Every once in a while, one of my colleagues in the dental world really nails something so precisely that I think it should be shared far and wide. This is Monday’s post from Katherine Eitel, on her blog, Monday Morning Stretch. Most of the people I associate with are extremely helpful by nature, but often we fail because our communication is wrong, or mis-perceived, or our efforts over-enable rather than help someone to grow and solve their own problem.
In her blog post, which follows, Katherine presents a simple, brilliant, four-step process for offering help in the best way. Read on!
BEING HELPFUL, by Katherine Eitel
Someone near and dear to my heart is struggling. She is lost in what seems like a life without options or choices. Feeling powerless, she is caught in a vicious cycle of despair, depression, and exhaustion with no end in sight. The conversations and common experiences of her daily life as well as larger world events seem to confirm the immediate and unchangeable reality of the decline of decency and corruption of mankind. In this state, she feels a loss of hope and sense of tired resignation.
I understand it. I’ve been there. But my world (the same world actually), at the moment, looks very different. I see constant evidence of the generosity and courage of the human spirit. I see bright minds creating amazingly creative solutions to age-old problems. I observe a groundswell of people shifting to a new way of communicating, negotiating, perceiving, and operating in the world we live in all around me. I see possibility in my work, my relationships, my income, my health, and my personal life that seems more expansive and prosperous than ever. It’s just where I am right now. But I have been where she is and at that time there were people who were where I am right now. They tried their dead-level best to help me. A lot of them failed and a few thankfully succeeded.
At the same point in time, we hold different views of the same circumstances. Case in point: My friend and I both flipped through a new local magazine recently and both commented on something in it that had caught our attention. She noted the materialistic focus on wealth and luxury and how wholly out-of-touch the publication was with the real world. I noted the fantastic enlightenment for me that there were so many pioneers, artists, activists, athletes, and iconic entrepreneurs of national and world acclaim living right in my hometown. Of particular note to me was a quote by a local wedding and commercial photographer who is in demand not only locally but on international shoots such as Slovakia and the South Pacific, “My work has opened up a whole new world of travel and it’s all tied in with families and love. I don’t think of myself as being in business, I think of being in pursuit of a wonderful, fulfilling lifestyle.”
Here’s my point. I’m making no judgment about where my friend is other than to say that it pains me to see her unhappy, depressed, and feeling so powerless. At one point or another, most of us will find ourselves in a spot just like this. The question on my mind this week was, “How can I help her?”
In the past I would have lectured incessantly on the virtues of positive thinking, making peace with “what is,” living in gratitude, and on and on and on. But this week I decided to be thoughtful before I offered my help and my opinions. I went for my morning walk and crested the most strenuous hill where my blood always pumps wildly, my endorphins kick into full release and my view is 360 degrees of beauty… and where I seem to get my most valuable ideas and inspiration. I asked the question there. How can I best help my friend? How can I show her all the possibility, hope, and joy that is immediately available to her? How can I help her find her own power again?
The answer came swiftly and boldly. (And I laughed out loud knowing my Monday Morning Stretch had just been written. I’m telling you, I’m mostly just a conduit for this stuff!) The clear, resonate message that entered my mind was this:
1. Model it.
2. Offer it.
3. Support it.
4. Release it.
It’s so perfect, I get chills just remembering and writing it.
1. Model it. Before you preach it, you need to do it and master it yourself. Be the unashamed, unwavering, ongoing, living example of prosperity, joy, gentle strength and self-powered happiness.
2. Offer it. When you do decide to speak, do so gently by simply offering an alternative to consider. Remember that your truth is not the truth, it’s simply one truth. Your ideas and beliefs are just that… yours. There are as many right ways to address a situation as there are people on the planet. Softly offer an option that has worked for you without any hint that this is the only right way.
3. Support it. Hold them in your mind not as the struggling, helpless friend you currently see but rather as a fellow traveler on the path of life who must be “here” to ever see or learn their own strength and abilities to get over “there.” Hold them in the knowledge that it’s all perfect in its unfolding for them. See them, speak to (and of) them, and treat them as someone you know they can, and will ultimately, become.
4. Release it. Model, Offer, Support, and then… let go. Move on. This is not your life or your fight. We’ve intersected somehow with those we care about to support and be supported in turn. But inherent in the word intersection is the idea that we are moving through this interaction on the travels of our own life. At their best, these intersections are learning or re-affirming moments for us… as much as for them.
