Dental Marketing Blog - Big Buzz

5 Minutes to Better Benefits Communications

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Patients are confused about dental benefits. They think dental benefits work like health insurance, and they have extremely high expectations about what will be covered.

At the same time, the dental team knows all of the ins and outs of dental benefits. This may sound like a good thing, but it can backfire: patients may feel overwhelmed by rapid-fire information or intimidated by insider jargon.

In just five minutes, this read will help clarify what to say (and what not to say) when communicating dental benefits details to patients.

“These are benefits as opposed to insurance.” It can be worthwhile to share with patients a simple and upbeat explanation of the difference. Louise Norris, a contributor to the website healthinsurance.org got it right: Dental benefits “differ from dental insurance mainly because they don’t pay any dental expenses for you. Instead, they provide discounted prices from participating dentists. There are generally no deductibles, no waiting periods and no annual maximums.” I also like the simplicity of, “Dental benefits are like a savings plan for the patient. If you saved each month the money you pay the plan provider, you would break even on paying for your dental care out-of-pocket.” Simplicity is key.

“We are happy to navigate this for you.” A patron walks into a restaurant and orders the finest steak on the menu. The restaurateur carefully explains how the cows are raised, what they are fed, the slaughter, the processing of the meat, the delivery of the raw steak to the restaurant and the precise way in which it was prepared. The patron is disgusted and leaves the restaurant. A second patron walks into the restaurant and orders the finest steak on the menu. The restaurateur isn’t available, so the maître d' seats the patron then promptly brings out from behind closed doors a perfectly prepared, sizzling steak. The Elmer Wheeler old adage goes, “Sell the sizzle not the steak.” Less is more when explaining dental benefits. Wheeler encouraged communicators to appeal to the senses and emotions. Talk about how easy the process will be for the patient since you will handle it for them, how you will see to it that they will be reimbursed the maximum possible, and, where you can on larger cases, offer to pre-submit the claim and provide an estimate of what the patient can expect out of pocket. Take it a step further by offering a payment plan for out-of-pocket expenses.

“We can show you a better alternative.” (Not, “We are no longer accepting your plan.”) From the practice’s perspective, there are plenty of reasons to drop plans. But from the patient’s perspective, it can be perceived as disappointing or even catastrophic. They may have been patients of the practice for years or even generations, and if they think dental benefits work like health insurance, it can be an instant relationship killer. Consider this: you never even have to mention that you dropped the plan. (And certainly, don’t send a canned letter announcing it that way.) Instead, work with your team or marketer to document at least 2-3 ways that the patient can stay. For example:

  1. Let us help you get on a better plan
  2. Pay up-front and get a credit toward more services
  3. Finance through CareCredit (or similar provider)

These communications should present to the patient new opportunities and the practice saying, “Yes!” – not the other way around.

At some point, certainly, you will need to tell the patient that you no longer accept the plan. If you have any intention of keeping the patient this should be a face-to-face conversation.

The boldface phrases outlined above work face-to-face and can also be expanded into text for the practice's website and marketing materials. Communicate up-front, clearly and often and both the patient and the dental team will benefit.

Year End 2017 Starts Now

By | Blog, Uncategorized | No Comments

You have a big production goal for 2017, and getting to that goal starts today.

 Your competitors are still in a holiday-induced fog. They might start thinking about their goals when the taxman comes knocking in April.

Not you.

You have decided to hit and exceed your goal this year, and you are ready to take any and all action to get there. That single decision means more patients, faster than ever before!

To help kick things off, get your free social media team training kit and initial marketing plan from the dental marketing experts at Big Buzz. Simply click the button below, fill out the short form and we will get in touch by phone to jumpstart your brand new year with you.

Yes! Get my Marketing Materials!

7 Tips to Carry You Through 2017 Worry Free

By | Blog, Uncategorized | No Comments

Production concerns keeping you up at night?

Every practice owner has been there: awake at 2 a.m. with the cold sweats, sure that the practice’s production is so far down the tubes that personal bankruptcy is imminent. Here are seven tips to reframe and right the situation to ensure a productive and profitable 2017:

1. Take stock. F.E.A.R. stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. The mind can play real tricks when it comes to finances. Print four financial reports for the ultimate clarity: profit and loss (accrual basis), balance sheet, accounts receivable and accounts payable. The profit and loss (accrual basis) will show you any upcoming cases, or income, that will soon be in the bank. The balance sheet will show what you have in the bank and what you owe, which will allow you to calculate what remaining assets and/or credit may exist to float you through a rough patch. The accounts receivable will detail any past-due collections. Call those patients now and get a credit card over the phone. The accounts payable will show any bills that you owe. Call those vendors now and arrange for longer terms. All four of these reports together paint a picture of exactly where you are now. Armed with this information, you have the opportunity to pivot.

