How do get dental patients to start doing the dentistry you love? We interview Dr. Kent Smith to find out what he did in his practice to make it happen!


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Podcast Highlights:

  • The landscape of dentistry
  • Focusing on general dentistry vs. niches
  • The demographics where you will find the patients you want
  • Asking “what else can I do for you?”
  • Escaping the handpiece
  • The importance of teaching
  • How Dr. Smith expanded his Sleep Apnea patients received
  • Referrals
  • Advertising dentistry without cheapening the perception of dentistry
  • Attracting quality patients vs. shoppers

Podcast Transcription:

Hello, and Welcome once again to the Dental Marketing Mastery series. This podcast is brought to you by and New Patients Incorporated. I’m Howie Horrocks, the Founder of New Patients Incorporated, along with me once again, as my friend and partner and the President of New Patients Incorporated, Mark Dilatush.

Howie: Well, hello, everybody. Welcome once again to our wonderful podcast. We sure are glad that we have the audience we have and we have a special guest today, don’t we, Mark?

Mark: We do and before. Before we go applauding the audience, I should ask the audience to go tell at least one of your friends where you hear these podcasts. Oh, yeah. And then we will spread like a virus through dentistry. Is that good? Is that a good image now? I guess not.

Howie: No, that’s okay, though. Yeah, we’ll spread.

Mark: All right.

Howie: Anyway.

Mark: So yeah, we have a we have a real we have a real departure from our normal is instructional. Our normal podcast is teaching you why things work, why things don’t work, why the consumer acts this way, why they don’t act that way. And this is a it’s both a diversion from that normal course material. But it’s also a combination of the course material in a in a in a dentist that actually is living the dream. And we wanted to share his story with all the podcast listeners. His name is Dr. Kent Smith, Kent, would you say hello to everyone, please?

Kent: Hello, everyone. It’s good to be here Mark.

Howie: Thanks for being here. Kent. Kent’s got a pretty amazing story. We thought we’d share it with you. You know, Mark just mentioned, he’s living the dream. What was the dream? Kent tell us about that?

Kent: Well, the dream was to I always heard that you could limit your practice and do the things you like to do. But very few people were doing it. And I just thought, you know, if it’s if it’s really possible, I’m going to give it a shot. Because there’s a lot of things in dentistry I didn’t like doing and there’s some things I really love doing. So I thought I’m going to do my best to get that to happen. And it’s been a great story.

Howie: Yeah, no kidding. So I guess we could call it the journey away from the handpiece is

Kent: Yeah. It works. Sir

Mark: The journey away from the handpiece. You know, out of all the den. I’ve been in dentistry for 28 years, I guess seven years. And I can probably fit on one hand the number of dentists that I know and have worked with, then I could say to myself, you know, this guy probably should have gone back to medical school. And you’re one of them. Where I

Kent: Sometimes it seems like I should have because of the fields I’m in and yeah, gosh, in fact, every so often I’ll even still consider it and I’m I wouldn’t be matriculating. I’m not would not be among the youngest in medical school, I can tell you that.

Howie: No,

Mark: no, the reason I say that is because you know, everybody gets their juice in life from different things. And you know, and you get yours from, you know, helping and or saving people. And, and I always I always associated that with, you know, straight up medicine. But as a dentist, you can you can do that, too. You know, and I’m not trying to steal your store. I’m just, I’m just telling you, from my perspective, that’s how you appear to us. as professionals.

Kent: Yeah, well, my elevator speech when people ask me what I do. I say I save lives in marriages, and then I just shut up and let.

Howie: That’s good. That’s really good. I like that. So what we’re referring to here for the audience that says let them in on this is that Kent is involved with treating sleep apnea, is that right? Kent?

Kent: That’s right. Snoring and sleep apnea. But there is one field snoring leads to sleep apnea. So yeah,

Mark: and that live in the dream part. I mean, go back to when you and your partner started. This is probably I mean, I think you I think we met What are you? About 12 years ago? 13 years ago now? probably somewhere in there.

Kent: Yeah, my Well, my partner join me 18 years ago. I’m assuming it was quite a few years after that, that we met and work started working together.

Mark: Right

Kent: It’s 2006 actually.

Mark: Is that what it was? Okay. And then because you guys needed to get some you know, plan to grow the practice and your practice is in what town just for reference for our listeners,

Kent: We’re in the Dallas, Texas area. I do have a satellite sleep practice that is in Frisco, Texas, but the basic practice, we just actually we just moved last year and doubled the size and we’ve got 21 opportunities now but it’s in it’s all in Irving, Texas.

Mark: Okay. Okay. So, um, you know, the goal back then, you know, six was grow, grow, grow. Right? And at that point, it was more the focus was basically the top half of the dental market surrounding the practice. We weren’t real. You know, we weren’t real particular with who we know.

