New Patients, Inc.

New Patients, Inc. is an advertising agency exclusively for dentists. We create and deploy advertising that brings quality new patients to our client practices.

Issue: # 4 February/2008
News You Can Use from New Patients, Inc.
Dear Barbara Carneiro,

Getting high quality new patients to call your practice is what our company has been all about for the last 18 years. Our goal for these periodic newsletters is to give helpful marketing advice that will assist you in building your practice. In this issue we have articles by Mark Dilatush and me. Enjoy!

Warm regards,
Howie

Cookie Cutter

Why Your Marketing May Miss the MARK

By William Howard Horrocks

We often get clients who declare, "I don't want anything cookie cutter." They are using the term "cookie cutter" pejoratively, as in cookie cutter = bad, but new, never-before-seen marketing piece = good.

I couldn't disagree more.

But it all depends on what you mean by cookie cutter.

The Learning Curve

The essence of direct marketing is testing. You send something out, then track and study the response. Then you send out the same piece again, only with one changed element (like the headline or the visual or the offer).

You track and study. Repeat this, each time changing only ONE thing at a time (headline, offer, no offer, paper size, colors and about a zillion other things.) This process can go on quite a while. With my agency it's been going on for 18 years.

Each new time you send out a piece you're doing it with the knowledge you've gathered from the last time you sent something out. One day you finally figure out what gets a response and what people toss into the recycling bin.

But there's a problem.

For an individual dental practice to do this kind of testing and to go through this learning curve, is time consuming and costly. Understandably most won't or can't.

But I have. (That's because I find this stuff fascinating and, well, I have no life).

What I've found is there are certain elements, themes, words, colors, text placement, visuals, images, messages, type fonts, type sizes, phrases, evoked emotions, paper textures, bullet points, subheads and paper finishes that cause the correct target market to pick up the phone and call you.

Conversely there are certain elements, themes, words, colors, (OK, I'll spare you) which cause the reader to think you torture puppies and wear the same underwear everyday.

It behooves you to know which combination of elements evokes which response. That way you learn what the target market views as hype and what they view as desirable. It's hard won data but immensely valuable.

Once You've Figured it Out - Don't Change it!

OK, so now you've got this thing and you know from experience that the right people call whenever you send it out. So now what do you do? If you're stupid you trash it because you, your staff, your spouse or someone else is "tired" of it, or thinks it's "old" or thinks you "need a new look" or you should "change your focus" or any other reasons to stop doing something that works.

Rule: if it has already worked it's highly probable it will continue working unless you kill it by deciding you need something never-before-seen by the human eye.

So, is this cookie cutter? You bet! Viva cookie cutter!!! It's the bedrock of successful marketing. Discovering what works (by doing the above), repeating THAT and not doing something wildly different every time, is THE way to make your marketing successful. It also lowers the risk to your marketing dollar.

Should this bother you?

The question is settled this way: A direct mail program can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 or more per year. Do you want to invest this kind of money into a marketing piece that has NEVER been tested, has NO track record of success and has NOT been put through the gauntlet of public scrutiny?

Those of you who answered "yes", please send $20,000 for my special report - "How to pee your money away but look really cool doing it."

You say, "But oh, I don't want cookie cutter. I want something new, fresh, never seen before. I want something creative."

You think you need to have something different that no one else has because you are a different kind of dental practice than all the others.

Guess what? You're exactly right!!!

So how do you develop a marketing approach that is based on tested elements that, for all practical purposes, IS cookie cutter and yet communicates your uniqueness and differences?

The answer is you do BOTH. And you do it in the same piece.

Once you've learned precisely what elements get a positive response, you burn them into stone and NEVER change them (or rarely).

You keep these elements constant, because you know they work. You know they work because they've been tested. Now you are ready for the other half of the equation - Creativity and CUSTOMIZATION.

This half is quite different and is definitely not "canned" or "cookie cutter." In fact it can't be because you are all not the same, you don't operate in the same demographics and you are NOT THE SAME as other dentists.

Two Goals for Your Direct Mail Piece

The public thinks all dentists are the same. We know this is not true. So, you have to show them WHY and HOW you are different than the other guys down the street.

