For many dentists, marketing is a dirty word. If you’d wanted to spend your time thinking about advertisements, returns on investment and conversions, you’d have gone to business school, not dental school. However, if you’re a good dentist who cares about your patients, it’s time to learn about the basics of marketing. Here are five reasons why you can’t afford to ignore your marketing in the coming decades.
- Dental insurance is changing. With the ACA, more Americans receive their dental care through Medicaid. Many older patients pay out of pocket for their dental care. And dental insurance plans are demanding narrower networks and more cost control from practices. All of these insurance changes mean that you can’t have a stagnant practice. You’ll start losing ground if you can’t bring in new patients … and what’s the key to bringing in new patients? Marketing.
- Patient demographics are changing. According to the ADA, patients are getting older, more likely to schedule regular cleanings, and less likely to need reconstructive dental work. Most Baby Boomers will keep all of their teeth well into old age thanks to advances in dental care. Younger Americans who grew up with regular fluoride treatments and appropriate orthodontia are even less likely to need reconstructive work as they age. This means that, as time goes on, regular check-ups will be the bread and butter of most dental practices. In order to grow, dental practices must attract new patients and offer new services. How do you let potential patients know about the range of services you offer? Marketing.
- Patient search algorithms are changing. How did patients find a dentist in the old days? They checked the phone book and worked their way down the list until they found someone who was taking new patients. In a time when most practices were fairly similar, this was a sensible method. How do patients find a dentist today? Most don’t even own a phone book. Instead, resources like Google, Facebook and Yelp play a huge role in the search for a dentist. To attract new patients, you need an attractive, functional website that lets potential patients explore your practice. You need to stay near the top of localized site rankings. You need to be able to reach the generation that communicates primarily through smartphones. Do you know what another word for maintaining an active web presence is? Marketing.
- Dental practices are changing. Corporate dental practices are taking an ever-largermarket share in the United States. Some groups are buying 40-50 practices a month. The ADA estimates that, in the near future, large corporations will control 25 percent of dental offices. If your practice is struggling, “going corporate” might seem like an easy way to make ends meet. However, dentists in corporate practices have less control over procedures, staffing, and hours. If you went into dentistry because you relish independence, you’ll need to learn how to grow your practice and stay profitable. How do you grow your practice? Marketing.
- Investors are changing. The economy has been slow for years, and very few investments yield good returns. As a result, private equity groups have been buying dental practices. Dental practices represent a great investment for savvy investors because they often have inefficient business practices. A group of investors can come in, buy your practice, turn it around, and reap huge profits. That’s all well and good, but why let the profits go to someone else? Streamline your business practices now, keep control of your dental practice and grow. Of course, you can’t just focus on improving your billing and your office flow. You’ll need to improve your return on investment (ROI) from marketing.
As you explore marketing and learn how to use it to grow your dental practice, you’ll learn how to use data to take control of your marketing dollars. You’ll discover that it’s not just a process of throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks. You’ll learn how to make data-driven marketing decisions and see your practice grow. You’ll learn to love marketing because it will help you prepare your practice for the future of dentistry.
Originally published in Dental Practice Management