We are a group of Dental Consultants who offer, improved practice morale; a happier, more profitable patient base;and improved home life; increased collections. (And yes, our average is 35% in year one.)

Follow by Email

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thinking Errors that may be Destroying Your Office

Part 1 of 3

Thinking errors are thoughts and ideas that result from our inaccurate perception of reality. However, when we use thinking errors we are doing so on purpose. We use thinking errors in order to avoid taking responsibility for many different reasons. We actually convince ourselves that we are being honest and truthful when in actuality we are desperately trying to get out of, avoid, defend, and justify our negative thoughts and behaviors.

When you are finished reading over the following 40 thinking errors:
            1. List all of the most common ones you use.
            2. Break them down into your top ten and list them on the pages provided.
            3. Then write a personal example of how you use it and two ways that you can change this thought pattern.

1.  Anger:
This anger is not real. Rather it is used to control and manipulate others. When confronted, outrage, anger, etc., are expressed to divert attention to that instead of the original behavior.

Example:  Tantrums, aggression, retaliation and blaming.
Payoff:  The anger instead of the behavior takes center stage. The behavior that you did does not get addressed.
Consequence:  You alienate people from wanting to be near you because they don’t want to deal with you.

2.  Avoidance:
This is the belief that it is easier to avoid life’s difficulties than to deal with them. Avoidance is a way out of your obligations without having to say you will not be responsible for these things. Procrastination is a form of avoidance.

Example:  I’m going to make those calls as soon as I finish organizing my desk.
Payoff:  You do not have to take responsibility for being irresponsible.
Consequence:  You are irresponsible. People lose trust in you.

3.  Awfulizing:
This is the belief that it is unbearable when things do not go as you want them to. Anything that takes effort is awful. If something is awful you have the right to not bear it and to act out in any way that you want.

Example:  I’m unhappy with the way the schedule goes each day and let everyone know, including patients.
Payoff: You do not have to deal with anything that you label as awful. You do not have to be uncomfortable.
Consequences:  People avoid you because you complain so much.

4.  Binocular Trick:
You magnify or exaggerate the importance of positive qualities or events connected to other people and minimize your own attributes and/or achievements. You may do this for one of two reasons:
1.  To reinforce your internalized shame
2.  To awfulize your circumstances so that you can play the victim.

Example:  I really want to go to hygiene school, but I really can’t afford it.
Payoff:  You provide evidence to reinforce your descent into victim stance.

5.  Closed Channel:
One of the key tactics you employ to avoid change. An open channel is essential to good communication. Open channels have three components:
1) Self-disclosure                    2) Receptivity to feedback                 3) Self-criticism

Example:  Given your uniqueness you do not have to listen to what those “lesser” people have to say. You are perfect and any mistakes you make are really someone else’s fault.
Payoff:  You can keep doing what you want to.

6.  Denial:
A defense mechanism which we use to protect us from painful aspects of ourselves, others, and/or reality. Denial can be conscious or unconscious.

Example:  I didn’t forget to file the x-rays. I gave them to someone else to take care of.
Payoff:  You do not have to come to terms with things you do not like since they do not exist. You do not have to solve problems.
Consequence:  Molehills turn into mountains.

7.  Drama/Excitement:
The person using this thinking error will often describe things in a way to build them up in order to sound powerful or “cool” to others.

Payoff:  Attention, control.
Consequence:  You end up living in a fantasy world.

8.  Emotional Reasoning:
You assume that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are.

Example:  I feel that Mrs. Jones doesn’t like me working with her.  (I feel, therefore, it must be true.)
Payoff:  You do not have to think things through or look at the possibility that your feelings may be based on inaccurate information.
Consequence:  You make a lot of bad decisions, which are based on false information.

9.  Entitlement:
Since you have suffered you are entitled to be paid back by life. Everything should be easy for you.

Example:  You can’t believe it when the doctor gave you a written warning for being late; after all he/she knew you have an old car that breaks down often.
Payoff:  You are not obligated to anyone other than yourself.
Consequence:  Your selfish behavior alienates others.

