What is the lifecycle of dental clinic promotion? Why do you often see competing dental practices side by side on the same street? In this episode, Mark and Howie explain all of this and more.


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  • The importance of a wide-area analysis
  • The ratio of potential patients to doctors every practice should seek
  • Risk and dental clinic promotion
  • Different practice ownership scenarios
  • Why do you see dozens of practices side by side?
  • The correct budget allocation for a new practice
  • How long to run your practice on this budget
  • Call tracking and call management
  • Staff training
  • Applying budget properly

Podcast Transcription:

Hello, and welcome once again to the dental marketing mastery series. This podcast is brought to you by dentalwebcontent.com and New Patients Incorporated. I’m Howie Horrocks, the founder of New Patients Incorporated, along with me once again, is my friend and partner and the President of New Patients Incorporated, Mark Dilatush.

Howie:  Well, hello, everybody. Welcome to another edition of our podcast. I got my good buddy Mark on the other end, and I’m here in Vegas.

Mark: Hey, Howie, how are you? I’ll be in Vegas next week.

Howie: I know! It’s exciting.

Mark:  Is it? Is it exciting as the magician with the lions? I don’t think so.

Howie: No, we’re very excited to have you in at the galactic headquarters of NPI here.

Mark: The intergalactic headquarters, yes.

Howie: Today, let’s talk about the life cycle of a dental practice. What do we mean by that? Well, here you are, perhaps you just graduated, and you’ve learned enough in dental school, so that you probably won’t kill anybody. And I’ve had dentists tell me that that’s what you learned in dental school.

Mark: Emphasis on the word probably.

Howie: Yeah. And everything else you learn after that, and continuing education. So, and then you’ve got, you know, you’ve got a decision to make on, you know, how you’re going to move forward in your career and in your life from there. So, let’s start there.

Mark: Yeah, actually, this question, I remember this question came from, for those of you listening to this podcast, who may not already know this, we have a Facebook group, called Dental Marketing Mastery Group. It’s a closed group, it’s by invitation. So if you go to Dental Marketing Mastery, and you asked to join, we will see you, we will approve you, unless there’s some reason why we shouldn’t.

But anyway, one of our favorite folks who are on that is a friend of the company, not a client, I don’t think Duck is a client of the company, but it’s a dentist named Duck Tang. He practices in the Charlotte area, and he’s the one who said I think I posted, okay, subjects for the podcast series go! And, and Duck said, talk about the likes of marketing as it pertains to the life cycle of a dental practice. So this could take four hours, so I’m going to try to condense this down into about 20 minutes, probably with a commercial break in between.

So it is, it’s like Howie said, you graduate with a $400,000 in debt, Bank of America and Patterson Dental become your best friends immediately. And so you go, when you look for associateships, maybe you go to work for a corporate entity, you’re looking all over the place of ways to fill your time, ways to expand your crafts, expand your skill, increase your speed, increase your productivity, and that’s fine. I mean, that’s basically what you should do, or maybe you take a residency.

I spent probably two and a half hours speaking to a young graduate who’s in residency about her trials and tribulations just last weekend. So anyway, so when you get done, and you get out of that, and you feel like you’re ready for your own practice, this is where the dental clinic promotion part starts. Excuse me.  Because when you’re an associate, that’s the owners job. Right, Howie?

Howie: Yeah, right, exactly.

Mark: We get associates on all the time, logging on to our website, completing client surveys, in order to get dental marketing plans for their practice, and they don’t even own it.

Howie: Right.

Mark: So now, you’re contemplating being an owner. So here’s the first thing you do. You don’t open a practice where you know you’re going to fail. Makes sense, right? And you might say, “Mark, how do I do that?” And for right now, I’m going to say you get ahold of [email protected], you give him whatever he wants, 400-500 bucks, I forget what he charges.

You tell him the physical address of where you want to live, where you want to have your spouse and your family and your hobbies and all the at the epicenter of your life, not just your practice. And you tell him how far you’re willing to travel in any direction, for a morning and evening commute. And what he will do is you will do what’s called a wide area analysis of all the dental markets that are within a drive of that physical address, which is your home.

He will report to you the top five dental markets. And if I were you, I wouldn’t go outside of that recommendation. Because all you’re going to do is every time you step down that top five, you make your life harder, and harder and harder and harder. If I were a young dentist and I was looking for a place to open a practice or a practice to buy, I would be looking at a market with a doctor patient ratio no less than 1 to 1,650.

