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From a Dental Marketing Consultant - P is for Plenty

Jul 21, 2008
From 1994 to 1998 I spent my time as a Combat Engineer in the Marine Corps. In the Marines, combat engineers get to play with all the fun stuff...explosives - C4, TNT, Dynamite, and any other type of substance that would go BOOM.

The reason I tell you this is because, as a Combat Engineer we had a saying. "P equals plenty." In reality, P actually equaled pounds of explosives to be used for any specific mission. Taking down trees, creating large trenches, or dropping a bridge, all had their separate equations, and all gave us P.

But in our world, there could be no "fudge factor." We could not risk having enough explosives to do the job, so our equations were built in such a way that would allow for an extra pound or two to assure the tree fell, the hole was deep enough, or the bridge was destroyed.

In any business, the same should apply to customer acquisition. Anything you do should always have a built in factor of excess that will provide you with just a bit more business than you can handle.

P should always equal plenty.

Let's be honest, any time there is no patient in your chair, you aren't making any money. When the hygiene chair is empty, no income. And when no new patients are coming in, your future production, and income are in jeopardy.

So why would you settle for "just enough" marketing?

Many dentists rely on one source of marketing to achieve their desired new patient flow. They have a newsletter, or one postcard campaign, or a TV commercial, but not all three.

One of our clients had a great television commercial as his only source of new patients. It was pulling good numbers (9-12 new patients) each month, and was the sole marketing strategy of the practice.

The practice was good, full schedule, plenty of patients, until... The cable company moved all the channels around. Now, instead of placement on a channel between two large networks, the commercial aired on a channel high up in the listings. Nobody even clicked past it anymore, let alone viewed it.

With "just enough" marketing, that is the problem, you have no backup plan. Nothing to assure your new patient flow, should your current new patient source dry up.

In other words, make sure, if your suspenders fall off, your belt keeps your pants up.

When you find a successful marketing strategy, keep doing it! But also, you should be testing other strategies so you can diversify your source of new patients. Then, when one well dries up (and it will) you have another to drink from.

When I suggest this to some dentists, I get a simple nod of the head, but I know they won't take action. Other dentists simply try one thing and give up, and even give me the following line: "If I find something that works, I'll have too many new patients to handle."

Don't shake your head, you've thought about it. What if one month you had double the amount of new patients you currently get, maybe even triple. More than you could ever imagine. Does it scare you?

Are you afraid of having too many patients?

Too many new patients, is there even such a thing? I'll tell you right now, I have a few clients that have run into that recently that are finding out what a joy it is to have that problem. In fact, when you think about it, why would you settle for "just enough" new patients to fill the current schedule?

On that note, let's take a look at what happens when you have too many new patients:

1. You have to hire an associate and more staff.
2. You have to add square footage to the practice, change buildings, or add a second building.
3. You have no holes in the schedule book for new patients
4. You are booked solid for weeks (except planned breaks and emergencies)
5. Other dentists are constantly bugging you to find out your secrets to a booming practice.
6. Your practice makes too much money
7. You make too much money.

Yikes! All those horrible problems. What would anyone ever do if they had too many patients?

Well, the simple answer is: schedule them out further. One week, two weeks, three weeks. I have a client right now that is 2 months out on the schedule, and new patients don't mind booking him. See, having a good long line of patients waiting to see you is a good thing.

Let's face it, a good restaurant without a line really isn't that great.

The most sought after establishments actually use this to their advantage. By having an overflow of customers, it makes the business look established, and, more importantly, not desperate. If you're good enough to have a waiting list, that's a value builder in itself.

If people want to see you, they will wait. Unless they are in pain (emergency appointments) they won't mind a month or so until they see you.

If patients call and don't want to wait that long, and they don't see the value in your practice, you can refer them to a friend across the street. Both the patient and the other dentist will appreciate the referral. It's better to have a call come in with no openings, than to have openings with no calls coming in.

And talk about a lack of desperation. Patients are now desperate to see you, not the other way around. What would you rather have, a patient that puts up a fuss because your schedule is full, or one that is willing to wait a little while to see you? My suggestion, refer the fussy patient to someone with an empty schedule.

You can uphold the quality of care you've always provided, deal with patients who want to see you, grow your practice to levels larger than you've imagined, and build a "brand" as the most sought after dentist in the area.

People think you are so busy because you are a great dentist. That's true...right? Their perception is your reality.

In reality, I don't believe there is such a thing as too many patients. If there is, it is simply a short term problem with a built in set of solutions. This is not a problem that instantly sneaks up on you either. It is one that slowly arises over a month or two. You'll have plenty of chances to take the appropriate steps.

If you can flood your practice like this, why wouldn't you do it? Your marketing programs have the capabilities, and all the tools are available to you.

I have successful clients that do a patient newsletter, and I have successful clients that do postcards, and we have successful ones doing other things, but the most successful are those that are combining many programs into one mega-marketing program. They call and ask us how to add an associate, they call and tell us they are adding operatories in their building, they call and ask us where to find a new hygienist.

The all-out marketing assault works. It not only provides you with plenty of new patients, but helps build a brand of stability and consistency in your practice. If one strategy falls flat one month, you have the others to keep you going.

In your marketing equation, P should always equal plenty, and by plenty I mean 1 more patient than you can handle. You should never have a hole in the schedule, never have an empty chair, and you should never be waiting for the phone to ring.
About the Author
James Erickson is the President of EMC Dental Marketing which gives Dentists a resource for turn-key dental marketing programs and dental practice marketing education including new patient attraction, and internal marketing systems. Visit www.EMCdental.com and get a free practice
building kit sent directly to your home or office.
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