10.  Externalization:
The belief that external events cause all human suffering and that you must control all events before your life can be better.  Your moods are controlled by other people’s actions and external events.

Example:  You are depressed because it is raining.
Payoff:  You are a victim of circumstance and until circumstances change, you do not have to do anything to help yourself.
Consequence:  You never change.  You do not see yourself as having any control over your life.

If you would like more information, please contact us at info.saltdpm.com

This is an original lesson by Salt Dental Practice Management

Monday, May 28, 2012

Where has all the Yellow gone?

 Picture By: Blaine Parker

 If  phone books are no longer used, how does your business advertise its services? Let's face it, we are in the technology age. This photo is truly worth 1000 words.  Yellow books are a thing of the past, as more people use the Internet to find what they are looking for.  Can they find your business? 
            It has never been more important for your office to have an online presence. You must be easily located  by patients when they search for you. You can get your name out there by having a website, using Facebook, or by being a part of professional sites such as Linkin and Google +.  
            Different types of patients go online looking for a variety of things.  Some patients are looking to connect with you outside the normal business day, while other patients are looking for reviews, and to learn more about your services.  No matter what your patients are looking for, they aren’t looking for it in the hard copy of the yellow pages.  The stronger and bigger your presence is on line, the better chance you have that patients won’t leave your "business card" on a table waiting for the janitor to trash it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Salt DPM does everything differently

You may have noticed we don't lead with titles. Here's why:
  • Each of these team members is a top performer whose abilities supersede any title
  • There will be times when two or more of us will consult on your business--whether you're aware of it or not
  • It's impossible to reflect everything each person here brings to the party in a two- or three-word title. (Know that we do actually have titles. We tend to pull them out only when we want to impress our families.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Six Seconds To Connect: Part 2 of 2

 Austine Etcheverry
Media Specialist
Part 2 of 2

 A few key factors:
Pitch:  Is the sound of the voice.  Is it too high or too low?  Pitch can also give away our emotions. If we speak in a high tone, it might tell patients we are stressed.
Tone:  At some point we have all probably been told, “Not to take that tone of voice.” It is usually said when are getting snippy with someone.  Tone can set the mood for the rest of the phone conversation.
Volume: How loud is the speaker? Can you hear the words clearly or are they speaking too low.  Keep your volume appropriate for the situation. 
Cadence: Is the rate and rhythm of the voice.  Does your receptionist speak loud and fast, or soft and slow? Or do they speak at an even rate that delivers the message effectively and efficiently?
Breathe control:  Breath control is a yoga technique that is used to control breathing in difficult poses.  It is related your physical condition and posture.  Sitting up straight will help with overall breath control.  Breathing correctly can also help decrease your stress level.   
Pronunciation: A clear, complete message allows the patient to get the information and facts they need.  How certain words are pronounced can change the meaning of the message. 
Before any sporting event, practice occurs.   Warming up the voice before you answer calls for the day can improve your pronunciation, voice quality and clarity in speaking.  Although, most of us have been communicating for years that does not be mean we don’t need practice. 
Let’s face it stress is a part of our everyday world and that strain is relayed in our voices more then we know.  Part of giving the right image to customers is keeping that pressure from impacting our telephone voice.  If individuals in your office are feeling stressed, your patients may be also feeling it every time they call.  Not the message you wish to send.  Managing the tension in our own voice will help build a relationship between your patients and the entire office. 
Encourage your receptionist, to stand frequently to stretch their legs.  Or have them take a break to imagine their favorite vacation spot, especially after they've taken an angry call from a patient. At the end of a heated call, have them take a step back, breathe deep and then answer the next call.   Remember it is not that patient’s fault the last one was upset. 
                            Helpful tips:
1. Always answer the telephone with a smile.  A smile is warm, welcoming and inviting.  People, who smile, pass on a smile to those around them.  When someone calls your office if they are upset, the situation can be diffused before the conversation begins just by answering the phone with a smile in your voice. 
2. Use a comforting tone.  People may have past fear or feel anxious about setting up an appointment or calling the office.  Those fears can be extinguished when they call for the appointment and feel the voice behind the phone is soothing.  If the tone is rushed or harsh, patients may come away with the opinion that your office is full of people who will not take the time to be supportive or won’t listen to their concerns.  A phone call can become quickly heated if the person on the other end feels they are not being listened to or understood.
3. Use an appropriate volume.  If you talk too loud on the phone, patients may not be able to wait to get off the phone with you and may not want to call back.  Likewise, if you talk too soft, they may wonder if you are confident and able to take care of their needs.  Your volume can make people uncomfortable. 
4. Be clear and enunciate the words.  People are busy, so chances are when they called your office they aren’t sitting down in a quiet setting with nothing else going on.  You can’t afford for your message and voice to get lost among the background noises of their life.  Studies suggest people tend to rush middle sounds and drop ending sounds when they are communicating with others.  Being aware of this can help anyone who answers the phone in your office to communicate more effectively and efficiently.
We have all heard the age-old saying, “practice makes perfect.”  This is a case where practice can and always should be done to improve the verbal messages your office is sending to others.  Today, people can go to a hundred different dentists, but can you afford to lose one patient because of bad phone etiquette?   What will your office accomplish in the first six seconds of the next incoming phone call?

