Jodena Consulting Blog
October 9, 2015
In my experience, dentists do not understand the value of Facebook marketing and often minimize it as unprofessional or a nuisance. They almost always do not have the time or the interest to manage their Facebook page.
Well it is time to wake up and realize that Facebook can and should be an important driver of new patient traffic to your practice. The key is to understand how to use it. Posting information on office activities, charity events, “cutesy” photos, Halloween candy buybacks, etc.–while demonstrating an “active” Facebook presence–rarely seems to bring in new patients.
Facebook as a business service is no longer free. There are two kinds of ads that you can pay for on Facebook. One type is a pay per click or pay per impression ad that can be seen both in a newsfeed on a mobile device or on the right-hand side of the desk top device. These ads can be highly targeted to geography, age, gender, and income level. Over the last few years, Facebook has done an amazing job of collecting data on all of us! The ad can promote a particular service like invisible braces, or sedation, or cosmetic procedures like whitening or veneers. You have to be careful with these subliminal ads because Facebook will not run them if they are considered too promotional.
The second option for an ad is what is called a “promoted or boosted” post. These posts appear on your Facebook page and discuss the same services or treatments as the subliminal ads. However, these posts cannot be as highly targeted as the pay per click or pay per impression ads. For these posts, Facebook only allows age and geographical range.
So what is your strategy? I believe that these ads should be used as a two pronged approach. Use the subliminal ads to get the highly targeted people in your geographical area to Like your page. You can port these people to your Facebook page hoping that they will Like the page, or you can port them to your website. When you have increased the number of Likes – say to over 600-700 – then you should start using the boosted posts to show prospective patients the services you are hoping to promote.
These days, I am comfortable with a marketing budget of 2-3% of annual collections. Facebook advertising definitely should be a part of that allocation. The costs for Facebook advertising are very reasonable, and you can set your own budget to your comfort level. This should be a slow and steady process, and in the beginning, be more about branding and name recognition. An interesting observation is that Google and Facebook actually work together. For instance, if you are branding your practice on Facebook using subliminal ads in your service area, and someone sees them continually, when they go to Google to do a search–and see your practice listed–they will have familiarity which increases the odds that they might choose your practice.
I don’t believe that this is a job for a staff member. It is technical and time-consuming and probably should be outsourced to a media professional. I am sure that you can find people in your town who do this. I certainly am also happy to make a recommendation.
September 23, 2015
We all recognize that our world and our life as we know it is changing dramatically and quickly. Politically, economically, socially, culturally – you name it–nothing is the same as it used to be. So we all need to adopt new strategies to remain successful and competitive in the marketplace of public opinion.
I recently read a wonderful article by Saul Kaplan entitled Reinvention As A Life Skill. Saul is a friend, a successful entrepreneur, and the founder of the Business Innovation Factory. “If anything is clear about the 21st century, it’s that change happens faster than it used to. Reinvention isn’t something to be done only as a last resort. It is something we need to do all the time in order to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.”
Dental practices are certainly not immune from the need for reinvention. If you hope to thrive in this current environment, you probably have to leave your comfort zone. Same old–same old–is simply not going to cut it. Here are some suggestions for your consideration.
1. Get more involved in your community as a volunteer. Perhaps your local hospital or your local Chamber of Commerce. The idea is to focus on meeting business leaders rather than limiting your out of office contacts to Dental Society meetings. You definitely have to increase your visibility.
2. Reach out to the HR department at two or three of the largest employers in your area. You probably have many patients that work at these companies. Ask them to connect you. Perhaps you can offer emergency care or complementary new patient exams.
3. Get way better at social media. This is especially important for doctors over the age of 50. I find that older doctors are very resistant to this path. But your existing and potential patients live in this world, and you have to join it and excel in it. Professional help in this area is certainly available.
4. Have some meetings with your staff and challenge them to help you develop new and exciting customer service ideas that truly separate you from your competition. Focus on great telephone communications. Take follow up care and concern for your patients to an even higher level. Write lots of personal notes. Make sure never to forget to recognize someone for a referral.
5. Consider investing in technologies and services that so many patients are demanding–like same-day crowns, implant placement, sedation dentistry, Invisalign, and Six Month Smiles.
6. Take a hard look at your practice data regarding numbers of new patients. Dr. Mike Abernathy wrote an excellent article that will help you evaluate where you are and where you could be.
