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What Monsters Lurk in Your Practice?

What Monsters Lurk in Your Practice?

What if Halloween happened every day? Ooh, that’s a scary thought. Can you imagine putting up with the crazy, over-the-top costumes, the ghouls and goblins, the gruesome humor and the candy giveaways year-round? Sounds like a dentist’s worst nightmare, especially that last part.

Unfortunately, for some practices, Halloween is a daily occurrence. Every day, the dentist and team grapple with monsters that threaten the sustainability of the practice.

Are you battling any of following creatures in your office1.

1. Frankenstein Systems

Cobbled together from putrid processes, moldering methods and rotting rituals, these cadaverous creations lumber through the practice, smashing morale, destroying momentum and undermining progress every step of the way. Their long-time presence will scare away even the most loyal team members and patients.

2. Inefficiency Vampires

They suck the energy right out of the practice, draining away precious resources that could be better spent growing production. They sneak into the practice almost invisibly and can exist for years before their presence is detected. Their persuasive powers are legendary. Many team members and doctors fall under their spell and defend their nefarious actions by saying, “But what we’ve always done it this way.” The longer they exist in a practice, the stronger their power grows!

3. Zombie Customer Service

Everybody is so well-rehearsed that they’re just going through the motions, mechanically mouthing memorized word-morsels. Plug Patient A into Script B and get Result C. Wash, rinse and repeat! Patients want to have genuine interactions––not simulated experiences––with their oral healthcare provider.

Conclusion

These monsters have plagued dental practices from time immemorial. Taking them on and rooting them out of your practice takes foresight, courage and persistence. But once you drive them out of your practice, you can’t imagine why you put up with them so long.

 


Additional Resources

Check out Dr. Levin’s popular e-book 31 Biggest Mistakes that Dentists Make. Save 25% with code TOD25.

Watch the video “Systems Implementation.

 

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Brand It: Don’t Be “Just Another” Practice

Brand It: Don’t Be “Just Another” Practice

Every dental practice is unique and should be able to identify a number of distinctive selling points. The following list can help you get started:

  • Doctor and Staff (schools attended, family, interests, charitable activities, etc.)
  • Location (easy to reach, free parking, near major shopping areas, etc.)
  • Environment (furnishings, refreshments, wi-fi, reading materials, etc.)
  • Technology/Services (the best, the latest, the fastest, etc.)
  • Financial (insurance accepted, financing options, free services)
  • Praise from other patients (testimonials)
  • Educational (home care instructions, advice on dental issues, etc.)
  • Scheduling (special hours, staying on schedule, etc.)

It makes sense to involve the whole team in identifying possible differentiators and then selecting those which are likely to be most appealing.

Getting the Word Out

Once your practice has determined what sets it apart from others, come up with a marketing plan that will effectively communicate your differentiators. The strategies you choose will depend, in part, on your differentiators. For example, to promote your practice’s engagement in the community, attend local health fairs and other events, submit dental health articles to local papers and websites, etc.

Many differentiators relate to customer service. Patients who experience them first-hand can then be encouraged to refer family members, friends, neighbors, fellow workers and others to your practice. This kind of word-of-mouth advertising could prove to be the most effective element in your marketing plan.

 


Additional Resources

Read “Turn Your Facebook Page into a New Patient Generator.

Learn more about Levin Group’s marketing consulting program.

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Dental Practice Myth #4: Excellent Care = Automatic Success

Dental Practice Myth #4: Excellent Care = Automatic Success

If that were only true, but sad to say, it’s not. From dental school onward, dentists are taught that providing excellent dentistry––which is our obligation––will automatically lead to practice success. While this appeared to be true for many years, because most practices were successful, it had little to do with the excellence of the dentistry and more with simple supply and demand. There were fewer dental practices back then, combined with more patients seeking care. Neither one is true any longer.

Today, practice success depends on the ability to compete effectively in a crowded market. You need to implement the best systems, promote your office continuously and effectively, provide incredible customer service, and find new ways to grow your practice.

Moreover, most patients have absolutely no idea about how to measure the quality of clinical care they’re receiving. In fact, patients are judging your practice more by the level of customer service they experience than the actual dental treatment. People will remember the smile and kind words they received from the front desk more so than your skills at filling a cavity.

