Launching a new ‘squat’ practice

We have recently been appointed to help launch a brand new practice in the Midlands.

Its always great to be involved from the start, providing a ‘sounding board’ for the owner’s business plan and sharing in the vision.

Here’s a checklist of the key actions and decisions that need addressing for squats: –

Business Plan – the roadmap, including the financial objectives for both the owner(s) and practice, check local grant opportunities, budgeting

Market Research – catchment assessment, socio-demographics, unique local factors, competitor & pricing analysis

Patient Experience – developing and mapping this to reflect your “ideal patient”, including developing the “wow” – what will turn your patients into your ‘sales team’

Strategy Development – to include pre-launch, launch and ‘business as usual’, positioning the practice, treatment mix (including core specialisms)

Practice Branding – brand values, imagery (including logo), team buy-in, selling messages, patient literature

Team Planning – clinical, management and customer service skills and core competencies needed to serve your ideal patients, recruitment and training needs

Supplier & Partner Research & Selection – financial planning, architect, building, refurbishment, trades, signage, equipment, supplies, legal, accountancy, practice management software, recruitment, training, membership plan, patient finance, professional insurances, branding, website, digital & community marketing

Marketing Planning – prelaunch, launch and post launch phases, ROI projections, lead generation & patient acquisition, income & membership targets, resourcing

Choosing external expertise my be daunting for some owners but there’s help in all of these areas. I’m always happy to point prospective practice owners in the right direction.

Launching Zoom to Growth!

With confidence growing in the dental sector, evidenced by the number of practices increasing their marketing investment, associates currently working in corporates planning to launch a ‘squat’ and practice memberships continuing to grow – all supported by the continued strong demand for aesthetic dentistry – we have developed a new service to ensure practice owners and small groups invest wisely as we begin to move out of ‘lockdown’.

We’re offering a 1:1 Growth Clinic – ‘Zoom to Growth’ – where dental owners can raise issues and talk about challenges they’re facing at their practice(s). So whether it’s lead generation – acquiring more high-value patients (Dental Implants, Smile Makeovers, Invisalign or Lingual Braces), launching a new treatment, or increasing referrals, I can provide advice or be a ‘sounding board’, potentially improving return from any marketing investment and guiding practices to the most cost effective marketing activities in their catchment area.

With more ‘non essential’ businesses opening up shortly, competition for consumer £££ will intensify and this includes aesthetic dentistry, part of discretionary spend.  So planning now and scheduling marketing campaigns – whether emailing your patient list, advertising on Facebook & Instagram, Pay Per Lead or local PR – is even more important now.

‘Zoom to Growth’ clinics are available every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon (2pm, 3pm, 4pm). They are 30 minute sessions, and are held 1:1 via Zoom (or phone if preferred).

Get in touch with Steve Davey here to find out more:


Partnering with other Dental Specialists

As specialists ourselves, it’s always good to recommend to principals and dental business entrepreneurs some of the outstanding dental specialists we work with and who are experts in their field. Businesses we recommend:

  • Privilege Plan – Own branded tailored membership plans, including care plan audits, membership launch or switch, training and bespoke practice team support
  • Pearl Dental Software – Bespoke practice software for independent practices & small-medium groups, including Cloud based practice management system
  • Money 4 Dentists – Independent financial advisers to the dental profession – from helping dentists purchase their first practice through to retirement planning
  • Accountants 4 Dentists – Chartered Accountants & Tax Advisers, from accounts preparation and tax compliance to tax planning, business plans and cash flow
  • Lawyers 4 DentistsLegal services including sales & acquisitions, incorporation, disputes, employment, partnership or corporate aspects
  • Practices 4 Dentists – Practice acquisition & sales advice, from initial idea to completion, finding practices for clients to buy and providing personalised consultancy advice
  • Blue Sky PeopleRecruitment of associate dentist, locum dentist, specialist, practice manager, therapist, hygienist, trainer, nurse or compliance manager

Must Do Internal Marketing for 2021

In 2021, these are the initiatives every practice should be doing to future proof its business.

  • A Membership Plan to build recurring income – ideally a practice-branded one so you are adding equity value to YOUR brand, not a plan provider’s brand
  • Video consultations and additional online accessibility for patients – extra engagement options before patients commit
  • Even more regular contact with your patients – protect your biggest asset, engendering loyalty is paramount
  • Specific events to secure high value cases such as implants and ortho – schedule in some large cases to more than offset revenue loss from fallow periods
  • Scrutinise the patient experience to reveal the “extra 5%” – get the whole team involved
  • Reactivation of lapsed patients – there is always £££ hidden in a patient list

For an internal marketing audit, call Steve on 07974 748550.

