Les Jones, Editor of BoD Magazine and the Marketing Director at Practice Plan, talks about marketing your practice.
For most dentists, it seems the ‘need to market my practice’ penny has finally dropped. Dentistry is now a highly competitive arena and many practices are fighting an ongoing battle on two fronts – firstly to keep the patients they have in the face of the economic downturn and also to attract new patients in.
So, marketing is now one of the key priorities for dental practices – the question is – how much should you budget for this activity? Of course, there are models and equations, standard percentages and best practice guidelines, but they tend to be just figures without a context specific to your practice. So, here’s a simple way of working out how much you should be willing to invest:
Imagine, I have a sack full of shiny new patients – and not just any old patients, these are high quality, first grade patients, the kind that will sign up to your plan and stay loyal for the next five years. So, the big question is…
How much are you willing to pay me for each patient – neatly gift-wrapped and delivered to your practice?
Think about it… they’re here in my sack – you just need to give me a decent price and they’re yours. But before you name your price, let’s do a bit of maths – a loyal patient on a plan at say, £15 a month, will give you income of £180 in a year, excluding any additional treatment. Over a five-year period, that would add up to £900. And of course, as a loyal patient, they’ll also act as an advocate for your practice and perhaps bring in a few friends and relatives over that period, making them even more valuable.
So… what’s your offer? And critically, how many do you want?
For argument’s sake, let’s say you’re in the market for 100 new patients this year and that you’re prepared to pay me £50 for each (how much would you be prepared to pay – take a minute to think about it). The maths is very simple – 100 x £50 = £5000 – that’s your marketing budget. And now you know how much you’re prepared to spend – you can start thinking about how and where you’ll spend it.
It’s a well-known fact that most new patients will come through referral – so do you offer a £50 reward for every referral converted? Or do you offer a £50 discount in treatment for new patients? A good website is also critical – do you make an investment here? The choice, of course, is yours. However, what is really important is that you monitor the results and start to get a firm understanding of what works for your practice and what doesn’t. Once you have this knowledge, you can tailor your activity and perhaps, over time, reduce the recruitment cost of each patient.
Marketing is as much an investment in your practice as a new chair or a new member of staff. You should be able to measure and quantify the return on this investment and, as a result, make better informed decisions about how you invest in the future.