I have three unrelated things to tell you about.
First is I’m doing a webinar on Wednesday at 11am Pacific Time, entitled “Facebook Rules of Thumb”, giving you some deep insight and practical advice on how to take full advantage of social media as part of your practice marketing. It’s free, of course. Just click here to register.
Second is that as of April 8, 2014 (basically, a month from now), Windows XP will no longer be acceptable as part of your HIPAA compliance solution. Microsoft won’t be offering support any longer for XP after that date.
Why this is not compliant is in large part because there will be no further security updates. Holes will not be plugged, in other words, and you’ll be much more open to viral attack. Upgrade to Windows 7 (not 8, which apparently is quite cumbersome) or replace the hardware in your office, or both. Talk to your distributor or PMS support for the best solution for your current system.
Third, I have revised my book once again. This is the fifth edition of Everything is Marketing, with lots of new information regarding digital media, websites and the new consumer behavior. You can buy the hardcover or the audiobook by clicking on the book cover to the left, and use the discount code “fred joyal” to get a great deal! (Gotta take care of my faithful readers!) You can also buy it on Kindle now, but give Nook a week or so to get updated.
If you have a previous edition of my book, fill out the form below and I will send you a file that has the three sections with the major changes to the book, in PDF or audio, or both, if you like.
That’s it for now.
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Transparency in pricing is a powerful trend affecting most industries today, and I’ve seen indications that it is coming for dentistry. In the car business, for example, you can go to TrueCar and see exactly what the factory invoice on any car is, as well as what the discount range is on virtually every vehicle. Countless travel sites compare hotel room prices or plane flights. And the cheapest price for any appliance can easily be found online.
There are strong forces at work to do the same thing in dentistry. Brighter, for example is a company that has negotiated significantly lower fees with participating dentists, and allows the person searching to compare the costs of procedures by dentist. They’ve raised $28 million in venture capital to launch a business specifically designed to cut your fees in half. That applies to all your fees, not just a new patient offer. This kind of win/lose proposition makes the dental insurance companies seem appealing by comparison.
This is also a problem if you are not a “Brighter dentist”, because consumers will start to believe that you are overcharging. It will also increase the number of calls that you will get asking about the cost of every procedure. In essence, this is the commodification of dentistry, and I can’t see how that’s a good thing.
It’s probably only a matter of time before someone feels the need to create a website that lists every procedure and what it costs all around the country, based on UCRs, or some other source. While we in the industry know that many things control fees, from your location, to the degree of technology in your facility, to the insurance reimbursements, the average consumer thinks you make too much money, and this will only grow as a belief.
So what are you to do in the face of this inevitability? Here’s one thing I’ve learned in many years of business and advertising: value is a perception, not a calculation. Granted, some people are just looking for the cheapest dentistry because they have no, or very limited, money to pay for it. But for people who have anxiety about dentistry, who appreciate genuine compassionate care, who want an expert to work on their body, not the cheapest provider, then cost is a secondary consideration.
Zappos is not the cheapest way to buy shoes. It’s the most convenient way, with the best service. BMWs are not the cheapest cars, but just try to get one of their owners to switch to a Kia. Whole Foods is not the cheapest grocery store (not even close!) But they have built a perception of value that is not based on being the cheapest, and they are all doing tremendous business. So maybe the exact perception you want to build is that you are not the cheapest dentist, nor do you strive to be.
I’ve also observed that many people use higher pricing as an indicator that the service or product is better than average, just as they tend to assume that the absolute cheapest price means the lowest quality. This is what we need to get them to understand about dentistry. People tend to believe that almost all dentistry is the same, and it’s just a matter of finding the cheapest way of getting it. You can only do that with effective, clear communication. It is going to be more and more important to create an overall experience in your practice that communicates higher value. (Did I mention that everything is marketing?)
