advertising and marketing scenario, possibility, revision, and so on to get it “just right,” for bread-n-butter, GP practices. Conservatively, I’ve invested over two million dollars out of my own practices to achieve this. That doesn’t count the hundreds of practices for which we’ve executed this plan and monitored results. With those practices, add another $8,000,000 plus. Conservatively. There’s legitimately $10,000,000 worth of R&D and real-world testing in this “plan.”
Before I reveal it though, I want to acknowledge some of the objections and questions I know you’ll have now, or, later, once I dive in. Let’s get these out of the way first:
Why you won’t believe it…
Most won’t believe the plan I’m about to outline will work. For them. Or, at all. That’s okay. It’s not for the many. Frankly, this is a plan for the few. It won’t work if you don’t believe in it or even give it a second glance. It’s sort of like this: If you didn’t believe in your dentistry, it probably would fail, too. If you don’t believe in yourself, you will fail. And, if you don’t believe in your team, they will fail. A leader who doubts the abilities of their team will never succeed. Definitely not in business. Doubt cannot be part of your ideology here or in any business scheme you choose to consider or employ.
Why you probably won’t do it…
Most won’t do this because they’ll say, “If it’s too good to be true and if it’s this easy, how could it possibly work?” So, they’ll never give it a chance to succeed. They’ll never have the patience to see it through, to test, to manipulate/modify and test again and again and again until the results are dialed in so well, it’s as reliable as a Toyota Camry to get you back and forth to the office (I mean can you really beat a well-maintained Camry or Honda Accord for basic transportation that starts, runs and stops when you need it to?). Again, it’s not for everyone. It’s for the few who will give it the chance it deserves to succeed for them.
If you’ve got all the patients you want…
This “plan” of mine is perfect for GP practices that want to grow predictably. It’s perfect for practices that are doing over $50k a month now and want to grow that – to double, triple, whatever. It’s perfect for well-managed practices that have the systems and people in place but lack the patient flow to grow.
But if you already have all the patients you need or want, don’t change a thing. Instead, seek understanding as to why that’s the case. Is it demand? Location? The people? The marketing you’re already doing? Is it a magic combo? The reason why you want to deeply understand your success is so that you can replicate it should the want or need arise. Like it or not, dental demand and market forces beyond your control (like the overall US economy) will change the landscape you’re in at some point. The gravy train will come off the rails. It will change your practice’s income. It could even potentially screw up your long-term plans (The old saying, “Man Plans, God Laughs” I’ve found to be true more often than not!). Having that formulaic knowledge and the ability to replicate is like having the keys to the Dental Success Kingdom!
Why it won’t work for you…
This won’t work for you if you are struggling to pay your bills. This “plan” is an investment. Not short-term. Not one to three months. Shoot, barely a year will get you started. Plus, if your practice is a team of B and C players (translation: you don’t have amazing, kick-ass employees), you’ll be frustrated in no time. Particularly when new patients start showing up and existing patients begin to finally start referring and you stop losing 10% or more of your patients annually from attrition (due to the simple fact that MOST dentists flat-out ignore their existing patients unless they are in a chair in front of them).
There is nothing more frustrating for me as a marketer and you as the dentist than to have the phone ring with a new patient inquiry and not have the personnel to handle it. Which means, if you don’t have phone coverage now on Fridays, forget it. This won’t work for you. New patients that this plan generates are going to call on Fridays. And, they might even call your practice on a Saturday or Sunday. (One New Year’s Day, my dental practice fielded over 50 new patient calls starting at 6:30am and when the dust settled a few days later, we’d booked over 35 new patients.) So, if you don’t have a plan to answer your phones, get that in place first. I’m amazed that even in this day and age, less than half of all dental practices are open or even answer their phones on Friday.
I can call 30 on a Friday and if I get 10 live people to answer, it’s a darn miracle.
Then, there’s this line of thinking that I hear all the time: “Yeah, but, Jerry, my town/city/patients are different. And, “Yeah, but, Jerry, I want ‘A’ patients, not ‘coupon clippers:’”
Newsflash: People are people are people. While the interwebs has changed things (some argue NOT for the better, which I appreciate), it can’t and likely won’t in our lifetimes or our kids’ lifetimes, change human behavior. The people in NYC are no different than the people in Salem, Oregon, when it comes to what motivates them to take action. Keep in mind, there are but a few levers that motivate any of us: sex, greed, and money/power.
