The Profitability of Dentistry (Part One)

Your decision to become a dentist may be altruistic or economic. You may have chosen the field because it was the family business or because a guidance counselor stated it was the perfect career for you. So, you invested and sacrificed a lot of years and money into earning your DMD or DDS. You made choices and became a healthcare professional – you earned the title of doctor. But what the professors, book work, and practical education didn’t prepare you – you are now a business owner!  You are prepared to treat patients, but now you must negotiate real estate leases, equipment leases, insurance, hiring, firing, payroll taxes, business income taxes, design, marketing, customer service, customer retention, profit and loss statements, IT, and . . .
I’m just a dentist.
No just about it. You are a doctor dedicated to improving your patients’ quality of life. But to do so you must also manage a successful business of dentistry.
“Don’t worry, I’m a professional.”

Hanging Out Your Shingle

When you decide to open your own practice you are in full control of your income. You decide this by the number of operatories in your practice, how many days a week you want to work, your hours of operation, your specialties, your staff , your location, your equipment, and how you market yourself. This series of articles will help you recognize pitfalls, practice strategies, practice operations, and quality of life to help you build a successful dental practice.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Matthews.  I’ll be removing your molars today.”

If You Build It, They Will Come

Your first step to business ownership is where to practice. To reiterate the adage, “Location, location, location.”  You need to determine to whom you are marketing (families, business professionals, baby boomers, retirees) and where they are concentrated. One successful Chicago practice opened a second location on a floor of a prestigious downtown hotel. Th is allowed them to capitalize on the business people commuting into the city. [But, this was a second location. They already had a successful suburban practice and were a recognized brand.]
You should select a location with high visibility from the road, convenient parking and easy access. A busy intersection with traffic backed up for blocks can be as big a deterrent to new patients as a medieval castle moat. Don’t take the landlord’s word that it is easy to get in and out of the parking lot – do it yourself, at different times of day. Be sure to note if it’s difficult to access the proposed location based upon time of day, and if your vehicle scrapes asphalt entering or exiting the parking lot – because your prospective patients will notice.
Once you have selected a site it’s time to build out your practice. You should minimize exposure to a long-term lease while allowing for a lease renewal favorable to you. An extended lease may have a favorable monthly cost, but can shackle you to a location that may not meet your needs in a few years. When negotiating your lease Include internal finish work to meet your current needs as well as projected growth. Include clauses to exit the lease based upon significant road construction which can hamper business, the departure of multiple tenants from the property, or an overall economic downturn within a 5-mile radius. You don’t want to be the last business in an abandoned strip mall.
“Choose an AFFORDABLE location, but not so affordable
it puts you, your staff and patients at risk.”

Who Are You Trying To Impress?

How you equip reception and the waiting room is as important as the equipment used in your labs and operatories. What impresses other dentists may not make an impression upon your patients. Pleasant decor, proper heating and cooling, comfortable seating and open-access Wi-Fi will make a larger impact with patients than a $100k piece of equipment in your lab.  Pay as much attention to interior design as you do your digital x-ray equipment and autoclave.
“Can I get you a martini while you are waiting, Mr. Bond?”
Regarding your equipment – GET MULTIPLE BIDS! Regardless of what your sales rep tells you, they are not “your partner in success” – they are your vendor. Request a bid, remove items you don’t need, then give another company a blind copy of the items you want. Compare the individual prices, the overall bid, the lease terms, warranties, service agreement, and interest rate on equipment financing.
Most importantly, you need to conserve your cash for operating expenses and payroll. Hygienists and office staff don’t work for free.

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at

How to Compete with the Big Guys: Making Your Mark Among Big Dental Practices


One of the most intimidating aspects of opening your own dental practice is the uncertainty that follows. For starters, there’s the uncertainty of whether or not you’ll be able to establish a strong patient-base. There’s the uncertainty of whether you, as a dentist, have what it takes to handle the business side of things. The uncertainty of what kind of boss you’ll be. The uncertainty of whether your practice will be profitable. And then, there’s the uncertainty of whether you’ll be able to compete.
Regardless of where you open your dental practice, it’s a safe bet that you won’t be the only choice in town. More than likely, you’ll be one of several—perhaps even dozens depending on the size of your location—dental offices that patients have to choose from. The biggest challenge in getting your dental practice off the ground and running is convincing patients to choose you.
That can be easier said than done when you’re the new guy in town. You might have to face competing dental practices that are not only well established, but also have certain advantages that your small practice might not have. However, that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel and give up on your dream of owning your own dental practice—far from it. You just might have to dig a little deeper into your Dental Practice Toolbox.
What is your Dental Practice Toolbox? Well, included in your toolbox are all the methods, approaches, and advantages you need to compete with the big dental practices and establish your practice as a profitability force to be reckoned with. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure whether you have all the tools you need—the good news is that there are plenty of outlets available to you to help with your success.
Before we get too far into explaining what you need in your Dental Practice Toolbox, let’s take a look at some of those big dental practices. Rather than be intimidated by their success, we’re going to learn from it.