That communication is often going to begin with the first phone call. Many practices ask me how to address this situation when someone is price shopping. My recommendation is language like this:
“We’re not trying to be the cheapest dentist. Our fees are very reasonable, with many financing options, but what we offer is a practice that offers a very high standard of care in a comfortable environment, and we try to provide that as affordable as possible. And we think if you come in and see for yourself, and we are happy to do an initial exam at no charge just so you can get a sense of the level of care we provide, then at least you’ll have something to compare it to when you visit the cheapest dentist’s office.”
Will this work every time? Of course not. But you don’t need everyone. You will not get some people, those for whom price determines value, and their mouth is just an appliance in need of cheap repair. But many people want a dentist that makes them feel comfortable, that they trust, that cares about them, and gives them good health advice. I’m guessing you want to attract those people. So be that kind of dentist.
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There is a simple principle to apply when you want someone to help you out–make it as easy as possible for them to do so, and the number of people who do it will increase exponentially.
For example, when the Red Cross was raising money for Haiti after the hurricane, they made it possible for people to simply send a text that would charge their phone bill. They raised $5 million in the first day! Just because it was easy.
One of the best ways to raise money for a charity is to ask people in the checkout line at the grocery store if they want to add a dollar for breast cancer research, feeding the homeless, or whatever cause is supported at the time. It’s a tap of the finger, and it yields millions, one buck at a time.
The same is true for patient reviews. Most of your patients are more than willing to do one if you ask them, but the easier you make it, the more likely they are to get it done. The less steps involved, the higher the percentage will complete (this is true of just about everything, now that I think of it!)
Okay, how? First, remember the four key places you want reviews to appear: your website, Google, Yelp and Facebook. And with Google, and I believe with Yelp, patients cannot do those reviews from any device in your office, including their own if they’re using your office WiFi, because Google and Yelp will discard them. (Yelp has other filters, too, and this post talks about that.)
The easiest way is for a patient to be able to click on a hyperlink (you know, when the text is blue rather than black in an email, or this blog) that takes them straight to your Google Place or your Yelp page. Obviously you need to have claimed those already. (If you haven’t, despite my nagging, read this for Google or this for Yelp.)
To do this, you need to have patient emails. This is one of the two main reasons you want all your patients’ email addresses. The other is for appointment reminders, of course. Then you use your automated digital communication software to send a specific email requesting a review. For Google, you would only send this email to patients who have a gmail address, because they are the only ones that Google allows to do reviews.
PatientActivator and some the other apps have a pre-written email form that you can use, and all you have to do is put in your Google or Yelp URL (and we’d help you with that, too.) It looks like this:
Send a few dozen of these out a week, and you’ll have a steady stream of reviews on both those sites.
You can use the same application to email requests for posts, likes and check-ins on Facebook, but I prefer that you do that in the office. You can either have a tablet that you have for patients to use while in the chair, with a label on the front with your Facebook location, (you can get really nice ones done at www.skinit.com), or you can simply ask them to do it on their own phone. Half of them will already be on Facebook anyway
PatientActivator, RevenueWell and all the other apps also survey your patients and elicit reviews from them, usually three days after their visit. You can post these reviews on Facebook, usually with one click, and if you have a good dynamic website like we build with WebDirector, those reviews can appear automatically in your website, which is good for both SEO and for patients visiting your site.
You can also build in a page where your Yelp reviews appear within your website. That may seem crazy, but you don’t want people leaving your website to go to Yelp, which many of them will do to see what your reviews are. It shows confidence that you are willing to post your unvarnished Yelp reviews right there in your own website, and then they won’t go to Yelp and see adds for 13 other dentists at the same time.
I should also mention that a product like ReputationMonitor allows you to keep close track of everything that is being said about your practice online, and can send you alerts whenever a review is written about you, so you can either thank the patient or fix it, depending on what it says.
You need a pro-active, systematic process for gathering positive reviews on a regular basis. One, because people are definitely reading them more and more for every business and product that they use, and two, because the best strategy to counter negative reviews is an overwhelming number of positive ones.
Make it as easy as possible, and the results will be steady and stellar!
