So… let’s be honest, the end of the year is a time to wind down and forget about work. The Holiday Season is upon us which means Christmas parties, squeezing in last minute appointments and finding some time off to enjoy family and loved ones. I get it. You should totally do that. However, it also means that 2018 is right around the corner and ideally it’s the best time to start thinking through goals, strategies and plans for your practice… before going into shut down mode while the numbers are still fresh in your head.
I’ve noticed, generally speaking, that when there isn’t a plan, marketing tends to become emotional and creates either (1) apathy or (2) knee-jerk reactions. If things are going great, there’s no urgency to market — “I’m sure our marketing could be better, but we just don’t need it right now.” If things aren’t going great, we become susceptible to any marketing company that comes across our path promising a flood of monthly new patients. We tend to throw money at companies hoping for some magic. Neither are successful strategies.
The other thing I’ve noticed, generally speaking, is that the moment that you say, “I need to market!” you’re too late. You’re often behind the curve with a loss of momentum and it’s going to take some time to catch up. Here’s a great idiom to remember:
Marketing is never a hammer hitting a plate of glass. It’s always the power of a thousand little drips.
So here’s your chance to fly up to 30,000 feet and ask some big questions for 2018. Answering these is like the 80/20 Rule. 20% of the questions that create 80% of your success and will start you on your way to creating a confident marketing plan.
1. Does my website represent my practice?
This isn’t number one on my list by accident. EVERYTHING functions around your website and it’s the single best investment you can make. Here are two quick thoughts:
One, I believe that the best overall marketing strategy you can have right now in dentistry is to be different. Everybody wants to talk about competition in the area and the dentist to population ratio, but I have a contrary opinion. You can compete AND win IF you’re different.
Two, marketing is about attention. It’s asking, “Where is the attention at?” In dentistry, right now, attention is on websites. EVERYBODY is going to look at your website. If you can create one that is different and engaging, you win. You cannot underestimate that. You may be able to compensate for some of it with amazing reviews or a visible location, but overall anything you invest in marketing will give you a diminished return without a great website.
I have conversations almost every week with start-up practices. I tell them that our websites are not inexpensive and they might be prohibitive for a start up’s budget. However, the single best thing you can do is GET. THE. WEBSITE. RIGHT.
2. What was the ROI in 2017?
What did you spend on marketing in 2017 and what was the return? Marketing is always an investment and should always be tracked.
So what worked? What didn’t work? You’ll never know unless you’ve got good data and while I’ve seen some pretty sophisticated data tracking programs that automatically generate an impressive array of information, there’s one thing that’s going to tell 90% of the story: new patient referral source.
Where are your new patients coming from? You should have that data for every patient, every time. That’s a number you should be looking at monthly, quarterly and comparing year to year against. If you don’t have that information, you’re literally guessing.
The two other metrics I love to look at are your new patient acquisition cost (how much it’s costing you to get new patients) and total production from new patients (how much you made from them). Analyze it, make adjustments and then reinvest.
3. What’s the budget?
Marketing is first and foremost of function of budget. It requires resources (mostly money, but also time) to be successful.
Around the country, the average dental practice spends 3% — 5% of revenue (collections) each year. The best thing you can do to take the emotion out of marketing is to make it a systematic function of the budget every year. Honestly, I don’t care how much you decide to spend. Just decide on the percentage that’s right for you.
Maybe you’ve never spent anything on marketing. Then start by spending 1% in 2018. Then increase it again in 2019. Maybe you spent 4% in 2017 and you still didn’t accomplish your goals. You might be in a more competitive area that requires 5%. Maybe you spent 7% in 2017, but you were a start-up. No worries, that percentage will come down the more you grow.
Spending a pre-determined budget every year gets the law of momentum working in your favor. You may not see big results after year one, but three years later you’ll feel the momentum working. Ten years into it, if you keep spending, you’ll be the dominant practice in your community.
Here’s the last little trick I’ll leave you with: decide how many new patients you need for 2018 and that will determine the budget. For example, let’s say you’d like an extra 10 new patients a month or 120 total for the year. Let’s also say that you can acquire these new patients at an average cost of $150 each. That means it will cost you $18,000 (120 new patients x $150 each). In order to reach your goal for 2018, you’ll need to spend $18,000 more. This formula is not always spot on, but it will give you a good bench mark to work with.
I hope this article helps you create a confident marketing plan that you can feel great about. If you need some help, please reach out to me. I’d love to help…. seriously… even if it’s just advice.