2. Think big. If the reports confirm your concerns, the next step, contrary to what your mind will tell you, is to think big. What is your dream production goal? Document it and decide to achieve it. In 1937, Napoleon Hill wrote “Think and Grow Rich” and he reminds readers that wanting is not enough. Now is the time to decide to achieve your dream goal and to eliminate all other possibilities. This single step is critical in getting back on track – and soaring upward from there. The only way the team, your vendors and you can improve this situation is for you to firmly decide exactly where you are going next.

3. Scale back… strategically. The key word here is strategicallyand I might add temporarily. The knee-jerk reaction is to cut costs, at all costs. Don’t cut anything that is making you money, such as the team, employee pay, employee benefits or the marketing budget. All of those are investments, and they keep the practice running and production dollars arriving every day. Instead, renegotiate payment terms with suppliers, labs, and other vendors. Call your marketer, share the facts and your goal and ask them to provide a new marketing strategy to get you there.

4. Rally the troops. In wartime, generals have pep talks with the soldiers before asking them to fight harder. It’s one of the toughest things to do as a leader: maintain a strong exterior when you feel depleted on the inside. Don’t go it alone. Huddle with your marketers to develop communications to share with the team about the state of the practice and your goals, and learn ways to inspire the team to take action. Set benchmarks toward completion of the goal, assign tasks to individual team members and make it clear how they will be rewarded when they reach the goal. Your positive approach will be the clincher.

5. Refinance. If you have existing practice debt, contact a lender that specializes in dental practice finance. Wells Fargo and MedTrust Capital are two of our favorites for their creativity and true understanding of small businesses. Explore with the lender of your choice options for refinancing. Savings of 2% on a $100,000 loan adds up to $2,000, and right now, every penny counts.

6. Reduce your lease payment. Work with a reputable dental realty company like Carr Healthcare Realty to negotiate a better lease rate. A simple meeting with your landlord and the right broker can yield hundreds or even thousands in savings. By doing this, one dentist saved $15 per square-foot in a 3,000-square-foot practice. That’s over $3,700 per month!

7. Surround yourself with success. Stop listening to the naysayers. If you have a Nervous Nellie on the dental team, invite that person to seek fulfilling employment elsewhere. If you have a Debbie Downer in your family, kindly ask them to keep their negative thoughts to themselves. Seek out peers, mentors, consultants and/or business coaches who will believe in you, lift you up and even help you get to your goal. You know what they say about birds of a feather. Flock with the sort that flies high!

Put your production worries behind you once and for all. Get a complimentary marketing plan that will ensure long-term success.

 

Tips for Starting Your 2017 Marketing Off Right

By | Blog | No Comments

I’m sure you’re ready for 2017 to be your practice’s best year yet. 2016 is ending on a high note, and you want to end 2017 even higher. The best way to ensure you’re starting 2017 on the right foot is to set the stage for January 1st, setting a solid foundation for all of your 2017 goals to become reality.

Design your budget with realistic, yet successful goals in mind. Review your 2016 as specifically as possible, ensuring that there are enough resources to accomplish your goals. Consider for your staff, equipment, rent, travel expenses, etc. Big dreams = big budget.

Think back about your ideal patient. Is the ideal patient profile you once envisioned still your ideal patient? Throughout 2016, who made the highest-quality patient? What type of patient will help you reach your 2017 goals? Get as granular as you can: demographic, gender, age, insurance coverage, etc. Evolve your mindset (and your dental team’s) around attracting as many of these ideal patients as possible in 2017.

What makes you and your practice different? Why do those ideal patients return to your practice? Why do they refer to your practice? Make sure that you and your team are clear on what makes you different from (and better than) your competitors, and how you can continue to effectively portray that to those prospective patients. What makes you different is why they will love you.

Review and update your 2017 marketing strategy. Are all of your marketing materials – from signage, to phone greetings, to waiting room décor, to digital marketing, to brochures and beyond – designed and catered to attracting your ideal patient? Every single aspect of your practice can (and should) be used as an effective marketing tool to attract your ideal patient to your door, have them return, and encourage them to refer to you.

To ensure success and growth, it is imperative to track your progress and evolve your strategy accordingly. Hold your team accountable, schedule regular meetings to track progress, and inspire everyone to work toward the same end goal.

Let Big Buzz support you in kicking off your 2017 marketing! Call 720-350-4484 today for more information.

