As we turn the calendar page on a new year, it’s a great time to step back, look at your business, and decide what you need to do in order to make 2020 as prosperous and successful as possible.
So, if you’re looking to grow a dental practice in 2020, what strategies should you be considering? What are the ways in which new, modern practices are growing? And what have been the tried-and-true strategies that have worked over time?
New Ideas to Grow Your Practice in 2020
The way in which people engage with service businesses has changed a lot in the past decade. Younger generations expect information to be at their fingertips, and yet prefer online interactions versus, say, simply picking up the phone. At the same time, people of all ages want genuine, in-person contact as well.
Idea #1: Embrace digital. This is more than just having a website. It means electronic record-keeping, automated appointment reminders, a calendar for publishing helpful content, and a strategy for appearing in local search (including informing search engines and curating patient reviews). The fastest-growing practices are embracing their online identities and reaching out to patients, new and current, through online media.
Idea #2: Targeted social media ads. One of the awesome things about social media is how specific you can get in targeting ads. For example, don’t just create an ad for Facebook plugging your practice and pay to show it to people in a 10-mile radius. Instead you could:
- Create an ad for teeth-whitening and target people who have announced that they are getting married (and their friends). (The same could also work for Invisalign.)
- Create an ad for a “back-to-school” dental check-up for kids and target mothers of school-aged children.
- Create an ad (tastefully done) for free oral cancer screening, and target smokers/vapers (and ex-smokers/vapers).
Idea #3: Local SEO. Most people find a dentist these days by going online. Google (and Google My Business) play a large role in what they find. Be sure you are listed correctly, and that you are doing everything in your power to turn up in local search.
Idea #4: Eliminate paper intake forms. Your patients will come to you for any number of reasons, but they stay with you because they have a positive experience. That experience starts as soon as they walk through the door. While many dentists pay attention to their waiting room and front desk staff, few take the time to consider the intake process...or how time consuming and repetitive it can be. Look for ways to get patient information in as quick and convenient a way as possible and get your digital records updated quickly. Some offices even email their new patients intake forms ahead of time, so they can be filled out online and ready before the first appointment.
Idea #5: Have an informative (and optimized) website. Your website is your business card nowadays. It can also be a place to share information and put your patients in contact with your office. Work on having an informative and fully optimized website so that patients can easily find what they need and easily make an appointment.
Tried-and-True Strategies for Growing a Dental Practice
All of the above ideas are great ways to grow a dental practice in 2020, and they all revolve around embracing new technologies.
They are not all there is to growing a practice, however. Indeed, many practices (and dental marketing companies) spend too much time “chasing shiny objects”—that is, diving head-first into technology without considering what their overall growth strategy is.
So, to balance the emphasis on technology, here are six more ideas for growth that have been tried and tested for years:
Idea #6: Get organized. Stop chasing dozens of new ideas! Two or three new projects, executed well, will bring you more success than a dozen things half-done. So take a moment, take stock of what you need and what you have, and form a plan. Then resolve to stick to that plan until the data says to do otherwise.
Idea #7: Get the right people in place. Having one person with the right skills, in the right role, will do more for your productivity that a team of people with good intentions, but who are poorly matched to their roles. Think about the talents you need to grow: Do you need people in your front office who are organized and have people skills? Do you need digital marketing experts? Do you need more dentists to handle your patient load? Once you identify the skills you need, get people who excel at those skills to help you. These might be full-time hires, part-time help, or even outside dental support organizations (DSOs).
Idea #8: Start a referral program. People trust referrals from friends and family when looking for a new dentist. Make it easier for them to give that referral by instating a formal referral program. For example, you can reach out to current patients once a quarter offering them discounts of services for each friend they refer (and who become patients). Not only does this help bring in new patients, it helps you stay top-of-mind with your current ones.
Idea #9: Ask for reviews. Reviews are the life-blood of local service-based businesses. But some people need a little push to encourage them to leave a review. This is especially true of positive reviews. Don’t be afraid to reach out to patients a few days after getting work done and ask them, nicely, to leave a review on sites like Yelp, Google, etc. (You can even send them this handy article on reviewing dentists, courtesy of the Dental Health Society.)
Idea #10: Build your referral network. Believe it or not, not all referrals need to come from current patients. You can build a network of businesspeople from other (non-competing) businesses and inform them about the best ways to refer business to you, too. For example, these types of local organizations are often willing to recommend a dental office to their clients, patients, or customers:
- Pediatrician offices (for family dentistry)
- Wedding planners and bridal shops (for teeth whitening)
- Personal injury lawyers (for bridges, crowns, etc. that might result from accidents)
- General medical practitioners (for hygiene and dental disease)
- Real estate agents (they often know who is new to town and looking for a good local dentist!)
With a little creativity, you should be able to think of several kinds of businesses or other organizations willing to make referrals. A simple Google search will reveal plenty of such businesses in your area. Or, you can join a referral network, such as your local BNI (Business Network International) chapter.
Idea #11: Direct Mail. Sometimes, simply reaching out to people in your immediate neighborhood is the best way to bring in new clients. Direct mail campaigns can target specific Zip codes—sometimes, you don’t even need a list! (Check out the “every door direct” option.)
Why Be Explicit About Your Strategy?
Most of the activities above can be tried in isolation. They work better, however, when they form a single, cohesive plan for growth.
Too many dental practices fail to be intentional about their growth. They wait for referrals and walk-in traffic, and hope that their reputation will do the heavy lifting.
While reputation is important, most drivers of practice growth come from coordinated activities that have to happen over time. Activities such as social media posting, asking for reviews, optimizing a website, networking, and keeping up with technology are not difficult. But they do need to be done consistently and frequently.
When you are explicit about your strategy, you build a certain level of accountability into your plan. That accountability will help drive you to perform the activities you need to do.
Or else, it will reveal that your plans are more ambitious than what you can do on your own. In this case, you’ve learned something: That your growth goals can be achieved only by getting other people on board. This might mean expanding your staff, or it could mean seeking out the help of a DSO like Heartland Dental.
Whatever 2020 might bring, you should go into the new year with a plan for your business. Without actively pursuing growth, most practices will actually shrink, eventually finding themselves struggling to make ends meet. With a little practice, insight, and luck, you can begin your journey to practice growth and open up a whole new chapter in your career.