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Even though there are some distinct advantages to Facebook advertising, I would say that for most dental practices, the answer is probably not yet. Marketing is about properly sequencing your efforts, as much as it is about spending wisely. Even if you already do Google Adwords, you would need to alter your strategy and plan if you want to spend money effectively on Facebook.
The difference between Google and Facebook advertising
The main, and huge, difference, is that Google ads appear in response to a search, while Facebook ads are presented (pushed, as we say in the ad biz) to people who fit certain criteria and have recently posted or liked something relevant to your ad. The second big difference, which relates to the first, is that you can be very specific about who is shown your ad, what their interests are, and even what time of day it displays.
All that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Except very few businesses are raving about their success with Facebook advertising, and even fewer dentists are. My theory is that Facebook users find the ads invasive or invisible. Neither of those are good. It could also be that 50% of Facebook usage happens on smartphones, where ads are really not appreciated. (Okay, Facebook made $5.4 billion last year in ad revenue, so I have to admit it probably works for somebody!)
Also, as with Google, you are paying for clicks, which is a long way from a real patient. So if you are going to test Facebook advertising–and most of you know I believe in having an experimental budget as part of your marketing–then here are the elements you need in place beforehand:
- A robust Facebook business page, with lots of likes, check-ins, and posts from patients, and plenty of before-and-after photos, and ideally some videos, most of them testimonials;
- A rock-solid,dynamic website like we build you with WebDirector;
- A detailed system for tracking results, which starts with entering the source of each new patient into your PMS;
- Money to burn; you cannot be upset about this not paying for itself. It’s an experiment.
Why do you need a good website? Because when they click on your ad, that is where they will be sent by Facebook. There are different campaigns you can do on Facebook. You can advertise just to build “likes”. I do not recommend this. You can promote specific posts that you’ve done. I don’t recommend this either. You want to promote your practice, which means promoting your website.
If you do decide to try it, go here: Facebook/advertising. You will be led step by step through the process of creating an ad, selecting your audience, and setting up your budget. I’m going to take you through the process, but more as an overview.
Your Campaign Type. You will choose “website conversions” as the purpose of your campaign, and put in your practice domain name. (You could technically put in your Facebook URL, but those generally are not as comprehensive as your website.) As part of your setup of your ad campaign, you will be able to add a little marker called a pixel that tells if people went to your website, and if they requested an appointment. (This requires web code–not complicated, but you’re not going to be able to do it yourself.) It’s a nice feature for tracking results.
Create your ad. You should be doing the image of your ad ahead of time, and uploading it. (Try www.canva.com if you’re a real novice at this. I’ll be blogging about that site next week.) You need a good ad message, with an image. Because it’s going to be small, it needs to catch their attention quickly. This is usually some kind of new patient offer. As a word of warning, don’t use an image that is eye-catching but totally unrelated to dentistry; Facebook often shuts those off. I’m talking about things like a girl in the tube top that takes you to a car insurance site. Not that I’ve clicked on that.
Connect your Facebook page. This will let you track exactly where people came from. It’s mostly if you want to have ads appear in your news feed. That’s not you. Put in your Facebook page, but you want new patients to see you, so you’re going to “turn off news feed ads”. If you have a lot of likes on your page, I’m talking hundreds, you can leave that option on so that people can see those next to your ad. Otherwise unclick it.
Choose your audience. You can limit it to zip codes, and put multiple ones if you so choose. I wouldn’t restrict gender yet. Age group I would start at 25+. Pick languages you want. Under “More Demographics” you can get pretty specific about educational level. This will shrink your audience–Facebook is going to show you how many people that will be as you add filters. Under “Interests”, you can add as many as you want. These are essentially keywords, like dentistry, toothache, whitening, Invisalign, etc. but for now I’d leave that blank for now. People are only going to click on your ad if they are interested in dentistry, so don’t narrow it too quickly.
Select your budget. This is your daily amount. You can change it whenever you want. Under “Bidding”, leave it at “clicks”, not “impressions.” I wouldn’t test less than $500 in a month. Place your order and see what happens. I suggest trying it for at least three months. You can vary your campaigns and test different audiences, but don’t expect instant results.