The bottom line is that reinvention takes courage. According to Mark Twain, “courage is not the absence of fear; it is acting in spite of it.” John Wayne put it another way: “courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway!” The optimist in me believes we are all capable of expanding our horizons if we make the necessary commitment of time and energy. One day at a time. This is a marathon, and not a sprint.
September 8, 2015
In my last post, I discussed how Google has made it so much more difficult to be seen on their Map. I suggested that adding new content to your website using a Blog was more important than ever and one of the best ways to fight back. After all, Google still rewards relevance (new information) with higher placement. That has not changed. I received a lot of questions about the mechanics of how to do this, so let me share what I suggest to my clients.
Ask your webmaster to create a WordPress Blog. This then gives you access to a dashboard from which you write and publish posts. The stock format of a WordPress blog is free, but without modification, it is very basic and amateurish looking. Your webmaster can make the Blog Page the same color and format as your website. Your blog then becomes seamlessly integrated within your website in a way that the casual observer has no idea whether they landed on a page of content that is part of your website, or they are viewing an article that is part of your WordPress blog. Click here to see that the Jodena Consulting Blog Page looks exactly like my website.
Adding new content using a Blog serves two purposes. The first is that it satisfies Google’s aim to always bring new and updated material to the attention of the world, and thus reward you for your efforts with higher placement on the local Google business map. Examples I see frequently are articles about the need for regular check ups, or the benefits of fluoride, or why you need to floss your teeth – pretty basic and boring stuff. But the second and far greater benefit to your practice is if you add specific information about dental services for which a prospective patient would be searching. Best examples are whiter teeth, straighter teeth, cosmetics, sedation dentistry, and same day crowns. These are all procedures you would like to do more of. When you write about these topics, Google does an amazing job of connecting to your website prospective patients in your geographical area who are searching for these services.
So choose a procedure. Then sit down with a glass of wine or your favorite scotch and dictate information into a tape recorder. Take an hour. Just talk about your topic with no attempt at creating an actual blog post. Let it all hang out! Then pay a stenographer $50 to have this material transcribed. You will probably end up with at least 7500 words. Either you – or someone you can hire – will now have enough solid material to carve out eight to ten posts.
Maybe you are good at Invisalign and would like to do more cases. So start with a post about what the technology actually is. Then another post about how the technology has evolved. Or how it has changed over the years. Describe life altering patient experiences that you were able to facilitate. Talk about all of the advantages over full banded orthodontic treatment.
In each post you should add links to before and after photos. Google loves it when you also add links to other relevant articles that reinforce your positions. A good length for a post is 300 to 500 words. Commit to a schedule of a new post every 10 to 14 days. Develop a casual style. These blogs are not intended to be published as a professional article in a dental journal. It is fine to add a bit of humor.
This is not easy. It is a challenge that requires discipline. Don’t be too harsh on yourself or your writing style. You are not aiming to be number one on the best seller list! But no question that your efforts will pay big dividends in the quest to conquer the online marketplace. And to your delight, you will attract many new patients who otherwise never would have found you.
August 24, 2015
No one involved with Internet Marketing can question the importance of having the name of your practice and its website prominently displayed when a prospective patient does a Google search for a dentist in your town. My definition of prominent has been to be one of the seven spots on the local Google business map. On August 6th, Google instituted a major change. The Google 7-Pack became the Google 3-Pack. As mobile usage continues to grow, Google has changed the desktop search to appear more like mobile search results. So now only the top 3 positions on the Map are shown. Positions 4-7 in the old map pack are still there if you click the “More Dentist” icon – now jokingly called the “hamburger”. So those practices that worked so hard to gain that visibility have been definitely penalized.
Another change is that you can no longer get to the Google Place Page of a dentist from the Map. When you click the results on the map, you get a hybrid Google Plus Page or “card”. The only way to get to the Plus Page and see all of the reviews is from the practice website.
A third change is that when you do a search from a mobile device, the paid ads (Google AdWords) for a dentist show up prominently and you need to scroll down to see other results. A fourth change that is really irritating is that Google no longer is including the full address of the practice on the Map.
I believe that Google – with these new changes – is doing everything they can to leverage their vast power and force more dentists to buy AdWords to guarantee a top position. If you don’t choose to pay for a top position, your SEO strategies have to be exquisitely executed. The challenge for organic optimization is greater than ever. Your next generation marketing platform for your website must focus on the following.
• Creating continuous additional content. The easiest way is with blog posts. These posts should contain key words and mention your geography. Google rewards relevance and proximity as contributing factors for ranking in the Pack.
