Would You Rather?

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Which would you rather attract each month?

  1. 20 new patients for cleaning and exam
  2. 3 new Invisalign® cases
  3. 1 new cosmetic case

The first thing to that may come to mind is the production that each option might yield:

  1. $250 (after submitted to insurance) x 20 cleanings and exams = $5,000
  2. $4,500 x 3 Invisalign® cases = $13,500
  3. $30,000 x 1 new cosmetic case = $30,000

Of course, the answer is not that simple.

In order to attract 20 cleanings and exams every month, the practice marketing must reach 100 potential patients and convert 20% to actual patients. The cost to reach so many people can be quite high, since it requires awareness marketing: providing public awareness that the practice even exists. Too, the cost to integrate so many new patients every month can add up quickly.

Plus, the practice will be marketing among all of the other general dentists in the surrounding area. There are very few ways to stand out when it comes to cleanings and exams, and many practices compete on price – which is certainly not a game that the high-integrity practice wants to play. And it can be difficult to attract high-quality patients out of such a large pool.

At the same time, cleaning and exam patients provide the foundational income for the practice.

On the other hand, to attract 3 new Invisalign® cases, the practice marketing must reach 10 potential patients and convert 30% to actual patients. The pool is much smaller because Invisalign® patients require very little awareness marketing – they already have the intention of resolving a particular issue that exists. These people are actively looking for a provider who can fix misaligned teeth. They typically need far less education to accept treatment. Fewer potential patients mean that the cost to integrate specialized cases is lower as well.

As an Invisalign® provider, the practice stands out among competitors who don’t offer this care or who only offer traditional orthodontia.

Patients understand that it is electoral care before they even enter the practice doors, and they are prepared to pay out-of-pocket and usually up-front for treatment.

Still, the practice cannot make 100% of its production from Invisalign® cases.

Finally, to attract 1 new cosmetic case, the practice must invest considerable time and money educating 10 potential patients to convert 1% to a new patient. The pool is the same size as the Invisalign® bunch, but each of the 10 require far more education. $30,000 is a big investment for an individual to make, and is directly correlated to the level of investment that the practice will need to make to get them into the chair.

Like the Invisalign® cases, these patients intend to resolve an issue that already exists. They are likely “shopping” for a provider as we speak.

And $30,000 is a healthy sum to add to the overall production. Indeed, that would be a big win each month.

Clearly a combination of all three would be ideal. That said, it’s always best to focus marketing efforts in one area. To become the practice best known for fill-in-the-blank.

To say it differently, here’s what to avoid… This list came from an actual dental practice website:

Services Listing:

  • Cosmetic Dentistry
  • Dental Restoration
  • Dental Implants
  • Dentures
  • Porcelain Veneers
  • Invisalign®
  • Dentures, Bridges and Implants
  • Mature Adult Dentistry
  • No Fear Sleep Dentistry
  • Laser Gum Treatment
  • Crowns
  • Bridges
  • Teeth Whitening
  • Snoring Solution
  • Cleanings & Exams
  • Emergencies
  • Root Canals
  • Tooth-colored Fillings
  • Dental Bonding
  • High Tech Dentistry
  • Dental Spa Amenities

The potential patient is so overwhelmed with the possibilities that it is paralyzing. Instead of calling for an appointment, the website visitor leaves for a little online shoe shopping instead.

Rather than offering a laundry list of services, focus on just one Invisalign®-level offering: a mid-priced service that patients are intentional about seeking out. Examples include crowns in a day, sleep apnea treatment and TMJ disorder remedies. Lead all marketing efforts with promotions for this service. Feature cleanings and exams as well as other services less prominently. The folks who are looking for those services will find them.

Position the practice to be best at one thing, and everything else will follow.

Wendy O’Donovan Phillips has provided marketing and business consulting to hundreds of independent dentists for over 10 years. She has launched, grown and merged four businesses of her own. She has spoken to chapters of the Seattle Study Club as well as the Colorado Dental Association, the Los Angeles Dental Society and several other dental groups. The Business Marketing Association and the American Marketing Association have awarded her for excellence in her field.

Top 10 Mistakes in Online Marketing

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We are a gadget-obsessed culture, and there’s no greater gadget than the World Wide Web. The web is the only form of media that gives us so much individual control. Become a blogger or a published author overnight. Order that new book online right now and start reading it on your tablet immediately. Hired a new employee? No problem. Just log into your website and upload her photo and bio. Instant gratification never felt so right.