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Of course, we in dentistry all know this. It’s the consumer that somehow gets confused. Understandably, because it’s presented to them as a form of health insurance. But we’re left explaining to patients why they have to pay for so much of their dentistry even with their dental plan. I’ve made this short video on how to explain the difference between their health insurance and their dental coverage, with an analogy that I think you’ll like and find useful.
You may remember last year, when the CEO of Washington Dental Service explained on the news why they were cutting reimbursements to dentists in an economy where absolutely nothing else is dropping in cost. He flippantly said that “dentists could work more” to make up for the slashing of their profit. Read my blog about it here, if you like.
The premise was that WDS, a division of Delta, needed to offer lower-cost premiums in order to stay competitive–even though they control 80%+ of the state’s dental insurance business. (Can you say monopoly?) What’s fascinating is what they’re actually doing with the money is running television advertising promoting their product. Gotta love that non-profit approach to making a lot of money for the executives. (The CEO makes $1.2 million. Talk about biting the hand that feeds him.)
Anyway, we’re stuck teaching people the differences in their coverage, and putting them in a position where they make bad health decisions because they have this implicit trust of their health care providers. So they say things like, “I only want to do the dentistry that my insurance will pay for,” and, “Do I really need this work done, or do you just want to make more money?”
My advice is to sit every new patient down in the first visit and explain clearly that, unlike health insurance, where the coverage is based on what is actually wrong with them, dental coverage is simply a discount plan on some range of basic services, set by their employer and totally unrelated to the condition of their mouth or their dental care needs. And that you will do your best to treat them in a way that is most affordable, but your professional responsibility as a dentist is to make them aware of their condition and the options for getting themselves back to a healthy smile.
Most of them will understand, and the rest, well, it’s crown-a-year dentistry for them!
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This seems to be the big debate in the marketing world, particularly for small businesses. From a marketing standpoint, it’s kind of like asking what’s more important in a car, the engine or the steering? I guess it could be the engine, but a car without steering has some serious limitations. Like a car, the key to effective marketing is to get everything to work together. That’s what achieves maximum results.
First, understand that your website is still the cornerstone of all your practice marketing. It should appear on any advertising or promotion that you do, from business cards to emails. It is where people are most likely to end up on a Google search, and it is also where they will be sent if you advertise on Facebook and they click on the ad.
It also is well to note that many consumers now check multiple online sources when choosing a business. They will look at a website, Facebook, (which is searchable; read this blog post to find out how that works), and review sites.
Which is why ideally your website already has reviews displaying, and also a page where your Yelp reviews stream, so that the person searching doesn’t leave your website to go look there and see ads for 13 (yes, 13!) other dentists.
But Facebook is dominating people’s Internet usage. The average American spends 37 minutes a day on Facebook, more than any other Internet activity, including their email, and vastly more than any other social media site. (See the chart below.)
There’s no doubt that people are spending way more time on Facebook than ever before. The question is, are they behaving like consumers? The answer to that, more and more, is yes, because of Facebook ads and because of Graph Search, which allows users to search Facebook almost the same way as they do Google, and find pictures, pages, posts and comments on anything.
So the answer is Facebook page is steadily growing in importance. In part because people don’t want to rely solely on the information they get on a website, and also because they spend way more time on Facebook than they do anywhere else on the web. They will not get the same feel for your practice experience on your website as they will on Facebook, but, conversely, people are more likely to call when they are on your website.
So, does that make Facebook equal or more important than your website? That depends on the individual consumer. And that’s why you need to cover both bases so well. The amount of time Americans spend online has doubled in the past three years alone. You need an active, robust presence online. Which means:
- A dynamic website, with ever changing content, and fresh reviews (not testimonials) showing up almost daily
- A mobile version of your website that re-formats completely to conform to what users want to see on a smartphone
- A Facebook page with a steady stream of likes, check-ins, and posts by both you and your patients
- Marketing materials that promote both your website and your Facebook page
- Video content (reviews, mostly) that can be used both on Facebook and your website (and YouTube)
- Actively monitoring your reviews, ideally using a product that alerts you to new reviews, like ReputationMonitor
Marketing always works best as a comprehensive approach. There is no longer one single medium to master, like the Yellow Pages once were. And there is no magic advertising bullet. You will still have to always deliver a great patient experience.
