Definitely Not Different

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A lot of dentists say they already know what differentiates them, or sets them apart from competing dentists. They mention their experience, expertise, technology, or that they take the time to listen to their patients and provide them with a multitude of services.

Trouble is that it’s the same story from almost every dentist. And it’s definitely not different from what every other doctor is saying.

How will the dentist know what really makes the practice different?

The first step is to ask the happiest patients the right questions to understand how they think about the practice and how they consume marketing. An emailed survey looks simple to the patient, yet it provides immense insight into the practice.

Why survey?

When you survey patients, you get timely, relevant and actionable feedback. You learn precisely what they love most about the practice, and it’s typically not the things that come to mind first. It’s not technology. It’s not philosophy. It’s not even credentials.

The thing that patients love best is that you made life better.

When surveyed correctly, patients light up and share animated stories. Only the patients have the passion behind the story, and that shines through when they start talking about you. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

Here’s how my dentist, Dr. Brett Kessler, talks about what he does best: “I am a dentist specializing in comprehensive dental care for patients with a focus on TMJ disorder treatment, and I have been in practice for more than 20 years.”

By contrast, here is how I, as one of his happy patients, talk about what he does best: “When I came to see Dr. Kessler, I was getting migraine headaches and missing work left and right. Life was all about managing pain. In a matter of a few visits, Dr. Kessler totally restored me back to my happy self. I’m more productive at work than ever before. And I am even able to go running again, which I haven’t been able to do in months.”

Dentists tend to talk about features rather than benefits. Happy patients, on the other hand, delve straight into what’s in it for them. Happy patients talk about how you changed their lives. This simply delights their friends and family, who then become potential patients.

The survey extracts these stories so you can bottle them and put them to market. Nothing sells the practice like these stories.

The surveys also reveal what media patients use to “shop” for a new dentist. This is important to know so that you invest time and money only on the marketing tactics that will help the practice now.

If, for example, you discover that your favorite patients and the people they know aren’t following Facebook, then don’t invest there. But if every family reads the neighborhood newspaper cover-to-cover, run a print ad there. If 70% of patients pay attention to direct mail, then advertise there.

You get the picture.

And with survey-based marketing, your potential patients will, too.

-Adapted excerpt from KABOOM!: The Method Used by Top Dentists for Explosive Marketing Results.



Why Corporate Marketing is Bad for Independent Dentistry

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There is a general feeling that corporate dentistry is bad for independent dentistry.

But what about corporate marketing? 

Let’s start with the negative impacts of corporate dentistry.

First, there are financial implications. The American Dental Association (ADA) reports that an independent dentist will make $193,640 on average versus $146,040 as an associate in a corporate practice. (Source:

Second, there is a sense that corporate dentistry is infiltrating the industry. The ADA goes on to say, “Of the approximate 190,000 practicing dentists in the United States, 92 percent are in private practice; more than 80 percent of active private practitioner dentists in the United States are practice owners. In the coming years, the solo practice will become less dominant as more cost-efficient, larger practices predominate.” (Source:

Third, there is a general feeling of malaise about corporate dentistry among many independent practitioners. The blogosphere is lit up with strong opinions about corporate dentistry. Here are just three recent posts from an online forum of independent dentists

“Corporate dentistry does nothing for the future of the profession. Corporate dentistry offering mentoring? I don’t think so, unless you mean they’ll have the money to pay for your CE courses.”

“Don’t follow the money — provide the same quality of care for your patients that you would put in your own familys’ [sic] mouths and the money will come.”

“screw corporate dentistry. lets make it our explicit goal to bring em down!!!” [sic]


Corporate versus independent dentistry is a true story of the survival of the fittest. As corporate dentistry grows, only the best of the best independent dentists will survive.

As Marc B. Cooper, DDS, MSD put it in a recent blog post, “Twenty percent of solo private practices will survive and even succeed in this new future. But these practices have very special practice owners. Dentist-owners in this 20% are obsessive in their commitment to practice success. They are continually engaged in advanced training, usually teaching and/or speaking at national and regional conferences. They are always marketing—and I mean always.” (Source:

And they are not just marketing – they are marketing like no other practice does.