There is a lingering belief that online promotion – including tactics like website, social media, search engine optimization, and reputation management – is far less expensive than traditional media – like radio, television, or print advertising. In the early days, online promotion was commonly thought of as free. Just jump online, post your information and get instant exposure in front of potential patients.

If only it were that easy.

Here’s are the top 10 mistakes to avoid:

1. Believing slick salespeople. There are no guarantees in online promotion. Walk away from anything that sounds too good to be true. “We will get you found on page one of Google tomorrow…” probably means in the Google Maps section, which any web-savvy 12-year-old could do for you. 

2. Same old website. There are a lot of cookie-cutter templates out there, but you don’t want to look like the dentist next door. At the same time, there’s no need to hassle with an expensive custom website. A happy medium is a customizable WordPress theme. Pick a theme, and then add your own design to stand out.

3. Dismemberment. In your website, ditch the teeth-only photos in favor of full-face before-and-after shots. They tell a more compelling story to your potential patients.

4. Bad shots. Use crisp, clear images of the practice, dentist and staff in lieu of blurry or stock photos on your website.

5. Confusing navigation. To keep the potential patient moving through the website and eventually to your door, narrow down the navigation to no more than seven pages or “rails” across the top and no more than five on each dropdown. Group similar information on each page so the layout is digestible and well organized.

6. Missing the opportunity. Be sure the phone number, email address and links to the practice social media pages appear prominently on every webpage. Better yet, include a short form on every page with an engaging offer: “Share your email address and get our article, ‘10 Ways to Naturally Keep Teeth White and Bright.’”

7. Missing the party. People are talking about your practice online on social media and review websites. Join the conversation.

8. DIY on the cheap. Attracting web visitors is to marketing as the all-on-four is to dentistry. (God forbid a layperson ever try that without his dentist!) Let go of the idea that a do-it-yourself solution will save money, and invest instead in a solution that can guide you through these tactics. It will pay off.

9. Billboard at sea. Your website is a billboard in the middle of the ocean until you make the effort to attract visitors. Start with intent tactics first (SEO and Google AdWords), since they are the easiest and least expensive way to attract people who already have the intention of finding a dentist like you.

10. Reputation management run amok. Instead of getting carried away worrying about bad reviews, focus on attracting great reviews by being your best.

Your practice’s online promotions should act as an efficient machine that attracts visitors to your site and patients into your door while you focus on what you do best.

-Excerpt from KABOOM! The Method Used by Top Dentists for Explosive Marketing Results


Breaking the Bad News

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A dental practice is a business that has a salable commodity that people buy. Perhaps it sounds overly capitalistic to say it that way, but that’s the fact. Dental practices, for the most part, are not non-profits.

That said, most of a dental practice’s external communications are promotional, designed to attract the right new patients. And most of the internal communications are relational, meant to keep current patients coming back and referring.

There is a third type of communication that is often dismissed until a problem arises: crisis communications.

Every now and again, every business – every dental practice – faces a crisis, such as these:

Large-scale crisis, like the rehabilitation of one of its partners from the disease of addiction. (It happens more often than you might think. Listen to this thought-provoking podcast interview about healthcare providers recovering from addiction.) This type of crisis impacts the dentist, of course, as well as the team, the patients, and in many cases the whole community. Crisis communications are the only way to break the bad news with decorum.

Mid-scale crisis, such as a patient no-showing for an $11,000 one-time treatment. (This happened to a dentist friend of mine recently.) This type of crisis impacts the dentist, team and individual patient. Crisis communications may be needed on a one-to-one basis to correct the situation.

Small-scale crisis, like when a bad review of your practice pops up online. This type of crisis is easily corrected by encouraging more positive reviews, but in the short term, it affects the dentist and potential patients. Crisis communications may take the form of a publicly displayed online response from the dentists to the negative reviewer.

The key to crisis communications?

Break the bad news carefully.

Ideally, a dental practice has crisis communications prepared in advance of conflict. Crisis communications are crafted to protect the dental practice and its reputation. They guide the practice in sharing with the team, the patients and the community a limited view on what has happened and what solution they can expect.

In large-scale crises, it’s time to suspend all standard external and internal communications and use exclusively crisis communications. It may be beneficial to work with a public relations firm to draft just the right crisis communications.

In mid- and small-scale crises, it is more beneficial to use a mix of all three communication types. Continue all external and internal communications and use crisis communications as needed.

Develop your own crisis communications in advance so that the dental practice is prepared. Start by working with the team to list all potential mid- and small-scale crises. For each, imagine that the issue is being handled in a full waiting room of patients. Document the objective response provided for each scenario.

When it comes to breaking bad news, preparedness is critical.

