Grow your practice with these 14 tips and tricks for practice management.
Dental practice management can be tough. These days, it can feel like being a good dentist practically requires superhuman abilities to provide great care, grow a thriving practice, and keep everything running smoothly—all while maintaining your sanity.
But don’t rip open your shirt to reveal your superhero suit just yet—because we’re here to help.
In this guide we’re going to help you grow your practice without losing your mind thanks to several easy-to-implement growth tactics, ways to sidestep common communication pitfalls, and tips to hack your way to successful practice marketing.
Dental Practice Management: Why Should I Care?
If you’re looking to grow a thriving office, recruit top talent, build a robust base of patients, and boost revenue—awesome! But first, you must face the fact that improving your dental practice management has to take priority. Here’s why.
Cash Flow is Tighter Than Ever
In an economy where many people are looking to save a buck, cash flow for dental practices is waning as folks put off their oral care appointments.
A study recently confirmed an alarming fact: Six out of every ten Americans are too afraid to visit the dentist. The most common reason, unsurprisingly, is the fear of pain during a visit. We’d wager a bet that the second most common reason is fear of the cost of treatment.
Unfortunately, postponing appointments to save money while the situation worsens can be a major factor in why visits are more painful physically and financially.
This dangerous cycle means many dentists have less cash flow these days—and that’s on top of already tight margins.
While the typical general practice is generating $771,000 in annual revenue, three-quarters of that is being spent on overhead.
To keep their doors open, many dental professionals are looking to better practice management to boost efficiency and cut costs in the process.
A Successful Dental Practice Goes Beyond the Chair
As it is with many small businesses, a dental practice isn’t just about the dental care.
The modern dentist must often wear many hats in order to thrive. A dentist must also be a sales and marketing guru. They’re an office administrator. They’re a customer service representative. They’re a liaison to insurance companies.
In this day and age, it takes great organization and management skills for dentists to run great practices—so let’s learn a few!
5 Simple Tactics for Growing Your Dental Practice
Let’s keep your sanity intact with a few simple, common-sense best practices you can implement to grow your business.
1. Set an Encouraging Tone
Some dentists really have the wrong idea. They create practices based around fear—shaming patients for less-than-perfect brushing and trying to chastise them into better oral hygiene.
But shaming doesn’t work and is a losing strategy that will only scare patients and staff away.
Instead, smart dentists look to make their clinics friendly. They don’t admonish their patients for their shortcomings. They gently try to spur better behavior in people; encouraging better brushing, better gum health, and, ultimately, better smiles.
Patients will remember the dental office that treats them this way. And, more than likely, they’ll tell people around them about the experience and send more business your way.
2. Upgrade Your Dental Practice Management Systems
If your “scheduling system” changes at the whim of whoever answers the phone that day, it’s time to upgrade to implement some order for yourself and some peace of mind for your patients.
Today, options range from dedicated answering services to more technological solutions. In fact, there’s a wide range of dental practice management software to help automate all kinds of office minutia.
At the end of the day, many of these dental practice management programs are actually more cost-effective than having a member of staff handle issues manually. Make the switch and let your staff focus on the myriad of other tasks any good dental office needs to keep running smoothly.
3. Broaden The Scope Of Your Services
Some dentists are old school, leaving braces to orthodontists and leaving dental upgrades to prosthodontists or oral surgeons. Or perhaps they turn away certain requests for services such as root canals.
It doesn’t have to go like this, though.
Today’s dentists can strive to make their offices one-stop shops where patients can get any number of different services. In the absence of hiring additional specialists or learning new dental skills, dentists can also work out referral agreements with service providers in their area, helping ensure their patients get the care they need when they need it.
4. Invest in Training
Few things can kill a dental practice quicker than inept staff who don’t know what they’re doing. It’s scary for patients and could lead to legality concerns that are even scarier for you.
Top-flight dental practices invest in training their staff and offering opportunities for continual learning and growth.
5. Be as Flexible as Possible with Payment
The average dental patient knows their teeth need to be cleaned, that they need to come to that follow-up appointment, and so on. Unfortunately, they don’t always know how they’re going to cover the cost of a trip to the dentist and resulting x-rays, cavities, root canals, and more.