• Listing your town and surrounding towns in the first paragraph of your Home Page.
• Using a call tracking telephone number for your website. Let’s see how people are getting to your site.
• Adding Google patient reviews on a consistent basis. Have your Google Plus Page linked from your website to make it easy for patients to leave a review. And be sure to change the ugly orange, blue and green generic Google banner with the banner of your website.
• Better consistency with directories (citations). This is often called NAP verification (name, address, telephone number). Making sure that the name of the practice, the name of the doctor, address, telephone number, dental degree, etc. are all exactly correct on the major directory sites like Angie’s List, Bing, Yahoo, and Yelp.
The challenge for effective Internet Marketing has become even more difficult. A dental practice needs professional technical advice. I highly recommend TNT Dental. I have been using them for many years. Call Tim Healy at 214-680-1270 and see how he can help.
August 11, 2015
I have long been an advocate for staff to wear name tags with a title. There are many benefits to this. There is a comfort factor for the patient to know your name, and a respect factor for the staff member to be recognized for her skill. Susan – Patient Treatment Coordinator. Laura – Clinical Assistant. Joyce – Dental Hygienist. People always relate better to you when they know your name. It stimulates conversation, and conversation builds relationships. And we all know how easy it is to forget a name, even if we were introduced a mere five minutes ago!
I’d like to bring to your attention a quality resource called Badge America. As with many topics that I blog about, I found out about this company at one of my client visits. Badge America is a small business owned by Rose Marie Branconnier.
The product that I am recommending is a two-sided card that contains the first name, title, AND a picture. The card is very sturdy–not flimsy at all. The card clips to scrubs or a jacket, rather than being pinned to the garment and making a hole. Using two sides makes a lot of sense so that the card is always visible, even if it gets twisted or caught in the folds of a uniform. The cost is only $15 per card. All you need to do to place an order is e-mail a digital photo along with the pertinent information for each employee to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions, you can speak to Rose at 401-766-1816. The delivery is quick–usually within three to five business days.
Just another simple way to distinguish your practice from the competition.
July 27, 2015
Dental partnerships, where two or more doctors own equal or minority/majority interests, are very complicated entities. The legal documentation for a dental partnership routinely runs over 100 pages, and unfortunately the value of these partnerships is often only as secure as the legal language describing them. Over the years, I have witnessed a lot of unhappy professional partnerships. My observations have reinforced the dictum that “one marriage is difficult enough!” There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and I have many clients who are successful with this model . But in general, I am not a big fan of dental partnerships and I believe there are better options.
One of the biggest challenges is how to fairly compensate a partner who becomes disabled and can no longer perform clinical procedures. Death, as they say, is easy. Life insurance policies will pay out the appropriate valuation to the estate of the deceased partner. The surviving partner does not take one dime out of his/her pocket. In the case of disability, however, usually there is the requirement for the healthy partner to buy out the interest of the disabled partner and become the 100% owner of the practice. In order to do this, the healthy doctor does in fact now have to go to the bank and get a loan to cover the buyout. This new debt service will put major stress on a business that is already revenue compromised.
I recently became aware of a great insurance product called Disability Buyout Insurance (DBO). A DBO policy is designed to fund a disability buy/sell agreement. It helps ensure that a professional practice can continue after the total disability of one of the owners or partners. It does this by requiring the disabled partner to sell his or her interest to the remaining owner for an agreed upon price and according to terms defined in the agreement.
I believe that the cost to purchase this type of insurance policy is relatively low considering the massive benefit. A $500,000 DBA policy for a healthy 45 year old costs about $4100/year. Considering that one out of three dentists will be disabled at some point in their career, it provides great peace of mind.
There are many guidelines and specifics for this type of policy, and not all situations will apply.
• The two doctors cannot be more than 15 years apart in age.
• The older partner cannot be more than age 51.
• The partners cannot be husband and wife or father/mother/child.
• The policy will cover siblings.
• The maximum limit of the policy is $2,000,000 with a valuation of no more than 1 X gross collections.
For obvious reasons, this very valuable insurance product does not apply to everyone. But if you think that you might fit into this narrow niche, you should call Tyler DeStefano at 978-907-6002 and get some advice from a real expert.
July 13, 2015
First impressions dominate. And by definition, you never get a second chance to make a great first impression. So I am flabbergasted and certainly underwhelmed by what I often experience when I call a dental office. Here are my suggestions for proper telephone technique that are designed to impress.
