Home Practice ManagementMarketing Your Own Worst Enemy: You Are The Reason Why Your Marketing Doesn’t Work

Your Own Worst Enemy: You Are The Reason Why Your Marketing Doesn’t Work

by Graig Presti

Dentistry IQ recently reported the following numbers:

■ Only 29% of dentists are extremely familiar with their marketing strategies and their performance

■ 17% are only slightly familiar

■ 9% have no engagement with their practice marketing at all

My clients often refer to me as the “Professor of harsh reality” for my “pull no punches” approach to helping them reach their practice goals. Fortunately, for you it’s time for some tough love, my friend. 🙂

We need to start by looking at your primarily role in your business. And what I’m about to say may come as a bit of a shock.

Your #1 job is not to be a good dentist.

I’m certainly not suggesting you be a bad dentist, far from it. I want you to be a GREAT dentist. But as the CEO, owner and proprietor of your practice, your job is just that: to own and run the practice like a real organization.

Now I know they didn’t necessarily teach you that in dental school, but your main job is to be the best CEO of your practice that you can be, and that involves WAY MORE than performing good dentistry.

Your practice is a business, plain and simple, just like a luxury car dealership or high-end salon.

Your particular business offers dental services. And as the CEO, you should be aware of everything that’s going on in and outside your office. Even if you aren’t sweeping the floors at night, it’s in your best interest to know something about brooms and who’s pushing them.

Above everything else, you need to always have your finger on the pulse of marketing. Your marketing is the lifeblood of your practice’s health. Good marketing is what determines whether you’ll have predictable consistent growth, or if you’ll have to fire all your employees and be forced into working for a corporate-run operation.

If you are one of the aforementioned 71% of dentists who is not extremely familiar with your practice’s marketing, today is the day that needs to change. So, let’s look at some right ways and wrong ways of how to change it.

1. WRONG WAY: Do your own marketing.

There are schools for dentistry and there are schools for marketing. You attended dental school, and most likely don’t have a marketing degree.

You’re a dentist. And so your day should NOT be focused on learning how to create Google Adwords campaigns, the latest way to rank high in the Google search results or playing around on Facebook. But, that shouldn’t stop you from understanding the basics, so you can then oversee these efforts of the agencies you hire to perform these tasks and if they’re doing the job effectively.

Think of yourself as the captain of a ocean liner. The safety of the ship and everyone on board depends on your ability to manage dozens of departments. Your highest and best use as captain is not to be caramelizing the sugar on the creme brulees down in the galley. Instead, it serves everyone’s interests if you focus on making sure those in each department have what they need to do their job, and that they are indeed the person best suited for each position.

2. WRONG WAY: Pass it off to a staff member.

You hired your office manager because he or she is fantastic with people and office systems. This person is eager to work hard, and gets everything done on time. He or she may stay late without being asked, and believes in the work you’re doing.

So when you go to implement a marketing campaign for your practice, you might be tempted to pass it off to your office manager and tell them to run with it. And they’ll feel like they’re equal to the task and work REALLY hard to do a good job.

But here again, we run into a problem. Because they’re so driven to do a good job, they will throw him or her all into it. However, you don’t learn effective and sustainable marketing through a 2-hour online course or weekend seminar. It takes years of training, testing and practice to master this craft. And because they’re so invested, they might be reticent to tell you if their efforts are falling short and in the process burning time and money.

A major component of marketing is knowing and understanding the numbers behind it. When done correctly, effective marketing metric calculations will tell you, down to the penny, how much you can spend to acquire a new patient and remain within your desired profit margin.

There are a lot of moving pieces to “knowing your numbers” that go beyond the scope of our time together right now, but let’s focus on one of the most important ones, which is the cost of acquisition of a new patient.

Acquiring a client/patient is usually viewed as an expense. But instead of looking at the money you’re spending, adjust your thinking to start viewing that new patient as an asset.

Your main job is to be the best CEO of your practice that you can be, and that involves WAY MORE than performing good dentistry.

A lot of doctors look for the least expensive way to acquire new patients. But I’d recommend not cheaping out here. The way that successful companies dominate any given market is the ability to outspend the competition to acquire new patients. Maybe it costs you $50 in marketing spend to acquire a new patient. Maybe it’s $150. But if that patient brings in $500 in the first six months…or even $1,500 in a year, why wouldn’t you drop a little more cash to acquire them?

Not to mention that if you add in the number of referrals they bring in, plus the amount they spend with you on their own or their family’s dental care, that patient could easily be worth between $3,000-$5,500 in the three to five years that follow that initial acquisition.

Sometimes a patient’s value is higher. Sometimes lower. But tell me this: where else can you spend $50-$150 acquiring an asset that returns $500 to $1,500 in less than a year?

That’s a 7-10X ROI (return on investment) within a 12 month period. You won’t find that anywhere else. So starting out, or when trying to hit your production goals, I strongly recommend investing as much as possible to grow your practice. Once you know the cost of acquisition, you understand how much money you’ll need to hit your new patient goal.

And yes, it’s imperative to your survival that you understand and be reviewing these numbers on a monthly and sometimes daily or weekly basis. That’s how an effective and sustainable business is run. You don’t just continuously and randomly throw different things against the wall to see what sticks. You devote appropriate and strategic efforts towards creating a trackable, repeatable system. And in order to make this happen, it is absolutely essential you have your committed CEO “hat” on and are turning the ship in the proper direction.

3. RIGHT WAY: Hire a PRO to do it.

Undoubtedly, the best method of handling your marketing efforts is to bring in a team who does it day in, day out. Someone who knows how to create that system that will bring you a predictable, repeatable stream of loyal patients, who pay on time and gleefully refer you to everyone they know.

This isn’t always (and in fact, rarely) the cheapest way to go. However, a good marketing agency or company will pay for themselves many times over. This results in less wasted time, effort and money, and allows you to focus on running the practice, and being a good dentist. (Yes, that’s obviously still important.)

And let’s face it…do this wrong, and you could be in for some painful mistakes (not to mention heartache and thousands of dollars down the drain).


1. Get and stay involved in the mechanics of your practice. If something isn’t working, you need to know about it. So take the time to familiarize yourself with whatever elements you don’t currently keep tabs on.

2. This especially applies to marketing. Learn what’s involved in predictable, sustainable marketing campaigns and how this affects your ability to spend money on campaigns to acquire new patients.

3. Ideally, hire someone more experienced than you to handle your day-to-day marketing efforts and evaluation, but remain involved in the process. Ultimately, you’re the decision maker.

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