Thus, a good dentist at least tries to be flexible with their customers’ payment needs. This can mean working with a variety of insurers, accepting credit, and being amenable to payment plans for more expensive work.
Focus on Communication: 4 Ways to Avoid Common Dental Practice Management Issues
Dental offices can be hotbeds of anxiety for everyone.
Patients are nervous about pain as well as the cost of care (hello, $3,00 root canal!). This anxiousness may rub off on dental office staff who have to do their jobs while also calming patient fears. To top it off, an overbooked dentist scurrying from room to room isn’t doing anything for anyone’s peace of mind.
Fortunately, a few communication improvements can go a long way toward helping quell anxiety. Here are some tips to maximize communication within your dental office.
1. Make Sure Your Team is on the Same Page
Be sure to get your staff on the same page about your dental practice’s core values, proficiencies, and answers to commonly-asked questions.
A clear and unified message from your team to your patients will help ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward and providing your patients with the best possible experience with your practice.
2. Empower Patients Who Want to Communicate in Modern Channels
It’s not just about phone or even email anymore.
Patients who are accustomed to fast, digital communication methods may feel more comfortable if they can get in touch with your office via a few alternative means.
Consider opening up a few modern lines of communication via social media or by installing a chatbot on your website (here’s one geared toward dental offices).
3. Spend One-on-One Time with Patients
We know you have a ton going on, but even spending a few minutes to communicate with each patient during their appointment can go a long way in showing your commitment to their care and calming any concerns.
If it’s your name on the door, it’s you they want to see. Prioritize some one-on-one time to ensure they’re receiving top-quality service and you can count on their loyalty.
4. Set Aside Time to Discuss Concerns
What to expect during their procedure, what to do if their insurance information has changed, what they should plan to pay out of pocket—patients have plenty of financial and medical concerns when it comes to dental work.
We recommend addressing as many general concerns you can on your website and in any paperwork you provide leading up to a procedure. In addition, make sure someone on your staff is available and trained to clearly communicate with patients about their concerns.
Five Marketing Hacks For Dental Practices
Dentistry has come a long way from the days when a dentist could simply erect a sign, maybe get a phone book listing, and then watch the business roll in. Dentists today face an intense and competitive economic climate—which is why you should try one or all of these marketing hacks to help you stand out from the crowd.
1. Highlight What Makes Your Practice Unique
Every business has something they do better than everyone else in their market. As a dentist, all your marketing messaging should start by highlighting your unique, competitive advantages—so take some time to figure out what they are.
2. Get Creative With Your Marketing Strategies
Infographics created for leading digital dental publications, well-researched articles on your own website, search engine optimization, YouTube videos—today’s dentist must constantly be pursuing creative marketing outlets on which they can spread the word about their competitive advantages.
3. Incentivize Referrals from Your Best Patients
Referrals make the best customers. One marketing study even found that customers who reach your business from a referral will likely spend 200 percent more.
Thankfully, a good dentist probably has many patients ready to refer their friends, family, and coworkers.
To incentivize referrals to your dental practice, consider offering discounted or free cleanings or ancillary services. Sure, it will cost a little bit of money upfront, but it will likely be less than the expense to acquire a (lower-paying) patient through traditional marketing channels.
4. Maximize Good Reviews
Not every review of a dentist’s office will be five stars—because who wants to give five stars to the place that just extracted their wisdom teeth? But if you run a good dental practice overall, four and five-star reviews will start to come in, even if you don’t ask for them.
Make the most out of every one of those good reviews. Encourage patients to read your Yelp, Google, or dental directory reviews. Include snippets in your marketing materials and newsletters. And, when you can, return the favor and thank patients who leave nice reviews.
5. Sign Up for Dental Directories
We’re all short on time, so it’s no surprise that patients are often turning to dental directories where they can view all their local providers at once.
If you’re already taking advantage of this marketing channel, be diligent about making sure their information about your practice is optimized and up to date. If you aren’t already using this tactic, check out some nation-wide dental directories as well as local sites to find more ways to get your name out there.
Which of these tactics will you follow to grow your practice without losing your mind, sidestep common communication pitfalls, and hack your way to successful practice marketing?