No less than the national average. Those markets are more difficult to find than they were five years ago and certainly more difficult to find than they were 10 years ago. But they’re absolutely not impossible. We see them. Not all the time, most of the people that engage us are in grossly competitive markets. But every once in a while we’ll get a client survey in from a 1 to 2200 market. So we know they exist.

Howie: Yeah.

Mark: So now am I going to buy or am I going to start new? Should I go in as an associate and buy into an existing practice? Most of those are questions of you know, the those are more personal choice questions. How fearful of risk are you? You know, I mean, I don’t think you can go to a course and say, you know, take these 10 steps, and you will be less risk averse than you were before you took the course. Right? That does it’s like teaching somebody to be tall.

Howie: Yeah, exactly.

Mark: You can’t do that, right? So everybody’s a little different, so depending on how risk averse you are, you might want to be an associate for eight or 10 years get used to the facility, get used to the patients, get used to the staff especially, get used to the owner. And the owner might be you know, about approaching late 50s, early 60s and maybe looking for a partner to buy in halfway, and then to buy out the other half later on. That’s a great scenario.

Howie: Yeah, we’ve seen that many times. That’s wonderful.

Mark: Dozens of times, right? So, that’s a good scenario, opening up your own practice. Well, for sure, I wouldn’t open up a brand new practice unless I knew that practice was over a 1 to 2000 there’s just no way because I know a 1 to 2000 exists in every state in the country. Why would I open up a practice in a more competitive environment if I didn’t have to? Okay, so I know there’s gonna be people out there. What about the socio-demographics? What about the occupations? And, what about the whatever and the you know, I don’t know the education level, income levels and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada. Okay. But, here’s the bottom line. Walmart doesn’t care about any of those things. They care about how far they’ve are from their other Walmart.

Howie: Yeah.

Mark: That’s all they care about. How many people between those two Walmart’s can we consume, to come in and consume our stuff? Okay so, that’s why you don’t see two Walmart’s plugged right next to each other and it might be a reason why you see 15 dental offices on the same street as the hospital.

Okay, because the dentist didn’t do the math, and Walmart always does the math. Right? So, that’s the first thing I would do, I would engage someone like Scott, I would find my space or my area. And then I would inquire now the dental offices that already exist in that area to see if there’s an associate position available. Or maybe there’s a retiring dentist in that market that might be interested in selling their practice, you never know you don’t have to start up, right? Go find, go find your brass ring. It exists everywhere.

If you take your time, and you do it right. They’re not elusive, they’re not a needle in a haystack. They’re basically a haystack. Okay. It’s like finding a haystack in a needle. Okay so, it shouldn’t be that hard. They’re virtually everywhere. Everywhere you look, there are opportunities to be the dentist you always wanted to be. So now you have a place. You’re an owner or part owner. And now some of the decisions are yours. What do I do? Well, that’s a loaded question.

Howie: You know what Mark, we’ll tell them what to do when we get back. How about that.

Mark: A commercial break good idea.

Howie: A commercial break, We’ll be right back. Don’t go away.

We hope you are enjoying our podcast. Let me ask you do you have a roadmap for your marketing? Why not let New Patients Incorporated do it for you. Our marketing plans have been proven effective for over 27 years for hundreds of practices across lots of different countries. We will give you the marketing data for your area, a marketing budget. We’ll show you how to allocate your budget. And then we will show you the proper deployment strategies for each medium. Click on the header where it says complimentary marketing plan when you go to https://www.newpatientsinc.com/.

Howie: Alright, we are back. Welcome back. So, continue on with what you had your thought going there, your thought train going.

Mark: No, my thought train is that okay, so, this is really what the listeners are asking is what would Mark and Howie do?

Howie: Yeah.

Mark: Right. What would Mark and Howie do? Mark and Howie just became owners, they’re in, whatever, this market. And how would they arrange their dental clinic promotion budget? How would they apply their marketing budget? How would they allocate it? In what categories? At what levels? What tools would they use? Well, I can tell you, for sure. without reservation, the following things would happen.

We would allocate, if this was an established, let’s say it’s an established practice. We just became part owner. And we have say over the dental marketing budget, we would budget at 5% of current revenues to 5% of goal revenues for the next 12 months. We would not spend under that we would not spend over the top end of that that’s a range and we would allocate, oh, 5 to 7% to internal promotion to make sure that people didn’t walk in with 17 brand new veneers that we didn’t put on. We would absolutely put 15 to 20%, maybe 30% in the internet, we would put 30 to 35% into a direct targeted approach, normally mail at differing volumes. Not necessarily just postcards or just trifolds or just magazines, it may be a mix of that.