Google’s New Review Feature: How Does It Impact Dentists?

By | Blog, Uncategorized | No Comments

A recent Google update directly impacts dentists and their practices. Google now incorporates “Reviews from the web” in their knowledge panel for businesses, including dental practices.

The knowledge panel is a box of information that appears on the right-hand side of Google search results. It contains information relevant to your business and services that is pulled from your Google My Business account and other third party sources.

Previously, only Google reviews appeared in the knowledge panel. With this update, Google will be filtering reviews from a variety of websites, such as Facebook, Healthgrades, PracticeMojo, and others.

screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-9-00-07-am

This update directly impacts dentists, as smaller and more niche review sites will gain more visibility across Google. This opens a great opportunity for dentists to further refine, manage and evolve their online reputations. It is possible that there are online profiles for your practice that you are entirely unaware of.

Stay on top of your online reputation and online reviews by searching for your practice on Google, to first see if it has started pulling third party reviews for your practice. Go through the search results for your online profiles and websites that may already house reviews for your practice. If you want to take your online review management to the next level, there are several reputation management systems available that will automatically pull and filter your online reviews.

Now is the time to promote collecting as many positive reviews as possible on each of the platforms that come up for your practice, as opposed to just Google or Yelp. Each positive review will help to dilute any negative reviews and build your overall positive reputation.

The #1 Myth about Marketing (And How to Overcome It)

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

 

There are plenty of myths about dental marketing…

  • That the dental team will help propel the marketing efforts. Dental teams are trained professionals in dentistry, not marketing. Even a dental team member with a marketing background will be strapped for time to truly deliver measurable results. In order to translate marketing efforts into higher production dollars, it’s best to outsource the heavy lifting to marketing experts, even if it’s your brother-in-law.
  • That online marketing is the way to go. In nine years serving hundreds of dental practices, we have seen very few practices thrive on online marketing alone; instead, it’s important to execute the right mix of traditional, internal and awareness marketing as well as online marketing.
  • That using multiple providers for various marketing specialties, such as SEO or direct mail, is best. A full-service dental marketing agency will be able to track and report on all your marketing efforts. You will also only have to have one point of contact to get questions answered and request completed.  If you do choose to use several different vendors, we recommend hiring a marketing expert to oversee all of your providers, holding them to the same standards and goals.
  • That just because a marketing provider has a great sales pitch, they must drive great results. Instead of vetting them by their sales abilities, check references and ask for case studies of past work with practices like yours.

All of that said, the #1 myth, and most insidious one, is that the object of the marketing game is simply to attract patients.

Au contraire!

The object of the marketing game is to attract ideal patients.

And here’s how to do exactly that:

Survey your best patients to understand what marketing tactics resonate with them. Next, research what the competition is doing. If four out of five competitors are running Google AdWords, steer clear or go to market with an edgier, catchier message. If none of them are doing Yelp ads, consider investing there, but only if your surveys showed that your patients and their friends and family frequent that website.

This is an insidious myth because it impacts everything. Without this research on the front end, marketing efforts can get lost in a sea of sameness among other dental offices.

Put your best foot forward in 2017. Get a complimentary marketing plan for that is tailored to what your patients and their peers want most.2017

2016 Dental Marketing Year in Review

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

After surveying hundreds of patients in dental practices nationwide in 2016, we have compiled the following data to help your practice increase production and profitability in the coming year. In our proprietary survey process, we ask 25 key questions to uncover why patients are loyal to their practice and what marketing tactics they consume. This report details the cumulative data from three of those questions.

Would you search online for a practice like this one?

blogchart1The common 21st Century misnomer is that it is best to invest heavily in online marketing. Patient data shows that a diversified marketing plan is a stronger strategy, since only 63% of patients surveyed this year would search online for a practice like yours.

In fact, online marketing is only one quarter of the appropriate marketing mix for today’s dental practices, as the chart below shows.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-56-19-pm

There are more than 20 marketing tactics that a dental practice could deploy, and of those, only a handful are appropriate right now. The majority of practices realize higher production dollars and profits when the marketing plan includes the right combination of brand/awareness marketing tactics, traditional marketing tactics and internal marketing tactics in addition to a few online marketing initiatives.

There is good money in online dental marketing, so more and more providers are popping up and wooing dentists with strong sales pitches. (A Google search for “online dental marketing” yields 2.5 million results!) If your practice invests with one of these providers, be sure to also invest with a full-service dental marketing firm that can round out efforts for optimum overall results.

