One of the great joys of my job here at RevenueWell is getting the opportunity to personally connect with dentists when I travel. Outside the conference hall, when people are engaging with one another instead of merely listening to a speaker, the real challenges of growing a practice come to the forefront, and the conversations yield a host of interesting solutions.
Frequently I’m asked about how to migrate from a purely “needs-based” model of dentistry, to a more complete approach that addresses patients’ desires with “wants-based” procedures in mind.
Wants-based dentistry is all about helping patients with elective procedures: the things people “want,” (like veneers or whitening) instead of merely the things they “need” (like prophy or fillings). Over and over again, the model I see that fosters the greatest degree of sustained growth (particularly in the face of locally branded national competition) is the practice that integrates both approaches.
Not sure about my conclusion? Consider this: people will always find money for the things they WANT; however, they often find themselves coming up short when it comes to the things they need. For example, how many patients have told you they cannot afford the root canal you’ve recommended, but while checking out at the front desk, brandish a fancy $700 smartphone as they text a friend?
Additionally, while it may seem counter intuitive, there is actually less price elasticity with elective services (meaning you get to charge what your work is worth, not what the insurance company thinks you should get). To see this in play, put yourself in the role of the patient. If you elected to have a cosmetic procedure done, which would be more important – getting it done correctly, or getting it done cheaply?
The bottom line is, your patients are going to have elective procedures done – the only question is whether you capture that revenue, or your competition captures it. A story might be good here.
I once met a doctor (let’s call him Dr. Bob), who told me a story about a patient of his (let’s call him Jake). Patient Jake came in to see Dr. Bob for years for hygiene visits, and maybe a filling or two. Jake’s smile wasn’t anything to write home about, but he was generally healthy. Then, one day, Jake showed up at Dr. Bob’s office with a $15,000 smile – veneers, two implants; the whole bit. So Dr. Bob says to him: “Jake, why didn’t you do this here?” And Jake says, “Oh, I didn’t know you did this stuff, so I went to a specialist.” You can imagine how Dr. Bob felt when he heard this. And, trust me, Dr. Bob would like you to avoid that same feeling.
Here is how you do just that in three simple steps:
1. Establish yourself as the only dental provider they’ll ever need.
Part of this has to do with understanding how a patient evaluates you as a dental practitioner. Since your patients aren’t qualified to tell whether or not you’re a good clinician, they merely decide your worth based on outward appearances. It’s the ol’ judging-a-book-by-its-cover scenario. Ugly, but reality. And, you can’t blame the patient, really; they just don’t know, and have to make a decision somehow.
So what they do is look around your office. Is the reception area nice? Do you have all the newest equipment in the office? Are you high tech? Does the whole environment make them feel as though they’re getting the best of what modern dentistry has to offer? Do you have CEREC? 3D imaging? Do you have an intraoral camera that you can use during their visit? This sort of stuff is what marketers refer to as “branding”. Your book cover, your image, if you will, is your brand. So you need to toot your horn in that department. If you’ve invested in new technology, tell your patients. Show it off. It’s not enough to merely use it on occasion when they come see you. Proactively tell your patients that you’ve made an investment in their healthcare. Otherwise they won’t know, and they won’t think of you when they opt to have an elective procedure. One way that we facilitate such branding for RevenueWell customers is to give them pre-built campaigns that they can quickly send out to patients as postcards or emails.
2. Educate your patient base about the dentistry profession.
It’s a well-known fact that an educated consumer is a consumer who spends more.
I’ll give you a recent personal example. I’m a simple guy who has lived in the Midwest for the last decade and I don’t have sophisticated tastes in many things material. Specifically, when it came to wine at dinnertime, I was absolutely fine with a $5.00 bottle from the local supermarket. Then my wife and I took a trip to Napa Valley.
In that fog-filled earthy, romantic place, you go on these tours with rustic, authentic-looking winemakers spending hours telling you about grapes, and the sun and the soil, and how the fog of the valley inspires the grape to elicit such a reaction from your palate that you’ll be transported to this wonderful bliss-filled place. What a wonderful experience …
But guess what? My trip is over and I’m back in Chicago with a sudden compulsion to purchase $15.00 bottles instead of my typical $5.00 bottle. What happened? Nothing, really! I’m the same guy, with the same unrefined tastes, in the same city I was before I took the trip. But now, I’m an educated wine connoisseur.
Your patients are the same way. Most of the time, they don’t ask you about elective services because they don’t know what can be done. How would they know about same-day crowns, cosmetic bonding, porcelain veneers – all those awesome things you can do to boost their appearance and self-confidence – if you’re not telling them about it? So educate them. They’ll be happier for it, and you’ll reap an equal bounty of rewards.
One of the best ways that we’ve found to do this is to send patients a very simple monthly educational newsletter that contains nuggets of knowledge about all things dentistry. They’re pre-built, easy and whimsical – and they do a great job of elevating an average patient’s knowledge to the point where they start asking you the right questions.
3. Communicate, communicate and communicate. Don’t be like Dr. Bob.
Tell them what you do, and ask them to do it with your office. If you’ve spent time and money getting accredited for Invisalign, tell them that you perform the service. If you offer cosmetic veneers, Botox, and teeth whitening – shoot them a promotion that informs them about these services. This can be done manually at the practice, by using pre-built marketing materials from each manufacturer, or, more simply, through a program like RevenueWell, where many of these campaigns are already pre-built for you to send.
Adding “wants-based,” elective dentistry to your repertoire can be one of the most effective ways to boost your bottom line, and it can be accomplished with relative ease if you approach it in the right manner. The main thing to remember is that your patients will undergo many of these services with or without your involvement. They’ll find out about them from other practices, they’ll read about them in magazines, and hear about them from friends who do the same. The only variable is with whom they’re going to do the work. With a little luck and a bit of planning, you can ensure it happens with you.