Kent: No, we just wanted bodies in the seats.

Mark: Right. Get the phones to ring man get the phones to ring.

Kent: Right. Sure.

Mark: And then. And then I remember. I remember you guys. You guys came out to Vegas. I think you were doing an FIV shoot a first impression video shoot.

Kent: Yep. Yep.

Mark: And we sat in, I think it was after your first year I think we sat in Howie’s office or something. And your partner said, you know, we’re gonna, we want this much growth next year. And I said, well, you’re already going to grow that much. Next year. He looked at me kind of cross eyed, nice. I said, you’re going to grow that much next year. And he didn’t really believe me. But I remember that story. And then and then we pretty much kept on going with the general family. Now there’s a reason I’m, I’m focusing on this. Because remember, for all the listeners, Kent is chasing a dream. Well, were you chasing that dream back then. Is that was that even something you were considering trying to get to in 2006?

Kent: No, I wasn’t thinking at that time. I will be limiting my practice in X number of years, but it was my favorite thing to do.

Mark: Okay.

Kent: Oh, yeah. I if someone had told me at that moment, Hey, you know what, you really don’t have to do all this stuff. Then started that journey right then. But all I wanted to do was grow the practice with my partner because he had joined me and, and we sort of leveled off, and we needed help. And that’s when we contacted you guys.

Mark: Okay, so it grew and then I met when we were always preaching.  06, 07 0h hell Oh, wait, after the recession all the way up until about last year. Family market, family market, family market stay the hell away from the niches stay the hell away from the niches

Kent: Right. Yeah, you were burning my dream down right then.

Mark: I know. I know. But we knew the secret sauce or one of the secret sauces is you know, all those fun things. Those phone cases actually come from the top half of the family market. You don’t you know you In other words, it’s not something that you get because you asked for it. It’s something that you get by asking for something else, right? Yeah, exactly. And then you started seeing some of those and you don’t you don’t just specialize in sleep apnea treatment, you do short term ortho Right.

Kent: Right. I do some six month smiles and some Invisalign. And I still love doing those things to do because they transform people and yeah, I’m still no handpiece.

Mark: Okay, so yeah, so tell the audience, all of our doctors listening to this salivate. How, when was the last time you actually touched a handpiece to a patient?

Kent: My wife made me do a crown on her three years ago. And it as awful.

Mark: It was awful.

Kent: Yeah. It really took some work to figure out how to edit know where anything was. So it’s been so before that is probably three years before that.

Mark: Okay. All right. So, so you, you we pounded on the local top half of the family market generated enough. And there was enough interest again on to your credit and to the credit of your team. You know, it’s never a one way street. I mean, everything has to work together. And you know, to your credit, you started finding these patients diagnosing these are with the help of sleep dentist, right. You, you slowly went out into your local market and work with some MDs and some sleep dentists too, right?

Kent: Yeah. Mainly my own market. It wouldn’t be sleeping. Do not sleep dentist. I mean,

Mark: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. That’s right. Sleep MDs, right. Yeah, yeah. Okay.

Kent: Yeah. Because it? I mean, obviously, the tipping point in Well, maybe not so obviously, but the tipping point in sleep medicine, Dental Sleep Medicine, is to have so many physician referrals that you don’t need to market at all

Mark: right. Yeah. We call those the gatekeepers.

Kent: Yeah, exactly.

Mark: It’s what orthodontists call GPS.

Kent: Yeah,

Mark: yeah. Basically.

Kent: An orthodontist send letters to GPS to let them know what they’re doing

Mark: Exactly.

Kent: The dentist don’t know how to send letters. So I had to learn that medical community.

Mark: Okay. Okay. So and there’s, there’s this whole other side of sleep dentistry, from the billing aspect, right. So you had, then you have to learn some medical billing as well.

Kent: Oh, yeah. In fact, when I teach my courses on this, I tell them at the outset that that’s the biggest struggle they will have is figuring out that medical billing aspect.

Mark: You do used to teach your own courses through like your own company, is it through a different firm? Like, how does that work?

Kent: No, it’s. Yeah, it’s just my own. Well, I’d teach him out of the Dallas area, and it’s something I put together, I started that 10 or 12 years ago. And then, and that’s, that, honestly, that’s another reason that I just kept growing that part of the practice, because, as you can imagine, the more you teach something, the more you have to study it and learn it in practice.

Mark: Right. Of course.

Kent: So it just became just secondary to the teaching the fact that I just focused more and more on sleep, but reading as much as I could, and, and, and then I started teaching for six month smiles. That was also about 10-11 years ago. And ever since.