The independent dentistry practice that will survive and thrive will have a very specific message for potential patients. It will be sure of its mission, vision and values. It will have a staff and patient base that believe in what it stands for, and that regularly sings its praises. It will stand out in a sea of sameness with true originality. It will market only a specific set of services that it delivers best. It will deploy only the marketing tactics that matter most to its target audience. It will be good as gold to current patients, which will regularly attract referrals. It will follow through with new patients in an unprecedented way, delivering on its marketing promise over and over again to create lifetime patients.

Corporate marketing can’t do those things. Any company that commoditizes marketing is a corporate marketing company.

Here are just a few examples of corporate marketing companies:

Yodle: All-in-One Local Internet Marketing & Advertising. Get a Free Quote!

Dentist Marketing 360®: Tour the #1 Dental website designs for generating more Patients!

ProSites: Free, no-obligation trial. Innovative web design, mobile sites, SEO, and social media services for dentists.

They offer cookie-cutter solutions that the average dentist figures are good enough.

But you are not average, and good enough is not good enough for you and your practice!

An independent marketing agency is much better able to offer the customized art and science of marketing that independent dentistry needs now.

Besides Big Buzz, here are just a few examples of independent marketing agencies that specialize in dentistry:

Gilleard Dental Marketing


Practice Cafe

You know it’s an independent marketing agency when you can see who works there and the specific custom solutions they offer. If you can’t see those two things, steer clear for fear of ending up with the same old marketing solution as the practice down the street.

You’re simply better than that!




5 Steps to Creating Wealth with Marketing

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One of my favorite books, The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley  and William D. Danko shows that those making high salaries, including doctors and dentists, are not the wealthy.

Wealth is defined as the money that comes in each month. Wealth is what’s in the bank.

In his book Tied to the chair, Michael Schuster, DDS writes, “Doctors are notorious for making a lot of money (gross income) and living high lifestyles, but creating little or no wealth.”

He goes on to explain:

“A major fallacy in thinking on the part of most professionals I have counseled the past 30-plus years is equating high gross income with actual wealth. I would say that 95 percent of professionals believe that increasing their income means increasing their wealth. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Recent national research shows that 90 percent of all general dentists in the United States have a net taxable income of $135,000, plus or minus $42,000 a year. Stated clearly, this means that 90 percent of dentists make a maximum of $177,000 a year or less, no matter what their gross income.”

And you are worth so much more than $177,000.

From a marketing perspective, there are 5 things you can do today to create wealth: 

  1. Document your goals, backward. All marketing begins with goal setting. Begin at the end. What do you want to have in the bank by year’s end? Subtract total expenses and cost of goods sold from last year, adjusting accordingly if you foresee these figures to be higher this year. Now you have a solid projection for total income needed to meet your goal. Document all revenue streams from last year: dentist production, associate production, hygienist production, etc. Then add potential new sources for income, brainstorming all possible streams until you see a way to get to your total income goal. Read on for some examples of possible income streams. Once you have all income streams defined, document the specific marketing tactics needed to attract that income.
  2. Publish your book. You already wrote it, even if you don’t realize it. Perhaps you have contributed articles to your local dental society’s magazine. Maybe you have written a blog. No doubt you have rattled off a few long emails to colleagues about insights or challenges in dentistry. Compile your works, and you might be surprised how much meaningful content is there. Consider having a freelance writer ghostwrite your book based upon the content you already have. Publishing is easy and fast through CreateSpace. Royalties from book sales can be a terrific added income stream to build wealth. Once the book is published, specific marketing strategies for this income stream may include promoting the book on your practice website and your social media pages, sending out free copies to close contacts to spread the word, selling copies at dental events, and initiating an email campaign to a database of potential readers.
  3. Sell videos of your lectures. If you have ever spoken in front of a group of dentists, you have a double-whammy income stream. The content from the presentation is yet more fodder for your book, and you can sell videos of your lectures online. Over time, even a $19.95 one-time fee for access to all your videos can add up and really contribute to your wealth. Specific marketing strategies for this income stream look a bit similar to those for a book: online promotion and email campaigns will work best.
  4. Rent out an operatory. If you have more space than you need, consider renting out an operatory to a fellow dentist. Several of our clients do this with great success, particularly with a well-trained front office, distinctive brands and unique patient bases for each of the two practices. This passive income further builds your wealth. Marketing for this income stream may be as simple as posting an ad on Craigslist to advertise availability. Remember to promote what’s in it for them (“start your practice with far less overhead cost” or “effortlessly expand the four walls of your practice”) in addition to compelling features (“state-of-the-art dental equipment included”).
  5. Inspire your team. Work with a practice consultant to refine the way that you, your associate and your hygienist deliver care. Most practices can see a higher volume of patients without sacrificing high-integrity care just by fine-tuning systems and processes. More efficient patient flow through the practice can add up to even more wealth over time. Internal marketing – that a virtuous circle where happy employees cultivate happy patients, and happy patients bring more patients – is your best bet here. And your practice consultant can guide you through how to implement an internal marketing plan that will drive bottom-line results. 

