The Fourth Pillar: Beginning With the End in Mind

By | Advertising, Blog, Case Studies, Top Blog Posts, Uncategorized

A few weeks ago on our blog, we mentioned the three pillars that need to be buttoned up and maximized for a practice to survive and thrive:

  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Finances

Upon reviewing the blog, a fellow dental expert and friend of ours, Kyle Francis, of Professional Transition Strategies, kindly, respectfully, and knowledgeably brought to our attention The Fourth Pillar: Beginning With the End in Mind.

No matter how buttoned up, planned out and strategized your marketing, operations and finances are, your practice will not be as successful as it could be unless all options are understood, you are set to grow with a purpose and the end result is mapped out.

As your career unfolds and evolves, there are countless options down the road: merger, acquisition, expansion, outright sale, DSO, affiliate with a DSO, associateship, partnership, the list goes on. The first issue is that many dentists are not fully aware of and do not fully understand all of their options, the pros and cons of each and ultimately which one fits into their dream and long-term plan the most seamlessly.

A practice “transition” can mean many different things, but without understanding all of your options, you’re indirectly and unknowingly limiting your pool of options.

As doctors look toward the last chapter of their careers, there are several moving pieces to consider:

  • Do you want to phase out of the practice over time?
  • Do you enjoy the business management side and want to have a hand in it?
  • What aspects of your practice are appealing or unappealing to a potential buyer?

These are just a few of the questions you can begin to ask yourself as you map out and plan your ideal exit strategy. By getting your ducks in a row as early as possible, the clearer and more seamless your path will be.

Take this doctor, for example, who purchased a practice in 2010 for $800,000 and has grown it over the past 8 years to over $3,000,000, almost entirely organically and without conscious effort. Now, this doctor is looking to sell his practice and his options are rather limited. His plan and desire was to mentor a doctor and train him into full-time, ultimately taking over the practice. However, not many single doctors at that stage in their career can afford this size of practice, nor would they thrive in a mentorship program built on this foundation. His options now are limited to an affiliate DSO or private equity investors.

There are worse problems to have, though. If this doctor would’ve mapped out his exit strategy and grown his practice with that intention, he’d have more options at this point in time.

Another often-overlooked option is a shared space practice. In locations that are more densely populated and with greater competitive saturation, this is a fantastic option. In many cases, just by joining forces, consolidating operations, minimizing facility costs, bundling overall expenses and maximizing production, an additional 14% can be made on the bottom line.

Kyle and his team have seen a $1,200,000 shared-space practice (with three doctors total) reduce overhead to 42%. On the flip side, they have seen a single doctor-practice doing $1,200,000 with overhead never dipping below 65%. By scaling strategically and making conscious business decisions, you can bring your career dream to fruition and bask in the power of being out of debt.

Kyle and his team are practice transition specialists, dedicating their lives to helping doctors maximize their careers, fulfill their dreams and live a debt-free life. Professional Transition Strategies offers complimentary consultations to effectively and realistically map out your exit strategy and end result.

How the New Google Update Will Impact Your Practice

By | Blog, Top Blog Posts

OnlineAdsGoogle announced Friday that they will be removing the sidebar section of paid ads, which will impact the performance of many campaigns, particularly for dentists. There will, however, be a fourth top-page ad for “highly commercial” queries. This will be an update from the current three top-page ads. Big Buzz is monitoring this to implement in current clients’ AdWords strategies.

Who will be impacted most?

  • Dentists in competitive markets, such as Phoenix, San Diego and Colorado Springs
  • Dentists with low ad spend budgets, at or under $500/month
  • Dentists who spread their ad spend budget across too many services

What you need to know about the change:

  • With a fourth ad being included in the top-ad listings, organic results will be pushed down slightly.
  • Expect your ad impressions to go down since the number of available ad slots has been reduced from eleven to seven.
  • Competition is expected to increase, as there are fewer ad positions available.
  • The average cost-per-click will increase. (No doubt Google made this change to make more money from AdWords.)
  • Only ads that show up on desktop computers are affected, not those appearing on mobile phones or tablets.
  • Search queries such as “Wisdom Teeth Extractions” don’t appear to be considered “highly commercial” while queries like “Wisdom Teeth Extractions Cost” are, and are getting that fourth ad spot.
  • Expect a slight loss of online market share due to the rise in competition and decrease in overall impressions.
  • The quality of landing pages will become more important for reducing costs and increasing chances of top-page “worthiness”.