Austine Etcheverry is a coach with Salt Dental Practice Management. Savor success and learn more at www.saltdpm.com or contact her at info@saltdpm.com
This article was originally published by Tri-County Dental Society Bulletin 
Follow us on Facebook

Monday, May 21, 2012

Six Seconds To Connect

 Austine Etcheverry
         Salt DPM
    Media Specialist
         Part 1 of 2

When a phone is answered in your office you have six seconds to make an impression.  How many times have you called a business and hung up feeling frustrated or angry? Let’s face it, in our busy world, our reputation can be damaged or are patient base increased based solely on phone etiquette.   In everyday communication we rely on nonverbal signals to help us navigate what a patient might be telling us, likewise when a patient shows up and is angry, our head nod may be enough to tell the patient we care.  Telephone conversations make non-verbal communication obsolete, therefore increasing the importance of ones ability to verbally communicate. 

When your receptionist answers the telephone, are they perceived as being happy? Excited to be at work? Do they use a confident, comforting, "I’m here to help you" voice? Or do they give the feeling of, “I’m tired, over-worked, over stressed and ready to hit the five o’clock rush hour because that would be better than being at my job?”
How the receptionist answers your phone makes a direct impact on your patients, and first impressions are the most important.  How patients view that phone call is every bit as important as the message given. Customer service is your key to maintaining and keeping patients coming in the door.  While your patients might call for a variety of reasons, the feeling they have when they hang up will be the message they pass onto friends and family.  

Recently I had the privilege of pre-screening for an entry-level front desk position for a client.  The first call I made I enthusiastically dialed the phone number. When the person on the other end answered, "Hello," I thought, wow, pleasant voice, but no smile. I informed her that I was pre-screening for a position she'd applied for and asked if she had a few moments to answer some questions. Her response was, "Yeah." The immediate mental image I had was of a young girl, whom clearly did not understand the importance of the call.  I had spoken to her for less than six seconds.  Continuing the interview, I asked her to describe her current position.  "Front and back office work.” The message is clear, she’s short, to the point, and probably won’t spend time with patients explaining the process they may go through, or be comforting when they have a problem.  Next I asked her how her current employer would describe her personality. I held back a chuckle when she told me, “out-going.”   Out-going was not at all the feeling I had while talking to her on the phone.  She was quickly placed in the, “no” pile. 

So, what goes into communication to help set the tone and how can you work with your team to improve the office’s phone etiquette?  Start by listening to your team throughout the day as they are answering the telephone. Use a checklist to evaluate the tone, pitch of their voice, and the impact you were left with after they hung up.  This will help you to determine where to go from there.  Go to http://www.saltdpm.com for a downloadable checklist.

