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.

Is introducing facial & skin treatments a sound business idea?

I often get asked by practice principals what the value of a facial aesthetics business can be for their dental practice. There are of course lots of factors to consider, including the premises and capacity, whether the use of an existing dental surgery stacks up financially, the recruitment or training of qualified and dedicated practitioners, front of house staff training as well as the local market and how to position the practice to set it apart from competitors.

It’s important to look at it as a separate business, with a separate profit centre, with clear objectives and milestones and a carefully thought-through Business Plan is of course a ‘must’.

To Facial Aesthetics and beyond!

Many practices launch a Facial Aesthetics successfully to include wrinkle reduction and fillers and then extend into offering a wider range of treatments spanning beauty treatments such as facial rejuvenation and treating skin conditions such as acne, redness and pigmentation. Some clients focus solely on being skin and facial aesthetics specialists.

Finding and keeping patients for a Facial Aesthetics or MediSpa businsss does present its own unique set of challenges. Is the target audience the very different to the dental patient audience in your specific catchment area? How does the treatment mix break down in terms of demographic? How price sensitive is this market? Can a membership scheme work in the same way as it does for dental patients who sign up for monthly payment plans for their routine care and hygiene appointments?

We’ve helped an award winning clinic to plan and launch a VIP membership scheme for their clientele and it’s success to date is allowing the owner to put even firmer foundations in place and paving the way for even greater success.

For an in-depth initial consultation on how to launch facial aesthetics or medispa into your practice, contact us on 07974 748550.

Are dentists doing enough marketing?

The answer is, many or even most, are not.

With businesses that are classed as SMEs (small & medium-sized enterprises with up to 250 employees), research shows that investment in marketing is often too low and that this hinders growth. Private and ‘mixed’ practices without NHS contracts fit into this category.

Here are some facts about SMEs:

SMEs report that they could raise sales by an average of 15% if they maximise the impact of their marketing effort

The average SME only achieves 39% of their planned marketing activity 

11% do NONE of their planned marketing

1/3 rate their marketing efforts at under 5 out of 10 yet 77% recognise it is important to the success of their business

Reasons for not doing enough marketing: 36% say there isn’t enough money, 21% there isn’t enough time

The average SME spends £23,810 a year on marketing

Every £1 spent on advertising benefits an SME 8 times as much as it would a larger firm

Of course, it’s not solely about making a larger investment to help build a dental business. It’s about spending it wisely through careful marketing planning and avoiding costly mistakes.

For a no-obligation chat about your objectives contact us on 0845 287 3051 for a free initial consultation.

Sources: Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) Advertising Association