Google+ Down, Mobile Up, Facebook Up and Down

Here are some up-to-the-minute changes in social media.

  1. Google+, as far as dental practices go, is over.  Let me be the first one to tell you that you can stop posting there. Google+ is morphing away from being a social media site, as it failed the “me too” challenge with Facebook. I know, in my book I told you to mirror everything you did on Facebook on Google+.  Stuff changes–don’t shoot the messenger!  However, you should still request reviews for your Google+ page, as they will still show up in a Google search, and are valuable for SEO and influencing searching consumers. [Thanks to Jason K. for pointing that out!]
  2. Your activity, likes, and recommendations on your Facebook page are no longer indexed by Google.  No one knows exactly when this happened, but it’s over. So you get no Google juice (my term for SEO) out of your activity. This doesn’t mean you stop using Facebook.  It’s still the best medium to show the experience of being a patient of yours.
  3. On April 21, Google is modifying its algorithms (how it ranks websites) with respect to mobile sites. If your mobile site is not responsive or reformatted to play well on mobile devices, it is going to hurt your ranking.  Not the first time I’ve told you how important the mobile version of your website is.
  4. 74% of consumers will abandon your mobile website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Not the second time I’ve told you how important the mobile version of your website is.  More than 60% of web searches begin on smartphones, by the way.
  5. Videos now start playing automatically on Facebook as people scroll down their wall. (Unless you turn the function off.) This is engaging FB users in a big way. How big? Well, media analyst Socialbakers’ recent study showed video has twice the organic reach on Facebook as photos. And Facebook also has twice the number of videos with 1 million views that YouTube has. That’s serious.
  6. Because of this, I maintain that patient testimonial videos are your best marketing tool. Also, make sure you post natively on Facebook, which means don’t link a YouTube video or other URL source, upload it using Instagram or straight to Facebook with your computer or device.  If you don’t know how to get them done, read this blog post.
  7. Physicists now believe that gravity can leak into parallel universes, creating tiny black holes, and that the Large Hadron Collider may be able to detect them.  This may not seem important now, but wait 50 years. You’ll be saying, “Yeah, I knew about that back in 2015!”

That’s it for now.  But expect more changes.  Social media is a rapidly moving target.  And of course, if your website isn’t playing right on mobile, check out WebDirector.

And Jack Hadley, from My Social Practice, had this important point to add:

Fred, your statement under #2 is only partially true, “So you get no Google juice (my term for SEO) out of your activity.”

Cyrus Shepard, a super-smart SEO guy at MOZ, wrote the following just a couple of days ago… “The basic argument goes like this: ‘Google says they don’t use Facebook likes or Tweet counts to rank websites. Therefore, social activity doesn’t matter to SEO.’ This statement is half right, but can you guess which half? It’s true that Google does not use metrics such as Facebook shares or Twitter Followers directly in search rankings. On the other hand, successful social activity can have significant secondary effects on your SEO efforts. Social activity helps address two of the major tasks facing SEO: 1) Search engine discovery and indexation 2) Content distribution, which leads to links and shares.”

I wholeheartedly agree when you say, “It (social) is still the best medium to show the experience of being a patient of yours.” Spot on! However, in addition, there ARE SEO benefits that result from social media activity. We see it with our clients all the time.

Oh, BTW, if anyone wants to read Cyrus Shepard’s post, here is the link: http://moz.com/blog/seo-myths.

Thanks, Jack!

The Magic of Giving Tours

If you’ve read my book, you know I’m a big believer in giving office tours to new patients, and I wanted to give you an example of how influential it can be based on an experience I had in Chicago last month.

One of the perks of attending the Chicago Midwinter Meeting is getting to eat at some Chicago’s amazing restaurants.  For the second year in a row, I made a point of dining at Chicago Cut Steakhouse, which to my mind is one of the best steakhouses in the world. The waiters are informed and attentive, the atmosphere feels modern and classic at the same time, and the beef is cooked to perfection.Fernando Chicago Cut small

We all wanted to see how they could do everything so perfectly, so we asked for a tour of the kitchen.  And they were entirely prepared to do so. They often give tours of the dry-aging room (they butcher all their own beef right there) but we got the bonus round and were led into the kitchen, where we met master chef Fernando (that’s him with me) who manages to serve more than 500 steaks every night, each one cooked perfectly.