And bottom-line results add up to true wealth. 








OPEN POSITION: Full-Time Account Lead

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Full-Time Account Lead

About the Agency | Top dentists know Big Buzz as one of the nation’s best dental marketing companies. After more than seven years serving the dental community, Big Buzz has consulted individually with more than a hundred different dental practices from across the country. Big Buzz has collected marketing data from hundreds of patients and dentists of private dental practices. Simply put, no one knows dental marketing like Big Buzz. The professional and passionate team knows what it takes to produce high quality, long-lasting marketing strategies specifically for dental practices. From the initial consultation to project completion, Big Buzz expertly guides dentists through their marketing strategy.

Agency Culture | Our workspace is extremely open, allowing for our team to collaborate and communicate with one another throughout the day. At Big Buzz, we work hard, play hard and rest hard. Optional 20-minute “recess” is built into every workday. Weekends and nights are meant for friends and family, and we are respectful of that time. Ours is a coaching culture, allowing us to grow as individuals and as part of an agency. Each member of the Big Buzz team truly loves what they do.

Position Summary | Find qualified leads. Guide prospects along the decision-making process until they provide permission to sell. Overcome objections and lead prospect to closing. Close deals.

Ideal Candidate | A seasoned salesperson with 5-10 years proven success. An influencer. Friendly with a focus on people and building relationships. Outgoing, persuasive, communicative, democratic. Organizes all of the facts to help others come to logical conclusions. Thorough and focused on following through. Excellent at tracking and reporting sales metrics (number of leads contacted, number of discovery sessions set, number of deals closed). Welcomes systems and structures. Marketing agency experience a must.

Key Measures for Success

  1. Attracts and/or funnels leads to conduct 6+ new discovery sessions and/or performance reviews monthly.
  2. Converts proposals from discovery sessions to 3+ new clients and/or renewals monthly.
  3. Meets or exceeds sales goal of $350,000 annually in the first year and $500,000 annually in the second year.

Expected Hours | 40 hours per week, generally between the hours of 8:00 and 5:00 M-F.

Compensation | Base salary of $35,000 plus 5% commission on all sales plus year-end bonuses when the agency reaches its collective revenue goal.

Primary Duties/Responsibilities

1. Find:

  • Build new network and lead.
    • Connect with dentists and those serving dentists on LinkedIn each week. Communicate those new contacts to teammate managing the agency database. Screen qualified lead. Send qualified leads warm LinkedIn message or email message to schedule discovery session.
    • Send quality InMail messages on LinkedIn each week. As relationships build and connections are made, add those new contacts to the database and ask to schedule discovery session, which you will lead.
    • Follow up on any inquiries from direct mailers sent by the agency each month. As relationships build and connections are made, add those new contacts to the database and ask to schedule discovery session, which you will lead.
    • Follow up on any inquiries from email content marketing sent by the agency each week to a database of 2,500+ dentists and dental industry professionals. As relationships build and connections are made, add those new contacts to the database and ask to schedule discovery session, which you will lead.
    • Each week, identify qualified new practices to receive the agency president’s book and invitation to become a client. Agency will provide criteria for qualifications.
    • Follow up on practices that have already received the agency president’s book and invitation each month. As relationships build and connections are made, add those new contacts to the database and ask to schedule discovery session, which you will lead.
  • Nurture and expand network.
    • Each week, connect in person or by phone with 2+ of the company’s long-time, Colorado-based referrers. Introductions to referrers and budget will be provided for occasional lunch, coffee, networking event, etc.
    • Each week, take measures to expand network on the national level. Develop ideas and avenues to do so, and execute on the plan.
  • Schedule 6+ new discovery sessions and/or performance reviews each month.
    • From leads formed with efforts outline above.
    • From leads coming into the agency.
  • Deliver 6+ discovery sessions each month.
    • Using the robust agency website as presentation tool.