Don’t get me wrong. Excellent clinical skills still matter greatly, but they also need to be supported by excellent business skills. You can be the top clinician in the world, but it won’t matter if your schedule is half-empty every day.

Solution: Get the business and leadership skills you need to become an excellent CEO for your practice. When you supplement your clinical knowledge with business savvy, it’s a powerful combination!


Additional Resources

For more myths, check out Dr. Levin’s book, 81 Obstacles to Practice Growth. Save 25% with code TOD25.

Learn more about Levin Group’s management consulting program.

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The CEO Mindset – Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

The CEO Mindset – Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

CEOs in real-world businesses manage and lead by taking risks. You always have to be looking for ways to innovate. What can be improved? What new service or product can be introduced that will generate new revenue?

Dentists should be thinking along these same lines. How can I make the practice better? What services will patients want in the next year or five years? How can I ensure my practice will continue to grow?

As in business, creating a growing practice also requires a certain willingness to take risks. You can’t just sit back and expect your practice to grow simply because it has in the past.

Many dentists are micromanagers who fear making any mistakes. Due in large part to your clinical training, you may find the idea of making mistakes seems nothing short of terrible. However, the pathway to increased success is often built by appropriate risk-taking.

No CEOs have grown and developed in their roles without making mistakes. Many dentists struggle with this concept because they can’t make a conscious distinction between clinical mistakes and practice management mistakes. As much as the former are to be avoided, the latter must be accepted as part of the job.

Smart dentists look at mistakes as learning opportunities. They recognize that errors are part of owning and operating a dental business. Nobody gets everything right the first time. Those who are willing to innovate, take risks and learn from their mistakes have the potential for tremendous growth and development.


Additional Resources

If you liked this rule from Dr. Levin’s e-book, 43 Rules to Increase Practice Production, read another excerpt here. 

Read “3 Habits of Happy Dentists.

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Top 4 Excuses for Holding onto Bad Systems

Top 4 Excuses for Holding onto Bad Systems

Systems, systems, systems! Either you got good ones or you don’t. If you don’t, you’re asking for trouble!

Here’s the problem: most dentists think they have good systems when, in fact, they don’t. Sure, at one time, the systems were effective and efficient, but that was years ago. Management and marketing systems have a shelf life of about three years when they’re operating at peak efficiency.

After that, things slow down. As the practice continues to evolve, the old systems can’t keep up and they begin breaking down more and more frequently.

Doctors and team members will get out “the duct tape” to keep the systems running, but bottlenecks continue to multiply, forcing the staff to improvise work-a-rounds and other fixes that, of course, create additional problems. Before long, those once sleek, simple, super-efficient systems have transmogrified into a Rube Goldbergian nightmare. It takes more and more effort to get less and less done. Not a good situation for you, your team or your patients.

Yet dentists insist on holding onto outdated, production-killing, morale-destroying systems. Why? Here are the top four excuses dentists make for keeping bad systems:

1. It’s going to take too much time to replace the systems

You can’t expect to snap your fingers and have new systems like that. A better way to look at it is that new systems are an investment in your practice… in your sanity… and your financial well-being.

If your outdated systems aren’t working well now, what will they be like a year from now? How high will he stress be in your practice? How long will your team agree to keep working under such conditions… before they start looking for opportunities elsewhere?

2. It won’t be worth it

Can you remember what was it like when your current systems were new? How the days seemed to fly by with few problems? Patients weren’t backed up in the reception area. Stress was low or nearly nonexistent. And you weren’t putting in extra time in the office and at home, thinking about the practice 24/7.

You can’t go back to those easier, stress-free days with your current systems. But if you could get a better practice and a better life with new systems, would it be worth it?

3. We fixed systems before and nothing happened

Fixing systems isn’t replacing them. And that’s what you’ve got to do when systems become outdated. Your practice is continually evolving, and new systems can absorb only so many changes before they start to flounder. Think of all the changes that have occurred in your practice in the past three years regarding technology, supplies, personnel, protocols, equipment, etc.

I bet it’s a pretty substantial list, yet you’re operating with basically the same systems before any of those changes happened. It’s like running new software on an old computer. It either won’t work or it runs so slowly that you finally throw your hands up in frustration.

4. My team doesn’t want to change

It happens. Teams get comfortable with the status quo. But if your practice isn’t performing to your satisfaction, then it’s up to you to change it.