1. A real live person should answer the telephone. I hate phone trees! A phone tree is an automated telephone information system that speaks to the caller with a combination of fixed voice menus in real time. The caller can respond by pressing phone keys or speaking words or short phrases. “Please listen closely because our menu options have changed: Press one for the doctor, press two for the hygienist, press three if you are in pain, press four if you are a new patient etc. Many times, after pressing all these buttons, you end up in voicemail anyway. I don’t care about listening to menu options that might have changed. I just want to speak to a real person who can take care of my request right away. When you call Lands’ End or LL Bean, the phone is always answered on the second ring and you speak to a friendly person who is ready to take your order. Why can’t this happen in your practice?
2. When someone answers your phone, please have her announce her name. “Dr. Jones’ office” is not an acceptable greeting. Patients really appreciate knowing to whom they are speaking. I like “Thanks for calling Dr. Jones’ office – this is Melissa”. And “this is Melissa” is said with an intonation that implies “how may I help you?”
3. Answer the telephone over lunch. For many people, the only time that they can call is during lunch. Arrange coverage utilizing all staff members. Pay them their normal hourly rate. But please–teach assistants and hygienists who normally do not answer the telephone the proper way to answer. You don’t want it to sound like the cleaning service is answering your phone.
4. Answer your phone on the weekends. You don’t want to miss these calls. It is very easy to arrange call forwarding to staff cell phones. Staff members should be required to take weekend coverage on a rotating basis and are compensated for their efforts.
5. If you must default to a message machine during normal business hours, please do not say “we will get back to you as soon as possible”. It is much friendlier to say “we promise to return your call within 15 minutes.” And then make sure you do!
6. Never place a person on hold without asking their permission. “Dr. Jones’ office – hold please” is simply not acceptable. If you are on another call, or assisting someone at the desk, simply excuse yourself from the primary conversation. Then answer your telephone with the normal telephone greeting – find out who is calling – tell them you are on another call – and then ask them if they would like to hold or be called back in a few minutes. That entire process will not take longer than 20 seconds. Time it if you don’t believe me.
7. Consider answering services as a possible alternative to an end of the day message machine. There are some good companiesout there that are cost effective. But be sure to do your due diligence and check references.
The telephone is the entryway to your dental practice, and the person answering your phone just might be the most important person in your employ. Exquisite telephone technique is part and parcel of exquisite customer service. You shouldn’t accept anything else.
June 29, 2015
I recently did a survey of current clients asking them what percentage of gross receipts were attributed to credit cards. 35-40% seemed to be the number. Very few patients pay by cash anymore–it’s either a check or credit card. So on a million-dollar practice–certainly a nice practice but nothing unusual these days–that would represent $400,000. The average published processing fee of a credit card company is 3% of the sale. That is the amount the practice pays to the merchant service provider. In this example, that would be $12,000.
But when I examined expense reports to analyze the total amount of processing fees charged to the practice, it was often more than 3% – sometimes between 4 and 4 and 1/2%. Why should that be? There are a number of potential reasons:
• The true costs associated with processing are not disclosed.
• The electronic processing and merchant service industry is mostly unregulated when it comes to billing and sales practices.
• There is an extremely complex and cloudy system by which processing costs are determined.
If your analysis shows similar results, I would strongly suggest that you contact Schooley Mitchell. It is the largest independent payment processing consulting organization in North America. Here is how they work. They monitor your credit card statements on a quarterly basis to identify all of the bogus or seemingly incidental fees that creep in. Fees like interchange rates, dues and assessments, monthly access fees, front end authorization fees and back end capture fees. The cost for the analysis they provide is on a 50% contingency basis: their fees are self funded out of the savings generated from reduced processing expenses. They claim to consistently save their clients 40% if they switch to a new credit card provider or 30% if the client chooses to stay with their existing credit card provider.
Schooley Mitchell has a strong incentive to do a good job. The more they save you, the more money they make. You take no risk. They will either save you money and self fund their fees, or give you a no-cost validation that you are receiving the best overall value for your existing services.
There is another very important reason to revisit your electronic payment processing protocol. In the United States, the migration from magnetic stripe cards to embedded chip cards is underway. The liability for fraudulent transactions is changing along with the switch to chip payment technology. Currently, banks absorb the majority of fraudulent credit card costs. But as of October 2015, if a customer pays for services with a fraudulent chip embedded card–and your practice processes that transaction without a chip embedded terminal–you will be liable for that transaction.