Austine Etcheverry is a coach with Salt Dental Practice Management. Savor success and learn more at www.saltdpm.com or contact her at info@saltdpm.com.  Article originally published by

This article was originally published by Tri-County Dental Society Bulletin
Follow us on facebook

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Survival of the Fittest: Are You Starving While Standing On A Food Source?

By: Debra Quarles 
Salt DPM Consultant
Part 2 of 2 

 Moving beyond fear:

In order to achieve your goal, you must get past your fear.

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
                     --- Frank Herbert, Dune

Fear of losing patients is the number one reason that change is not made and . . . patients are lost.

You can't fear change. In fact, all of us must dance faster to keep up with the technology that is coming, it seems daily. The only way past fear is to walk through it. So, how long do you want to suffer? Then perhaps you'd better get moving.

The people problem:
Sometimes it is a people problem and change should be made, but many more times the right people are in the right spot but they have been given a system that doesn't allow for their success.

I still enter practices where they have a computer that is used for scheduling as well as a paper book. Is it any wonder there are mistakes and surprise patients? I also find practices where charts are written in and computer charting is done. Computers are to increase our efficiency and effectiveness - to allow our teams to accomplish more in less time. Make sure your systems encourage that, not create more work and increase errors.

Make sure you allow for safe feedback from your team. Too many times they know the answer, but are afraid to speak up.


It takes 28 working days to form a new habit. Almost two months for most offices. How many times do we forget "the change" and fall back on our old habits well before that?
I called an office, "Hello, this is . . .  I can help you." I told her who I was. She was so very pleased she'd answered the telephone with the appropriate new dialog. One week later, "Hello, this is . . . How can I help you?"

I'm not saying change is easy, I'm just saying it's necessary.

Debra Quarles is a coach/consultant with Salt Dental Practice Management. Savor success and learn more at www.saltdpm.com or contact her at info@saltdpm.com.
                          Article originally published by: Tri-County Dental Association
                                                       Follow us on Facebook

Monday, May 14, 2012

Survival of the Fittest: Are You Starving While Standing On A Food Source?

 By: Debra Quarles
Salt DPM Consultant
Part 1 of 2

Mitchell Zuckoff, author of Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II, tells a haunting tale.

On May 13, 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and WACs boarded a transport plane for a sight seeing trip over the jungle-covered mountains of Dutch New Guinea. When the plane crashes only three survive. Injured and starving, the survivors hunker down in a lush, green field and wait for help. It seems there is no easy way to rescue them. Days pass. The army is unsure what to do. Japanese soldiers may be hidden in the jungle and there are thought to be cannibals who inhabit the valley. Finally a decision is made. The army doesn't know how to get the survivors out, so instead they send in more men, paratroopers. The initial group, who are hungry beyond belief, are stunned when one of the paratroopers, a medic, reaches down and pulls up one of the plants that surround them. For days they'd gone hungry because they didn't realize they were standing on a field full of food, sweet potatoes to be exact. The group is at least saved from starving. Eventually, with no other choice, they all walk out of the jungle on their own.

This same story is carried out in dental practices every day. Often, when we have a problem we wait too long to fix it, worrying about the hidden dangers that might lurk. Sometimes we think the answer is to "throw" more people at the problem - which might mean hiring a new team. And many times the answer is right below our feet and perhaps there is even someone in our group who knows it. Hopefully, at some point the team realizes they must do something to save themselves.

Identifying the challenge:
Trendsetters are monitored closely. Merchandisers want to know what the next big thing is going to be. If it is discovered that a certain kind of shoe is the next rage, buyers for department stores want to have it in stock. Reacting to trends in your dental practice is not so different. You want to identify the trend quickly and be prepared - proactive versus reactive. The challenge seems to be when you are proactive it means the situation barely exists. Many do not even consider the challenge important until they've finished the month and recognized the goals were not met or bills, paid.

Why do we clean our medicine cabinets regularly? Because medications lose effectiveness or might even cause a health problem. Why should you look at your systems regularly? The same reason. Your current system may have lost its effectiveness with patients or might even be killing your practice.