21 Practice Growth Nuggets for 2021

Almost to the day, I’ve been working in the dental & healthcare sectors for 21 years now, so to mark this and with 2021 in mind, I’ve put together 21 top tips or pieces of insight to share.

  1. Having your “ideal patient” in mind is a vital part of your Marketing Strategy. Knowing (in detail) who you want at your practice helps to frame your practice proposition, tactics, media selection, creative approach and messaging.
  2. How many practices do not have a Business Plan? Lots. Having a roadmap to growth, acquisition or exit doesn’t need to be a long, complicated process but those with a plan seem to do better financially.
  3. First impressions count big time. From updating ‘tired looking’ signage to ensuring any litter outside is picked up at least once a day (often more often in cities), the most important impression is the patient welcome, what is said as part of the greeting and how it is conveyed (an engaging tone of voice). These make a huge difference.
  4. Build your practice brand (and brand equity) with your own membership plan, not someone else’s. Privilege Plan allow practices to use their own brand and I recommend having an initial chat with Lesley Bailey.
  5. A motivated team is as obvious to patients just as an unhappy one is. I’ve visited hundreds of practices and can ‘detect’ the atmosphere within a few moments after walking in. Is it a happy team? Are square pegs in round holes? Are there training needs? Ask your patients for feedback regularly because understanding where you need to improve is gold dust.
  6. Many owners find it difficult to create USPs for their practices. “What do we offer that is truly unique and what’s the proof to back it up?”. A closer look at your services can help to reveal a USP. For example, do you have any unique clinical skills? (such as laser dentistry), is there anything different about your patient experience? (e.g. concierge service for elderly patients); is there a convenient tool used for patient consultations? (e.g. Smile Mate).
  7. I prefer ‘patient experience’ to ‘patient journey’ as ‘journey’ suggests there’s a natural end or destination whereas ‘experience’ means the communication never stops. Aftercare and keeping in touch with patients are part of the experience. Document, review and refine each step before you invest anything in patient acquisition.
  8. Ensure practice investment focuses on the whole patient experience, not just the surgeries. Patients won’t notice the difference between a £15k dental chair unit and a £30k unit, but they will notice a scruffy or messy patient waiting area, a reception desk design that creates a perceived barrier, stained carpets or flooring, out-of-date magazines, poor WiFi and no water dispenser.
  9. Don’t be afraid to price your treatments in line with the skills, experience and service you provide. Review your price list and charge a premium if your patient experience is exceptional. Remember, some people buy because it is more expensive.
  10. The only metrics that really count in patient acquisition are the cost per quality lead and the cost per new patient or agreed treatment plan. Everything else is vanity, just as ‘likes’ on Facebook.
  11. Lead conversion always improves when there is a dedicated, knowledgeable Treatment Coordinator who enjoys calling prospective patients, follows up promptly and is tenacious. ‘Consultative sales’ skills are a given. The cost of a TC pays back quickly, and then some!
  12. Radio advertising can be very effective for launching a practice or promoting a high value treatment. Yes, there’s ‘wastage’ because targeting isn’t precise but you can reach a lot of people very quickly and it increases response from other media e.g. Facebook ads when running at the same time.
  13. The clamour to ‘get good’ on social media is similar to the rush to get a website 20 odd years ago, often without the initial thinking as to ‘why?’. If time is precious, focus on one or two channels, the obvious ones being Facebook and Insta because of their reach and popularity but also because they can be easily scheduled together on tools like Later.
  14. ‘Mystery shopping’ – this is important and I make a point of personally walking into client’s competitors to get first impressions. Take this scenario. I enquire about registering with the practice and ask for some information to take away. The ‘welcome’ I receive ranges from the receptionist/PM going out of their way to engage in conversation and answer my questions to another treating me like an irritant and telling me all the information is on the website whilst handing me a price list! ‘Walk-ins’ are often a significant % of new patient enquiries and shouldn’t be overlooked.
  15. Social responsibility includes thinking and acting on ways to engage with and help people who may have conditions that make it more difficult to visit the dentist. Ensure the team is prepared and trained for patients who may be suffering from dementia, a physical disability or needle phobia or may be autistic, hard of hearing or visually impaired.
  16. TV advertising improves online conversion – SKY Adsmart can be targeted to household level and is proven to increase PPC conversion. With the brand and practice in full view, it’s not surprising.
  17. ‘No brainer’ internal marketing includes an A board, prominent display of key treatments on your frontage and strategically positioned posters within the practice, especially your membership plan. Don’t forget the surgeries and toilets where you have a ‘captive audience’.
  18. Avoid putting all media eggs in one basket. Some practices have stopped all off-line marketing and this misses key opportunities. Local village A5 magazines have had a resurgence in the last couple of years and are a good source of high value patients and advertising is as ‘cheap as chips’. You’ll get free editorial too!
  19. Media comparison – a good way of checking value for money is to look at Cost per 000, that is the cost per 1000 target patients you reach with your ad. You may think advertising on the London Tube is expensive. It is, but the cost/000 was very low and a campaign worked a treat for a Harley St practice recruiting new implant cases.
  20. A large number of dental websites look the same. Aim to add ‘personality’ with bespoke copywriting that conveys what is fantastic and different about your practice. Bespoke photos are better than library images, whenever possible.
  21. There are always unique local opportunities in all areas– bringing in a £100k+ ROI from a £250 annual investment in a 1 metre ad board (promoting implants) on a ferry is one of the best examples I can cite