There are two goals you must accomplish for this half of your marketing piece:

1. Make the dentist/team a STAR
2. Make the practice UNIQUE

They will read about this dentist's accomplishments, media appearances, his/her teaching of other dentists, continuing education, class ranking and so on. The reader now knows that he/she is an AUTHORITY. And it's believable because, it's true, and OTHER people have said so. It's called third party endorsement. You can't just say, "Dr. Smith is an accomplished dentist." That's hype. You instead PROVE it by all these endorsements and accolades.

Some have referred to this as "ego" but it's not, from the reader's point of view. Imagine yourself as a dental consumer for a moment. Who would you rather have work on your teeth:

         The dentist who took the course or the dentist who taught it?

         The dentist who says "I'm high tech" or the one Channel 5 interviewed about high tech dentistry?

         The dentist who delivers teeth whitening or the one who improved on the technique and wrote about it in a dental journal?

         The dentist who writes the dental column in the neighborhood newspaper or the one you've never heard of?

This is not ego enhancement. This is credibility. It's also believable and effective.

If you think you don't have any credentials like this then pick up the phone and call me. In 5 minutes of questioning I will uncover enough information about you that even your ex-wife will think you're a star!

Now you make the practice unique.

How is this done? By answering a question that all potential patients have which is; "why should I choose you instead of the three dozen other dentists in town?"

You do that by describing the benefits of composite filled teeth versus amalgam filled teeth (and show pictures of both). Describe the benefits of the water laser, the diagnodent, air abrasion, non surgical perio, in house lab, implants, our meticulous sterilization procedures, intraoral camera, NTI migraine treatment, sedation dentistry, the Wand, painless injections, the fantastic views from the ops, the aquarium, the video game room, the twice a week periodontist, veneers, two visit smile makeovers, and on and on.

Use lots of words, pictures and most of all point out how all of this will make THEM feel better, look better and cost them less in the long run. Oh, and the parking is easy and we take credit cards and maybe even your insurance.

The Worst Thing You Can Do is Bore Your Reader

What bores them is hyperbole. What interests them is how cool, sexy and beautiful you can make them look. And how cool it would be to have YOU as their dentist. And how cool THEY are for discovering this amazing dentist and dental practice that is like no other, and right in their own hometown for gosh sakes! Who knew?

So don't just be cookie cutter! And don't just be wildly different.

Be both.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have puppies to torture and I haven't changed my underwear in a week.


Mr. Horrocks is the author of two dental bestsellers, Unlimited New Patients, Volume One, and Unlimited New Patients, Volume Two; Trade Secrets of America's Dental Marketing Guru. His agency, New Patients, Inc. produces advertising campaigns for private dental practices all over the US and Canada. For more information call (866) 336-8237 or on the web at www.newpatientsinc.com

How Can I Tell if My Practice is Growing? 
By Mark Dilatush
Mark Dilatush

In this section, Mark Dilatush gives you step by step homework that you can easily implement with each installment of the newsletter. If you miss an installment and want to catch up, you can see previous installments here.

 

 

Many of our e-newsletter readers have sent email inquiries/questions. Most of the inquiries had a similar theme. The theme was "my revenues are ok but is my practice growing?"

 

This article is presented to help all of you find the answer to the question,

 

"Is my practice really growing?"

 

Revenues are one thing, your PRACTICE is another. Is your practice growing? Too many practitioners believe that their revenues are a direct reflection of their practice. They believe that if revenues went up, their practice is growing. Not true. A simple exercise will tell you why and how this might happen.

 

If a practice with 1000 active patients raises their fees 10%, the practice could indeed outperform last year on a revenue basis but end the year with only 901 active patients. A fee increase only affects revenues. A fee increase does not reflect true practice growth. There are other ways revenues can rise while the practice shrinks. This is just one fairly common example.

 
Let's Find Out

 

I have an exercise for you. I want you to go into your practice management software and run a recall report for 2-1-07 thru 2-1-08. I want you to count the number of existing patients on your recall report. For the purposes of this article, let's say the total number of patients overdue on the recall report is 200.