After all, you want to get the most out of your career. You don’t want to settle for lower income and lower profitability… just because your team is happy with the way things are.

Sure, you want your team’s input on how to improve the practice, but keeping everything the same shouldn’t be an option.

Conclusion

Your practice is a Ferrari. You can’t expect it to operate at peak performance if there’s a lawnmower engine under the hood. That’s what happens with old systems––they prevent you from reaching your practice’s full potential. Who wants to be puttering down the road when you could be flying full speed ahead into a much brighter future?


Additional Resources

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Where Are You Going? And How Will You Get There?

Where Are You Going? And How Will You Get There?

If you could just focus on the dentistry, life would be great, wouldn’t it?

But you have a business to run, specifically a healthcare business, which has its own special rules and considerations. And it’s not easy being both a dentist and a practice owner. You went to school for dentistry and have taken tons of clinical CE courses, so that part of the job is generally a piece of cake. It’s the business side where things get a little hairy. All things considered, you’ve done a pretty good job, but you don’t have an MBA. In fact, you’re mostly winging it. Sure, you talk to your colleagues, read blogs and articles, and try your best to keep up, but it just keeps getting more complex. And, face it, you don’t have time to play catch-up.

Yet, you know something’s got to change. You’re looking at your numbers for referrals, overhead, case acceptance and production, and while they’re not terrible, you know they could and should be a whole lot better.

You don’t want to end up like one of those first-round draft picks who had an amazing college career but flamed out once they joined pros.

So, what’s your next move?

1. Keep On Doing What You’ve Been Doing

It’s safe and easy but you’ve been on this road awhile and you know where it leads––the same just-OK results. But you can feel a storm coming on the horizon. You may not be exactly sure what it will be or when it will happen, but you know it’s only a matter of time before it hits… it might be a team member (or two) leaving… a DSO moving down the street… a couple of patients raging on social media about wait times… or maybe all of the above. You know if you don’t make a change sometime soon that things could get a lot worse in a hurry!

2. Make Some DIY Repairs and Hope for the Best

You’ve tried some do-it-yourself solutions in the past with little luck. You’ve come back from the latest practice management seminar or watched a couple of webinars all ready to revamp your systems. You hurry up and make a couple of changes, but as the weeks go by, you lose that initial motivation. Quicker than you can say “amalgam,” you’re back to the same basic systems you had before with a new tweak or two. You know you need to make positive changes especially changes that have staying power

3. Get Help

That’s never been your style, yet many dentists have success working with consultants. In fact, more than a third of practice owners (34%) used a practice management consultant in 2016, according to the latest Dental Economics – Levin Group Annual Survey.

Think of it this way… do people who work with a personal trainer improve their conditioning, strength and cardio? The answer is yes, if they stick with it. The trainer guides, encourages, teaches and holds the client accountable. That’s what we do for dentists and specialists. We make you better as a businessperson, leader and practice owner. We show you how to increase your practice’s performance by implementing high-powered systems that enable you to move closer to your full potential.

Is it easy? Of course not. It takes work to make significant positive changes, but we’re with you every step of the way.

Conclusion

Every dentist comes to a fork in the road. Which direction gives you the best chance of getting better and getting the most out of your skills and education? You can continue down the familiar path getting the same ol’ results… or you could choose a different path. It’s up to you.


Additional Resources

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Surprising Advice for Dentists from Sgt. Pepper

Surprising Advice for Dentists from Sgt. Pepper

It was 50 years ago today that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. What can the Beatles’ classic album released five decades ago teach us about practice management? You’re probably thinking not much. After all, there are no songs about dentists on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But as with every Beatles album, there’s a lot of great music and plenty of good advice. And some of it applies to dentistry. Let’s take a look…

With a Little Help from My Friends

It can be lonely at the top, but it doesn’t have to be. Even with the growth of DSOs, the majority of dentists still operate solo practices. That means you wear a lot of hats… you’re the main producer, the team leader, the CEO, the CFO and the CMO. Some days, it can seem overwhelming.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Study clubs represents one of the greatest resources for practice owners. You can learn a lot from your colleagues, many of whom have experienced similar issues and challenges. You’ll get pertinent advice, learn about new clinical procedures and develop a support network that can get you through the tough times.