 

What type of marketing do you pay attention to when searching for a dentist?blogchart3_720

Not surprisingly, referral emerges as the most popular answer. Note that this means patient referrals rather than doctor referrals, which are far less common than in past decades. Too, practices cannot rely on patient referrals without marketing communications supporting them. Ensure that the team is trained and incentivized to ask for referrals on a regular basis. Have on hand “care to share” cards that help facilitate the referral conversation and demonstrate value to the patient. Cards should clearly articulate what the patient gets for referring, such as a $50 gift card. Beyond that, branded note cards will allow the front office to easily print batches of thank you cards to send to referring patients and welcome cards to send to referred patients. 

Inspire the team to regularly use referral materials, and reward them when the practice reaches its new patient goals.

Online search comes in second at 27%. Again, note how low that is compared to today’s supply and demand for online dental marketing. Your competitors are under the impression that online marketing will get them all the patients that they need. You know that this strategy is only one part of a much bigger picture.

Even so, patients are constantly using mobile devices to connect to your practice. Be sure that your website is not just mobile friendly but also responsive, which means it is easy to navigate for any patient using any device. Also be sure that patients can click your phone number on their mobile device for easy of calling the practice. Dialing is passé.

Review sites also come in at 27%. Post point-of-sales campaigns throughout the practice that show clear instructions on how patients can write an online review. Be sure that the front office is asking every patient at checkout to write reviews. The two most popular review sites among dental patients in 2016 were Yelp and Google, so focus the team and patients there.

Social media and direct mail follow online search and review sites as the most popular ways for patients to find a dental practice, both at 17%.

Social media is like a practice open house happening 24/7 online. Appoint two people on the dental team or outsource this function for highest patient engagement. If you are managing it in-house, be sure the team is trained in HIPAA guidelines for social media marketing.

And yes, direct mail is still a great way to drive new patient traffic and to increase treatment acceptance rates. It matters not if you would pay attention to another postcard in your mailbox; it only matters that your future patients will. There are plenty of marketing functions that an be managed by your team, but direct mail is best handled by dental direct mail experts who will use demographic data and specific designs to engage the right audience for you.

 

What would be the easiest way to encourage you to write a review or make a referral?blogchart2

The easier we make it for patients to write reviews and make referrals, the more likely they are to do just that. Services like Demandforce and Lighthouse 360 can help automate the process of staying in front of patients and encouraging them to take action around reviews and referrals. Beyond that, a simple “thank you” and small gift card go a long way in inspiring them to continue to sing your praises across your community.

While these are the major trends we saw in dental marketing in 2016, our philosophy is that each practice has its own unique print on the world. Resist the temptation to copycat what everyone else is doing.

Get a complimentary marketing plan for 2017 that is custom to your practice’s goals.

2017

Thank You from Big Buzz

By | Blog | No Comments

On behalf of the entire Big Buzz team, we want to thank you – our clients, referrers, friends, colleagues, and others in our dental industry network – for having confidence in our vision and our services, and for allowing us to flourish alongside you over the last nine years.

We appreciate your business and support, and most importantly, we appreciate the relationships we have fostered with each of you. Because of you, we are able to foster more of those relationships and make a larger impact on the dental industry.

The honest feedback and encouragement have allowed us to improve our services and expand into the only full-service dental marketing agency in the nation, and for that, we are ever grateful.

We greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with you and look forward to serving you for many more years.

Sincerely,

The Big Buzz team

Finish Strong: End-of-Year Marketing To-Dos

By | Blog | No Comments

You’ve had your sights set on a particular production goal all year, and now you’re just six short weeks away from the finish line. Here’s a simple to-do list to ensure that you finish strong:

Boost end-of-year patient traffic. Initiate an educational email campaign to the entire patient base – including active and inactive patients – to encourage them to use their benefits before year-end.

Our friends at Rankin & Mingle Dentistry used this verbiage:

“Did you know that if you don’t use your dental insurance benefits this year, you lose them? It’s true – dental insurance benefits don’t roll over to the following year. If you don’t use them, you lose them!

“Don’t let your dental benefits go to waste. Call us now to schedule a dental appointment for a professional dental cleaning or any dental care you may have been putting off.

“Call today because our schedule is filling quickly as many patients are rushing to use their dental benefits before they expire. We’ll be happy to discuss your remaining benefits and answer any questions you may have.

“We are looking forward to speaking with you soon!”

Offset tax exposure. If cash flow permits, consider making an extra payment or two to your marketing firm to pre-pay the 2017 fees. Reinvesting profits back into the practice means a lower tax bill.