The Worst Marketing Mistake (And How to Avoid It)

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The only thing worse than not having a marketing plan is having the wrong marketing plan. The latter wastes far more time and money.

What is a marketing plan?

Figuratively speaking, a marketing plan is the compass that sets the dental practice’s course for promotions.

A joint effort between you and your agency produces the best outcomes. It’s best if the dental practice contributes 20% of the marketing efforts while the agency delivers 80%.

Literally speaking, a marketing plan includes:

  • Documentation of quantifiable practice goals
  • A list of marketing tactics in order of priority to meet those goals
  • An assigned person/contractor/agency to execute each tactic
  • A deadline associated with delivery of each tactic
  • An investment amount associated with each tactic

Avoid developing the wrong marketing plan by asking yourself these questions:

  1. What was total production last year?
  2. What is projected total production this year?
  3. What is the goal for total production next year?
  4. How much is invested in all marketing (annually or monthly)?

These questions help the practice hone in on an appropriate marketing budget. The sweet spot may be higher than what you have invested to date. Marketing works best when a dental practice invests 5% of total production every month, every year, into marketing efforts. It’s just the same as you investing 10% into supplies and 7% into lab fees. These are all things that keep the practice running. Marketing as a regular line item on the practice financials stabilizes new patient flow over the long term.

Don’t be afraid to invest more to make more. When done well, marketing is a great investment, never an expense.

Next, document the marketing goals:

  1. What is the average value of your patient/client?
  2. Have there been any changes or developments in the practice that create a need for additional patient traffic? (New associate, acquisition, new hygienist, etc.)
  3. What are the quantifiable goals? (Increase revenue, increase number of patients, stabilize production at $X monthly, etc.)

These questions help set realistic goals. If your average patient is worth $1,500 per year and you want to increase production from $1.6 million to $2 million in the next 12 months, that means you need 267 new patients per year, or 22 new patients per month, up from what the practice is seeing now. If that feels doable to you, consider stretching the goal higher. If it feels outside of the realm of possibility, consider adjusting the goal lower.

Next, identify what will work best to get you to the goal:

  1. What marketing tactics are you currently deploying? (Referral cards, online reviews, website, etc.)
  2. Have there been particular tactics that you felt worked well in the past?
  3. What tactics make sense to deploy in the next 12 months?

Remember, it’s just a plan until you put it into motion. Be sure to assign a taskmaster, deadline and budget to each tactic.

And off you go!

Making the Horse Drink

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Marketing in the 21st Century is far different than in days of old. It used to be that a simple ad in the phone book and a sign out front was enough to attract patients.

Today, independent practices are seeing symptoms of drastic changes in the marketplace. The infiltration of corporate dental practices is leading to flat or declining revenues for some solo practitioners. New technologies are pricier than ever, which means narrowed profit margins and mounting debt for many practices. Confusion about the Affordable Care Act has patients leery to sign on for big treatment plans. In fact, the entire landscape has shifted in terms of power; the advent of digital marketing gives a louder voice than ever to the patient, and the voice of the expert, or dentist, has taken a back seat.

All of these symptoms create a new need for more robust promotional efforts.

The temptation is to delegate the whole thing. Find one agency that offers comprehensive marketing solutions, and you’re done. Right?

Not so fast.

A joint effort between you and your agency produces the best outcomes. It’s best if the dental practice contributes 20% of the marketing efforts while the agency delivers 80%. The agency leads the horse to water.

Here are the top 3 things that the practice should do to make it drink:

1. Provide photos and practice updates. Social media is like a practice open house. It would be odd for your marketing firm to hold an open house and not invite you. While your agency can manage your social media by posting on your behalf, it’s critical that you join the party. Appoint someone on the staff to send photos and updates to the agency at least 4-6 times per month. Your updates could feature special events, birthday or holiday celebrations, community or charitable involvement, or – with written consent – a compelling before-and-after story from a recent case. The combination of your marketing agency’s expertise and the practice’s authenticity will attract more patients to the practice’s social media pages and, over time, into your door.

2. Offer timely feedback and approvals. You hired an agency to produce results. They will deliver a myriad of marketing materials to drive new patient traffic. Before those materials hit the streets, they need your careful review. At the end of the day, you and only you are responsible for your communications. Before your new website goes live or that big direct mail campaign goes out, read every word to be sure there are no errors and that it is a good overall representation of you and your values. And remember that delays on your side will hinder your marketing results. Provide clear feedback at regular intervals to keep the process moving forward and to sustain strong marketing momentum.

