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The First Step to a Successful Marketing Campaign: Research

To craft a successful marketing campaign for your practice, you must first conduct some basic research that will start to identify what your marketing plan and promotional pieces will look like and the message they should deliver. The first step in your research is to work out the general mindset and styles that dominate your particular geographic area. Every state, city, town or area has its own mindset and styles that are unique to that place. If you have lived in the area where you practice, chances are you know them well. Additionally, it is smart to check with others from the area to ensure that your opinion agrees with the general consensus. If you are new to the area, ask locals, as they generally have a good idea.

Some examples are provided below to give you an idea of what one might list as the mindset and styles for his/her area.

Example #1:

Mindset: “Slow and steady pace”, “Friendly”, “Easy going”

Style: Earthy. Lots of greens and whites used in colors.

Old fashioned.

Example #2:

Mindset: “Efficient and Professional”, “Friendly”, “Straight to the point”

Style: Modern and Edgy. Lots of blues used in colors.

High-tech.

Next, identify the top three practices in your area and find out how they market themselves. Doing this will enable you to see which marketing approaches have been successful for your area. Looking at your three competitors’ websites is a good start, as well as looking in the Yellow Pages, local newspapers, Valpak/ADVO, etc., to see how they are marketing. Look for which words they are using to sell their services to people, which offers they are advancing and what their designs look like.

The next step is to identify the successful campaigns or promotional pieces you have created and used thus far. You need to look for any promotional pieces, slogans, brochures, ads, internal marketing campaigns, discounts and word-of-mouth success that resulted in notable increases in delivery. Again, pay attention to the words that were used, the offers that were put forward and the visual impact of the design. It is also good to consider the general demographics of your area. A good website that provides this information for free is: http://www.city-data.com. Gathering this data should enable you to get a good idea of both what worked for you and what works for other similar professionals in your area. It also provides you with a general impression of what people in your area like and will respond to.

This basic homework will provide you with a foundation of information that can be used as you work out new marketing campaigns, whether internal or external.

Fill out the form on this page to read the rest of this article and find out the second step in crafting a successful marketing campaign. (highly recommended). Click to scroll to the top of the page.

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Your Responsibility to Your Staff

Just as your staff has responsibilities to you and your practice, you likewise have several responsibilities to your practice and staff.

The complexity of active leadership can be best understood by breaking it down into its essential and integral parts:

1. Communication: It is vital for the owner of a practice to maintain excellent communication with his/her staff and to provide active and visible leadership. The following are key elements involving communication that you, as an executive, should implement:

a. Communication of Goals.
Determine the purpose of your practice (most often presented in the form of a mission statement) and communicate that to your staff. Impart the goals of the practice to the staff and keep them informed of the projects that you intend to implement to achieve those goals. The better informed your staff is and the greater understanding they have of such matters, the more likely they will be working in tandem with you.
b. Communication Tools.
There are some fundamental communication tools to implement in the practice; see to it that your staff uses them. These tools can be established and maintained by your office manager; but, as the senior executive and leader of the practice, you must reinforce them. Examples of those tools are: written requests or proposals, written office communications, written office policies and the use of an effective communication relay system.
c. Responding to Communication.
It is vital that you and your staff respond swiftly to written communication. When people do not receive a reply to their memos or emails within an appropriate and reasonable period of time, thereafter they become less willing to communicate. As a result, the business can have more problems on its hands. (Keep that in mind when reading the second part of this article.

2. Staff Meetings: It is also vital that you ensure that the practice holds staff meetings once per week. This is one of the most valuable opportunities available to you for educating staff, setting goals and targets, and handling problem areas that should be addressed by the staff as a whole. The communication lines within the business will strengthen considerably too.

You, as the owner and leader, in addition to your office manager, should continually strive to establish strong coordination and leadership for your staff. Any problems or disagreements between the owner and office manager should always be sorted out OUTSIDE of the staff meeting and should never be addressed in the presence of any staff.