 

Now, I would like you to run a new patient report. Warning: Do NOT take your practice management software's answer for what a real new patient is. Your software has no clue what a new patient is. What I want you to do is count the number of new comprehensive exams. Typically, you would use ADA code 00150 for a comprehensive new patient exam.

 

Run production reports for the code(s) your team uses when you examine a new patient. Run the report for 2-1-07 thru 2-1-08. Tally the number of new examinations you did in the last 12 months. For the purposes of this article, let's say the total number of new patients in your practice is also 200.

 

In our example practice, we have 200 new people coming in and 200 people on the way out. This is your front door and your back door. What do you think would be the net effect on the practice?

 

Well, depending on how long this has been going on, at best this is just the start of a future production and revenue plateau. At worst, this has been going on for years creating a mountain of frustration for the owner/dentist. If your practice has been just "floating along" year to year at about the same pace, you will likely find equal numbers coming through your front door as there are walking out your back door.

 

A healthy practice will show at least a 2:1 ratio. In other words (using our example again), 300 new patients coming through the front door and only 150 existing patients on the overdue recall list. That would mean there was a net gain of 150 additional patients in 2007. The future in a practice like this would look much brighter than if the ratio were 1:1 (or worse).

 

What do I do, now that I know the numbers?

 

If your numbers aren't that good, my first advice is don't panic. Yesterday they were the same and you didn't know the answer. Now you know the answer. So, today, you are ahead of the game. If your back door is wide open, we would likely refer you to a reputable practice management firm to help you analyze exactly where the problems are and help you and your team get them fixed. That should take care of the back door being opened so wide. Many practice management firms refer clients to us AFTER they've taken care of minimizing the attrition (existing patient loss). They close the back door - we (NPI) fill the front door.

 

In general, a solo GP (in an existing practice >5 years old) needs about 19 to 22 quality new patients per month to offset the average attrition and continue to grow production and revenues. If you multiply 20 new patients a month times 12 months in a year, you get about 240 quality new patients per year for a GP that works a 32 hour work week. Obviously, if you have 2 full time GP's in the practice, you need double this amount.

 

Let's list some example results that may help you understand the cause/effect relationship along with potential action plans. In the examples, we will assume a solo GP working 32 hours per week.

 

Example #1

240 new patients in and 240 existing patients out

This is a statistically stagnated practice. This practice is not growing. Yet, 240 new patients is a good number for a solo GP. Attention to the back door is needed.

 

Example #2

150 new patients in and 240 existing patients out

This practice hit a plateau a while back but the owner didn't know it. Attention needs to be spent on both the front door (attracting more quality new patients) while simultaneously working on the back door

 

Example #3

280 new patients in and 150 existing patients out

This practice is growing quite well. This dentist will hit a capacity plateau. But that's ok. Once a practice hits a capacity plateau, they can either choose to increase capacity (add time, treatment rooms, provider hours), or, put all their marketing dollars into attracting only the highest quality new patients in the area. Even at (or slightly beyond) capacity, a dental practice can continue to grow revenues if the marketing plan is effectively bringing in the right kind of patients.

 

Summary:

There is absolutely NO reason for you NOT to know these numbers. Remember the old image of the ostrich with its head in the sand? Don't be that ostrich.

 
Mr. Dilatush has a unique combined background in dental technology, dental practice management, practice marketing, and dental business analytics, which was built over the past 23 years in dentistry. He and his team are responsible for building client marketing plans that pose the least risk to client marketing budgets with the highest potential return. Howard Farran said of Mark, "multitudes of dentists have benefited from the wisdom and integrity that Mark brings to every project. His thoughtfulness and sincere approach has aided scores of dentists in finding their path to greater dental success."
We hope you've enjoyed our newsletter. Please let us know if there's a particular subject you'd like to hear about. And we always appreciate your feedback.
 
Warm regards,
 
Howie
In This Issue
Cookie Cutter: Why Your Marketing May Miss the MARK
How Can I Tell if My Practice is Growing?
Quick Links
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New Patients, Inc.
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