Mark: Okay, so if a doctor wanted to learn about, you know, how to integrate sleep, to the treatment of sleep apnea into their practice, that’s a that’s something they would go through you for.

Kent: They could Yeah, there’s there are quite a few good courses around the United States, but I’ve been doing it a long time. And I don’t, I think one of the differences in my seminars, I’m not trying to sell anything, I’m just trying to educate the dentist and prepare them to get patient screen and treated and I you know, I tell them my experience and how I used to have a general dental practice. And eventually I was able to transform it into asleep and ortho practice, right and it’s not for everyone. But some, especially those dentists that are looking at retirement someday. It’s the perfect retirement vehicle because I could do this until I’m 90 years old with one leg and one eye Right. Exactly. I could just sit there and talk to patients all day. That’s pretty much all I do.

Mark: Right? Right.

Howie: You know that that’s a good point. Can’t you don’t have to, you know, have that dentist neck anymore, the dentist back or all of the other maladies that

Kent: my neck and back pain went away completely when I stopped doing restorative. I seriously it did.

Howie: I believe it. You know what, we’re going to take some short break here, then we’re going to come back and talk to you a little bit more, if you would mind Kent.

Kent: That sounds good.

Howie: Alright, so don’t go on. Don’t go anywhere. We’ll be right back.

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Howie: Alright, we are back we have Dr. Kent Smith, from Irving, Texas here with us and we’re talking about how he reached dental Nirvana. Right.

Kent: And maybe not for everybody. Yeah, a lot of people love doing 30-40 different procedures. That’s just not me.

Mark: Yeah, well, that’s that yeah, it’s to each his own. But to be honest with you, one of the reasons why we brought you here Kent was because we have lots of dentists who are coming to us who are saying, you know, I want to expand the sleep portion of my practice. Yeah. So how, how if a dentist wanted to take a course from you, how would they do that?

Kent: Well, they can certainly email me and I can I can show them the link or they can remember the link Or they can just Google my name and sleep seminar and you’ll find it.

Mark: Okay, all right. Okay, so Kent Smith, sleep seminar shouldn’t be tough. Okay. Yep. Alright, so, so we get you through 2006 through about probably what 2010 2011 2012 and the, and the short term ortho started the kick a little bit. And then the sleep started to kick a little bit. Is that accurate?

Kent: Yeah, that that’s, that’s very accurate. I get my years confused. But that’s probably about right. Yeah, where the numbers started climbing so much that I thought, but honestly, it couldn’t have happened except that, you know, we were doubling the number of new patients we were seeing per month. And, and when you start doing that, you can certainly call out those that would fit your niche better. would do that and get more experienced treating those kinds of patients, then I just felt more confident. Then that built on referrals from both the patients I had treated but also the more I treated patients, the more the sleep physicians and other physicians learned about what I was doing. And then they started referring me patients, and it just sort of grew from there, sort of, you know, sort of snowball,

Mark: Right? Um, I think it’s a really important point for everybody to hear that. At no particular time. Did we ever promote Ken’s practice? Either the general practice or the sleep or the or the short term ortho side of his practice based on a deal? Right, we’re talking about a 12. year almost a 12 or 11 year journey. Oh, right. Yeah, no point did we cheapen or lessen the perception of the dentistry that that office provides? Okay. And I think that’s an important for people to hear.

Because I don’t think you could have gotten there. If you had a bunch of shoppers coming in, I think you would probably would have kissed too many frogs, I think your opportunity costs would have been way too high. I think it would have blown out your hygiene schedule, for sure. And I think either wouldn’t have happened or would have taken probably another dozen years to happen.

Kent: Yeah, I think so. I haven’t sit back and really considered all that. But that does make sense. I think it would have delayed it significantly.

Mark: Yeah, I think people have to have a certain value point for healthcare in general, in order for that to start to build and take off. And then of course, to your credit, you just started to run with it. So and then I then I remember, I think it was 2011 2012, maybe 2013. We came out with a couple of senior mailers. And we just started to do stuff for you on your side of the practice. I remember doing that. And then there was another group, I think there was two or three in a series there. And I think we also did a short term ortho, although I don’t think that in and of itself was very successful. I think the senior Miller was more successful. I think we probably did that for three or four years to me. Something like that.

Kent: Yeah. And I don’t remember that I was going to be doing this with you guys. tonight. I realized that tomorrow. There’s this professional pitcher, Major League pitcher that’s coming back in and I remembered that and I think I even told you this story. It’s a he came in from one of those mailers. miles on at the time. Wow. A professional athlete, Baylor to come in. That sort of blew me away, but, but honestly, that’s and he’s still a patient.

Mark: Right. Right. Right. So, okay, so

Howie: when the World Series can’t

Kent: use now, he we trained him away, but he still lives here.