How can you address the change?

  • Increase your ad spend budget to improve your competitiveness for the top positions.
  • Target queries that are closely related to an intent-to-purchase so that a fourth ad becomes available.
  • Reduce the number of services you advertise so that more budget can be spent promoting top services.
  • Ensure that your most important ad groups have landing pages with high quality scores.
  • Contact Big Buzz today for a complimentary assessment to optimize your current online advertising campaign for the best results. Simply enter the coupon code BESTADS into the “Additional Information” field in this form.



Checklist: When to Redesign your Dental Website

By | Blog, Top Blog Posts

A dental practice website is like a car. It can be maintained and updated for a period of time, but eventually it is more economical and practical to replace it.

How will you know when to redesign your website?

It’s time for a do-over when:

  • Update expense is too high. Run your profit and loss and gauge how much you spent in the last 36-month period on website updates and maintenance. If you’re paying more than an average of $200 per month to have your old website updated with routine maintenance, it makes more sense to simply invest in a new, lower maintenance website. The average dental practice website runs about $5,000, and most are redeveloped every three years. That breaks down to $138.88 per month.
  • Images and content are outdated. Go page by page through your website and ask yourself, about what percentage of the photos are crisp, professional and relevant? Roughly what percentage of text or content is up-to-date and helpful in guiding the patient into your door? If it’s less than 60% in either case, it’s probably time to just start fresh.
  • Links are broken. Again, navigate page by page through the website. This time, click on every link that appears on your website. About what percentage of links are working, or leading to the appropriate page? If the answer is less than 60%, a do-over is best.
  • Contact forms need updating. One last time, scroll through the entire website. Is there a contact form on every page? Fill each one out and hit submit. Did you receive all of the information that you need to make a new patient appointment, and was the information sent to the appropriate inbox? If the answer to either of these questions is no, then a new website will help. And the cherry on top: Is there a place on the website that the patient can schedule an appointment on their own? This is particularly important for practices that wish to have or have a good number of Millennial generation patients, as they are very unlikely to call or email for an appointment.
  • Loading time is slow. Type your website address in here to test its loading time. If it reports that your website loads slower than most, then it’s time for a new website. The website has about 3 seconds to grab the visitor’s attention, and about 15 seconds to give them the information they seek. Your potential patients aren’t going to wait for a slow-loading website to find what they want; they’ll just pop over to your competitor’s website.
  • Website was created without SEO best practices. Has your website had SEO updates in the last year? Is it less than 3 years old? If you answered no to either of these questions, it’s likely best to redevelop the website. Be extra sure by typing your website address in here to see your domain authority. A domain authority under 15 likely needs SEO updates, which may further warrant a new website.
  • It’s not mobile friendly or responsive. Pull up your website on a desktop computer. Grab the lower right corner and pull it upward and to the right. Does the website resize itself to fit the smaller screen size? Now, pull up your website on a cell phone. Can you see navigation and contact information without having to resize or scroll the screen? If you answered no, it’s imperative that you have your website redesigned to be mobile friendly or responsive, like this one. In the average dental practice, 50% of patients search on their mobile devices for your services. If your website does not populate correctly on these mobile devices, up to half of your new patient inquiries may be vanishing. For added assurance, type your website address in here to instantly get a mobile-friendly test.
  • You get very few to no new patients from the website. If they’re not already, have your front office ask every patient for a month how they found you. If less than 10% came from your website, the old website is not doing its job. The new practice website should be an engaging tool that invites patients into the practice and makes it easy for them to make an appointment.