For example: We see the patient in hygiene. The hygienist explains how important frequency is along with a myriad of other thoughts. She releases the patient to the front desk who schedules the patient for six months and lets the patient know that if the appointment doesn't work, "just call us". No commitment to appointment, no value to frequency.

Let's get proactive. Say your practice is experiencing a large number of cancellations and no shows. Is your response to say, "We are having a rough week, I bet next week people won't have the flu?" Or do you realize you must act now and check to make sure you are consistent in the handling of cancellations and no shows.

1.    Review your system.
2.    Evaluate the dialog for effectiveness.
3.    And/or try something entirely new.

When the system is not giving you the desired results it's either lack of consistency or a system in need of change. Remember the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We can't make patients show up, but we can control the creation of a short call list. We can't control illness, but we can control our dialog regarding the importance of the patient's commitment to the appointment.

And we can make changes. Are you having difficulty with patients keeping the hygiene/exam appointments? This has been a challenge for offices ever since the verbiage of "it's just a cleaning" gained ground. It's not just a cleaning and exam. It's a hygiene appointment including oral cancer screening, and periodontal evaluation. You will be checking for teeth that are decaying, or cracking . . . it's important. Make it sound that way!

During the hygiene appointments there is so much information given. Some patients will not be able to remember it all, so before each patient leaves sit them up, look them in the eyes and say the following dialog. "If there's only one thing you take from your visit today, I would like it to be . . . you need us to remove bacteria below where your toothbrush can get." Or, "you have periodontal disease." Or, "we should see you in July." Leave them with just one important thing to remember and they will.

Recognize that sometimes the challenge with canceling and no showing is that the patients may not really own their problem. Perhaps you need to give them additional education in a unique format – a personally made video sent via email? Perhaps the periodontist is needed to collaborate? Bottom line: don't sit and wait for your situation to change, act.

Debra Quarles is a coach/consultant with Salt Dental Practice Management. Savor success and learn more at www.saltdpm.com or contact her at info@saltdpm.com.
                                                    Follow us on Facebook
                          Article first published with Tri-county Dental Association.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Role-Playing: How you can help your office


 By: Lenora Milligan
Salt DPM Consultant

Some believe that role-playing is only for the kids.  However, role-playing with your office can help your team to figure out how to respond when certain situations arise in your practice.  Taking the time to work out strategies for when the unexpected happens can lower stress when the emergencies do arise.  And let’s keep in mind the age-old saying of, “Practice makes perfect.”   When our everyday routine is thrown off because someone calls in late, or a patient shows up and you can’t find the file.  Some practice time before the situation will help build the confidence that is needed to deal calmly with the event. 

According to Andrew Dunning, “Business Team Building,” individuals during the process of role-playing in team building individuals have to feel safe and to enjoy the process.  In order to help strengthen your team, individuals have to know that they can count on one another.  Going through this process together can help encourage people to ask for help when it’s needed, trust one another when things don’t go as planned and support eachother when an upset patient calls and wants x-rays transferred to another office.

Here are some suggested role-playing scenarios:

A patient calls to cancel their hygiene appointment with 24 hours notice.  This is the third time. 

A new patient calls, who is referred by a friend and asks about insurance and scheduling an appointment.

A new patient calls and asks what we charge for an implant.

 A patient calls and wants x-rays transferred to another practice.  She seems upset.

Call a hygiene patient to confirm the appointment.  What do you say if he answers?  What message do you leave if he doesn’t?

Call a post surgery patient to follow up. 

A patient is referred for  RPC and the referring doctor intends to alternate care afterward.  The patient asks if they have to go back to referral doctor and states they would feel more comfortable staying in your office for all their cleanings.

The patient is 20 min. late for their appointment.

The patient is checking out and says the doctor wants to see her in two weeks.  You do not have an appropriate opening in two weeks.

A hygiene patient has significant bleeding during the cleaning appointment.  The patient states that their gums never bleed at home, only during cleanings.  How do you explain this?

After a treatment plan is presented the patient says, “Every time I’m here you tell me I need something and it’s always expensive.  Am I buying all the nice cars around here?”