Good Morning, Good Morning

Morning meetings matter. Never underestimate the power of this brief gathering. Sharing information about the day’s schedule, patients, treatments, and emergences keeps everybody on the same page. Start your day the right way with a morning meeting!

Getting Better

That should be the goal of every practice. How can we improve? What’s not working and what could be working better? What are the solutions? What are the costs? What can we accomplish with the budget and manpower we have? As the practice leader, you don’t want to settle for the status quo. Because when you stop improving, you eventually start declining.

Fixing a Hole

A full schedule drives practice growth. Gaps in the schedule are missed opportunities. To combat last-minute cancellations, keep a list of patients who are looking to move up their appointments. Contact them as soon as you have an opening. Also, use social media to get the word out. If patients have a break in their schedule, they often come in to catch up on their dental care.

When I’m Sixty Four

Are you saving enough for retirement? When was the last time you looked at your retirement plan? Are you currently working with a dental-knowledgeable advisor? Even if you’re a younger dentist and believe retirement is decades away, you need to start planning for it now.

A Day in the Life

Like any job, dentistry can become a grind… if you let it. As the practice owner, you have the power to create a fun, productive work environment. Don’t just put in your time. Create the practice you want. Sure, it takes time and effort. But the sooner you start working on it, the sooner it will happen.

Conclusion

It’s been called everything from the greatest album ever made to the most overrated record in the history of popular music. Wherever your opinion falls on that spectrum, there are still some surprising lessons Sgt. Pepper can teach us 50 years after its release.


Additional Resources

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4 Lies That Hold Dentists Back

4 Lies That Hold Dentists Back

Dear Struggling Dentist,

Here’s some advice––stop being your own worst enemy!

Yes, I know, the dental economy isn’t the greatest and competition is heating up as DSOs continue to grow. And I realize that patients are less loyal than they used to be and even the loyal ones don’t come in for their twice-yearly hygiene appointments. On top of all that, the insurance companies keep chopping reimbursements and so on and so on.

Yes, these things are all true and they make it much more challenging to run a successful practice.

But I’ve met too many dentists who are struggling and yet continue to believe in dangerous, performance-depleting myths. Let me be clear, these internalized myths are far more dangerous than all the external threats combined.

Here are four of the most pernicious lies dentists tell themselves:

1. “Something Will Rescue Me”

Nobody’s coming. This isn’t a superhero movie where Batman shows up at your office, grabs a canister of “New Patient Attractor” from his trusty bat belt, douses your reception area with this magical elixir, and then suddenly your practice is overrun with new patients. Ain’t gonna happen. No way, no how!

You’ve got to be your own superhero. That means putting together a plan, brainstorming strategies and implementing them, tracking performance, making adjustments, and getting expert help when needed. No cape or Batmobile required.

2. “It’s Just a Phase”

I’ve heard this over and over from dentists whose production has been down three or four years. That’s not a phase, it’s a permanent condition! Well, that is, unless you decide to do something about it.

I get it. You want to be positive. You want to believe the practice will turn around. But belief alone isn’t enough. For things to improve, you have to marry belief to action.

It’s like losing weight. You may want to drop 20 pounds, but if you don’t change your diet or your exercise habits, you won’t shed any weight.

3. “But It Worked Before”

That doesn’t mean it will work now or ever again. And if it’s not working now, that’s your sign to change what you’re doing. The “it” can be a marketing strategy, campaign or ad. Just because something was successful in the past, there’s no guarantee it will succeed in the present.

 4. “The Economy Will Pick Up”

It’s already picked up. So if you’re expecting some turbocharged, super-heated, macro-economic miracle to lift the dental economy out of the doldrums, you’re bound to be disappointed.

But all is not lost. The business of dentistry is evolving and will continue to evolve. So, forget the economy and concentrate on something you can control, like the activities within your practice. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do right now to make sure your practice is successful, such as:

  • Scheduling 98% of hygiene patients
  • Reactivating inactive patients
  • Collecting 98% of fees
  • Persuading at least half of your patients to make a referral every year
  • Delegating all administrative tasks to your team, so you can focus on patient care

None of these activities has anything to do with the overall economy. These are things you and your team can make happen on your own. So, what are you waiting for? Pick one and get started!

Conclusion

What we believe can either help us or hurt us. Too often dentists cling to false beliefs that limit their performance and their potential. Take a hard look at what’s holding you back. If it’s one of these lies, toss it aside and move on.