We would absolutely have scheduling online, there’s no doubt, we would for sure want to be the champions in our market for reviews and online reputation management. And we would want to do a good job on social media because ultimately, eventually, that’s where the bulk of our patients are going to interact with us on the days that they are not physically in our office. So I can tell you for sure exactly what our business plan or a marketing plan would be. And if anybody wants to copy it, put it down on a piece of paper and hand it to Bank of America and Patterson, you’re more than welcome to.

Howie: Yep.

Mark: That will work in 96% of the US markets. Now, work how? What do you mean “work?” Work’s going to depend on a lot of things, sometimes not necessarily the marketing or the advertising itself.  How do you answer your phones? How well do you answer your phones? Do you answer all your phones? Might as well start with that question. You know, outside of odd circumstances that’s about as rock solid, of a foundational dental office marketing plan as one could create.

I’m going to let that run probably for two, two and a half, maybe three years, I’m just going to let it run, just let it go. I’m going to tweak it. I’ll tweak designs, tweak this, tweak whatever, but I’m going to, I’m going to tweak it along the way. If there’s any room left over in the budget, I’m probably going to do PPI campaigns in Facebook to drive interested folks in single topics to a landing page where they can schedule online. That’s where I would take any PPI or PPC money. That’s where I would put it first. And I would let that run, I would leave it consistent. And I would watch my total new patient numbers, I would definitely have called tracking especially on the mailer.

First year, probably on the website. And I would be listening to every call. And I would have my staff calling back every number that was called into the practice that wasn’t answered, that went to the voicemail that we missed because you never know what you missed.

Howie: Right. And another thing is, even though you know there might not be a specific category for this in your budget, theere probably better be and that’s if you run into a situation where you have a staff who really bungled phone calls and needs some training and help. It’s money well spent to get them fixed on that, otherwise, you’re just throwing your dental clinic promotion money away.

Mark: Yep. Yeah, I listened to one today. The dentist has QDP in their office. And a dentist called who was didn’t have insurance, asking the question, “Does your office know of or have your own insurance plan? Because I lost my insurance when I changed jobs.” And the lady on the phone instantly referred her to her friend mentioned nothing about the QDP that the office has.

Howie: Oh, that’s bad.

Mark: Well, you know, it’s a training issue.

Howie: Okay so, let’s call it that.

Mark: Yeah, let’s call it a training issue.

Howie: It might also be a firing issue.

Mark: Yeah, it might be a firing squad at that point. But anyway, um, yeah, I digress. So actually, that was a real story. I didn’t make that up. That was that I just listened to that call about an hour and a half ago, and I just shook my head. Anyway, staff? Well, that’s a that’s a good segue to the importance of good staff, right? So, I would certainly invest in good training. I know, there’s positive and negative connotations to consultants in the dental industry.

I will tell you for sure that there are a handful of exceptional human beings, who are dental management consultants who care deeply about the success of their clients. And just like marketing companies, don’t, you know, don’t automatically super impose a bad reputation on a whole industry, just because you heard of one bad egg, or one bad apple. So, I would certainly invest some of my resources into my human beings, assuming that they’re keepers.

Assuming they’re not sending people to a different dental office, when your new patients call that that’s good. I would put my head down. And I would believe that I’m not the best and not the fastest and the older dentists who have been doing this for a while the ones that would rather put a pencil in their ear, then do another, you know, three surface composite on another human being probably know a lot more than you do and can probably share with you ways that you know, and methods and techniques and treatments that you may never even realized would be effective for your patient base.

Howie: That’s a huge benefit over opening up solo. You know, you’ve got an experienced mentor there. Boy, take advantage of that. That’s, gold. Yeah. And you have to select them right. Right? You can’t You can’t select a dentist that just wants you to, you know, Do patchwork.

Mark: Right, you also can’t select the dentist who’s actually scared of your skill set. I’ve seen that happen. Oh my god, You just graduated. You’re better than me. Don’t talk to me. So, yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, you hear stories. Here’s the bottom line. There’s opportunity everywhere in dentistry. Corporate dentistry isn’t taking every opportunity, that’s a joke, okay. There’s opportunities literally everywhere. Many times, they don’t rear their head by themselves. You got to do a little legwork. Gotta do a little research. You gotta reach out, shake hands, talk to people, maybe get into some uncomfortable situations, maybe even some uncomfortable discussions in order to find out what the best scenario is for you personally. But I don’t know. When was the last time we, when was the last time a dentist called us and said, “Mark I’m a dentist, I can’t find work.” 27 years.