A patient calls and says that their insurance has changed to one we are not providers for and they will have to change offices. 

A patient says, “If I really need this treatment then why won’t my insurance cover it?”

Monday, May 7, 2012

ABC's of Consequences

Consequences can be positive or negative and have three things we consider before and during at risk behavior

Antecedent-Values, beliefs, social systems, expectations

Behavior – Will this behavior give me positive or negative consequences?
Consequences – are either positive or negative depending on the 3 keys
1. Will the consequence occur sooner or later?
2.  Are the consequences certain or uncertain?
3.  Is the consequence significant or insignificant?

Let’s say you are speeding, 80 in a 65 MPH zone because you are late to work.
What is the antecedent?  The alarm didn’t go off; I believe that being late for work would be a failure on my part.
What is the behavior?  I choose to speed. 
What is the positive consequence?  I will arrive at work on time.  Is this consequence happing sooner or later?  Sooner, because I can see the speedometer and know the rate of speed at which I’m traveling.  Is the consequence certain or uncertain?  It’s certain.  I know that by speeding I will be on time to work.  Is the consequence significant or insignificant?  It is significant because I value being on time.

Now, what would the negative consequence be?  I could get a ticket for speeding.
Will that happen sooner or later?  I believe later.  I do not see a policeman and if I thought I would get a ticket right now, I would not be speeding.
Is it certain or uncertain that I will get a ticket?  Uncertain as it has not yet happened.
Is the consequence of getting a ticket significant or insignificant?  It is insignificant because it is uncertain that it will even happen.

According to statistics, 330 out of 8 to 10 thousand at risk behaviors have consequences. 
Out of the 330, one will be a major event, 29 will be minor events and 300 will be near misses.  Think about traffic accidents.  300 near misses, 29 minor injuries, and 1 death.  These do not happen in succession or numerical order.  You may have thousands of at risk behaviors and never have the one major event.  Or, you may have one at risk behavior and suffer the one major event. 

Error provocative situations.  We put ourselves into situations that provoke error.  I drive a car, it is an EPS.  Not only do I have to worry about my driving skills, but the skills of thousands of others as well.  

Definition of ______________
Acceptable level of ?

How are the ABC's of behavior affecting your practice?


Friday, May 4, 2012

Maximizing your Marketing Dollar

Lenora Milligan
Salt DPM Consultant
Part 2 of 2

External marketing can also be effective.  Traditional ways: direct mail, news papers, magazines, billboards, radio and television ads, can all be very effective, although they tend to be more costly.   If you choose this route, spend the money required to hire a professional to assist you.  Some tips: Your advertisement should showcase one item, have a call to action and a time limit.  Decide how you want the prospective patients to contact you and provide one way only.  Simplifying choices lessens the opportunity for confusion and provides better results.  Come from an emotional place with your wording. Most financial decisions are based on emotion, not logic.  If you doubt that, think about the car you drive.  You need transportation; does that mean it has to be a Hummer or a Porsche?  Of course not! But those cars make you feel….special?  It’s emotion. 
What about Yellow Page advertising?  Do you use it?  Or do you Google everything? The newer, exciting and sometimes confounding area of marketing today is the World Wide Web.  The land of web crawlers, cookies and tweets, oh my!  Where do you begin?  Hopefully you have a website. If not, there are companies that can provide you with a very professional site quickly.   If you are not asking patients for their email addresses, then get started today.   It used to be the more elaborate and flashy the website the better you were perceived.  Now, you may want to consider something more simplistic that loads quickly on the computer screen.  People are unwilling to wait for pages that load slowly. 

Your website won’t help your practice if it doesn’t show up in search engines on page one during routine, non specific searches, for example: “Riverside general dentist”.  If the only way you can find your website one page one is by typing in your exact name or practice name then you have a little work to do.  To create an online presence is becoming a little more challenging than it used to be.  Years ago clicking repeatedly on your web site helped get you to the top of the list.