Additional Resources

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Do More With What You Have… Or Lose More of What You Got

Do More With What You Have… Or Lose More of What You Got

Every business has assets and liabilities.

But if you’re not maximizing your assets, that’s a liability.

And in today’s competitive market, you can’t afford to turn strength into weakness. But that’s what many practices are unintentionally doing.

The #1 mismanaged asset in a dental practice is the patient base. Time and time again, when we analyze practices, we find that they have…

  • Hundreds of inactive patients due to lack of follow-up
  • Scores of overdue patients who haven’t been scheduled
  • Dozens of patients with unfinished treatment
  • Countless one-and-done patients who were never contacted after their initial appointment

Not Enough Patients… or Not Reaching Out Enough?

Practices typically spend thousands of dollars trying to attract new patients, yet most offices devote little time to rescheduling overdue and inactive patients. Just as your financial coordinator should regularly contact patients who owe the practice money, the scheduling coordinator should designate at least one hour a week to bringing unscheduled and inactive patients back into the practice. If you have a backlog of “idle” patients, then you’ll need to devote significant resources to play catch-up.

Many of these patients will come back… if you contact them and use influential scripting to remind them that regular appointments are critical for maintaining optimal oral health and identifying minor issues before they become major problems.

Conclusion

New patients matter, but so do the patients already “on the books.”  Put procedures in place to reschedule patients who cancel and to reactivate patients who haven’t been in the office in 12–18 months. By bringing these patients back, you’ll have a fuller hygiene schedule and an infusion of new revenue.


Additional Resource

Need a systems checkup? Find out how a Practice Performance Analysis can pinpoint whatever’s limiting your growth. To learn more, click here.

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Get Ready for the Second Half of the Year

Get Ready for the Second Half of the Year

This is a dangerous time for many practices. As we enter the second half of the year, there can be a tendency to relax a little, especially if your practice is ahead of last year’s pace. You want to keep any momentum you’ve built up going for the entire year. If your practice’s off to a slow start, now’s the time to make positive changes that will pay dividends later on.

Here are three strategies for ramping up growth in the next six months:

1. Make Referrals Rewarding for Patients, Too

Patients may know someone who needs a dentist, but making a referral isn’t on the top of their to-do list. But if you can make the referral process a little more fun for them, you’ll be surprised at the results. How do you do that? By incentivizing the process.

Here’s a quick rundown on how to set up a refer-a-friend program…

  • Any patient who makes a successful referral will be entered into a drawing to win a prize. Make it something worthwhile like a gift card for dinner at a nice restaurant.
  • If patients make more than one referral, then their name goes into “the hat” that many times, increasing their chances of winning.
  • Each month give away a different prize.
  • Place signs in high-traffic areas touting the program. Train your team to promote it during interactions with patients.
  • Take photos of all the winners and place those pictures in the reception area. Also, use social media to create awareness about the program.

2. Don’t Let Money Walk Out the Door

Practices are only collecting 91% of their production, according to the latest survey by the Levin Group Data Center. If you’re below 95%, making a few adjustments can lead to a big improvement in your bottom line. Train your team to ask for payment at the time of service, including co-payments. If this is the policy, verify that it’s being followed. If members of your front desk team are uncomfortable asking for payment, give them the training they need to perform at a higher level. In addition, the financial coordinator should contact all patients who owe the practice money. Levin Group recommends a 3–3–3 system of 3 phone calls, 3 emails and 3 letters over 9 weeks. Using this system, our clients have recouped significant amounts of revenue they once thought uncollectible.

3. Give Your Patients One More Thing to Smile About

People at any age want to look their best. Most practices aren’t doing enough to create awareness about their cosmetic services. Have you ever had regular patients come in with a brand-new cosmetically enhanced smile… that they got from another dentist? If so, you’re not alone. I’ve heard similar stories from many other dentists. If you’re not actively letting patients know about what cosmetic treatments you offer, you’re basically telling them to go elsewhere.

Conclusion

Owning a practice is like running a marathon, not a sprint. There are plenty of mile markers along the way, but you don’t cross the finish line until the end of the year. Use these three strategies to build on your success and to grow your practice even more in the next six months.


Additional Resource

Need more patients? Learn more about our marketing consulting program by clicking here.

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