January 5, 2012
McDonald’s restaurants can teach dental practice managers a lot about marketing. What McDonald’s does better than any other company in the world is systematize. Most of us can immediately see and appreciate the McDonald’s system for product delivery simply by walking up to the counter and placing an order. But did you ever think about their system for marketing? Could they possibly be so successful without systematizing both the food operations and the marketing operations?
The greatest food operations system in the world would go underutilized or fade away without the customers to feed it – that’s why the McDonald’s marketing system is such a critical part of the entire McDonald’s system.
And today marketing in dentistry is more important than ever. The competition is fierce. Large chains and professional groups are becoming bigger every day at the expense of more traditional practices. How do they do this? Mostly with systematic marketing operations that are built to attract new patients just like McDonald’s does to crank out Happy Meals and Quarter Pounders. Most small dental practices just assume they can’t compete against corporate marketers, but that assumption is DEAD WRONG.
You see, if you provide a superior quality of care and patient experience, and if you can find ways to market and advertise that experience so it becomes instantly evident, then you will literally dominant your bigger and less flexible competition.
Now is NOT the time to retract and hide. Quite the contrary, it’s time to educate your community about what to look for when selecting a dentist. It is more important than ever to promote and educate your target audience about you. The best money you can spend right now is that which will generate revenue (ie: new patients). Moreover, although the responsibility for marketing belongs with you the owner, your process should be a systematized business function that can run without you. But the challenge is that most owners/managers know little about marketing and are too busy trying to treat patients AND manage the clinic. If this is the case, and it is for a lot of practice owners, then the choices are simple:
Don’t flush your hard earned money down the toilet.
1. Continue to do what you’re doing and hope that the market will throw you enough crumbs to keep you busy enough to make a living.
2. Hire someone to manage your marketing program – a pretty expensive option, especially if it takes you 6-12 months to find out if they can actually get results.
3. Outsource – hire a company to manage your marketing program, or
4. Do it all yourself.
All four options will work (except # 1) although option number two is significantly more expensive and option four is usually not the core competency of the owner. Option three makes sense if you have a small budget and the company you hire can get you a solid ROI while limiting your direct involvement in the day to day implementation of the marketing process.
Remember the example of McDoanld’s? The key to marketing is to systematize the process by either having an employee do it or an outside company. If you feel you’re able to market the company the best then by all means get out there and sell it, but you will still need help organizing and managing the plan. By systematizing the process, you’ll stop worrying every second (like I used to) about where new patients are coming from. The secret is to monitor the effectiveness of each campaign and make adjustments as necessary.
Most of the conversations I read and hear about in dental practice development world revolve around not having enough new patients, or the inconsistency of new patients. The answer is having a well thought out, cost conscientious, consistent marketing program. In 12 years as a business owner, I have never heard of a dental practice that did not generate a significant amount of new patients with this type of marketing system.
Decide on the right approach for you…Options 1, 2, 3, or 4. Regardless of the option you choose, make sure your marketing plan can be systematized. The more systematized the process, the less stressful it will be for the owner. And last (but not least), remember that as your marketing system matures, the value of your practice will increase exponentially, leaving you with many options when it is time to cash in the chips.
Start simple, systematize, and build enduring practice value with educational, direct response marketing from Dental Growth Strategies.
Trent Wehrhahn is the founder and President of Dental Growth Strategies. With his years of multinational sales and marketing experience with dental offices, he has focused his strengths on marketing solutions for local dental offices just like yours.
At DGS we help you assess where you are at and implement a custom marketing plan that gets results.