Mythbusting Dentistry

I often say that dentistry is the most resilient business model in the country. This is true because of the basic necessity of tooth care, and the unique economic model of a dental practice. If you don’t know what I mean by the last part, read my recent blog entitled “Escaping Gravity.”  But I’ve found that there are some huge misconceptions about the industry by those who practice it.

MYTH #1: You don’t have to become more affordable.  You absolutely do.  Have you not seen billboards for implants at $399 a tooth?  You need to become more efficient in your delivery of dentistry and the use of your facility, precisely because you need to become more affordable.  And the right technology and systems can make you faster, delivering better quality dentistry in less time, which means you can provide more affordable dentistry and still be as profitable as you are now, and maybe even more so.

MYTH #2  Everyone eventually will need a dentist.  Think about this: in 2013, 59.2% of Americans supported a family on less than $50,000 a year of household income. That’s households, not individuals. Where is the disposable income for dental care? If it’s not provided by their individual states or counties, it doesn’t exist.  So everyone may need an extraction, but not everyone is going to be getting dental implants.  What dental audience you aiming for, and are you affordable to that segment of society, and are there enough of them in your area?  This goes back to the first Myth, because I believe when dentistry becomes more affordable and more convenient, it will broaden the entire category of dentistry. (My next blog will be about that subject, so stay tuned.)

MYTH #3  All you need are great clinical skills to attract patients. Absolutely not true.  The average person has no way of assessing a dentist’s clinical skills, and a tiny percentage of the population has the desire and the capability to find a highly trained dentist.  If you think CE alone will fill your chairs, you will eventually starve.  This may have been true 30 years ago, but it has grown less and less true for decades, and will not be true at all in the near future.  A great patient experience attracts patients, and creates word of mouth.  Clinical skills are only a fraction of that.

MYTH #4  Dentists are entrepreneurs.  They’re not. They are small business owners, and there’s an enormous difference.  You didn’t invent the dental business model.  Or the group practice model. Which is good, because it means you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Just look at what already works and do it, and adapt as times change to the new technologies and systems that are improve what you do. That’s challenging enough, don’t you think?

MYTH #5  Selling Dentistry Cheapens the Profession. The simple truth is we all need to be sold on things that are important to us, things that we neglect to focus on the true value of, whether it’s saving for retirement, or buying life insurance, or proper diet and exercise.  Dentistry is probably the most undervalued service in the country.  Very few people accurately assess the value and importance of their oral health, so it’s our professional responsibility to persuade them to do what is best for them. Which is what selling is: effective communication with a purpose.  If that purpose is to the patient’s benefit–and they don’t understand or are in denial about that benefit–you are duty-bound to help them understand the value and importance your recommended treatment.

MYTH #6  Group Practices Are Evil and Will Destroy Dentistry.  The reality is that there are good group practices, highly ethical and dedicated to treating patients well and providing a supportive environment for dentists to simply be dental professionals and not businesspeople, and there are some that are less so.  I had a dental student ask me recently about this, suggesting that some groups have a reputation for over-diagnosing and just being about making money.  My response was that there are some individual dentists who behave exactly the same way.  Don’t paint every dentist or every group with the same brush.  The real truth is that group practices are here to stay, and often serve populations that individual dentists don’t want to treat or can’t afford to.

MYTH #7  New Technology is an Expensive Luxury.  The corollary of this is that you can keep doing dentistry the way you’ve always done it.  The truth is that new technology, properly integrated into a practice, will make you more efficient, and allow you to do higher quality dentistry, and more than pay for itself.  For example, the cost of CAD/CAM technology like CEREC should be totally offset by the savings on your lab bill.  And CBCT technology like Galileos makes it possible to do implants faster and with significantly higher accuracy. And that is just considering the basic advantages of these two technologies. And let’s talk about the standard of care that technology can elevate.  Is there any clinical advantage to putting on a temporary?  Is there any clinical advantage to doing implants with two-dimensional imagery?  I’m no dentist, but I do know that patients are very interested in knowing the advantages to them of these technologies.

I often hear dentists complain that they don’t adopt new technologies because it slows them down.  Well, are they really considering the patient when they use this as the deciding factor?  And the truth is, very often to get better at something by learning a new technique or technology, or changing a system in the office, it requires slowing down before you can get faster and better.  But it’s generally worth it.  (Check out this blog on that topic.)

I’m sure some or perhaps many of you will disagree with me on these various points.  I’m hoping to give you a broader perspective, and also inviting you to inform and enlighten me.  My personal goal is for dentistry to reach more people while making dentists more successful.  And that’s no myth!

My New Book Is Out!

After a year of writing and editing, my second book has finally been published. It’s called Becoming Remarkable: Creating a Dental Practice Everyone Talks About.  It takes the ideas in my first book to the next level.  It’s called “Becoming Remarkable” because that’s what you literally have to be.  Your practice experience has to be so amazing and unique that people can’t resist talking about you.