It is a different world out there my friends! Forewarned is forearmed.
June 15, 2015
I was in a client’s office a few weeks ago and I overheard one end of a conversation where someone at the front desk was trying to explain to a patient why there was a $35 charge for a broken appointment. As you can imagine, the conversation did not end well. This relatively inexperienced staff member broke two cardinal rules: never disrespect or disappoint a patient and never use the word “policy” as the explanation or answer to a question. Dentistry could easily qualify as a business where the average lifetime value of a patient is $15,000. How insane is it to lose that patient over a $35 charge for a broken appointment?
The above situation doesn’t happen when the doctor has created an exceptional workplace culture. That means an environment where employees love their work and are empowered to do whatever it takes to please a patient and make them happy. That means an office where the doctor has built a team and not just a group of people that work together.
I recently wrote about how difficult it has become to assemble that team. The value of building that team was reinforced in a recent article in Dentaltown authored by Howard Farran. “When we plot highest net income with all the variables that can be associated with it, we don’t find it related to where you went to school or what institute you did some training at; we find it linked to longevity of the average staff member”. Interesting.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record. You need to do whatever possible to build that team. One of my mentors – the incomparable Seth Godin – says this so eloquently. “Building an extraordinary organization takes guts. The guts to trust the team, to treat them with respect and to go to ridiculous lengths to find, keep, and nurture people who care enough to make a difference”. Amen.
June 1, 2015
Discussions about staff continue to be an ongoing part of practically every monthly meeting or telephone call with my clients. This is not something new, but it seems to be on the rise. Staff performance, staff incentives, bonus plans, job descriptions, complaints, HR issues–the list is endless. Our conversations are happening because of the critical nature of these issues. Building and maintaining a quality, customer-service oriented, loyal, and talented team continues to be the biggest challenge–and a key ingredient–for the establishment and growth of the superb dental practice.
In preparation for this blog post, I re-read an article about staffing that I published in the Spring of 1997 in the Journal of the Massachusetts Dental Society. I had just started my consulting business, and my thoughts for that article were solely based on my 29 years of experience running my own dental practice. To my surprise, there was not much of anything that I would change. But 18 years later–and over 650 dental client relationships later–I realize how much more difficult it is today to mold that perfect staff.
1. Our society has become extremely mobile and transient. In the world of today, both spouses working is the norm and not the exception. If one spouse gets a promotion, it may involve relocation of the entire family unit. So you can lose a great staff member through no fault of your own and you are suddenly back to square one.
2. A competitive benefits package has become quite costly. Healthcare costs have skyrocketed and bear no relationship to inflation. So offering employees a good medical insurance plan is absolutely essential if you hope to attract quality people. Combine that with the costs of pension, vacation pay, holiday pay and sick time/personal days (now often mandated by State employment laws), and you realize that the dollars start to add up.
3. Terminating an under performing employee has become much more complicated. Over the past five to ten years, there has been an exponential increase in the number of lawsuits accusing dentists of harassment, discrimination, and improper firing. This fear of litigation may paralyze the doctor and prevent decisive and necessary actions. There has never been more of a need for an exquisite and well-written office policy manual. There also needs to be a sophisticated understanding of HR issues, especially the necessity for meticulous documentation.
Fortunately, there are some positive to offset these negatives.
1. The power of the Internet is amazing! Google, Facebook and Twitter have made it infinitely easier and quicker to find qualified staff. Our world has become incredibly connected.
2. Doctors can now purchase EPLI insurance and greatly reduce or eliminate the fear of financial ramifications from frivolous employee lawsuits.
Over the years, my favorite ad for finding great employees is what I call an “in your face” ad. It used to be placed in the Classified Ads section of your local newspaper. Now it gets posted to craigslist and you get replies instantly. It is designed to attract the very best people. These people are most likely working in another dental practice in your general area where they no longer feel challenged or appreciated.
” Busy general practice seeking the absolute best dental assistant in the Metrowest area. If your clinical skills, team building skills, and communication skills are not excellent, please do not respond to this ad. This is a full-time position with benefits. Money is no object. Compensation will be commensurate with ability and experience. All resumes will be kept in strictest confidence. E-mail your resume to______________.”
In spite of how difficult team building may seem, please don’t settle for average. Strive to build an exceptional workplace culture in order to attract, motivate, and retain top talent. Culture attracts, culture retains, and culture drives performance.