Staff meetings run most effectively if the owner and office manager meet prior to the staff meeting to plan and coordinate those matters to be addressed with the staff.

Fill out the form on this page to read the rest of this article and find out why writing and implementing Policy in your practice, as well as setting Goals and Targets successfully, is so vital to achieving expansion. (highly recommended). Click to scroll to the top of the page.

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Looking Toward the Future: How to Make Your Practice Salable

If you are a practice owner, you should know that, in most cases, getting in is easier than getting out. That is, exiting a practice is often more difficult than building it. Exiting is a process, not an event, that should be planned far in advance of the day you turn the keys over to someone else.

The factors that make your practice salable include a good management team, steady profits, patient/client loyalty, a solid reputation, predictable transferability and much more.

With these factors in mind, let’s look closely at ten vital actions that you should take NOW, so that when the time arrives, you will have developed a truly marketable and valuable practice.

  1. MAINTAIN STRONG REFERRAL SOURCES

Professional relationships add tremendous value to a practice. Do professionals in your community routinely refer their patients/clients to you? If so, are those relationships so strong that you can bridge them over to a new owner?

For example, if you have several professionals who reliably refer a significant number of patients/clients to you, you would want to ensure that those referral sources will continue to send patients/clients to the new owner. Otherwise, your prospective buyer might want to factor in a sale price reduction that takes into account the loss of the projected income represented by those referral sources.

Most professionals will continue to refer to the practice after your departure, as long as they are assured that the clients/patients they refer will receive the same good care that you currently provide them. It is also important for your referral sources to know that the new owner will reciprocate with referrals to them (if that is the type of relationship you currently have).

Maintaining your referral relationships and then transferring them to a new owner during transition will help your patients/clients too. By doing so, you maintain both continuity and quality of care for them, and that fosters tremendous goodwill.

  1. MAINTAIN FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT

Generally speaking, people are inclined to pay more for something if it looks attractive. The same principle applies when buying a practice. If your facilities are pleasing to the eye, you might be able to command a higher price. While a clean carpet is only just that, it might demonstrate to the buyer that every aspect of your facility and practice is probably well maintained.

Well-maintained, state-of-the-art equipment also speaks well of you. It says that you have a growing practice that is keeping in step with technology.

  1. INCREASE YOUR GROSS SALES

The best indicator of the value of a practice is its cash flow. Your successor will want assurance that he is acquiring a reliable income stream. Now is the time to concentrate on reactivation of old patients/clients, increasing your marketing budget to attract new patients/clients, setting goals for the staff and moving the practice toward maximum productivity.

  1. IMPROVE YOUR BOOKKEEPING RECORDS

Part of selling a practice requires that you develop and present an accurate picture of what you have accomplished. In order to command the best possible price, you must be able to prove that the practice is highly profitable.

Plan to have at least five years’ worth of strong financials as the buyer wants predictability. Have an accountant prepare “compiled statements.” That lends credibility. The practice buyer will want well-maintained, accurate accounting records to help with future planning. Additionally, thorough records can even help you explain a slump period.

  1. DECREASE OVERHEAD EXPENSES

Analyze your payroll, department by department, function by function, employee by employee. If personnel are underutilized, eliminate a job position and reassign its duties to other employees.

Improve your bookkeeping procedures so that you can readily and accurately track your expenses and potentially cut them. Eliminate nonessential monthly expenses, taking care not to hinder expansion activities. Keep a close eye on your discretionary expenditures, such as advertising, travel, new equipment, seminars, utilities, telephone, etc. By decreasing the overhead of the practice, you will consequently improve cash flow and thus be likely to sell your practice for a higher price. You gain a tremendous amount of control by just knowing where your money is coming from and where it is going.

