Practice Plan‘s Sales Director, Nigel Jones, talks about marketing and the importance of understanding what you are trying to achieve to make sure your marketing efforts are channelled in the most appropriate way.
A recurring theme as I travel around the UK visiting dental practices is marketing and, in particular, how best to attract new patients. I am often asked if I think a leaflet drop to a particular estate or a significant upgrade to the practice website are good ideas, or even if the fantastic offer that has just come through from Cheshire Life is worth taking up.
While I can offer a general view on such forms of marketing (which is that for established practices, there are usually more cost-effective actions to be taken before exploring these options), I mostly try to encourage the practice to be sure of what problem they are trying to solve before they settle on a solution.
Defining the problem accurately is something to which, at work and at home, we do not tend to pay adequate attention to. After all, it’s the solution that’s the interesting, exciting and positive thing. However, this can result in a waste of time, money and energy – all in short supply in many dental practices at the current time.
Take, for example, a practice who wanted to invest heavily in their website as they felt they needed more patients and not enough new patients were citing the website as the reason for contacting the practice. Of course, a great website is ever more important these days but in the first instance, I wanted to understand what was meant by ‘not enough’.
As is often the case in hectic practices, this couldn’t be quantified because there wasn’t a rigorous process for capturing the prompt for an enquiry from patients who phoned up. The practice manager explained that she did understand the importance of capturing such information but that the front desk team were so busy; they didn’t have the time to deal with it.
Through further mild questioning, it then transpired that the practice was in fact so busy that the first available appointment was some eight weeks off! All talk of enhancing the website was then put on hold and the discussion moved to understanding the factors that led to such a frantic appointment book. The folly of trying to generate enquiries from patients that couldn’t be accommodated in a timely manner was not lost on anyone.
In a different example, a practice meeting set up to explore ways of generating new patient enquiries as the solution to boosting income quickly revealed that there was little or no follow-up on treatment plans offered to existing patients but not taken up. Most practice management software will allow you to run such reports so it’s not hard to do. However, in the absence of allocating responsibility to monitor outstanding treatment plans to a specific member of the practice team, it can be easily overlooked and, before you know it, many months can have elapsed since it was last scrutinised.
In the hectic world that is modern day-dentistry, it’s not surprising that it’s hard to avoid the temptation to save time and jump straight to a solution, but it can turn out to be a false economy. Invest the time in fully understanding the real underlying issues and then you can invest your money in those things that are going to be most beneficial.