Model, Suggest, Support, and Release. I plan to practice these with my children, parents, friends, colleagues, clients, and partner. They were a gift to me and one I pass along with gratitude to you. This week, focus on someone for whom you can see a greater person within than they can currently see for themselves and practice these four ideas of being as much for yourself and your own growth as for theirs.
So, pretty darn amazing, isn’t it? If you know Katherine, she truly does model this positive behavior. And I plan to apply these steps in my own interactions and intersections with people. I hope you found this as valuable as I did. Thanks, Katherine, for allowing me to share it on my blog!
Most likely, if your website is more than two or three years old, it needs a serious refresh, if not a total redo. And there are a lot of website companies out there willing to build you a site and “guarantee” to get you on the first page in a Google search.
There are a number of reasons why that is not possible, and the promise is a false one. But the primary reason is this: Google gives different results to different people based on their search history. In other words, you could be sitting there on your laptop, and do a search for “comedy clubs in Baltimore”, and your spouse could be sitting next to you using her iPad, and do the exact same search, and you would get two different results.
That’s because Google has built a profile on you based on your previous searches, and tries to decide what your preferences might be. Their goal is to give the best possible result for you, and they have a number of tricks to figure that out. This is not unlike what Amazon does, offering you recommendations based on what you previously bought and viewed.
The fact is that Google gives search results based on anywhere from 400-800 bits of information, much of it variable, particularly location, but most of them Google does not tell us, as they don’t want companies “gaming” the search and stealing the clicks. Also, different devices and browsers affect results. For example, if you use Google Chrome, it’s looking at your Google+ page to see what you post, share and comment on relative to that search. All in milliseconds, of course.
So what does that website designer mean when they make this “promise”? They mean that they can get you to appear on the first page of Google on one computer, one time, and they are going to take a screen shot to show you that it happened, so they can bill you for the website and keep your money.
Why do they promise this? Because that’s what dentists tell them they want. Of course. Who doesn’t want to be on the first page? But when half the dentists in your area have a website, you’re not all going to get on the first page, unless the screen is the size of a movie theater screen. And even if you do appear today on the first page, it won’t mean you’ll be there tomorrow. Or an hour from now.
So what’s a dentist to do? The operative principle is to have truly relevant, ever-changing content on a website that is visually appealing and easy to navigate. It used to be that you just needed relevant content. (Of course what I’m talking about here is appearing organically, or naturally, in a search, not bidding on AdWords to show up there. But even when you bid on AdWords, your site needs to be relevant to the search criteria to appear.)
What is going to happen is that, as people get more and more sophisticated in their searching, they are going to put in more detail in the search box, otherwise they will get too many results, and none of those will be precisely what they’re looking for. So, for example, instead of searching for “dentist Spokane” they will search “dentist 99026 Saturday hours reviews CEREC”, and get a much more refined SERP. (SERP stands for “search engine results page”, which is an acronym you will start to see more and more.)
This will mean that the more relevant, precise content you have in your website, the more Google will be able to offer you as a first page result when people get this specific. Google is also advancing to the point where you can ask detailed questions, rather than just putting in keywords, and get relevant results.
But remember where I mentioned that Google wants “ever-changing content”? This is where your website most likely needs to change. You need to be able to have reviews appearing automatically, and easily change various texts, images and videos on your website. This has become essential.
And be aware that it has been well-documented that people are making judgments about the quality of your dentistry based on the quality of your website. It doesn’t matter that these two things are factually unrelated–this is what they do with most businesses, and it often makes sense to do so. This is why your website needs to look fresh and modern, and be easily navigated.
I hope this gives you some insight into the escalating importance of having a high-quality website, while also making you suspect of anyone promising you magical results. Good luck!
P.S. I’m doing a free webinar on September 10 where I go into deep detail on everything you need to be doing to satisfy Google on your website. It’s free, and if you want to register click here. Also, it will be recorded, so if you can’t make it at that time, register anyway and we will send you a link to the recording.
Many people can teach you systems and logistics to make your practice more efficient. But the most important result of those improvements should be that they allow you to focus completely on the patient you are with at that moment. In the psychological vernacular, you can be present for that person.
Why is that so critical? Because we are all keenly aware when someone’s attention is completely on us. It’s also critical because so few people are actually present with each other these days. This cartoon is a fairly accurate indictment of our ADD behavior.