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Optimize Your Marketing

In today’s economic climate a great deal can be said for the benefits of marketing effectively. There are many mediums for marketing a practice – referrals from existing patients/clients are normally the best and most cost effective means of getting new patients/clients. External marketing, such as the Internet, business directories, new resident mailings, bus benches, and even the local newspaper, radio and TV, has worked for some. Some form of one or more of these has proven to be successful in various markets, but not all of them are effective in all markets. Given all this, it is vitally important to know how your new patients/clients are finding out about you, and based on this, you should focus your marketing dollars in the most effective areas.

This brings up the topic of this Hot Tip.

Somewhere on your new patient/client form there should be a little line that says, “How did you find out about our practice?” If you don’t have this line on your new patient/client form, you should institute it right away. Some offices have little check boxes that mention their various marketing activities, and others just offer a blank line to be filled in. However you do it, the purpose of this is for your new patients/clients to tell you which of your marketing tools have been most effective. This is vital information for your promotional and marketing activities, only as long as you do something with it. Unfortunately, many doctors don’t use this information properly.

In fact, the last poll taken in our online journal “The Practice Solutions Magazine”, showed that 54% of those responding said that they “did nothing” with the information that they got from this question on their forms. At the same time, our current poll shows 43% stating that they are increasing the amount of marketing they are doing currently. The poll data seems to support that “marketing for new patients/clients” is important to practice owners but the importance of tracking effectiveness of marketing seems to be missing.

Let’s take up effectiveness of marketing as a running theme and discover how it might be used. A simple starting point would be to actually use the data you have already gathered by doing a quick breakdown of where your new patients/clients came from for the past 6 to 12 months. Assign your front desk person the task of reviewing the files of all your new patients/clients and tabulate their responses to the question concerning what brought them to your office. Once the tabulation is done, have this staff member provide you with a summary of this information – i.e. “45% came from referrals, 20% came from new resident mailings, 10% from Yellow Pages ad, etc.” Use the results from this summary and locate the area(s) that seem to be providing you with the most new patients/clients. Do not be surprised if “referred by a friend or relative” shows up as the number one item – in fact you should be surprised if it doesn’t.

At this point, inspect your marketing budget. How much do you spend to make sure people know how to find your practice? How much are you spending on ads and how many new patients/clients came from that? What kind of materials do you have to stimulate referrals? Examine each area that you are spending your marketing dollars on and what your return is on those dollars. While taking into account the cost effectiveness of each activity, you’ll want to invest more heavily in the area(s) that are giving you the most return. For example, if “referrals” is your number one draw, and the local radio ad is not producing much, how can you shift your advertising dollars into more support activities for referrals? As an example, creating a “Refer a friend or family member” card might be one way to start.

To summarize:

  1. have a means to know where your new patients/clients are coming from;
  2. don’t ignore this data – tabulate and evaluate the information;
  3. invest your marketing budget in the most effective areas based upon the data you gather;
  4. regularly re-assess this information and adjust your marketing plans and investments accordingly.

If you do the above regularly and religiously, you’ll find a steady increase of new patients/clients coming in your door. The first priority is always to strengthen the area that is working best, before looking to add additional avenues.

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We offer any practice owner the opportunity to receive one of the below gifts in exchange for a 15 minute, anonymous phone survey (at the date and time of your choice) that will assist upcoming publications by The Practice Solution Magazine. As always, we are very grateful for your help in making our publications better.

  • Phone Consultation (1 hour) on a management topic of your choice. Subjects include: staff management, hiring, marketing, financial issues, how to set fees, increasing net profit etc.
  • Comprehensive website marketing analysis.
  • Job Description Pack – Practice Owners (Valued at $129 – for an additional 15 minutes phone survey)
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Get Your Promotion Organized: A Promotion and Marketing Calendar – Part 1

Have you ever noticed that you have all sorts of great marketing and promotional ideas that you just never seem to put into action?

Do you realize during a staff meeting that those brilliant ideas that captured everyone’s attention and agreement in the previous meeting haven’t even been thought of again until just now?

