Closing Your Practice Diastema

Okay, I made that term up, but what I’m describing is one of the biggest gaps in your practice, which is the difference between what the dentist thinks and what the office manager knows to be true.

For example, I was talking to a dentist recently at the CDA about the need to have a Facebook page for her practice, and she said, “No one in our office is on Facebook.”  Her office manager was standing next to her, and said to me, quietly, with a little smile, “We all are. She’s the only one who isn’t.”

Madonna has a gap, but it's definitely not a marketing gap. She's a master of it.

Madonna has a gap, but it’s definitely not a marketing gap. She’s a master of it.

Very often we use our behavior as the norm. Unfortunately, many times what we do and think is not the same as the majority of people.

I will also occasionally meet a dentist who says, “Most of my patients don’t use email.” Well, according to a Pew Report in 2011, 92% of Americans have an email address, and 49% of them use it daily.  Is there any reason to think those percentages have gone down int the past two years?

We have practices using PatientActivator that have more than 90% of their patients’ emails.  And our favorite way to communicate with office managers is by email, and they generally prefer it as well. They are online all day, checking and sending emails.

Another dentist didn’t want to use automated appointment reminders because he felt that “texting is impersonal.  We prefer phone calls.” What he meant was that he finds texting impersonal. But not everyone feels that way. Some feel the opposite, and find a phone call intrusive. To reinforce that, another study showed that 74% of the cell phone population use texting, and 31% of them prefer texting to a phone call.

The fact is, how people adapt to and utilize technology has become quite varied.  Though it is often age-specific (people 18-24 send an average of 110 texts per day!), very often it’s not. In contrast to that, the fastest growing category of Facebook users is the 60+ age group. I find office managers are much more in tune with this, as they are the ones tasked with patient communication.

Office managers often know more about practice marketing as well. We did a survey recently in cooperation with the Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM), and we found several gaps between what the managers and dentists believed.  For instance, 72% of office managers consider practice websites very important, while only 45% of dentists do.

So who’s right? Well, approximately 50% of consumers consider the design of the website the most important factor in judging the quality of a business. So you tell me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking dentists. I’ve worked in marketing for 30 years, and I’ve never seen changes in consumer behavior happen so quickly. I’ve also been in dentistry for 27 years, and I’ve watched the clinical demands on dentists accelerate at a dizzying pace, so it’s not surprising that the nuances of marketing and digital behavior often escape dentists. And I know many dentists who do manage to keep current, but it’s daunting and time-consuming for them.

The best way to close that practice diastema, in my opinion, is to trust your office manager, and empower her (or him) to decode the marketing challenges the practice faces.  They are your connection to the world, and they know your business.  (I also recommend signing them up to be part of AADOM, which is a terrific network of office managers all helping each other.)

You start to close those gaps, and get in alignment, and you’ll see results quickly.


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2 thoughts on “Closing Your Practice Diastema

  1. Fred,
    I love your analogy. I too fought my doctor about getting a Facebook page. I won that battle, but is was tough! It is,as you said, a generational thing. Also, my dentist does not believe in heavy marketing. He has been in practice for over 30 years and has strong ideas on what is and is not acceptable.

    As for AADOM, I can’t recommend it enough. As a Fellow in the awesome group, I can tell anyone that it is an investment for your office manager and your practice!

  2. I have always noticed Madonna’s gap, and now I notice her grill. Perhaps that is something to use for your next blog post….who grilled Madonna? I digress. Sorry. I think you hit it head on–too much paperwork, liability issues, and clinical skills to keep up with let alone communication know-how. It took me almost the whole summer to close my gap, and I love social media. I do think AADOM is a great recommendation to help “brace” the gap. Talking with people who understand your heaven or hell and who can make helpful suggestions can save so much time and energy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Fred.

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