2. Assist in closing 3+ new clients and/or renewals each month.

  • Order proposals using agency system.
  • Schedule proposal presentation call.
  • Lead call to present the proposal and close the sale. President of the agency will be present on closing calls.


Next Steps |Please email cover letter and resume to Absolutely no calls at this stage in the game. We will call you if we feel we might be a good match.





The Wrong Keynote Speaker

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I am at the ADA annual session, which has just begun, music blaring, energizing the crowd.

The meeting director hands me a microphone. “You’re up,” she says. I glance at her roster. It says Dr. Wendy D. Phillips.

“That’s not me,” I tell her.

Yet she insists, “You’re up.”

I take the microphone and head towards the stage. No keynote prepared, yet suddenly I am the opening act in front of thousands of dentists.

I take my spot behind the podium. The requisite feedback sounds in all of our ears.

“I’m not your keynote speaker.” I glance down at my feet, then quickly back up again.

“This woman right back here,” I hold out an open hand, “mistakenly put me on the stage. It was an error. I am not supposed to be here. I am not Dr. Wendy D. Phillips…

“I am Wendy O’Donovan Phillips, ideapreneur. And I know dentists who are just like me.

“There are the dentists who excel at the clinical side of the profession. There are a many who are excellent at the business side.

“And there are a select few who are ideapreneurs. The ones who are aggravated by how the world of dentistry is now, and are determined to do something to change it. The ones who seem to invest too much time or money into grand plans – until the extraordinary fruits of their labor appear. The ones who wake up at three in the morning and dictate their dreams and hopes into their phones, to later share as blogs or articles with their peers. The dentists who are changing the industry.

“And maybe this is not you. Maybe not quite yet. But you have it in you. There is some area of your profession that causes you so much angst it keeps you up at night. What if you were the one who solves that problem? Solves that problem for your practice… And for the industry on the whole.

“This profession needs more dentists who have the courage to be ideapreneurs. Mark Twain wrote, ‘Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of fear.’

“Ideapreneurship is not always the obvious choice. I am 39 years old and I have started four businesses. Two of them serve the dental industry. I am not clear on why my higher power wants me to improve dentistry, but there is no doubt that that is what I am supposed to be doing. I have dedicated my life to dentists. Most of the ideas that I have had in the last 10 years center around dentists. Every middle-of-the-night waking moment has me thinking about dentists.

“Ideapreneurship is not a bed of roses. For the past two years, I have been focused on the bottom line at my firm. I have invested tens of thousands of dollars asking various consultants the same question: How does my agency serve dentists and still be profitable?” I laugh.

“Ideapreneurship is not a cash cow right out of the gate. My firm has, for the last eight months, run in the red. That irksome slow leak that some of you may have experienced from time to time. But it’s not about the money.

“Here’s the thing… when I’m focused on what ideapreneurship is not, I am dancing while looking at my feet,” I say, looking again down at my toes.

“In fact,” I say, drawing a finger to the bottom of my chin and slowly tilting my head up, “I can lift up and look around the ballroom and dance.” I open my arms as though beginning a waltz…

“I can see that we work with some of the best dentists in the world. I see that I have an amazing team and a beautiful place to work. I see that I have an incredible passion for ideas that will impact the dental industry for years to come.

“I see that the dance is worth it.

“There are many ways to value a good idea. And it’s not all about immediate gratification or return. The most important thing is that we let ideas flow. And that we act upon them. That we get messy, that we make mistakes, let the revolutionary happen by accident.

“So get up, take the microphone, and let your voice be heard. Get out there and start your idea. Be the wrong keynote speaker. Get vulnerable so that other people can learn from you.

“You are an ideapreneur. And you are the future of dentistry.”

Two doors down, my young daughter coughs. And coughs again.

I open my eyes, and I realize that I’ve been dreaming. I’ve been dreaming, and now I must get it down on paper. And so, after a full hour of lying there thinking how much I don’t want to get out of my warm bed, how much I just want to go back to sleep, here I am at 3:30 in the morning in the car in the garage where my sleeping family cannot hear me dictating my idea into my phone.

Because I am a dreamer. Because I am an idea maker. Because I am an ideapreneur.

And you are too. Won’t you join me?





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 guaranteed to get new dental patients. 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.