He showed us his unique method for testing if the steak is done exactly right, but those of us on the tour were sworn to secrecy.  (Maybe if you buy me dinner there next time I’ll tell you. 😉 ) All in all, it was a singularly terrific evening in the Windy City.

Am I biased by the tour to believe that their food is superior? You bet. Am I coming back? Guaranteed. Am I going to tell people about this place? I am right now. Will I post about it on social media? Oh, just on Twitter, Facebook and Yelp.

This is the same effect you want to achieve with your new patient tours.

When a new patient comes to your office, they don’t know what they’re in for.  Even if they were recommended by a friend and family member, they’re apprehensive.  A tour relaxes them, informs them, and gives them an experience that they don’t normally get in health care.  It starts the relationship by making the patient feel truly welcome.

In a recent survey done for Futuredontics, we asked patients the reasons why they would go back to the same dentist. Surprisingly, they ranked the cleanliness of the practice as a close third. Most people have no idea the degree of effort dental practices make in sterilization, so show them.  Put them at ease. They may not verbalize it, but they want to know that the practice is safe and sterile.  If you want to know more about what we learned, you can access our white paper “What Dental Patients Want” by clicking on the title.

To give you an idea how serious people are about this, I recently met a woman who told me she only went back to the dentist that we recommended because they had soap in the restroom.  Huh?  But think about it.  She was basing the cleanliness of the entire office based on the bathroom.  Big assumption, but if the bathroom is dirty, what else is?  Keep it clean!

Lots of big companies do tours.  Zappos, the online clothing store, for example.  Anyone can get a tour of their facility in Las Vegas, and i highly recommend it.  A-Dec does as well, and you’ll be amazed at the lengths to which they go to build long-lasting products. And, if you’re ever in Los Angeles, we’ll be happy to give you a tour of Futuredontics. (Lots of soap in the bathroom, I promise you!)

I lay out the details of doing office tours in my book, but here are the basics:

  1. Plan the steps of the tour, and script it;
  2. Pick a tour guide (you generally know who that should be from the team–or take turns doing it);
  3. Let everyone know in the morning huddle when there will be a new patient tour, so that they can be ready to greet the person by name;
  4. Show them your wall of fame (pictures, training, diplomas, patient letters and photos);
  5. Explain all the benefits of the technology that you use;
  6. Show them the sterilization center;
  7. Introduce them to the team members and dentists;
  8. Ask them if they have any questions.

This will give a phenomenal and unique first impression.  Your office doesn’t necessarily have to have an amazing design, but it should always feel warm and inviting, and look clean and modern. Most of all, have fun doing it!

 

 

Is Your Practice a Tear-down?

tear-down houseThe long-standing tradition in dentistry has been for a dentist to run his or her practice for 30 or 40 years, occasionally replacing some equipment as necessary, and then selling the facility and patient list to a young dentist or associate.  That game has changed significantly, but many dentists haven’t realized that yet.

Now, when someone is assessing a practice for acquisition, they are looking at the age of two things: the facility and the patient base.  Let’s talk about the first one.

New dental school graduates are learning to work with digital everything.  And they are already fully digital in their personal lives.  In fact, more and more schools now train on CAD/CAM. (Sirona just equipped Boston University with a full array of CEREC machines for the students to work with, for example.)  This generation views digital radiography as standard.  They also understand marketing much more than previous generations, and they have grown up surrounded by brilliant retail design, from iPhones to Nike stores.

So when they walk into a dental practice that is essentially devoid of new technology, with tired and dated design, what they see is a tear-down.  They imagine that they will have to gut the facility and bring in new technology, as well as create an office design environment that is appealing to patients.  From an expenditure standpoint, they are often better off starting with raw office space somewhere else.

So my question is, if you were selling your house after living in it for 30 years, would you not paint, landscape, replace furniture, throw out some magazines, upgrade a few appliances and generally spiff the place up?  Because we all know the differences in price between a house in move-in condition, one that needs work, and a tear-down.  And we all know which one sells the fastest.  So why not do this with your practice?

The economics justify the upgrades, because you will recoup the money in the sale.  But something else will happen, something that many dentists don’t expect.  Suddenly, your existing patient base starts accepting more treatment, and coming in more often.  Why? The place looks new again, and the technology is appealing, especially if you talk about the benefits to them when they come in, or if you use something like PatientActivator to tell your patients about new services and technology.