What Are the Big Dental Practices Doing Right?

To begin, we’re going to get one thing out in the open: you don’t have to sell a controlling interest in your practice and build 400 plus locations all around the country to compete with the other big dental practices. While their numerous offices certainly add to their intimidation factor, we’re not looking to compete on a national scale. Your dental practice is focused on finding success in your target area.
Take Aspen Dental, for example. They boast over 400 locations all across the country but, as a management company, they own a majority interest in each practice, with the doctor having only a minor equity position in their specific location. Even with this disadvantage, there are certainly some significant advantages to partnering with a large management company. Still, rather than looking at the success of Aspen Dental as a whole, let’s examine the advantages an individual franchise might experience.

Advantages of Big Dental Practices

  1. Brand recognition: When a practice has more than one location, they can draw from a bigger pot of people who will recognize and support their brand. For instance, imagine a patient who moves to a new town and is searching for a new dentist. In their previous town, they went to an Aspen Dental practice. Assuming they were satisfied with their dental experience, they would probably be interested in visiting an Aspen Dental in their new home.
  2. Purchasing power: When you have more money, you can spend more money. With big practices that have big budgets, buying new equipment or updating their waiting room furniture isn’t as much of a strain as it might be for a smaller, newer dental practice. Because of this, they can stay more current and offer more unique services.
  3. Marketing expertise: The marketing practices employed at each location of the larger dental practices are likely tried and true on both a national and local level. They might even have a marketing department that assists each franchised office with their marketing, giving them the advantage of not just working with experts, but also with a sizable budget.
  4. HR department: Since becoming the boss of your own dental practice can often be a difficult transition, the added assistance of a human resources department is a big advantage that some of the larger dental practices can bring to the table for their franchises. Having certain guidelines in place with their employees can make potential conflict easier to handle.
  5. Superior computer systems: Again, returning to the larger budget and purchasing power that allows for cutting edge resources, some of the bigger dental practices might utilize more advanced computer systems for managing patient information and files.
Now, after looking at these five advantages, it’s pretty clear that they can be summed up into two main categories: better budget and better connections. You might be wondering how your small and new dental practice can be expected to compete with a corporation-sized budget and national network. Enter: the Dental Practice Toolbox.

The Dental Practice Toolbox:  What’s in the box?

Unfortunately, your Dental Practice Toolbox is not a physical box you can pick up from the store to improve the profitability of your practice. It would be great if we could point you to the right aisle in the hardware store for all your dental practice operating needs. However, even though it might not be that simple, there are tools you can employ to compete with larger dental practices and increase your profitability. It’s just a matter of finding and utilizing the right resources.
So, what do you need inside your toolbox?

  • Access to resources
  • Ready-made marketing campaigns
  • Access to preferred vendors
  • A strong patient referral base
  • Effective branding
  • A commitment to continuing education
Now, if reading that list made your head start spinning and your heart beat faster, take a deep breath. It might seem like we’ve created an impossible list of advantages that couldn’t possibly be available to your practice, but we promise that isn’t true.  Not only can you get all of these items in your toolbox, but you can use them to compete with the bigger dental practice and improve your profitability. To show you how, let’s take a close look at each item.
  1. Access to resources: This might seem like a no-brainer, but the more resources you can have at your disposal for handling the finer points of running your dental practice, the better. Problems are inevitably going to come up, no matter how much preparation you put into opening your dental practice, and you need to know where to seek out solutions. Whether it’s office related issues—like examples of printable forms—or medical related issues—such as surgical consulting—arm yourself with the information you need to make good decisions and handle challenges.
  2. Ready-made marketing campaigns: You shouldn’t be expected to be a marketing guru and a great dentist. While there are some marketing approaches that are simplified and easily maintained—such as a social media presence—others require time and attention that you likely won’t have to give. Even though much of your marketing efforts can be planned out before opening your practice, they’ll require maintenance down the line that could feel overwhelming among all the other requirements of running a dental practice. Using a ready-made mass marketing campaign can take the pressure off of getting your practice’s name out there.
  3. Access to preferred vendors: Large dental practices often enjoy discounts and reduced prices on supplies from preferred vendors to which smaller practices don’t have access. With reduced costs, you practice can increase its profit margin or offer things like implant placements at lower costs. Obtaining access to preferred vendors and discounted rates not only allows you to reduce your costs, but also allows you to offer lower prices to your patients, which will, in turn, keep them happier with your services.
  4. A strong patient referral base: Having a plan in place to increase your patient referrals—and thus, your number of patients and your profitability—is the key to keeping a steady stream of patients coming through your office. Knowing how, when, and who to advertise to can help with this process, as well as determining who of your current patients can act as community advocates for your practice.
  5. Effective branding: Establishing “who” your practice is and how you want to be perceived in your target community is the first step toward effective branding. Once you determine how you want your brand to be known among your potential and current patients, as well as your competition, you can begin taking steps toward achieving that brand.  Much of this can be accomplished through your marketing strategies and outward presence in the community.
  6. Continuing education: Staying on top of the latest procedures, methods, and techniques in dentistry keeps your practice current and your skills fresh. Take advantage of continuing education opportunities offered to you, as well as professional development opportunities like attending conferences or publishing papers. The stronger reputation you can build as an academic and leader in your field, the more respect you can garner from patients and from your competitors.
Armed and ready with each item in your toolbox, your dental practice will become a strong competitor, regardless of the size practice you’re up against. While most of the items in your toolbox are “behind the scenes” practices, they can all add-up to make a big difference in patient impressions, leading them to be more likely to choose your dental practice over other competitors.
However, since the majority of these items in your toolbox do involve behind the scenes plans and actions, we’ve added three bonus “front and center” tools you can use every day to help make your dental practice more competitive and profitable.

