There is no doubt that the dental practice landscape has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years, and we are seeing this shift continue as changes to contracts, authorities and organisations affect the way we perceive and run practices. Parallel to the developments in the way dentistry is governed and managed there has been a dramatic increase in competition between surgeries, both locally and nationally. This has caused the emphasis to move more towards viewing a practice as a business, with attention given to its profitability and commerciality.
As such, the business model for a dental practice is wholly unrecognisable from that which we would have been accustomed 3 years ago, let alone to 20. Not only that, but the dentistry on offer is entirely different too. Technology has moved forward at such a pace that complex procedures that would have been either prohibitively expensive or logistically impossible are now a part of the everyday provision. As well as this the demands on a practitioner, from maintaining levels of CPD to managing staff, and the increased amount of paperwork, have snowballed, leaving very little time to consider the well-being and direction of a business.
Dentists are therefore finding themselves pushed and pulled in many directions, with their focus spread increasingly thinly over an array of equally significant issues. In such circumstances it is all too easy for one issue to take a backseat or be neglected altogether and unfortunately, more often than not, it is the marketing of a practice that suffers. This will of course have disastrous repercussions, as the reality is that marketing is just as relevant to dentistry as it is to any other business. Every practice needs to promote itself and the services it provides to ensure a steady stream of new patients. But knowing you need to make a change with your marketing and actually understanding how to do so can be two entirely different problems.
The knee-jerk reaction can be to adopt a scattergun approach, aiming everything at everyone. However, this can be an expensive and potentially pointless exercise. Closely considered and targeted tactics are much more effective in ensuring the right messages are sent to the right people. To create a successful marketing strategy for your practice, it helps to follow a tried and tested formula. The much discussed seven-step principle known as ‘lifecycle marketing’, effectively encapsulates the process of attracting new patients and retaining them by building and developing long-term relationships.
A customer centric strategy, founded on the idea of sending the right message at exactly the right time, lifecycle marketing combines CRM, e-commerce, social media and email marketing into an online system for converting leads into customers and growing sales. It utilises sophisticated email campaigns that treat each recipient individually, taking into account their level of interest in a product or service on offer. For instance, a simple exercise of splitting email recipients into three categories such as interested prospects, current patients and lapsed patients, will allow you to approach your interactions in three distinct ways, tailoring your communication to suit.
Four Main Practice Types
Across the profession, in line with the developments discussed earlier, we now see four distinct practice types emerge, each with its own identifiable set of challenges and opportunities. But whatever your practice type, adopting lifecycle marketing will help you to develop and grow your business and there are specific benefits for each category.
NHS - The primary benefit for an NHS dentist will be in the automation of the patient system and the improved efficiency of the business model – this will lead to fewer missed appointments, less time spent chasing customers and more repeat appointments.
Private - For a private practice it will revolutionise the way the dental team works, enhancing practice turnover and profitability by growing the amount of time spent performing the right treatments and increasing the uptake of elective procedures.
Mixed NHS and Private – A mixed practice will see all the benefits the purely private dentist will see, but most importantly, adopting lifecycle marketing will help to accelerate the acquisition of more private clients.
Dentist Entrepreneur (multiple practices) – The benefits for a dentist running multiple practices is the ability to automatically scale their lead generation, conversion and upsell, whilst also generating a greater consistency of service between practices AND much more efficient use of the team’s time.
No matter your practice type, the aim of your marketing will always be to increase sales and profitability. By adopting the techniques of lifecycle marketing this mission will be made far more achievable thanks to the provision of clear structures and methods for meeting new patients and expanding your clinical reach. By embracing solutions designed, customised and put together for you by the experts, you can save precious time and money without compromising the results. Working with 7connections and software giant Infusionsoft, for example, you can implement effective strategies and fresh ideas with ease.
Dentistry has certainly changed over the last two decades, but that doesn't mean your practice has to be left behind. Make sure you are able to remain competitive by ensuring your marketing is up to scratch. If your practice is feeling its age and in need of greater profitability, client retention, and lead conversions, then you need lifecycle marketing in your business.