And in the practice of dentistry, where anxiety, apprehension and misinformation abound, genuine caring for the patient as an individual is even more critical. I believe it is foundational, because most patients, in order to suspend all of their irrational beliefs and behaviors regarding their oral health, have to trust you. Being present creates that trust.
So what does “being present” really mean? And how exactly do you get there? In essence, being truly present means that when you are with a patient, whether you are the dentist, hygienist, assistant, treatment coordinator or receptionist, your attention is 100% on them. You’re not thinking about the next patient. Or the next piece of equipment you’d like to buy. Or that sandwich in the refrigerator calling your name. You’re listening, talking to, and focusing on that person.
And the first step to achieving this is deciding to do it. Next, you need to eliminate distractions. This is a practice in and of itself, almost like a meditation, where you do not let other thoughts interfere. And you can only do this when you have effective systems in your office, where the flow is controlled and sequenced properly, and people know their roles and complete them. It is a team effort that creates the possibility for each of you to be fully present.
It means stripping away your internal noise, or at least ignoring it, and eliminating your external noise. Interruptions are not tolerated, (not even Facebook messages!) Is it easy? No. What life skill is? But as I said, the result is a foundation for a deep, long term relationship of trust with your patients.
Otherwise, what happens is we flit from operatory to operatory, from exam to case presentation, phone call to email, always thinking about what we have to be doing next. This is how most of us live our entire lives, not being in the moment, but thinking about the past or the future.
We live in a world of massive distraction, making it harder and harder to focus all the time. And, in my mind, all the more necessary. And when you are present, it has become so increasingly rare that people respond to it, sensing instantly that your attention is not divided. And it’s powerful.
One of the things I like most about our training for 1-800-DENTIST call center operators is that for each call, they learn to put all their focus on that caller, forgetting about what else is going on in their lives at that moment. They forget about the annoying call they may have just finished, and don’t think about the traffic on the ride home. They are truly present for that person as an individual, with individual needs and concerns. We train this because we have learned it makes a huge difference when someone is trying to choose a dentist and has no idea how to make that decision.
Sound like a bunch of New Age nonsense? Okay, from a purely business standpoint, being present is good marketing. In any service business, when a person feels someone’s focused attention, they are more receptive. In your case, being more receptive means patients accepting treatment now instead of putting it off for six months, or a year, or indefinitely, which doesn’t benefit them at all. You are helping them make a good health decision, sometimes in spite of themselves, and your being present is an integral part of that.
Of all the highly successful dentists I know, I can safely say that every single one of them has mastered this skill. Some came to it more naturally, but each one of them, once they saw the potency of it, made it an essential part of their practice behavior. And then built a team that behaved exactly the same way. And the systems and efficiencies they built into their practice all support this. And it has yielded the best kind of success: a thriving practice with healthy patients who appreciate the relationship they have with the dentist and the team.
They also use automation and software whenever possible to free themselves up from repetitive or unnecessary distractions. One of the main benefits of PatientActivator or applications like it is that it allows the front desk team to focus more on the patients who need their attention.
And good practice coaches can help your team prioritize and streamline your daily activities. On the right under “Fred’s Favorites” you can see who I recommend to help you accomplish this.
Of course, you’ll always need to be highly efficient in a dental practice–each professional only has 35 hours a week to deliver care–but what will make those hours most productive, providing the highest degree of care, is your ability to capitalize on those efficiency systems by being totally present with each patient.
And who knows, you may find that once you master this at work, you’ll be more present with your partner, your children, your friends, and everyone you meet.
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One of the key lessons that every salesperson learns is when to stop talking. The reason I bring this up in a dental blog is because, in case you hadn’t noticed, successful dentistry involves effective communication in order to facilitate treatment acceptance. (Put another way, selling.) Human nature is what it is, and human behavior is often quite predictable. If you’re trying to convince someone to do something that will benefit them, but they don’t understand the value, then they need to be sold on the idea. Dentistry is a prime example of this.