In marketing anything, these are the factors that must be considered if you want maximum results in minimum time with minimum outlay. If Heartland Dental uses “coupons” and direct mail for its gazillion practices, hmmm, it must be working. I listened to Drs. Rick Workman and Howard Farran discuss direct mail and coupons one time on a podcast. I’m amazed, that just like on Fridays, when less than half of the dental practices answer their phones or have a dentist present, far too many dentists are still shy about the use of a monetary incentive to move someone off their duff to get great dental care. A “shopper” in the chair beats an empty chair any day as far as I’m concerned. I’d rather have a prospective new patient in the chair to talk to than conducting a monologue on the merits of titanium vs. porcelain implants to the mirror.
Why you might think it’s “too expensive” for you…
If you’re afraid to invest in your practice, this will be “too expensive.” If you’re unable or unwilling to commit to growth by investing a minimum of 5% up to 10%, maybe even 12% or more in marketing your practice, this is a non-starter. That percentage by the way, is not set by a bean counter with zero skin in the game. It’s set by you. And, when you set your budget, it’s based on a couple of things: 1.) your collections (not production-can’t spend that my friend!), 2.) your practice’s age (the younger the practice, the more aggressive the percentage if you want to grow quickly), 3.) how fast you want to grow (there’s a cost to grow slow – and it’s often more expensive than investing to grow quickly), and 4.) YOUR plans for exit (the sooner you want to exit, the more aggressive you must be).
I’ve owned dental practices, dental assisting schools, marketing companies, real estate businesses, seminar companies and a host of others (I’ve bought, sold or started over 20 businesses) – and all of them invested significantly in marketing. Some to the tune of 15% or more of the annual budget. What’s more, if you look at any public company, they’ve a line item for marketing on their profit and loss statement and it’s generally significant because they understand that in order for the brand to grow and harvest profits, investment in marketing is not optional. One can “play” business or one can be in business. The choice is yours.
OK, now that we have all that out of the way… (like a cleansing!) here’s my very simple, yet highly effective plan for creating million dollar practices:
1. Mail a monthly patient newsletter to your active patients to generate referrals, improve retention (10% or more of your patients annually do not return!) and share the benefits of elective dentistry – this is how you do more of the kind of dentistry you love, by the way, on patients that already know, like and trust you.
2. Send 2,500 or more (depending on your budget and goals) pieces of direct mail to the closest 12,000 to 20,000 (depending on your market area, demand, practice size, etc.) people around your practice that “fit” your ideal patient model. Or, do what we did at all of my practices and mail to every door. That for us has been far more successful.
3. Use online marketing (Facebook, Adwords, etc.) to drive traffic to a highconverting website with a strong new patient offer, a new patient experience guarantee, and as many testimonials as you can muster. Real patient video testimonials are best. Second best are pictures with names (get permission) and occupations and stories. Your site must also have strong search engine optimization with a team dedicated to ensuring it ranks on page 1 of Google search results, organically and from paid results.
Is that sexy or what? One last major point: Unless you are using call tracking phone numbers (CTNs) to measure the effectiveness of every marketing event or campaign you engage in by evaluating the number of calls, quality of calls (to include scoring and training your team), revenue PRODUCED (not estimated) from each call, STOP what you’re doing and get CTNs in place. Every single marketing campaign should be using a unique call tracking number (each and every month) if you truly want to track effectiveness. If you’re not using a CTNs, then you are quite likely tossing good money after bad. In fact, I’d bet money on it.
Marketing your practice is a marathon. Just like your career as a dentist. Every campaign, every event, every dollar invested should provide some level of intel to be considered for the future. Any ad you deploy, any marketing strategy you engage in is always, at best, a test. No matter if it’s a pay-per-click test, a direct mail test or a giant billboard test. All marketing is a test and should be considered as such. The goal is to build a bank of knowledge from every test conducted and leverage that into future investments so that over time, you’re getting smarter and more successful with every single dollar invested.
TAKE THIS NEXT STEP: Request your FREE Practice Growth Kit from Jerry here: Link. Your free kit will include a number of special reports and the latest copy of his newsletter, The Practice Profit Insider®, and more!