Need a new website? We can help.

Contact us today.

10 Great Gifts for Dental Professionals

By | Blog, Top Blog Posts

The season of giving is back and with it comes the chance to show a little extra love to those who work hard to keep our smiles healthy. Shopping for dentists, and other healthcare professionals, isn’t always easy. While little knickknacks can be thoughtful, they typically end up just catching dust on a bookshelf in the reception room. Whether you’re a dentist yourself looking for a gift for a colleague, a staff member at a practice, or a spouse, friend or family member looking for a last minute gift idea, here are some dental themed holiday gifts any dentist would genuinely appreciate.

  1. This Molar Mug makes an adorable gift for any dentist. It’s sure to bring lots of smiles to patients and staff members alike when the dentist carries it around to drink his or her morning coffee.
  1. Dentists love calming prints and posters, like this mountain scene, to decorate the walls of their examination rooms. Peaceful landscapes can help put patients at ease during treatment and provide a more positive experience overall.
  1. These tooth impression ice trays will deliver plenty of laughs at practice social functions. A fun conversation starter, this is a great gift for a dentist with a sense of humor.
  1. This crisp and professional marble business card holder proudly displays the official dental insignia and can be personalized with the dentist’s name and a brief message like “Show off your healthy smile!”
  1. This slightly tongue-in-cheek t-shirt, printed with the phrase “Same Spit, Different Day,” is sure to be a hit among dentists who love to laugh.
  1. Bring a sense of coziness to the front desk by giving the dentist these mini molar candles. They come in cinnamon apple, honeydew melon, French vanilla and clean cotton scents.
  1. Any dentist will love this cheerful clock reminding patients of the time and to “Keep Calm and Brush On.” The placement of the words, numbers and tooth image is customizable, and you can easily personalize the clock face with the dentist’s or practice name.
  1. Give the gift of organization with this cute tooth office supply cup, perfect for holding pens and pencils on the front desk.
  1. Do you know a dentist who likes to play golf? Give them these tooth-shaped golf tees this holiday season so they can express their love for dentistry on the green.
  1. This unique tooth lamp functions as a stool too! This is a great gift for a pediatric dentist who wants to brighten up the office while giving kids a special seat in the reception area.

We hope everyone has a smile-filled holiday season!

End-of-Year Marketing To Do Checklist

By | Blog, Top Blog Posts

The time to gain momentum to hit 2016 goals is NOT after the first of the year. That will be far too late. The time is now!

Here is a succinct checklist of to dos to ensure that you hit the ground running in the new year:

  • Set Quantifiable Goals. Pull reports that show production by month and new patient numbers by month. Are you satisfied with those results, or does your practice need more to really thrive? What’s the gap between where you are now and where you want to be? What will it take to close that gap? Write down your goals in clear, simple language and make them quantifiable. For example, “My goal is to earn $150,000 in production every month in 2016, up from $80,000 per month in 2015.” Another way to write it might be, “My goal is for my associate and I to see 100 new patients per month in 2016, up from 55 per month in 2015.”
  • Complete Vision Work with Your Team. Now that you have clarity on the goal, share it with your team in a meaningful way. Write it on a whiteboard in the break room or somewhere that is visible for the whole team on a daily basis. Dedicate a morning huddle or a special lunch meeting to discussing the goal. Ask the team: What would the practice look and feel like once we hit that goal? What will your work and life look like once we hit that goal? What’s in it for you to help us reach that goal? This would be an excellent time to present any employee bonuses that may be tied to the practice reaching its goal. (Remember, a bonus does not necessarily have to be monetary, just inspiring.) Once you get your team on board with your goal and vision, you are well on your way to achieving the dream.
  • Set the Marketing Budget. Put into writing an exact dollar figure that you are willing to invest annually in marketing. Next, break that down into monthly increments since most marketing programs require a monthly fee. This will give you clarity on how much gas you are willing to put into the tank in order to get to the destination. Keep in mind that the majority of small businesses, dental practices included, invest 5-7% of total annual production back into marketing and that an annual marketing investment of $30,000-$50,000 is typical for the average single-dentist practice.
  • Review the Past Year’s Marketing Performance. Schedule a single conference call or meeting with every vendor and employee who worked on your marketing program this past year. Ask them: What was our marketing goal in 2015? What reporting can you share with me that shows that we met that goal? What specific marketing tactics worked best? What specific marketing tactics need improvement? What specific marketing tactics are we considering implementing in the future, and why? Keep what’s working and ditch what’s not. That goes for both marketing tactics and vendors.
  • Develop Next Year’s Marketing Plan. Articulate in writing each marketing tactic that you plan to deploy in 2016. While there are about 25 possible tactics that a dental practice can deploy, it’s best to focus on only 5 or 6 per year. Next to each, write down the investment needed, and be sure that the sum of all of them is less than your overall marketing budget. Share the marketing plan with your team so they understand what the practice is doing to reach its goal, what each person’s role is in making that happen and why you selected the marketing tactics that you did. The more buy-in you get from the team, the more successful the plan will be.
  • Recalibrate Your Marketing Team. If completing the checklist to this point revealed that it’s time to let go of a vendor, bring on a new partner or make internal changes with how marketing is handled, then now is the time to do it. Make sure you have an A Team in place that can expertly handle the marketing while you focus on dentistry.
  • Pay Marketing Vendors in Advance. Offset 2015 taxes by paying trusted marketing vendors up front for the work they will complete for you in the following year. If you are sure about making the investment with them and you have the cash flow to manage it, this can be a great way to give less to Uncle Sam and wisely invest those dollars back into your practice.

This holiday season is not only a time to rest and celebrate. It’s also a ripe time for getting your marketing in perfect order for success in 2016.



10 Steps to Making the Most of Every New Patient Call

By | Blog, Top Blog Posts
  1. Answer on three rings or less. This simple step shows that the practice puts the caller first and is efficient with time.
  2. Wow with your language. Start with, “Good morning, [practice name], this is Stacy. May I please have your first name?” This will allow you to call the patient by name throughout the rest of the conversation. This goes a long way in establishing trust and eventually a long-term relationship. From there, use “transformational vocabulary,” as Fortune Management calls it. Rather than “good,” say “terrific.” Instead of “ok,” use “awesome.” Nix “no problem” for “it’s my extreme pleasure.”
  3. Record calls. Set up marketing tactics like online advertising, direct mail and the practice website to each have a unique tracked number that records calls. This will allow the dental team to review calls and continue to train and refine toward best practices.
  4. Ask the right questions. Name, email and referral source are the basics. Take it further by asking, “How can we delight you?” or “What’s most important to you in finding the right dental practice?” This will help you tailor the experience to that particular patient’s needs.
  5. Collect the patient’s email address. This is an oft-forgotten yet critical step in the patient call. By making record of the email address, you ensure that the practice can stay in touch with the patient in a meaningful way, regardless of whether they accept treatment right off the bat. Many times, patients need to be nurtured into the practice over time, and an email campaign centered on serving the patient (never on selling to the patient) can be just the trick to eventually convert them into a life-long patient who refers more of that kind.
  6. Track the lead. Document on a spreadsheet or in practice software how each patient found the practice. For true clarity, multiply the total number of leads per marketing tactic by the average value of a patient. Over the long-term, you will accumulate data that confirms marketing success and return on investment. This will allow you to invest healthfully into your marketing budget and continue to attract new patients.
  7. Thank the lead source. If the patient says that he or she was referred, then send a handwritten thank you card to the patient or doctor who made the referral. This small acknowledgement helps ensure that the well of referrals coming from that source will continue to be plentiful.
  8. Follow up. Didn’t get the appointment right away? It’s perfectly acceptable to call again or even email openings for the week to continue to try to get the patient scheduled. In the marketing world, we call these “touches.” Touch the patient with at least one follow-up call and two emails to be sure to get the appointment set.
  9. Make the new patient intake process insatiable. Make it impossible for the patient to say no to joining the practice. Share your unique message – the number one thing that your happiest, best patients love most about the practice. This is not a clinical or technological attribute, it’s something deeper. It’s your big why. Survey patients to uncover this insatiable trait that only your practice possesses.
  10. Thank the new patient. Again, the handwritten card goes a long way in making the practice not just memorable but even remarkable.