That has become more important than ever because when people talk now, they do it with their thumbs.  They post it somewhere, whether it’s on Facebook, or Yelp, or as a Google review.  They are adding it to your online identity and reputation, and it’s searchable, likable, sharable, and perhaps most importantly, undeletable.

I love signing books. It's very flattering to an author when people ask.

I love signing books. It’s very flattering to an author when people ask.

Some of the things that I cover in the book are:

  • The impact of corporate dentistry on private practice, and why you either need to join them or compete effectively with them;
  • How the dental patient has changed in the past 8 years, from their attitude about insurance to their expectation of convenience;
  • Where to put your time, energy and money online for the best results;
  • The impact of technology on your practice and on patients’ perception of value;
  • Why your trustworthiness is the most important element in your practice, and what increases or decreases it;
  • And much more.

Some of you may find my various suggestions and predictions controversial.  But I’ve never been one to shy away from the debates about the industry’s direction.  I’m passionate about the future of dentistry, and the urgency to evolve and grow.

I also feature six remarkable dentists and their unique stories and approaches.  What I found striking was how differently they all approached their practices, except for one thing: the patient always came first.  I hope to discover many more remarkable dentists in the coming months, and will feature their stories in this blog.

Meanwhile, I hope you take the time to read my new book, and that it gives you insights and practical tools to build and maintain a remarkable practice over the coming decades.  You can order it here, or buy the Kindle version on Amazon.

I’m recording the audio version next week, so it won’t be available for about a month. Hey, I’ve been busy!

SEO: Can You Ever Stay Ahead of It?

Every business dreams of coming up on the first page in an organic web search.  And every day I talk to dentists who want to improve the SEO of their website.  All while Google keeps changing how the results look and what satisfies their search algorithms.  They just did it again on August 6th in a fairly big way.

Let’s talk about that change first.  The big differences are:

1. The map results on computers now only show 3 practices. This now mirrors what happens on mobile phones.

2. The full address of the practice is gone.

3. Everything “above the fold”–what is immediately viewable on a computer screen–is now essentially paid for.

SEO search resultsThere are still listings of organic results on the first page, meaning if you scroll down you will see them, and not have to click to see the next page of results, but in this particular search Yelp had the first three “organic” positions.  This is because they know how to maximize SEO, and can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars making sure they are doing everything that Google wants. You can’t do that.

Also, notice that on the right the paid ads do get their address to show up.  And they can even offer specials or a have a specific message.  But clearly Google makes it easy to get to the paid advertisers’ websites.  And you can be sure that the bidding for those places is escalating all the time.

This is all happening because Google is in the ad sales business, and they want you to pay to appear.  The results are even more narrowed toward paying advertisers when you search on a mobile device (which is where more than 60% of searches begin, by the way.)

Face it, when you have 80% of dentists who now have a website, they’re not all going to show up on the first page organically. It’s not physically possible, and clearly getting more challenging all the time.

So what should your strategy be?

You still need to find as many ways to create good SEO as possible. But don’t fall for some company guaranteeing that they can get you on the first page. There are too many factors out of anyone’s control. Read my previous blog on this for more insight on that.  It’s more true now that ever.

Here’s what you need:

1. A dynamic website that allows you to change content easily yourself and have constant new content feeding to it automatically.  It should be simple, modern-looking, and easy to navigate.

2. Reviews are powerful content, and if you are surveying your patients using PatientActivator or some other application, then you can have those appear automatically.

3. Embed Yelp reviews in your site.  It will only show three, but it will keep people from leaving your website and going to Yelp to see reviews.

4. Add new patient testimonial videos every week.

5. Write a blog, and link it to your website. It should have your town included in most posts, as well as some key dental phrases. Your blog is for Google to read. Most humans won’t. So being local and with relevant words is what matters most.

6. Make sure all the directories across the web have the exact same information about your practice. ReputationMonitor, which is included with PatientActivator, makes it much easier to do this.

7. Have a form where patients can request an appointment.

8. Make sure your website is responsive, meaning it plays properly on every device–particularly mobile phones–and in every browser.  The first test is to look at your website on your own phone.  Easy to read? Pretty? Better be!

But overall, concentrate on giving a great patient experience, because your website is only one part of your promotion and practice awareness. Social media and review sites will play a larger and larger part of that with every passing month.  It all has to work together, with your website as the hub.  And what patients post out there matters more than ever.

We build websites with our WebDirector product, but there are other reputable companies out there as well.  You can tell who they are because they don’t promise magical results.  We will also help you integrate all the social media aspects that you need to make everything look consistent and connect to each other.

It’s a daunting, moving target, I know. But it’s the way of the world, and ignoring it or thinking it doesn’t relate to your neighborhood is going to prove to be failed strategy.  So stay on it!

 

 

 

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!