Any marketing efforts need a strong, well-built foundation to rest on. Often, I see dentists that put the cart before the horse.

Friends from university would come to me and say, ‘Hey, you know what a website needs to look like. You know how to get traffic to a website. You know what a crown is. You know what a bridge is. Can you build us a practice website?’

Before too long, I was doing marketing as a service. We could make the phone ring. Our marketing was working.

But what ended up happening is the phone rang so much, the practice fell apart at the seams. The team couldn’t handle the volume.

We found when the volume of business multiplies it amplified the little cracks, the little faults. These fault lines make a practice brittle.

The same dentists would come to me and say, ‘Jesse, we’ve got 20 patients. How do I do this? How do I build a team? I need another dentist. I need to hire more people. Now I’ve got more people, it’s really complicated. I thought I wanted new patients, but it turns out that it’s just made other things more fragile.’

How do we build this foundation? There are a few keys to building a foundation that will make your practice marketable, scalable, and viable long into the future.

Lifetime value.

The value of all relationships comes later. It gets stronger with time and age. This goes for personal and professional relationships, by the way. One concept I come back to is the idea of ‘emotional equity’.

Dentistry is personal. We are literally in our patient’s faces and they trust us enough to do that. With each visit, we should be working on building a bedrock of trust, this emotional equity. Year on year as the relationship with the practice grows, the likelihood of a patient accepting treatment increases and then revenue follows.

In Australian dentistry, the lifetime value can run into the tens and tens of thousands of dollars. For example, if someone joins your practice in their mid-30’s, typically by the time they’re in their 40’s, they’re starting to need some restorative work. There’s some units of crown and bridge. Maybe a root canal.

It can be well over $10,000, maybe even closer to $20,000. In my practice, I view patient relationships in a five-year value basis. To be candid, the five-year value for patients is at the $15,000 mark on average. While it’s significant, most of that spend comes in Year 4 and 5.

Numbers like these make it easy to realise how fast you can grow if you can plug the holes in the retention bucket.

When other dentists ask me about the most effective marketing strategy, retention is my go-to answer. Until you’ve fixed your retention leaks, any marketing efforts will be largely wasted. While you’re opening the front door really wide for new patients, you’ve also left the backdoor open and people are leaving.

If you pay attention to retention and referrals, you can increase your patient value and decrease your marketing spend.

It’s a no brainer.

The middle squeeze.

Here in mid-2018, I see two extremes. I see the small practice that offers ultra luxe, high-end services for exclusive clientele like Dr Paddi Lund on one end. Then on the other end, there’s the large practice with multiple locations and a large staff. There are more than two doctors. Maybe 4, 6, 10, or even 20 doctors.

We’re seeing a concentration of ownership – health insurance companies are buying up practices and the middle ground is eaten away. You either need to really get a degree of scale or really get a tight niche.

There is a lot of pressure on the margins. For many, price is a consideration so we’re seeing a race to the bottom in terms of who can offer services at the lowest prices. It’s a common form of marketing we see from these largest corporations.

Now is the moment to survey the surroundings, take an assessment of what’s happening, and adjust the strategy accordingly. Now is the time to choose a segment to cater to. Whether you chose to go big or small, understanding your ideal patient will help you to build those lasting lifetime relationships that produce revenue in the long run.

You can’t live in the middle so it’s time to pick a side.

The reality congruence.

Everyone is looking for that silver bullet.

There’s an idea that if I pay a marketing firm, they should be turning that money into so many new patients a month. Of course, it doesn’t always pan out that way.

As dentists, evidence-based dentistry, evidence-based medicine is drilled into us. We’re so willing to look for evidence in our clinical day-to-day procedures, but so many of us fly by the seat of our pants when making business decisions.

To do this, it’s important to pay attention to reality.

For example, you have to be in the right area. If you want to become a more boutique, high-end, high-touch practice, location becomes essential. You can’t pull off something like that in an area where the average income is below the national poverty level. You can’t just do it.

You want to look for congruency with your plans and reality.

There’s riches in niches.

If you are interested in a high-end practice, then that’s a good space to move into. Corporates aren’t likely to ever cater to that segment of the market.

There will always be consumers that want a high-touch experience. They care greatly about how they are treated, what their patient journey is like. If you want a solo-style practice like this, you need to think strategically about where you move, what market you’re dealing with, and all the finer details.

When moving into a high-end market, retention becomes even more critical as the value of each patient is higher. You’ve got to get the details right.

Once you have the details right, you can create a marketing plan and deliver on it.

Final words…

The key to building a dental practice is not to create a job, but a business.

In 2018, dentists need to be savvier than ever to plug up any retention leaks, build lasting relationships with patients, and think critically about the trajectory of our practices as the middle continues to disintegrate.

P.S. Whenever you’re ready …. here are 4 ways I can help you grow your dental practice:

  1. Grab a free chapter from my book “Retention – How to Plug the #1 Profit Leak in Your Dental Practice”

The book is the definitive guide to patient retention and how to use internal marketing to grow your practice – Click Here

  1. Join the Savvy Dentist community and connect with dentists who are scaling their practice too

It’s our Facebook group where clever dentists learn to become commercially smart so that they have more patients, more profit and less stress. – Click Here

  1. Attend a Practice Max Intensive live event

Our 2 day immersive events provide access to the latest entrepreneurial thinking and actionable strategies to drive your practice forward. You’ll leave with a game plan to take your results to the next level. If you’d like to join us, just send me a message with the word “Event and I’ll get you all the details!  – Click here

  1. Work with me and my team privately

If you’d like to work directly with me and my team to take your profit from 6 figures to 7 figures …. just send me a message with the word “Private”… tell me a little about your practice and what you would like to work on together, and I’ll get you all the details! – Click here