In two weeks I’m going to write about paid advertising on Facebook, so stay tuned.
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Finally, you can now have a Google+ URL that is your name rather than just a random string of numbers. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have had this for years, and Google is finally making it happen, but in a restricted way. For example, my Facebook link is www.facebook.com/fredjoyal. My Twitter is www.twitter.com/fredjoyal. LinkedIn–www.LinkedIn.com/in/fredjoyal. See a pattern here?
Now, at last, my Google+ link is www.google.com/+fredjoyal. It used to be plus.google.com/u/0/9087854393209822?. Hard to fit that on a business card, or remember it.
How do you do it? First, you must have a Google+ profile (that’s you as a person) or a page (your practice). If you haven’t done a page yet for your business, it means your losing all sorts of SEO and potential patients, so first click here for my blog on how to get it done.
You can add something to the end of your name, but you can’t change or customize what they offer to you as choices. (This is how Google is keeping people from claiming other people’s businesses’ names.) If this is your personal profile, and you’re a dentist, I would add “DDS” or “DMD” to it.
They are very clear that once you choose this you can’t change it! So be sure this is what you want. Most of the time it’s exactly what you want, but sometimes, if your name (you or your practice) is common, they won’t let you choose it without appending something to it. This will take some thought. Choose wisely.
If you are trying to customize your Google profile, that is, your personal site, you will need to have at least 10 followers and also have your photo posted before they will offer you the URL.
By the way, for it to work with a page for your website, you have to verify your website, which is done in the “About” section, and then you have to put a button/link to your Google+ page on your website somewhere (it doesn’t have to be prominent). Otherwise Google won’t offer you a URL choice.
This URL makes it simpler to tell people how to get to your Google page. It also makes it easier when you are sending Google review requests to your patients. The only patients who can do that are ones with gmail addresses, so that’s who you should be sending the requests to. This is also explained more on my blog about refining your Google strategy.
I’ve mentioned this before, but make it a point to claim your name (or business) everywhere, both personally and your practice identity. You can click on each one of these for the place to do that: Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Yelp, YouTube (this teaches you how to link your Google+ page to a YouTube channel, creating it at the same time) and Facebook, both a profile and a business page. (I’m praying you are already on Facebook, but just in case!)
Do these even if you don’t plan to post to them yet. You eventually will use them, and will want to link them to your website.
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There is a fantastic question that life coaches will ask, which is “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” The question attempts to dig deep enough into yourself to find out what it is you really want to do, try or become. And it’s not easy to get there.
The framing of the question is specifically designed to free yourself from that vicious internal censor of yours, which is always there to point out the risks, the potential losses, the likelihood of failure. That voice is deliberately silenced for this exercise.
I suggest grabbing a piece of paper and see what you come up with. I’m going to prompt you with some random thoughts, some based more on your work and what might be your role in it, and others based on more personal or artistic dreams.
- You’re a dental assistant, but you know you can do more. You understand the science of dentistry, and the delivery of it. Are you ready to become a dentist? (Censor says school expensive, hard to get in, competitive, starting a new practice is difficult.)
- You want to bring in an associate, but you’ve heard horror stories. Yet you have a desire to pass on your knowledge. (And to let someone else do the Class III’s and IV’s.)
- You miss music. You played guitar (or piano, or drums, or the oboe), and you realize it has totally slipped away. But you want to start playing again, ideally in front of people. (Censor says you’re too old, you’re not talented enough, there’s no money in it, nowhere to play.)
- You think you’re funny, Standup seems scary, but in an appealing way.
- You know you have a novel in you, or a screenplay, or a book of poems. (Censor says: what makes you think anyone would read it?)
