Dental Marketing 101 – Get Out There!

by maxtooth on April 17, 2012

When I first purchased my dental office in Fort Lauderdale 3 years ago, I bought an office with almost no patients. The transition between me and the previous dentist went horribly wrong, and when the dust settled, I had just bought myself an expensive start up. Needless to say, there were abundant sleepless nights, and like ANY startup in a severe economic recession, dental or otherwise, I needed to learn how to swim quickly before I drowned.

I had met with some of my surrounding dentists and specialists for advisement, and although the specialists were positive (don’t they have to be….they want your business), my fellow general practitioners only brought doom and gloom in the down economy.

To only post a blue neon sign and wait for people to flock to my office, I would be a fool. And if I were to rely on specialists to refer to me, in addition to the neon sign, I would be even a bigger fool who did not even deserve to be in business. I had quite a lot of work cut out for me. Some ideas would work, and some….not so much. But the crux of this one particular blog is to say to you, “where should I begin?” Whether you have an existing office that’s hurting, or have decided to own a startup practice, I implore you to think like a politician and start shaking some hands.

I’m a huge fan of SEO marketing in addition to the various social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, but the reality is, when you are starting out and you don’t have too many friends, the only way to get friends onto your Facebook/Twitter, etc is to just be social. Isn’t that an easy concept? Yet for us dentists, it’s really tough. Most of us are introverted. Most of us spent our college years studying diligently our sciences, while our roommates were out partying or having sex in the adjacent room (or in my case on the top bunk). So now it’s up to you to learn a new subject- schmoozing.

Ok, so how do I be social? Well fellow dental nerds, let me suggest two books to you. One you probably have heard of. The other, you are going to give me the Scooby Doo face, and say, “Whuuuu?” The first is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It’s a good starter book and will teach you the basics on just calming down, taking a breath and saying hello to people. The basics are always good, and help get your foot into the front door for patient acceptance.

The second book is the kicker- “Rules of the Game” by Neil Strauss. It’s a book about how to hook up/mack with women, but the concepts are the same as if you are to try to bring patients into your office- dress for success, and make an effort to say hello. Dating is much the same as getting to know a new patient. For example- you have to learn each other’s nuances, crack some corny jokes and see if the other will laugh. You may not always be successful, but sitting with your back up against the wall (shameless Kool and the Gang reference) will get you nowhere.

In Fort Lauderdale alone, there are a plethora of dentists surrounding me at every corner. The competition is definitely present, and although I am of the philosophy that 2 gas stations across the street from each other both can make a profit, you still want that patient to come to your gas pump.

So how do we get that patient to come to you? What is the one thing you may not be doing (and if you already are, how can you make it better)? You need to be social outside of your office.  You need to pick a hobby (that you enjoy), a networking group, or an event that will open the door for future potential patients who can afford your dentistry. Furthermore, not only do you show up, but you bring your staff, your significant other, or both to open even more doors. Even further, you show up…often! People remember who you are after multiple handshakes, not just once.

For example, I go once a month to a local young professional social event at various bars in the downtown Las Olas area of Fort Lauderdale. I make it a point for various reasons to bring at least one person from my staff to each and every event. For one, I can cover more territory when my assistant or hygienist is with me. Also, it shows confidence in the office when it’s not just me. I feel it creates a sense of pride because I not only want my staff to be there to support me, but I want them to take a modicum of ownership in what they do for the office. Lastly, as shallow as it sounds, more men will flock to my female assistants than they will to me. It almost becomes a no brainer to hand out a card when a guy is making it a point to talk to my dental assistant. To be frank, I can be the best dentist in the world, but even a patient of mine who is a priest once said to me, “I sure still do admire a pretty face.” And he wasn’t talking about me.

So I joined a local Crossfit gym. What is Crossfit? Does it matter? What matters is that Crossfit in my area costs $150.00 a month. I like to work out, and I would be surrounded by other people who not only feel the same, but can as well afford a membership that costs almost $2000 a year (meaning they can afford to at least get their teeth cleaned). It created for me a comfortable social setting where I would be around similar people who I can initiate a conversation about working out, their businesses, as well as what I offered insofar as my dental skills. In other words, it gave me an “in.”

I then followed it up by friending all these people on Facebook so that I am easily accessible when and if they had a dental emergency. You know what I found? It worked. I get 1-2 new patients a month from my membership by way of fellow gym rats, or people they know.  Just getting out there and being friendly worked. Unlike a BNI or chamber, where you feel obligated and pressured to drum business on a weekly basis, I look at this technique of finding your niche and creating a long term relationship to be way more successful. These people see me on a daily basis in the gym sweating and grunting just like they do.  But then I capitalize on it by way of creating that important Facebook connection. And they not only see me sweating and grunting, but they see me as a dentist who is showing his before and after photos online, or talking about the importance of flossing.

In marketing, there is an expression, “everything works, but nothing works.” I would like to add, “it’s also what you put into it.” The above two examples worked for me, but there are plenty more I know I wish I could be doing, and for you the reader, I hope to have drummed up one idea you know you should be doing right now to get in the game. Going out during the week at least 1-2 times a month instead of heading home will get a few more patients walking through that door. It could be a networking breakfast or charity event. Heck, it could even be you striking up a conversation at the deli counter at your local grocery store. But if you don’t try, and wait for people to come to you, YOU will never be as successful as the guy next to you.

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