Now you need more than a well-clicked site to get on page one. Search engines now want to know how relevant you are.  They are beginning to consider where else you are mentioned, i.e.: Face Book fan pages, tweets on Twitter, or online surveys and blog entries.  There are companies that provide reasonably priced packages that collect surveys from your patients and post them online.  Make use of free tools like Google analytics and Google places.  Google it, you will be guided through the simple process which can help you show up during online searches.  Create a fan page, if you have a Face Book page scroll down to the bottom and on the right it will give an option to “create a page.”  It’s easy, just follow the instructions.  Once your page is complete you can send a mass email to patients and referral sources to ask them to become a fan.  You want fans, not friends.  Once that is accomplished, periodically post comments that will go out to all the fans.  Keep your posts short and interesting.  You may post about special services you have added to your practice, offers you have in place, or links to health information that may be relevant. So go ahead and tweet, blog, post, and use banner ads on your website.  It’s the future of marketing.

If you would like more information, please contact us at info.saltdpm.com
                               This article was originally published by Tri-County Dental Society Bulletin

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Maximizing your Marketing Dollar

Lenora Milligan
Salt DPM Consultant
Part 1 of 2

Where to focus to achieve the biggest return on your investment.
Smart marketing is an article designed to get your practice working efficiently and effectively in 2012.
Historically, marketing in the health care field was looked upon with distain, some even believed it unethical.    Considering how long it has been a part of society, marketing in dentistry is relatively new.   The health care industry changed its thinking on the subject in the late 1970’s.  Still, many dentists worry marketing somehow cheapens their services.  Over my 20-year career as a Practice Management Consultant, I have listened to many dentists' concerns regarding the issue.  Some have a fear they will seem desperate to their existing patients, other worry they will attract the wrong type of patients.
My opinion is that marketing your practice is essential for growth and profitability.  The success of your practice depends on your marketing plan.  This article is designed to assist you to find a marketing method that fits your comfort level and represents your practice philosophy. 
In order to create exceptional results in whichever methods you choose, you and your team must be willing to commit to a process that includes:  1. setting goals; 2. tracking results; 3. creating scripts; 4. practicing or "role playing" situations; and 5. being prepared, office-wide, to answer questions that may arise from patients. 
Image is critical.  Make sure you, your team and your office is neat, clean and welcoming.  Attracting patients is part of marketing, and keeping them is essential.   How the phone is answered can make or break an advertising campaign.  Smile, listen to your tone of voice, take your time, and don’t put them on hold too quickly even if you’re busy.
The most well-known and well-perceived marketing method is internal marketing.  Marketing from within your practice can be extremely effective and very low cost.   You may want to start by asking for referrals.   Many dental professionals don’t really know how to approach their patients without feeling uncomfortable.  Some dentists may think their patients already know they accept new patients and that asking is unnecessary. There are ways for this process to become a very natural, and well- accepted, practice in your office.  Once you start asking, you may be surprised to hear patients say, “Oh, I didn’t know you accepted new patients.” 
 When you receive compliments from patients, this is your opportunity.   Respond to compliments with, “Thank you, we are always accepting new patients and would love to see your family and friends.” Or, “Thank you, we love having you in our practice, and always appreciate it when patients send in their family and friends to see us.” What each of you say will be different. The reason is that everyone needs to come up with words that are genuine and true for them.  At IPS, we abide by the concept that birds of a feather flock together, so make sure to ask your best patients for referrals.  You can put referral cards in the hygiene take-home pack, frame and post the request on your wall, but nothing says it better than your voice.  You may decide to create a goal for each team member to ask one patient per day.  Make it a game.  Every time a team member asks for a referral, put their name in a monthly drawing for a gift card.  
A referral program in the office is essential.  If you ask a patient to refer and they send someone to you, please acknowledge the honor they've bestowed. Send a hand written thank you note. Flag referring patient’s charts so you can personally thank them the next time they are in the office.   If you are a specialist you can still ask your patients to refer.  Many patients have a misconception about needing their general dentist to refer them into a specialty office.    
If you would like more information, please contact us at info.saltdpm.com
This article was originally published by Tri-County Dental Society Bulletin