Hence the fine art of shutting up. Let me show you how this is applied. Think about this typical situation in a dental office: you have presented the case to the patient and explained the cost, and now you ask, “What do you think?” And then you wait. Silently. Most dentists (and a good many salespeople) can’t bear more than a few seconds of silence before jumping in with another thought. Very often this thought sounds like, “If this seems like too much, you don’t have to do it right now.” Or, “Maybe this is more than you can afford. We have other options.” Now the patient is off the hook, and also thinks that perhaps that you were overselling them. And you’ve done that patient a disservice, because most likely the treatment you recommended would be one of the best investments that patient will make in their life.
Truly great salespeople can do this and wait 20 minutes without uttering a word. Why? Because you don’t know what the person is going to say! One of the problems with having a good amount of experience is that we think we can figure out how people are going to respond ahead of time. But there is no upside in making that guess. Find out what the person is actually going to say, what their real objection might be, or if they even have one. Don’t fill in the blank yourself.
To give you an example in my own life, I was having a conversation with a meeting planner who was trying to book me as a speaker. It was an event I really wanted to present at, and I knew it would be fun and a great audience. The planner asked me what my honorarium was, and I told him my full fee, and then I almost said, “But for this event I’d be willing to do it for half that.” But at the last second I remembered the rule, and I shut up. I waited. And you know what he said? “That’s fine.” I would have shorted myself half my fee if I hadn’t clammed up.
I get that this is difficult. In fact, this is perhaps the hardest skill to develop in business and in sales. And the longer you’re waiting, the harder it is to stay silent. I know, I’ve been in that situation often. And if fact, most of the time the other person is waiting for you to speak, and hopefully give them another option. Don’t. Just shut up and find out what they really are thinking.
In fact, try it when you’re on the other end of a transaction. Let’s say you’re buying a new car. A good salesman is going to present you with a “final” offer. If you wait long enough, he’ll fold and say, “Let me talk to my manager and see if I can do better.” Unless he’s really good. Then he’s going to wait for you to speak. It should be fun to see who gives in first, wouldn’t you say?
Another big bonus to shutting up is you get to listen instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next. Once you’ve decided not to speak, you don’t have to think about your response, because you aren’t going to say anything until the other person does, and that will prompt you. It’s very powerful, because really listening is also a challenge for most people. (It’s even harder to teach salespeople to do than getting them to shut up after their “closing” question.)
I’ll repeat that key thought: It’s not about planning what you will say next. Your full attention is on the other person. Because listening closely, attentively, will give you the real insight that you need once they finally do speak. You will find out if they don’t understand the treatment, or the cost, or the importance of it, or if they just want to start. And not only will this inform your response to this patient, it will also give you feedback on where you might be weak in your case presentation, so you can be more effective with the next patient.
This is not a trick. This is effective communication. And this applies to many different communications that occur in a practice. It’s so easy to jump in with our own thoughts after a question, or to fill in the silence with more of our own words. But it’s not effective.
When you meet a new patient, and you sit them down and ask, “How do you feel about your smile?”, wait and see what they say. They could be perfectly happy with their mangled grille, or they could be deeply embarrassed about a minuscule diastema. Don’t offer your opinion until you hear theirs. Then tailor your response accordingly.
What you say after they finally speak is critical, and you want to be prepared for that as well. If they say, “That seems like a lot of money,” then your response would then be, “So if cost were not a factor, then you would start this treatment today?” Then shut up. If they say yes, then you say, “Let me explain what financial options we have.” If they say no, then you know that you haven’t gotten to the real objection yet. Most likely they don’t appreciate the value or the importance or the urgency of the treatment. But you won’t know unless you let them speak first.
Practice the fine art of shutting up, and I promise it will yield surprising dividends. I hear this could even work in your marriage. I may try that someday!
[For a further discussion on the idea of sales in dentistry, read this blog post: “Is It Unprofessional to Sell Dentistry?”
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Most people reduce Darwinism to “survival of the fittest,” but his theory actually states that the species that survive are the ones who most effectively adapt.
And let’s face it–humans are not the fittest species. We couldn’t outrun a housecat, we swim slower than a goldfish, we need clothing to keep from freezing to death. Half of us need glasses to even see. And yet we dominate the planet, because we are highly adaptive.
But like most species, we only adapt when we need to. We resist it, we ignore it, and sometimes we legislate against it, but change comes anyway. (Witness the battle going on over Uber in various states.)
Well, in dentistry today, we need to evolve.
Because my company deals with dental consumers all over the country, dentists ask me what I think the future of dentistry will be. The answer may vary somewhat depending on where they are, but one of the things I always tell them is that I believe that within a generation the solo practice will not be a sustainable business model. There are forces at work that never existed before, not just trends but tectonic shifts.