Reward the team. This is another great way to reinvest profits, and even more importantly, a great way to bolster confidence and excitement in the dental practice. Have your marketing firm provide metrics that show how many new patient calls the front office fielded, how many new patients the hygiene team saw and how many recall appointments were completed for the year. Hold an end-of-the-year team meeting – something more special than the standard morning huddle, like a team lunch. Publicly recognize each team member for their part in making the year great, and if cash flow permits, hand out bonuses. Even a small Visa gift card can go a long way in saying thank you to the people who carry your practice day in and day out.

Finalize 2017 production goals. Meet with the leadership team to analyze historic year-over-year growth and set next year’s goals. For example, if the practice has grown on average 20% each year, aim for 25% next year. Break down exactly how that will happen. How many recall appointments? How many new patients? How many crown and bridge cases? How many implant cases? From the breakdown, formulate a clear production plan and share it with the entire team.

Finalize the 2017 marketing plan. Analyze what has worked well in the past and what may not be producing as high of a return on investment. Consider the total marketing investment you made last year and your production goals for next year. Articulate in writing exactly what marketing tactics will continue in 2017. Attribute a dollar figure to each to account for how much you plan to invest next year. Again, share the completed marketing plan with the entire team so that everyone is clear on precisely how the practice will achieve the production goals and what each person’s part is in getting there.

Inspire the team. This goes far beyond sharing your plans with the team. Facilitate an open team discussion about what their personal goals are for 2017 and explore together how the practice might help them achieve those. Show them what’s in it for them to help the practice make its goal a reality. An inspired dental team is a highly successful team.

Corporate Dental Marketing Secrets

By | Blog | No Comments

Years ago, I worked for a marketing agency on accounts like Wells Fargo, Microsoft and Regal Cinemas. While there, I learned the strategy that these corporate giants use to deploy powerful, foolproof marketing.

Fast forward ten years, and I’m now seeing corporate dental practices use a very similar approach.

What if you could replicate what they are doing?

You can. Here are the basics:

Give Them What They Want. America’s largest and most successful corporations, including corporate dental practices, regularly research patient behaviors, data, and trends.

Why?

To ensure that they are delivering all of the right messages, services and perks throughout the patient experience.

Amazon.com is a great example of this. CEO Jeff Besos founded the company as an online bookseller. The nation’s upper middle class took notice, buying books and having them delivered to their doorstep. Unwittingly, those buyers were providing Besos and his team with valuable data on what they were willing to buy. Today, Amazon.com is the world’s largest online marketplace for wares of all types, thanks to all of that market research.

An independent dental practice can gather similar data with simple surveys. Ask why patients chose the practice and what they love most about the doctor in order to develop a marketing message that truly resonates. Ask your patients what types of marketing (Google AdWords, Yelp reviews, direct mail, etc.) capture their attention so that you know how best to reach their peers, who are your potential patients. Continue to gather feedback to refine the marketing strategy and the patient experience.

Consistency is Key. A mentor once told me, “When you become sick of a logo, that’s the time when the target audience is noticing it for the first time.” When you gather market research and truly understand your patients or buyers, you have the power to replicate a meaningful message using captivating media outlets. Invest in professionally designed marketing materials. Even more, invest in a solid marketing plan that is consistent with its message, look, and delivery. This is the only way to truly compete in today’s marketplace. It’s hard to find one vendor that does it all for dental practices, but they do exist.

Always Be Closing. In the corporate world, there is a phrase: “ABC! Always Be Closing.” This refers to asking for the sale on a regular basis. If you think there’s not a “sales” job inside a dental practice, you are dead wrong. It’s best if all treatment coordinators and dentists in the practice are professionally trained in closing sales, or encouraging treatment acceptance.

Beyond that, the practice should always be recruiting great talent. What does the team have to do with marketing? Everything. The right team acts as a patient and referral magnet, keeping existing patients loyal to the practice and inspiring those patients to regularly bring friends and family into the practice. Corporate dental practices always have well-developed job opening advertisements on their websites, not just when they are hiring. The very best actively seek great talent with robust headhunting strategies. You can do the same my searching out qualified dental professionals on LinkedIn, connecting and building relationships. That way, when it comes time to hire, you will have cultivated an entire pool of talented people from which to draw.

Finally, corporations know to Always Be Marketing, too. Marketing is not a one-and-done activity, but the very lifeblood of the practice. A thriving independent dental practice has a professional marketing team, or outside agency, managing the right mix of 5-7 marketing tactics at any given time, that collectively attract new patients and increase production over time.

***

This is the foundation upon which our offerings are based, so plenty of independent dental practices are benefiting from this strategy now, too.

What will you change in your marketing approach to better compete with the big dogs?