Have you ever come to the end of a month and realized only then that you didn’t get around to doing much marketing or promotion at all? If so, you’re not alone!

While the specific reasons for failure to successfully carry out promotional actions vary from one practice to another, the most common cause is simply the failure to write them down on a marketing calendar designed to pinpoint what actions will be taken…and when.

A Promotion and Marketing Calendar is a potent, yet uncomplicated, tool.

It designates and specifies those agreed-upon activities which, when performed by the staff, will bolster the flow of new patients/clients into the practice.

By logging an idea on the calendar when it is conceived, it becomes concrete, agreed-upon, predicted, planned for, etc. The calendar helps to maintain control and structure in the Promotion Department and acts as a communication tool for the rest of the staff, as it is there in writing for all to see.

The Director of Promotion (if you don’t have one, get one) would be in charge of seeing to it that all pertinent information is entered on the promotion calendar. He would bring it to the staff meeting each week and review those activities and events that are either in progress or being planned.

The promotion and marketing of the practice is an ongoing activity.

The marketing calendar should be kept full of activities for at least 6 months ahead so that the practice always has some type of promotional actions occurring.

The items on the marketing calendar could include, but would not be limited to, such things as:

  • Open Houses
  • Client/Patient Appreciation Day (Week or Month)
  • Direct Mail Out projects
  • Newsletter preparation and distribution
  • Special days and PR functions for that day (e.g. Valentine’s Day, Grandparents Day, Secretaries’ Day, etc.)
  • Dental Health Month (and associated plans, projects)
  • National Pet Month
  • Educational Letter Series production and distribution schedule
  • Reminders to the staff to stimulate referrals
  • Staff games for activities such as prospecting and referrals

Click here to fill out the form and receive specifics on the TYPE of calendar to use and HOW to use it to ensure your marketing gets DONE (highly recommended).

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Marketing and Promotion Ideas for Your Practice

In my nearly 23 years of delivering practice management training and consulting, I’ve found that of all of the marketing techniques available, properly asking for referrals is easily one of the most useful marketing and promotional ideas for your practice. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It is the least expensive. You don’t have to create and buy ads, make newsletters, send mailings, etc.
  2. It is something that you can directly affect on an ongoing daily basis and see and monitor the results without much time lapse.
  3. It is something that you can train all of your staff to do. You can create reward systems to enhance the staff to do more of it.
  4. You can, more than any other way, attract the type of patient/client that you want. If you analyze the patients/clients in your practice, you can quickly isolate those who are the most cooperative, financially secure and the most fun to have around. These people will, by referral, bring in similar types of new patients.

The whole trick to getting referrals is nothing more complicated than ASK FOR THEM. This can and should be done as a coordinated team effort by all staff. There are many successful actions that you can implement in order to accomplish this.

To get referrals, first, determine which patient/client will be approached. A quick staff meeting at the start of the day can identify patients/clients who’ve had great results and are very happy with their service. Those satisfied people are the ones that you would want to approach. Next, determine who will talk with one of these people. It may likely be the receptionist who will be talking with the person after their appointment. Lastly, work out a simple script that can be used and have a card ready to give out to the person that they can then give to their referral.

Other Marketing Ideas

The following is a list of other successful actions that you can do to promote your practice and get new patients. They are all very inexpensive and easy to do:

  • Ask for referrals!
  • Ask for referrals!
  • Ask for referrals! (ok, point made).
  • Send patients birthday cards.
  • Send out a quarterly newsletter that educates patients.
  • Put up a new patients/clients welcome board in the reception room.
  • Put up a “Thank you for referring” board in reception listing out the patients/clients who referred new patients to the practice.
  • Send thank you letters to every patient/client who referred anyone into the practice.
  • Reward referring patients/clients by sending them to dinner, the movies, etc.
  • Provide a staff reward for generating referrals.
  • The doctor and staff should hand out business cards anywhere and everywhere that is appropriate.
  • Post your practice mission statement in your reception room.
  • Make post-care calls to patients/clients to ensure that they are doing well. This shows you really care.
  • Give tours of the office to school children.
  • Offer family discounts for cash patients.
  • Put up educational posters in all treatment rooms or areas to educate patients about the health care you deliver.
  • Have TV monitors with educational videos that are on a continuous playback loop showing in reception and/or treatment rooms.
  • Have a patient/client appreciation month.
  • Participate in health fairs.
  • Give brisk service with lots of care and affinity.
  • Have all staff who are on the phone always “smile on the phone.”
  • Stay in good communication with any patient or client who is waiting – never let them just sit in silence for any long period.
  • Never make patients/clients wait. Deliver on time.
  • Call your patients/clients by name.
  • Develop a logo and place it in every possible place you can – letterhead, newsletter, business cards, posters, etc.
  • Call patients/clients 2 weeks and then 2 days prior to recall appointments.
  • Confirm appointments the day before.
  • Have simple informational pamphlets. Create your own if you have to.
  • Make follow-up calls after sending a postcard mailer.
  • Use over oversized or odd-sized business cards. People will notice and remember them more than a normal card.
  • Take photos of happy patients and clients and place them on the bulletin board.
  • Have the doctor write a column for a local newspaper or other publication addressing issues within your profession.
  • Share successful results of patient delivery with your staff.
  • Once per year, offer 10% off for payment in full on all old accounts receivables.

All of the above actions will cost you very little up front and will generate the highest quality patients for your practice. Put these into place and you will see your new patient numbers not only increase, but the quality of your patient base will increase.

If you would like no-cost, no-commitment tips on how to effectively implement this information into my practice, fill out the form to the right, and we will be more than happy to assist you.

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Strengthen Your Appointment Control

Minimize Cancellations

Cancellations and missed appointments are one of the biggest frustrations in any practice and result in lowered production and lost revenue. Cancellations and missed appointments are typically symptoms of other underlying problems. This may be a nonverbal way that the person is telling you that he or she is not satisfied with the service received.

Shown below are some suggestions to help reduce no-shows, cancellations and reschedules. The first key to controlling appointment compliance and smooth patient or client flow is for the receptionist to fully understand that the appointment book has been placed in their hands, and they are fully responsible for its handling. The following points will help the receptionist perform their duties in this regard:

  • Ensure that you are fully aware of what the appointment policies of the practice are, and see to it that you are trained to apply those procedures.
  • Utilize your “General Policy” statement to educate patients or clients on the necessity of keeping their appointments.
  • You must have the honest and genuine attitude that you really care about this person, and you know why it is important for them to set and keep their appointment for their recommended care. You must be committed to good health and good service for the patient or client, and know that the appointment for the recommended treatment is necessary. Fully communicate this attitude with the person that you are talking to, especially when setting appointments.
  • Always call any patient or client immediately if they do not arrive within 15 minutes of the scheduled appointment. Find out from the person if something is wrong that caused him or her to miss the appointment. Convey a caring “time is valuable” attitude to the person, and let them know that you want to work with them to ensure that they can make it in.
  • When a patient or client calls to cancel, investigate diplomatically to discover the real reason why they are canceling. Many times you’ll find it is a financial consideration, or a lack of understanding about why they need the recommended care.
  • Really listen to what they are saying to you. In this way you will be able to work with the person to help resolve the real underlying problem. Never assume you know what the problem is. Work with your patients or clients to remove the barriers that are preventing them from adhering to the scheduled appointments. When you have found the real reason for the cancellation, you then must handle it so that the person does, in fact, keep the appointment.

Fill out the form to the right to continue to read this article: “Strengthen Your Appointment Control – Part II” (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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The Key to Effective Marketing: Surveys

Surveys can save you time and wasted effort. By properly utilizing surveys, you will not be shooting in the dark when you implement a new idea. You will not be left wondering why people are not coming back to your practice. You will know what your public needs and wants, so you can provide exactly that.