These are the main ones:
- Corporate dentistry is growing at 15% annually
- Convenient hours are the norm for most service businesses
- Consumers use and trust online reviews in ever-increasing numbers (translation: word of mouth has gone digital)
- Dental insurance companies are systematically decreasing reimbursements
- Dental school tuition has skyrocketed
- Discretionary income has shrunk for every segment of American society except the top 10%
Need I go on?
I meet dentists every week who are hoping to coast to the end of their practice run without upgrading their facility, refreshing their patient base, or offering any sort of convenient hours, and hope to get a nice payday when they sell their practice. Would you put your house on the market without painting it, doing some landscaping, and getting rid of that scary couch in the living room? Yet this is what dentists are doing all across the country, and what will happen is someone won’t buy the practice, they’ll just open across the street with a new facility, convenient hours, same day dentistry, and they’ll vacuum half the patients out of that practice in a year or two.
Just because you don’t see big changes coming doesn’t mean they’re not looming on the horizon. For the first time in the 30 years I’ve been working in dentistry, I’ve witnessed dentists losing their entire practice, having virtually nothing to sell at the end. Others have declined 30% in a single year (2008) and then 10% every year thereafter. Many others are still surviving, and some are thriving. But times have really changed.
What can/should you do?
1. Consider bringing in an associate or two. And maybe a specialist or two. You have a million-dollar surgical facility that you’re using 35 hours a week, if that. Get someone else in there.
2. Take a close look at your patient base. Does it merit taking some insurance plans? I know that the goal for many years was to be a completely fee-for-service practice, but I’m not seeing that as viable for most practices in the years ahead. Dr. Mike Barr, in this brilliant blog post, argues against that with a very good strategy, but it involves a determined effort to evolve and change.
3. Tech up. I’m mystified that when a dentist doesn’t get that same day dentistry like CEREC is not a consumer benefit of major proportions. What patient wants two visits instead of one? They don’t want the first one!
4. Offer more convenient hours. Test them to see what your patient base needs. Early mornings, evenings, Saturdays, see what fills up fastest in the schedule.
4. Have a comprehensive digital strategy. This starts with a rock solid, dynamic website, but doesn’t end there. You need a strategy for online reviews* and social media.
5. Network. You and your team need to interact with your community. You can’t just take another clinical course and hope patients will get all excited about your new skill level and start lining up outside.
6. Get more efficient. Use digital communications like PatientActivator. Get a practice coach. Every successful athlete has at least one coach, simply because they don’t know what they’re doing wrong and how they can get better. A good consultant can get you and your team there faster.
Dentistry can be a fantastic profession for many years, perhaps many generations to come, but it’s evolve or die, just like everything else on the planet.
*I’m doing a webinar on online reviews this week entitled “Yelp! The Dentist Survival Guide”. It happens on Thursday at 11am PST. It’s free, and you can register by clicking here.
There is also an excellent DentalTown article with opposing viewpoints on this very topic: “The End of the Solo Era?”
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I occasionally meet dentists who think their patients don’t want to get emails. Some even say that email is dead–nobody uses it anymore. It reminds me of the old Yogi Berra line about a particular restaurant, “No wonder nobody comes here–it’s too crowded!”
The fact is, people spend more time using email than every other online activity except social media, averaging 39 minutes a day. Also, 91% of consumers check email at least daily, and more than 50% check it on a smartphone (ExactTarget). Snail mail may be dead, yellow pages may be dead, but email is far from it.
I often tell practices that the best time-saving tool ever created in dentistry is automated digital communications. Applications like PatientActivator, RevenueWell and others all save time while increasing production and marketing capability. My friend Gary Takacs asserts that it saves his clients more than 20% of their time, time that allows them to talk to the patients that need a phone call. And office managers I meet confirm that over and over again.
Dentists considering PatientActivator will often ask, “How many email addresses should I have before it’s worthwhile?”
The answer is, “As few as zero.”
Why? Because the fewer you have, the more you need to start collecting this very valuable bit of information. Pair this with the fact that I will also meet dentists who say, “I’m waiting until my team has gathered enough email addresses to justify using your application.” Then I’ll meet them six months later and they have exactly the same number of email addresses, simply because they have no effective way of gathering them.