The alternative to a marketing budget

For some dental practices, having a marketing budget can be too limiting. Whilst business planning and close financial control are vital, dispensing with the idea of a fixed marketing budget represents a fundamental change of thinking. Firstly, it starts with seeing marketing as an investment, not a cost. That’s a mindset change.

So, what is the alternative to setting a fixed marketing budget each year?  

Start by calculating the average value of an “ideal patient”. That may be a multiple implant patient or it may be a new Invisalign patient. Then it’s simply a case of working out, based on the margin you need to achieve, what you can afford to spend to acquire each new patient, by treatment type.  

Smile PayPerLead is a service that enables dental owners to allocate a fixed amount of money each month that guarantees the new leads and cases they require to grow their businesses.   So for example, in planning 2021, instead of setting an annual marketing budget, principals can plan how many new cases they want and this translates into how many quality leads they need each month (at a fixed price for each) and how many need to turn into fee paying patients, to achieve the target .

For alternative ways to look at marketing planning and filling surgeries with “ideal patients”, contact us.

Successful Business Interruption Claims Are Possible

Business Interruption is still a hot topic and really pleased we teamed up with experts in this area to help private and mixed dental businesses to make a successful Business Interruption Claim.

“I am so pleased that my accountant put me in touch with you, and for your suggestion that I may have been able to claim for Business Interruption on my surgery policy. This has now been resolved, and the claim agreed and paid, with very little fuss or effort on my part. Thanks again.”
Robert Mason BDS – Dent Blanche Dental Practice

The recent FCA court case helped to clarify the claim status for many practices so all may not be lost if you have so far been unsuccessful. To find out more, call me on 07974 748550.

Having problems with your Covid-19 Business Interruption Claim?

When practice owners renewed their insurance they probably weren’t thinking about anything like Covid-19 and the impact it might have on their business. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t covered in some way.

At Smile Marketing, we have teamed up with experts in this area to assist dental and healthcare businesses to determine whether they have a basis for making a Business Interruption Claim. They will undertake a FREE review of your policy and will let you know whether they believe you have relevant cover. If so, they will be happy to manage the entire claim process on your behalf on a NO WIN, NO FEE basis.

The service includes:
– Negotiating with insurers
Agreeing settlements with the insurer
Securing payment on account (because practice owners will not know the full extent of losses yet)

Many claims are being processed for principals even though their broker had told them that they were not covered.

To find out more, contact Steve Davey on 07974 748550.

FREE Smile Advice Helpline – Still Open

At a difficult time for dental practices we thought we could provide extra help with our FREE Smile Advice Helpline. So, just after the ‘lockdown’, we decided to offer guidance and support at this crucial time for dentists and indeed other SMEs.

So what have we been helping with?. Here’s a flavour:

– Patient communications support to help you through the pandemic e.g. ideas, content, social posts, blogs
– Advice on the planning and preparation for when your practice can reopen
– What to avoid in these challenging times
– How to turn the current negatives into positives for the future
– A ‘sounding board’ service on ‘future proofing’ your practice

Just give me a call anytime on 07974 748550.

Do keep safe.

How much should you spend on marketing your dental practice in 2020?

How much should I be spending on my marketing?” is a question we get asked regularly. 

Obviously, it’s a very important question for every practice – whatever the size or location – and is one that vexes Principals and Practice Managers up and down the UK.

With many years of experience in the dental sector we recommend that the ideal annual marketing budget should be somewhere between 4% – 8% of your annual turnover.

The reason we give this range is that it really depends on how established your practice is, the local competition, your growth aspirations and many more factors that will be specific to your practice.

All that said, using the 4% – 8% of turnover as a guideline is a great starting point for most practices.

So, the key question is – how does your planned marketing budget for 2020 stack up?

If you need advice on setting your budget and help to create a marketing strategy and plan to ensure 2020 is a great year then why not get in touch.

At Smile we also ensure clients get the biggest return for their marketing spend.  That includes advising on the ever-changing nature of the marketing world and how to use social media, internal marketing and even TV to generate the best results for your money.