Have you ever come up with a “great” new idea, implemented it, and when nothing significant or productive occurred as a result, found yourself tearing out your hair wondering what went wrong? Or even worse, tearing out the hair of your staff because “new patients are down!”

Have you pondered over why new patients have dropped off even though you’re doing the same things that you have always done? It might be possible that the things you and others have been doing for many years are no longer effective. These scenarios are likely due to a failure to survey.

There are answers to marketing problems that you simply cannot procure from any source other than your clients/patients themselves. The motto in marketing is “know before you go,” if you don’t “know,” what the problem is, your patient surveys will tell you where to “go”.

Constructing the Survey

Although surveys will vary from practice to practice, there are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Indicate to your patient why you are doing a survey, and thank them for participating.
  2. Ask only relevant questions in your survey. Restrict your questions to important factors that will actually tell you if what you are doing is effective, or actions you can change for the better.
  3. Keep the survey brief. Write the survey so that it takes no more than 3-5 minutes to complete. If the survey is too long, your patients may feel annoyed, overburdened, bored or will not respond.
  4. Construct a survey that asks for specific answers. Create questions that provide you with information rather than having only “yes” or “no” answers.
  5. Allow patients the option to remain anonymous if they so choose.
  6. Provide a way for them to receive a response to their questions or input if they desire.
  7. If appropriate, set a deadline for the receipt of the surveys. Tell participants why you have a deadline and when it is.
  8. Graciously thank your patients for taking their time to fill out the survey.
  9. For mail-out surveys, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Recipients will be much more likely to send it back to you.

Fill out the form to the right and receive “The Key to Effective Marketing: Surveys – Part II” (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Search Engine Marketing –

Why Does SEO Matter More In a “Down Economy?’

By Lisa Thayer, GoldfishNetwork.com

The question on many business owners’ minds today is “How should I market my company given the current state of the economy?” The short answer is by placing your marketing dollars in client specific, targeted advertising campaigns that have a built in accountability for measuring results.

In uncertain times, a business owner’s first reaction may be to reduce their overall marketing and advertising budget as part of a “batten down the hatches” mentality. That reaction is prevalent among companies that have experienced some reduction in business lately whether due to “the economy” or for a multitude of other reasons. While that response may give your CFO temporary anxiety reduction, before you know it she’ll be pestering you about declining sales figures.

Now is the time to step back, take a deep breath and make decisive, informed business decisions and steadfastly refuse to respond emotionally to the nightly news. Review both online and offline marketing endeavors looking for those that produce the best return on investment.

Search engine marketing can often produce a better ROI than many offline marketing endeavors due to the fact that spending can be controlled, results can be measured and you can easily make incremental changes to adapt to conditions as they continue to fluctuate. Online marketing also works for you 24/7 without accruing additional payroll expense.

If you stay the course, you may even be able to spot new opportunities and actually capture a larger segment of your market as others react instead of methodically planning a marketing strategy.

The best way to achieve optimal results online is to first have a qualified search engine professional review your website. It doesn’t do you any good to spend money to drive thousands of people to your website if once they arrive on your site the visitors don’t have a compelling reason to do business with you.

When it comes to search engine optimization and marketing “one size does not fit all”.
A good SEO review should advise you in creating “calls to action”, help to solidify your unique selling proposition, present solutions to rectify any design or usability issues, and even identify areas of weakness in your competition.

Once the SEO review is complete, you will be able target your specific customers and therefore be able to maximize your efforts and reduce your ad spend.

Lisa Thayer is owner of GoldfishNetwork.com, a website design and marketing company located just south of Portland, Oregon. GoldfishNetwork.com serves clients in 12 states across the United States. Lisa can be reached at (503) 783-0440 or by e-mail: Lisa@GoldfishNetwork.com