What’s the best way to get something done in business? Make it systematic, and make it easy. The solution here is a Daily Confirmation Sheet. PatientActivator–and most of the other applications–have one that you can print out. It lists every patient coming in that day, and shows whatever information may be missing or need to be updated. Use this, and before you know it you’ll have a nice fat email list, as well as everyone’s cell number.
And every person you can send an email or text to is one less person you have to call. How can that NOT save time?
“But patients don’t want to give us their email.”
It all depends on how you ask. I ran into an office manager who told me she had the email for 95% of their patients. “Wow,” I said. “That’s amazing. How did you do it?” She said, “We treat it just like their phone number and their home address. If they ask why we need it, we say email and text are the main ways we communicate with patients. If you don’t want us to email you, we won’t, but we would still like it in case of an unusual occurrence where we have to contact our patients, like a power failure or natural disaster.”
In other words, she didn’t make it optional. Make it a benefit instead: “This way we don’t have to disturb you with a phone call, and you can put it right in your calendar if you haven’t already.”
Was she an anomaly? I decided to check on our PatientActivator clients. The one with the most also has 95% of their patient emails. Sure, you say, maybe in Silicon Valley. Nope, this is Austin, Texas. Another one in Plano has 93%. A third in Fort Mill, South Carolina has 87%. So it’s possible. Everywhere.
On average, our clients have around 25%. But if you have that many emails, that’s 25% less calls you have to make. Add that to the cell numbers you have, and every one is saving a call–it’s that simple. Even if you had 10% email and 10% cell numbers it would be a huge timesaver.
And also keep in mind that you can turn email messages off or on individually for each patient, so you can tailor it to what each patient prefers. Because the truth of the matter is that many people no longer want a phone call, particularly at work. They don’t find it personal, they find it annoying. They are used to digital communication in every aspect of their lives.
And let’s not forget the other two big bonuses to email in your practice. First, it’s a great way to do promotions to your patients–whitening specials, Invisalign discounts, or free implant exams, for example–and it also gives them something they can easily share with a friend. 74% of consumers prefer email promotions over any other source, and they prefer them 5 to 1 over direct mail (Merkle). Why? Because they can view them whenever they want, delete them easily, or store them for later.
The other big bonus is you can use email to request reviews on Yelp and Google from your patients, and with one click they can go to your business on those sites. (Going back to my previous point about making it systematic and making it easy. For more detail on that, read this previous blog.) And at this point, because Google and Yelp will discard reviews that come from the same place (the i.p. address, as it’s referred to), then this is practically the only effective method of requesting reviews, short of personally asking your patients to do it.
Long live email, I say. As a matter of fact, subscribe to this blog and I’ll email my post to you the moment it’s published!
Be sure to check out my next webinar, “Yelp! The Dentist Survival Guide.” It’s free, and happens on June 19 at 11am PST.
What exactly is demand-based pricing? It is essentially variations in cost relative to the desirability of a specific day, or time
of day. For example, rental car companies charge more on weekends. Some toll roads now charge more during rush hours. Airlines charge more around holidays. Hotels do too, and sometimes you have to make a non-refundable prepayment.
This pricing principle could easily be applied to dental practices. In a previous blog, I discussed how important it has become to have convenient hours–evenings, early mornings, and weekends–as dentistry becomes more competitive. Sometimes I will meet dentists who say, “I’ve tried Saturday hours, but I get a lot of no-shows, even with longtime patients.”
My suggestion is to tell patients, “If you want to book Saturday, that is in high demand, so we require prepayment of the appointment.” People tend to show up much more if they have pre-paid, especially if they are going to lose the money. (You can always waive that if it’s a good patient or a valid reason.) And if they don’t want to pay it, then they don’t take the valuable time slot and instead schedule themselves into your regular workday.
And, if you’re finding that the evenings and early mornings are booking out months in advance, maybe you increase the fee for a prophy at that time of day. Basic economics is to see what pricing the traffic will bear.
Many dentists using CEREC charge more for those restorations, even though it takes them less time overall. Why? Because it’s more convenient to the patient.
Will this type of pricing turn some people off? Maybe. But it’s not the first place they’ve experienced it. Convenience costs more almost everywhere. But you only have 35 hours a week to deliver dentistry, so why not make the most of those hours, and make sure someone is in a chair as often as possible?