Howie: Yeah.

Mark: I’ve never had that happen. Have you?

Howie: No, neither have I. I mean, provided they’re looking I mean no.

Mark: Right. So you know, when that happens, we know they are truly we found the worst dentist in the world. Right?

Howie: Yeah.

Mark: I’m joking. But, seriously, the opportunities out there, the Holy Grail is there. We get it, we understand that it’s exciting. We understand it’s frustrating, we understand that’s scary as hell, right? You know, all your options when you first start. Here’s, here’s a little tidbit. If you apply your dental marketing budget, the way I just recommended, the way Mark and Howie would, and you do that over an entire 25 year career, if you do that, and you follow normal dental practice metrics. Normal, not crazy, not high, not low, right down the middle, the owner will be too $2.3 million richer than they would if they did otherwise. So, when we say apply the budget, what we mean is apply it properly between the bottom and the top half of the market.

And once you get busy, apply all of it to the top half of the market. And if you do that, at the end of a 25 year career, somewhere in your business and additional $2.3 million will be floating around. Now what you do with it is up to you. But it will happen. Because all it is is math. All it is is math on a spreadsheet from literally hundreds of dental practices. Okay, so in a comparative analysis, single doctor practice, $2.3 million. If you apply it right when you first start versus not applying it right. And you know what, applying the same money, no more money, no less money, not different money, same money over the career. The issue you’re going to have is being patient, understanding that the top half of the market takes longer to get in and being consistent.

Patience and consistency, is where you get that brass ring. Most dentists aren’t willing to do it. How many? What percentage of the dental market do we serve like, .02% of the dental market we serve. Not every dental office, not every dentist is willing to do that. Okay? Most don’t. But if they do, if they go down that path, and they stick to it for a long enough period of time, sooner or later, they’re only working on patients who care more about their mouth than a deductible and are willing to listen to you and get the treatment done. And if you take that information and extrapolated over 25 years, it becomes a big number.

Howie: Yeah. Dentistry is a great business.

Mark: It’s an awesome business.

Howie: How many businesses do you know where you get the profit margin, the margin, 35 40% I can’t think of any other one other than maybe a meth dealer.

Mark: A meth dealer. So that’s the life cycle. Gosh, we could do you know what? This is to Dr. Tang, who actually requested this. Dr. Tang, we’re going to bring this back again. Maybe in about five or six episodes we’ll do life cycle of a dental practice part two, and then we’ll do part three, because there’s so much we could add to this, that we can’t really fit it into 20 minutes. It’s impossible.

Howie: Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Let’s do that. Well okay, so we wrapped up for today, Mark?

Mark: I think so. I hope people have left this conversation feeling pretty damn good about what their chosen profession is. Yeah, they should. If they’re not, they’re just a whiner. I know, I make so many friends by saying stuff like that. But it’s the truth. I mean, if you want you know, what is our business our in our businesses an 8% margin, right? Yeah, you want to have a challenge in life? Come run a business with an 8% margin rather than a 30 or 40.

Howie: Open up a supermarket where they had like a point one.

Mark: 1.3% margin in a supermarket. So I mean, yeah, there’s all kinds of stress, all kinds of struggles. I get it, I hear it, and I understand it. I empathize with it, you know, you have malpractice, you have patients who are just completely and totally unreasonable. You know, I get it. You know, you got Google, you know, you got Google reviews. And, I mean, yeah, you can respond, but you got people on Google that never even was your patient saying you stink. That’s not fair. Right? So that adds stress, you know, to your day, we get it, and we’re not making fun of it.

But honestly, every business owner has those same kind of stresses. They’re just customers, they’re not patients. They’re just our customers, instead of you know, patients who are leaving Google reviews. It’s really the same stresses that every business owner has to face. You know, if you’re a good person and you do good work, and you care about your patients, which we’re sure all of you do, you’ll be fine. You’ll absolutely, you know, you’ll absolutely be fine.

Howie: All right. Well, thank you all for listening and we’ll be back before you know it. Goodbye now.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our podcast today. You can find more podcasts on our YouTube channel, on Stitcher and iTunes, also on our websites, dentalwebcontent.com and newpatientsinc.com.