- You’ve been doing dentistry for 20 years, and it’s routine. You’ve heard CEREC re-invigorates the dentist and the team. (Censor says: so expensive, patients don’t really mind an extra office visit, staff will rebel.)
- You’ve done a few implants, but wish you could do more involved cases. (Censor points out that big cases are a huge malpractice risk, and require a lot more training.)
- Something is wrong with your team. Actually, someone. (Censor says you can’t do without her; the practice would fall apart.)
- A consulting firm has told you they can increase your production 20% in the first year, which would change your life. (Censor says any number of suspicious and unfounded statements.)
- You want to teach. (Censor says so does every other dentist.) But you believe you have something special to offer–hard learned, and hard earned.
- You’ve heard of Kilimanjaro, and even though you’re not sure where it is, you think you might want to climb it.
So write some things. No one is going to look at them but you, so get as wild and irrelevant and as fanciful as you wish.
This doesn’t mean you ought to immediately quit your job and start pursuing this new dream. What it means is that this is something that will add meaning, purpose and happiness to your life, and you need to find a way to start including it, in whatever way you can manage, and not ignore it anymore.
(By the way, if you write down that you want to retire in 5 years, my question will be: and do what? Retirement isn’t a goal, it’s just an end to one type of activity. You may want to stop working, but you’re not going to want to stop living. Find a new dream.)
Here are some suggestions based on those dreams:
You want to learn CEREC or other CAD/CAM? Buy one–then you’ll have to figure out how to pay for it. (Do it before the 31st and take advantage of Section 179, which allows you to deduct the whole thing this year–talk about a New Year’s resolution commitment!)
Same goes for implants. Buy a Galileos or other 3D cone beam scanner, and take your implant cases to the next level.
Enroll in courses: Implant classes; CEREC training; Hygienist school; Take a business management class, or a software training class. Or finance class. Local colleges or your dental product distributor can help you with these.
Take expanded skills training, if you’re an assistant. Or apply to dental school.
Find a dental practice where you’re treated with respect, where people have fun taking care of patients.
Join a band. Or an orchestra. Or a choir. Start local, start small. But start.
Write one page towards a novel every day. Don’t go to sleep until you do.
Open a separate bank account and start saving for that trip to Africa, and put $20 a week in it. Kilimanjaro is waiting.
If you’re an office manager, pursue a fellowship with AADOM.
If you want to teach, enroll in the Faculty Club at Spear Education.
Bring a consultant in. Successful people know they need coaches. There are many good ones, some of which are listed in my favorites on the right.
Fire that pain-in-the-ass employee.
In other words, do something different! Stop expecting more happiness from the same course of action.
Also, be mindful that sometimes our job isn’t the dream, but it supports the dream. In fact, that’s what happens for most of us. At 1-800-DENTIST, a number of our operators in the call center do their job, and do it well, so that they can pursue acting, or music or art. And they know it’s unlikely that they will be able to feed themselves pursuing their passion, but they don’t abandon it. And it makes doing the day job worthwhile.
The brilliant and inspiring speaker, Gary Zelesky, reminded me this year that he is not passionate about airports, or hotel rooms, or lousy food on the road, or negotiating his fees. He is passionate about speaking, about motivating people, and he endures all those other things so that he can do what he is passionate about. We all have to pay our dues, no matter how closely we are pursuing are passion. The aging rock star misses his family, but still fills stadiums with raving fans, so he keeps touring. The famous author sits in bookstores, endlessly signing copies his latest novel. The filmmaker negotiates relentlessly with the studio to produce the film he envisions. The dentist sacrifices weekends to refine his skills, to offer the best care to his patients.
I’ll say it again: stop expecting more happiness from the same course of action. To put your change in motion, make a real commitment. One that’s hard, if not impossible, to back out of. You can make it to yourself, but I’ve observed there is something powerful to declaring your goal publicly. It gives you that little extra motivation when you’re falling behind on that dream. In fact, if you want to declare it as a comment on this post, I welcome that. (I might check in on you next year, though!)
So, why not make this your leap year? Because the only real failure is failing to try.
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