Also, sometimes team members resist working those hours, but if you have demand-based pricing, they can too. Pay them extra per hour for those time slots.
Other pricing variations:
- Prepay for two prophys and get a reduced price for both (this should also tighten your recall, as they have to use them within the year)
- Prepay for two prophys a year, get a third one at no charge (more visits mean you do more dentistry)
- Lower pricing for weak slots in your schedule that tend to sit empty
- After-hours emergency surcharge, paid by credit card over the phone or with cash before you start treatment
Will these work in every practice everywhere in the country? Of course not. But some of these ideas may be just right for you.
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What is the biggest blunder in practice marketing? Is it not answering the phone properly? Or not tracking your advertising results? Perhaps not having a good, dynamic website? Nope. Those are all up there, but the biggest marketing mistake that business owners make is thinking that everyone thinks and acts like you do.
Why is that so bad? Because it influences all your other marketing and advertising decisions, and it’s not based on statistical data. I hear these opinions all the time from dentists and, to a lesser degree, office managers. Things like, “I believe in calling all our patients rather than texting them. It’s more personal,” or “People are tired of surveys.”
What the person saying this means is that he thinks phone calls are more personal than texting, or she is tired of surveys, and therefore everyone is. The reality is that 30% of people who use texting prefer it to a phone call. So they don’t find a phone call personal, they find it annoying. And when it comes to surveys and reviews, if you get 1 out of 20 people to respond, that is an excellent result and will boost your SEO considerably. So what if some people have “survey fatigue”?
In the early years of 1-800-DENTIST I would have dentists telling me all the time what TV shows I should be advertising on. This was based on the shows that they liked to watch. Instead, I used the statistical data that told me which shows got the most response and the best quality of patient. Call me crazy. I never watched an entire episode of Oprah, but she got several million dollars from us over the years. Why? because I didn’t use my opinion as the paradigm.
I don’t mean to sound all high and mighty about this. It’s a reflex response. I recently spoke to the dental students at Harvard, and one of the students remarked, “I’m not attracted to all that personal stuff on Facebook business pages. It seems frivolous and irrelevant.” She may be right about that with regard to many other businesses, but the fact is many people are looking for exactly that on a dental practice Facebook page, because the experience of being a patient is what influences them to go, stay and accept treatment, not clinical skills. They see a video of your best crown prep and they’re gone.
I have a name for this: the ETLID Fallacy. (Everyone Thinks Like I Do). Hey, it’s not catchy, but it fits.
Some other classic ETLID assumptions :
“Facebook is kid stuff.” The fact is that the largest group of Facebook users is 25-34 and the fastest growing group of Facebook users is the over-60 population.
“People don’t care about design when it comes to spending.” Really? Look at the pricing difference between Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks, or Apple versus Dell, and tell me if that opinion passes the reality check. We spend based on packaging, and that goes for your dental office just as much as a bottle of Grey Goose.
“My patients don’t use email.” Wrong. 97% of Americans have email, and over 90% check it every day.
“No one is going to pick a dentist on Facebook.” Except that 25% of Facebook users said they would be willing to find a dentist that way.
“My patients love me.” Some do, for sure. But when we have clients using our ReActivation Pro product, where we use live operators to call dormant patients, how is it that 32% of those patients have found another dentist? That doesn’t count the 14% who have moved away.
“Website design doesn’t matter as much as content.” Just the opposite. Research has shown that consumers are making judgments about your clinical skills based on the appearance of your website. I know that those two things are unrelated. And in this example is another important point: many times those ETLID opinions are based on logic or reasonable assumptions. The truth is that consumers don’t always act rationally or logically especially when it comes to dentistry.
“People are flakes when it comes to keeping their dental appointments.” Okay, this one is true.
It isn’t just small business owners that make this mistake. I know executives as very large organizations making the same sort of “gut” decisions and putting millions of dollars behind it. With the same sad results.
Statistics tell you what most people do. I’ve been doing advertising long enough to stop trying to figure out why. I just go with the data. I accept that people act irrationally, and that most people don’t think the way I do about most things. And the numbers tell me that website design matters, social media is important, digital communication is the new norm, reviews influence consumers, and everything a patient experiences in the practice influences their acceptance of treatment.
Valuable data is easier to access than ever. Use it to balance your opinion. Hey, you may even be right sometimes!
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