By Erick Cutler
Now that you're in the growth stage of the business life cycle, it's time to raise your game.
After the launch phase comes the second stage of the business life cycle, a period marked by rapid growth until the practice matures and settles down into a consistent routine. You've worked hard during the start-up phase and may feel that you've earned a rest. But the dental industry is competitive and relentless; everything you've worked for can end quickly unless you pay attention to the dental world and what is going on around you.
So how do you grow your dental practice? Make an excellent start by focusing on three core strategies: power up the marketing, increase collections and make sure your practice receives the investment it deserves.
#1: Power Up the Marketing
Patients are the lifeblood of your business. Win more of them, and you will boost revenues and market share. In the growth stage of your business, your goal should be laser-focused on keeping loyal patients and attracting new ones.
Effective marketing strategies are as broad as they are long, but it's essential to start with your current patients. What do they like (and dislike) about your practice? What could you do to serve their needs better? Use surveys, feedback emails and focus groups to gain insights and improve the areas where your practice is falling short.
Regarding specific techniques, creating an incentive program for current patients to refer friends to your practice is a great way to increase patient-to-patient referrals and attract new business. Giving a credit for future services, a complimentary treatment such as free teeth whitening, or a small gift card are great ways to encourage your current patients to spread the word about your practice.
Incentivizing your team members to upsell is another innovative way to boost revenues while rewarding team members for their efforts to help grow your dental practice. Train staff to understand the value of the services you offer, and encourage them to show products and services that might spark an impulse buy.
Social marketing is often overlooked in the dental world, but these days, customers turn to Facebook and Twitter for just about everything. Get stealthy on social media by following the people who are sharing dentistry-related posts — especially those of your competitors — and encouraging them to follow you back. From there, it's easy to broadcast your marketing messages such as any promotions or reward programs new patients might be interested in joining, bringing new business through the door.
#2: Increase Collections
Large inflows of revenue look good on your profit statement, but if you're not charging optimum rates for your services, then you're potentially leaving cash on the table. The simplest and most practical way to increase collections is to carry out a fee analysis and leverage the data to raise your fees.
Even small increases can make a massive difference. Patients are not going to notice a small $10 increase for a tooth filling that already costs $175, but $10 magnified across all the dental prophylaxis treatments you perform each year can result in tens of thousands of dollars in additional revenue. Not sure how much to charge? Hire an outside fee consultant to research the market and normalize your rates.
Another strategy is to evaluate whether it's worth cutting your PPO affiliation. You'll need a dental-specific CPA to crunch the numbers, but what you're essentially looking at is whether you can raise collections by dropping your PPO — thus losing your PPO patients — and focusing solely on patients who pay higher fees, even if it means leaving the dental chair open at times.
#3: Invest and Automate
During the growth cycle, it's vital that you continually review policies to make sure patients are getting enough attention and your practice is up-to-date with the latest value-added equipment and services. Breaking this down, we can identify three core investment areas:
Equipment and software: Dental technology is constantly evolving, and it's up to you to decide when the time is right to upgrade your current systems (and tell patients about your investment). Ask your CPA to run financial projections about the life and return of an investment to help you make the wisest purchase decisions.
Customer service: Make sure patients are getting the most sincere and streamlined service possible, from online appointment scheduling and text message reminders so that patients don't miss their appointments to pre-check-in forms that reduce the wait time when patients arrive at the surgery. Patient-friendly touches show that your practice is modern and organized and will enhance your reputation.
Hire and retain amazing people: You can't stick with the skills that got you through the start-up phase; you must continually hire and train your people if you want your practice to grow. Be sure to hire front-of-house staff with impeccable personal skills to schedule appointments and put patients at ease, and make it a priority to invest in upskilling. This will make your team much more efficient and productive in carrying out tasks.
Growth is a complex beast. It requires you to think of new ways to generate revenues while supporting the good work you put in during the start-up phase. For many dental practice owners, that means exploiting all the opportunities the market has to offer and setting big goals for the growth of your dental practice. With the right marketing strategy, patient courtship techniques and investment, you can position yourself ahead of the competition. You won't look back.
For help on growing your dental practice, contact the dental CPAs at Goldin Peiser & Peiser.