3. Strengthen internal systems and structures. Marketing drives patient traffic to your door. The practice systems and structures get those patients in chairs. Be sure that a live person answers phones within office hours, and that calls that roll to voicemail after hours are promptly returned. Take a hard look at your patient intake process, and be sure that it’s designed to optimize every opportunity for patient care. Invite your team to get on board with your vision for your practice, and inspire them to deliver that level of care.

This won’t just make the horse drink, it will keep that horse coming back for more.

Two Inexcusable Breaches

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1. Reputation

“I refer to him all the time, and here I find out he’s dragging my name through the mud.”

“So that’s the end of that relationship, right?”

“Well, no… I’m going to sit down with him and see how we might work things out…”

This was an actual conversation I recently had. I was astounded that my friend had any intention of reconciling with someone who was bad mouthing him in the dental community.

Reputation is brand. There is quantifiable equity built into your brand. That means your reputation is an asset, just like your computers and dental equipment.

If a person were to come into your practice, dismantle your CEREC machine, take it out back, and drag it through the mud then you certainly wouldn’t remain in contact with that person.

When a peer publicly questions your reputation, it’s time to walk away from that relationship.

2. Finances

“I believe my office manager might be fudging the books.”

“What’s your timing for terminating her?”

“Oh, I’m not sure it’s really happening. I need to look into it more…”

Yet another actual conversation. Again, I was shocked that the dentist wouldn’t be more proactive about nailing down the problem and firing the employee.

Several sources report that 60% of all dental practices will fall victim to embezzlement. That’s just the identifiably criminal breaches.

Then there are the softer financial breaches. I once hired a contractor to help with financial projections for my firm. At one point, she suggest that I hire her as a full-time employee. Her plan was that I pay her two times what I was paying myself and stop servicing the business’s liabilities as we had once planned. It became clear to me that she no longer had my firm’s best interest in mind. As difficult as it was, I ended the working relationship.

Anytime you suspect questionable activity around the practice finances, it is critical that you investigate and, if the suspicions are confirmed, sever professional ties with that person.

You are the CEO of the business that is your dental practice. As CEO, it is your job to protect the company and be a good steward of its assets. To that end, there is no other choice when it comes to a breach in reputation or finances: end the contract.

What does any of this have to do with marketing?

First, marketing is the most public representation of your reputation. If people are talking smack about you on the streets, then your marketing efforts lose effectiveness.

Second, marketing is a big investment for your practice. If your finances are being eroded by people who have anything less than your best interest in mind, then your resources for investing into the growth and success of your practice dwindle.

Make it a practice to check behind the people who are the shepherds of your reputation and your finances. Ask your peers what they have heard about you, and follow any ill will back to its source. Once monthly, have a meeting with your financial person to go over your profit-and-loss sheet and your balance sheet. Go through line-by-line. Ask the uncomfortable questions just to be sure that everything is on the up and up.

And if you find anything that lacks integrity, question whether this person really has your best interests at heart. If not, move on.

You’re worth it.

Liven Up Your Practice’s Social Media Interaction

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Let’s get personal.

Is your practice’s Facebook page in the doldrums? Are you hearing crickets on Twitter because nothing’s happening? “Why is this?” you ask. From your perspective you consistently share interesting, informative and maybe even clever posts to the news feeds of your various networks. So why have you received little to no interaction from your client base? Read on for a few tricks from the experts that can kick-start your social media into a well-read storyboard about your brand.

Three words: pictures, pictures and pictures. And not just generic stock images, but real, live and relatable people! You can pretty much guarantee an increase in your social interaction by posting pictures of your staff, office happenings and happy patients. Just like positive reviews, successful “before and afters” and snapshots of smiling faces communicate that your practice is friendly and that your services are effective.

Keep your content light. Your average patient is clueless as to the latest research into dental implant technology and probably has little interest in learning about it. A good rule of thumb for sharing content is relating to the patients. Everyone, from the ten year old to the senior citizen, should be able to connect with your posts and have your messages leave them with a smile. Consider posting content like fun facts, jokes, tips of the week or simple reminders to share their smile with the world. If you’re keen about sharing more intellectual or academic content, try creating a LinkedIn account and posting to your professional peer groups.

Post regularly but not too frequently. It’s important to consistently update your social media pages to keep your brand visible and to appear “alive” when a patient decides to visit your page. Be careful not to post too much though. People can be very picky about what they see on their newsfeed. If they’re seeing too much irrelevant information from one person or brand they might un-like your page. Keep your posts short and sweet and share 2-3 days a week and you should be good to go.

If you’re having trouble finding time to update your social media pages or don’t have an in-house staff member to manage them, fear not! Contact Big Buzz today and we’ll formulate a social media strategy that works best for your practice.