This blog post was inspired by an email sent to Big Buzz by PostcardMania.



13 Social Media Dos and Don’ts for the Dental Practice

By | Blog, Top Blog Posts
  1. Do follow the rules. Just as you would behave differently at a child’s birthday party than you would at a business networking lunch, Facebook requires different etiquette than LinkedIn. If Facebook is like an open house for the practice, then LinkedIn is the gathering of collaborating physicians.
  2. Don’t forget HIPAA regulations. Here are the key things to remember: First, don’t talk about patients, even in general terms, unless you have a signed general consent form and waiver stating that you can use their case and photos in your practice marketing materials. Have your attorney draw one up for the practice, and keep them on hand at checkout to have select patients complete. Second, do talk about conditions, treatment and research. These are always safe topics in terms of HIPAA compliance.
  3. Do give your page the attention it deserves. Post at least two or three times a week to stay visible. Anytime you get a comment on a post, comment back as soon as time permits to keep the conversation going. Especially on LinkedIn, be sure to maintain a current profile. Potential patients and referrers will likely check you out online before calling, so you want them to see a complete and relevant profile.
  4. Don’t over do it. Post two or three times a week so that you are visible in patients’ and referrers’ newsfeeds, but not so much that you become a nuisance.
  5. Do give others the chance to talk. You wouldn’t monopolize a conversation offline, so be sure to follow the same social etiquette online. Visit other practice pages regularly to get a flavor for the conversations happening there then strike up conversations of your own on your page.
  6. Don’t be self-centered. Showcase patients who have signed a waiver. (See #2.) Feature cartoons and memes that reflect your practice culture. Highlight staff celebrations, like birthdays and work anniversaries. Less about you, more about them.
  7. Do keep it light. Apply the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time, share general, fun and lighthearted posts that loosely reflect your practice’s values, and 20% of the time hard facts about the practice. Posts that are most often liked, commented on and shared are photos of the doctor and staff, babies or dogs (or better yet, babies with dogs), happy birthday posts (or better yet, congratulatory wedding or new baby posts) and funny images or cartoons. Think: What can I share that will make people smile and laugh?
  8. Don’t post the wrong things. Complex polls and open-ended questions require too much thinking, and long posts require too much reading. This is a social setting. Keep posts simple, straightforward and pithy.
  9. Do share plenty of images. Everyone loves seeing bright, easily readable images on social media. Having dental/health related images like these on your page will make your practice appear active, positive and current. Minimize text-only posts.
  10. Don’t be hesitant to open up the conversation. Make it possible for others to post on your page. (You can easily adjust this in your privacy settings.) Inviting others to post opens the door to your open house and invites others to be part of it. Have a personal profile on Facebook in addition to your business page to widen the circle of people with whom you engage. For even more exposure on LinkedIn, specifically, get involved in groups and discussion boards.
  11. Don’t get mixed up. Keep personal posts on personal profiles and professional posts on professional pages.
  12. Do handle any negative posts swiftly and thoroughly. Inevitably, you will get a negative social media post or comment. When it happens, behave just like you would with a disgruntled patient acting out in your waiting room. Respond publicly to the original post. A simple, “Thank you for your feedback, we will do everything we can to rectify the situation” will do. Contact the patient personally. Be calm and understanding, listening intently until the patient has exhausted all emotion about the issue. If a resolution is reached, consider asking the patient to remove the post.
  13. Do rise above it. Above all else, take the high road in social media. Behave with the ultimate decorum and it will reflect favorably on you and your practice.


Why Corporate Marketing is Bad for Independent Dentistry

By | Blog, Top Blog Posts

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!