Which leads to the second part–the aging of your patients.  In most practices,  the median patient age mirrors the age of the primary dentist.  In a transition, the buyer is going to look at the average age of the patients, and price accordingly.

The parallel to the real estate market is that young families with kids are going to look in neighborhoods where the residents have children of similar ages.  So a young dentist is not going to be eager to try to treat an aging patient base (who considers him a child, too young to know anything about medicine or dentistry, right?) instead of a broad mix of patients of all ages.

So the second part of your practice renovation is to refresh your patient base.  This is a lot easier when the facility is refreshed with design and new technology, by the way.  If you’re marketing to new patients, if your practice doesn’t look new and modern, you won’t have good photos to put on your website, and certainly can’t do a video tour.   But it also means investing in promotion to bring new patients in–new blood, so to speak, that brings that median age down.

This is a five-year plan, in my mind, or longer.  This isn’t something that all comes together in 6 months, but you can certainly execute the first steps–remodel, start adding new tech, market for new patients–and then the results will start coming in. Your production will go up, and when you’re ready, you’ll have a practice in move-in condition, commanding top dollar.  Make sense?

 

You’re Just Like Tom Cruise

Living in Los Angeles, I meet more than my share of actors.  Not just the more famous ones, but the ones trying to make it.  And there are many of them at the “undiscovered” tom-cruise-in-mission-impossible-4-movie-hdstage of their careers who are pure artists.  By that I mean they love acting. They are passionate about the process of creating a character and performing.  And some of them are extremely talented. They consider themselves as pure artists, but they are starving, because they have not adjusted to the idea that successful actors know that they are not just artists, but are working in an industry trying to make a profit, not just art.

Tom Cruise, on the other hand, knows that he is in a business. He loves acting, and works as hard or harder than almost anyone in the industry at his performances. He has been the lead in 29 films, has won three Golden Globes and been nominated for three Oscars. But, he is also ranked #3 in all-time box office revenue ($6.5 billion so far), because he understands the business of acting, perhaps better than almost anyone.

So what does that have to do with dentistry?  In my experience, the best dentists clinically are artist/engineer personalities.  They want to do great dentistry, and train themselves constantly to get better.  But many of them are in practices that are struggling financially.  Despite being extraordinary “artists”, their careers are not paying off.  Just like the “pure” actors, they don’t like the idea of promoting themselves, or focusing on the business aspects of their practice, and don’t feel the need to understand their “audience.”

Tom Cruise has a PR team, an acting coach, a manager, an agent, a financial advisor and business partners in his production company.  Why?  Because to succeed in acting you need all of those things, as well as talent.

The successful dentists I know all have their team as well. They use a practice consultant to coach them, work with a financial advisor, use outside marketing resources, and have a deeply-engaged relationship with their distributor representative.  And they make sure that their office manager is constantly updating her skills (through organizations like AADOM).

But all that is expensive, you might say.  In response, I say, you know what’s expensive? Houses. Cars. Kids’ educations. Travel. Retirement. That’s why you need to be successful as a dentist, not just clinically excellent.  That takes investment.  Tom Cruise pays his manager 10% of his income because he earns it!  His acting coach isn’t expensive–he’s an investment in growth.  His financial advisor doesn’t cost him money–he makes him money.  And all of these people do these things so that Tom can focus on his performance.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand the business aspects of his career.  You can bet he’s paying close attention to it. (Just as you should.)  And his reputation is also vulnerable, just like a dentist’s is.  You may have some troubling Yelp reviews, but he’s had some issues with his involvement in Scientology.  But he doesn’t ignore them.  And you can’t afford to either. He fixes it with good reviews for a hit movie (The Edge of Tomorrow).  Just as you should have a systematic approach to generating great reviews. (This whitepaper gives you a step-by-step approach for this.)

Successful dentists–dentists who are thriving and enjoying their work–focus on the clinical and the business side of their practices.  Clients of mine use 1-800-DENTIST because they know their ROI is 4-1 on their marketing investment. They have us build their websites because they know they couldn’t possibly keep up with SEO on their own. Fortune Management clients keep using their coaches even as they get more successful, because they know they can always get better (or slip back into old, unproductive habits.)  Patterson clients know that their rep isn’t just keeping their cabinets full of sundries, but are also steering them in the right direction on new technology, office design and clinical training.