Mark: Okay, okay. We’re not we’re not allowed to know.

Kent: Okay, no, that’s all I can say.

Mark: Right. Okay, that’s fine. So all right. So you go through 2011 2012. And now you got things pretty much because of your own work with your own professional networking with the sleep MDS with the other professionals in your local market, you’re pretty much referral only now, right?

Kent: Yeah, it’s I do some radio. Okay. It’s, it’s almost all referral now. And I’m trying to get rid of the last bit of radio that I was doing. And I was having to do some radio because there’s a I won’t go into any detail. But there’s a company here that spends $100,000 a month on radio, to who is my primary competitor in this market?

Mark: So okay, yeah. Yeah.

Kent: Anyway, that’s a sordid story. We don’t need to get into.

Howie: Oh, that’ll be that’ll be a can interview. Part Two.

Mark: Yeah,

Kent: that’s Oh, boy.

Mark: Anytime you want to unleash us, you just let us know. Send us just let us know. All right. Well, that’s but but the bottom line is, is we have GP with a partner family practice kind of stagnated wanted to grow it, which basically turned into kind of, I’m not going to call it cherry picking camp, but I’m going to call it you noticed a certain breed of patient, and you started to do the thing, more of the things that you like to do. And then I think that probably got you to the point where you said Know what? Hell, I’m halfway there.

Why don’t I just go all the way there. And I think I think you guys took the reins, the rest of the way might have had something to do with us. But I think you guys took the reins the rest of the way. Because then you built the seminar series and not create a credibility, you went out to the ND circuit, you started gaining professional referrals. Now, basically, I know I can’t call you a specialist, because some dental police officer will come on my door. But basically, you know, for all intents and purposes, you’re more of a specialist than a specialist is.

Kent: Yeah, because there’s not many. I don’t have your Ryan, a lot of specialists still do eight or 10 different things. And I

Howie: could we could we call you a two trick pony?

Kent: Yeah, yeah. I don’t again, remember this year that it seemed like it was either 2013 might have been 2000, 12, or 13, where I said, All right, I’m gonna I’m making the decision, I want to go all in. And I have, if I do another distal buckle composite on an upper? Well, I’m gonna go crazy. I said, as a goal, I want to say it was like January of 13. I said, as a goal, by June of 2014, I gave myself 18 months to be all in. And so I said, we need to start telling the hygiene patients and start, you know, warning them or whatever, and making up carpal tunnel stories.

And honestly, by six months, in six months, I was there. Awesome. All it took was one revolution of hygiene patients letting know what I was doing. And at that point, but you have to let your ego go and say, okay, hey, that I’m letting the associates see my patients and things like that. It’s, again, it’s not for everyone, but it’s somewhere I wanted to go.

Mark: Right. And it when we don’t even believe it’s for the majority. But how he and I have been around this business long enough to know, we’ve spoken to other dentists who want to be where you’ve gone, or where you are. Not just with sleep, either. I mean, there’s tons of dentists out there who would love to just, you know, come in for a couple days a week and focus on implants. Right? Yeah, you know, it’s not doesn’t have to be sleep. It’s just, I think, really what this story or this, it’s not a story. I mean, it’s, it’s sort of a chronology of your career.

And, I think what it teaches the audience, is he, I mean, yeah, it’s possible. I mean, you got to do it, right, you got to stay with it, you gotta want it. Right, you got to have the right team, to your credit, um, you have to make the right moves, and probably spend a lot of money dinners with, with MDs, um,

Kent: When dentist asked me what it takes to do this, I tell him if you don’t, or if you are not willing to spend the time, right. And the effort that you did in initially building your dental practice, then to build a niche practice isn’t going to happen. You still have to it’s not just going to happen. You have to put lots of time, energy and effort into it. Yep,

Mark: yep. And it’s not a one. It’s not, it’s not. And you can’t delegate it all to a marketing company. That’s another thing we tell people all the time is that you can’t cut me a check and just say, Here you go, and then go golf. And that’s not the way it works. Okay.

Kent: No, because you have to have trust from physicians. And I would think it’s that way with almost all niche practices, because it’s going to be based on referrals from other healthcare practitioner. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Howie: Wow. What a great story Kent. We want to really thank you for being with us today. We come to the to the end of our podcast here, but I’m sure that that we have a huge audience out there. And I’m sure there’s a portion of that audience that you know, we’re going to go back and listen to this a couple times and take notes

Mark: and they can say I can do it, I can do it.

Howie: So thanks Kent we appreciate it.

Kent: My pleasure. I really enjoyed it, guys.

Howie: All right. And we’ll be back next week and we hope you tune in again. Thanks.

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