Creating a Brand that’s Uniquely You

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On a recent trip Paris, our Client Services Lead, Molly, spotted a familiar brand while roaming the streets. Are you thinking you see Dolce & Gabana? No, that’s not a translation error. That sign says “Dolci & Gelati.” While perhaps equally indulgent, the store was in fact selling sweet treats, not luxury clothing. While the two companies have little in common, looking that similar to another brand can really confuse customers. The lesson here? Make your brand uniquely you.

How? Ask the people. We say it time and time again here at Big Buzz. Nobody knows your brand like your happiest patients or clients. Instead of taking what’s worked for another practice or company, go out and ask what makes you so special! Ask them what makes you different from competitors, what you are doing best, and what their deciding factor in selecting to work with you was. You’ll be amazed by what they say.

What next? Take those responses and create a message and look that’s 100% you. With those two pieces, you can ensure that everything you produce for marketing moving forward matches and communicates one consistent and strong story.

Want to create a brand that’s uniquely you? Contact Big Buzz today to get started!

New Hires and Happenings @ Big Buzz

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Big Buzz is excited to announce that we have invited Katie Weingardt, Christy Kruzick and Shannon Dils to join our team!

Katie began workinKatieg for Big Buzz as a marketing intern in January 2014, and quickly demonstrated a flair for writing content for blogs and websites. She was hired on at the end of March as a Content Coordinator, and busies herself maintaining client social media, developing brand messaging and analyzing marketing data. In her free time she enjoys hiking in the Rocky Mountains, cycling and gardening.


ChristyWe welcomed Christy to the team at the beginning of April as a much-needed Administrative and Project Coordinator. She assists with making sure that all client projects and meetings are clearly communicated, and she deftly keeps all things organized and running smoothly in the Big Buzz office. In her free time she enjoys road trips, skeeball and working on her music blog.


Shannon beganshannon at Big Buzz at the beginning of May. She comes with 10 years’ design experience including freelance work for small business entrepreneurs, proposal design for a Big 4 financial firm and business to consumer products design. Her goals are to learn more web coding, travel the world and learn to drive stickshift. She enjoys yoga, travel, camping, swimming, farming and eating delicious food.




We look forward to the strengths and companionship Katie, Christy and Shannon will bring to the office. We are so excited to have them here.

The valuable additions to our office has led to a few exciting rearrangements within our workspace.

After years of working and playing in the garage, our main space, our Client Services Lead, Molly, has moved into her own office! She wasted no time in the transition, promptly constructing new office furniture and hanging framed motivational phrases – a daily reminder to work hard and stay happy.

Our fearless leader, Wendy, has also migrated to a brand new space, the sunlit corner office. It’s clear to see that she loves the additional space that allows her creativity and laughter to flow freely, while she still remains close to the team.

So what else has Big Buzz been up to?

Working hard and having fun! And with spring in full swing, we now get to have our massive garage doors open, letting the spring sun and birdsong stream leisurely into our midst. Who says spring is just for the outside? Definitely not us!




Nobody “Likes” You: A Guide to Launching Your Social Media

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So you started your practice’s Facebook page and you are now looking at a daunting, blank business page with zero “likes.” There is no “Field of Dreams” moment here; just because you built it, doesn’t mean they will come.

Here are a first few things you can do to start getting some “likes.”

The lowest hanging fruit is your office staff.

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 12.49.16 PM

Step 1: Have each staff member like the page.

Step 2: Then have them invite their local friends to like the page.

This can be done once they like the page. There is a window on the right hand side of the profile that will allow them to do this. It states: “Invite your friends to like this page.”

Make it your goal to get about 30 “likes” in the next week or two.

Step 3: Start posting before you get patients to “like” you. Would you walk into an empty restaurant?

Step 4: Be transparent! Mix in photos of you, your staff, patients, etc. to get engagement. Your patients already know they need to “only floss the teeth they want to keep.”

Step 5: Offer a check-in or “like” prize. Advertise at the reception desk that you will give them a prize for checking into your practice on Facebook (this is not an official office check-in, just an announcement on Facebook that they are at your office.) Prizes can range from lip-balm to sunglasses and water bottles. Be creative and fun.

Why do all this?

Facebook is one of the best and cheapest ways to spark word-of-mouth. When one of your patients “likes” or checks-in to your page all of their friends on Facebook can see that.

Building your Facebook following takes time so stay patient and consistent. The best thing you can do is assign a staff member to own it and post consistently.

Or, contact Big Buzz to see how we can help get you to the social media cocktail party!