Those are just examples of the many good resources that are available to you.  I list my favorites on this blog on the right-hand side, from Gary Takacs to Spear Education to the Madow brothers, and in the resources section of this blog as well.

Long-term success in dentistry is not an impossible mission, but a noble one.  You’re helping people, and the only way you can keep doing it in the next 20 years is by running your business extremely well.  And that takes a team.

Escaping Gravity with Your Practice

On a manned space flight to Mars, which is 34 million miles away, 50% of the fuel would SLS Booster 11X7 K65634be used to go the first 400 miles.  The reason for that, of course, is what’s involved in escaping Earth’s gravity.  In many ways this is similar to starting and operating a dental practice.

The gravity is your list of fixed expenses–rent, equipment leases, loan payments, utilities, salaries, etc.  Until you “escape gravity”, that is, produce enough to pay your fixed expenses, your practice profit for the month is $0.  After that, you are able to keep an exceptional amount of the collections for that month, because for the most part your variable expenses–lab costs and supplies–is less than 20% of your fees.

This is very different from many other businesses. In most retail stores, for example, the fixed expenses are less than 20% and the variable costs, like the stuff they put on the shelves, is close to 70%. If they sell a lot more in a month, they still only keep 10-20% of what goes in the till.

The challenge for most dentists is that they are barely escaping gravity.  The team works hard at “cracking the nut” every month, and the accountant tells the dentist that her overhead (calculated by all costs except the what the dentist pays him or herself) is 70%.  So the dentist thinks that for every dollar she produces going forward she is only going to keep 30%.  That could not be further from the truth.

Once you escape gravity, you keep 80% of the increase in production.  This economic fact is one of the most beautiful things about the dental practice model.  For example, say a  practice is producing $40,000 per month, (which in the average urban area is still trapped in fixed-expense gravity) and the profit margin is 30%.  That’s $12,000 to the dentist. Now imagine production is increased by $8,000 in the following month. Then the economics change significantly.

How?  Simple.  Because on that additional $8,000, the only expenses are variable ones: lab costs, consumables, and perhaps a bit of employee time.  Even a high estimate of that would come out to only 20% in the average practice.  Which means $6,400 is additional profit.  You’ve gone from making $12,000 to $18,400.  You’ve increased production by 20%, but in fact your profit margin has now gone from 30% to 38%.  And your take-home income has increased by more than 50%!

This is why the more successful practices can do more marketing, bonus their teams more, add new equipment and technology and upgrade their facility, further improving the efficiency, appeal and success of the practice.  It is not unusual for a dental practice producing over $800,000 to operate at less than 60% overhead.

I’m writing about this because I often encounter dentists who are thinking about advertising to get new patients (or using 1-800-DENTIST) and they make a calculation on the return on investment based on their perception of their overhead percentage.  But the production on those new patients is at your “escaped gravity” percentage, which means you can afford to invest in your growth at a much higher level.  You may pay $200 or $300 for a new patient, but if the lifetime value of a patient is $4000, (it’s much more than that, by the way–watch this video if you don’t believe me), and your true profit is 80%, you’ve invested $300 to make $3200.

Do you think group practices understand this formula? You can bet they do.  And if you want to compete effectively with them, you’d better understand it too.

Isn’t this unique economic opportunity good motivation for getting better at what you do, and increasing your production?  Does it not make sense to incentivize your team to get the practice to escape gravity every month, and every year?  By the way, this is also where your economic freedom will come from.  It’s a lot easier to save 10% of your income when your profit margin is 40%.

There are thousands of practices that do this every month, and they don’t have some magic bullet marketing trick.  Okay, they do, but it’s not some secret Google AdWords formula or miraculous direct mail offer. It’s this: consistently creating a great patient experience.  And that may not be easy, but it’s doable.  And when the rewards are this stratospheric (you know I had to complete the metaphor somehow!) then it’s worth the focus.

So get a coach for you and your team.  Or buy a copy of my book for every team member, and have weekly sessions on how you can improve your practice experience. In other words, do something different if you want different results.  And blast off!