Q. I’ve been thinking about marketing my practice for several years now, but I’m so busy I just don’t see the point. Surely if I am busy enough I don’t need to do any marketing?
A. Marketing isn’t just about keeping your appointment diary full – it’s a tool for maximising your profits, for making sure that you get the most from your working day. This is achieved by managing the image of your practice, so that you attract the kind of patients you ideally want to treat and charge them the type of fees you would like to charge.
A good analogy is to look at the difference between Ford and BMW. Each company’s cars achieve the required objective, which is to transport people from one place to another. But BMW commands prices that are around 50% higher and much of that is because of people’s perception of the two brands. Similarly, all dentists carry out the same job, but having a top-quality practice image means you are able to charge more than others not perceived to offer the same quality.
Marketing also gives you the opportunity to promote and then focus on the treatments you enjoy, whether it is general family dentistry, high-end cosmetic work or a particular special interest. It can also mean that instead of merely being busy, you are fulfilled at work and able to take some valuable time off to follow other interests.
Q. We would like to introduce private care for our child patients but are worried that parents will baulk at the idea. How have other practices got around this problem?
A. Many of our clients have gone down this route over the last 18 months and, like you, have been worried about the response from parents. But by communicating the move
effectively and introducing some value-added extras, the move from NHS to private childcare has gone well for them.
With regards to communication, we recommend that you focus on the benefits of private care against NHS care for children. This can easily be done without the need to criticise the NHS – you can highlight the differences in out-of-hours emergency care, for example. It is also worth pointing out that this way the child will receive the same high quality of dental care as the parent, with a wide choice of treatment options.
Other measures which will help smooth the transition include introducing a monthly payment scheme, and making some additions to the services you offer for children. These could include employing a dental therapist (which can also make the service more profitable for you) and holding special dental and/or hygiene days for children.
Q. I’m struggling to get new patients. I like the idea of having special offers to entice people into my practice. What do you think?
A. You have to walk a fine line when promoting special offers. You want to attract people into your practice, but you need the offers to be cost-effective. You also don’t want to run the risk of cheapening your image.
Special offers work best when patients can see that there is a sound, logical reason for making them, so you should try to tie them in with what is happening at the time. For example, many practices promote discounted tooth whitening during the peak wedding season. Others offer free mouth cancer checks during Mouth Awareness Week, or promote specific services during National Smile Month.
When running offers, make sure you monitor the results so you can see if it is a profitable, successful promotion that would be worth repeating. It’s not just about the money the promotion brings in – you also need to consider whether it has met your original goal, which is to boost patient numbers. So if you make a slight loss but attract a good number of new, regular patients it can still be counted as a success. On the other hand, making a small profit from people who take advantage of the low price and then return to their usual dental practice might not be worth all the effort.
In our experience, the best way to boost patient numbers is to focus on those you already have. Try reactivating dormant patients, and do all you can to encourage regular patients to refer more to you.
For more information about Blue Horizons services, visit www.bluehorizonsdental.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org