Three Bonus Tools You Can Use Every Day

  1. Patient Relationships: The time and effort you put into establishing relationships with your patients will not be wasted if those patients then, in turn, recommend your practice to their friends and family. A satisfied patient is your most valuable advertisement, so make certain that your chair-side mannerisms are friendly, professional, and show interest in your patient’s life beyond their teeth. While you certainly want to avoid being nosy, getting to know your patients can help set them at ease and earn their trust.
  2. Patient Treatment—beyond the chair: The treatment you give your patients doesn’t just start and stop when they’re sitting in your dental chair. Find small ways to go above and beyond in your patient interactions to make your practice more memorable. For instance, you might consider calling a new patient before their first appointment to make sure they don’t have any questions or concerns, or send a personalized card on their birthday. Small gestures can go a long way in establishing loyalty.
  3. Employee Relationships: The culture of your office will be directly influenced by how satisfied your employees are with their work. Work hard to build positive employee relationships that, in turn, positively effect your office as a whole. You want patients to view your office as a place where people are happy to be—not one that they struggle to come to work every day.

Competing with the Big Guys: What It Really Comes Down To.

If you’re looking at our toolbox list and thinking there’s no way you can possibly succeed in acquiring all of the tools needed to be successful, profitable, and competitive—don’t worry. While there are lots of opportunities available to you as you start a new dental practice, there is one opportunity that can help you achieve a fully stocked toolbox.

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at

New Dental Practice: Location, Location, Location (The Question of Where, Part 2)

“The beautiful August morning was shattered when a mother of 7 methodically tossed, pushed and cajoled her children from the balcony of their 11th floor hotel room in Salt Lake City.  All but one of the children, ranging in age from five to fifteen, died upon impact with the sidewalk 120 feet below.  The fifteen-year-old is in serious condition and not expected to survive.”
This incident occurred August 4, 1978 at the International Dunes Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.  The hotel has been remodeled and renamed Shilo Inn, but to locals it will always be the place where that woman threw her children off the balcony.

What Does This Have To Do With My Practice?

A hotel catering to an out-of-town clientele may not experience a significant impact due to local folklore.  For a dentist servicing locals, the history of a building can impede new patient acquisition.  The reputation of your new dental practice may inherit the lore of the site you select.

So, What Do I Do?

Whether you are searching on your own or using a commercial real estate agent, identify five or six locations within 2 miles of the center of the radius where you want to practice.  You don’t want to “fall in love” with a specific location.  An emotional connection to a specific site may reduce your ability to negotiate a favorable rate or conduct a proper background search on the property.

First, Google.  Google has a long “memory”.  An address is a good search phrase to get a little background on the location.  Go passed the first page of results.  Dig a little deeper in the search results to get into the locations past.  The second page of the Google results for the location of the old International Dunes Hotel show an article on the 10 Most Haunted Places In Salt Lake City . . .

Second, meet the neighbors.  You will be sharing drive-by customers with these people, it’s important to get to know them.  The other tenants can provide insight into the landlord, the neighborhood, what businesses have previously been located in the space, and what kind of businesses will surround your practice. 

You don’t want to find out after you move in that “World of Glass” isn’t an artisan glassblower, but a head shop selling custom bongs.

Third, drive the neighborhood.  Get a ground-level view of where you are going to locate your new practice.  Ask yourself if the neighborhood is in decline, on the way up, or stable?  A stable neighborhood is likely to have a family dentist and be reluctant to change.  A neighborhood experiencing a revitalization is a good opportunity to gain new patients as they will be looking for new services in the area. 

Fourth, talk to the local police.  The local patrol officers can be a great resource for the mood of the neighborhood.  A few years ago I visited with representatives of the San Diego Police Dept. regarding an upcoming trade show of which I was a sponsor.  After dinner they were dropping me at a hotel I selected online as it was convenient to downtown.  When we pulled up the officer looked at the building, then back at me and stated, “No way am I letting you stay there!  When I was a rookie I pulled too many bodies out of that building.”

Fifth, drive the street during business hours.  As I mentioned in the previous article (, a great frontage may not equate to an easy to access location.  Backed up traffic or inconvenient driveways can be a detriment to your success.

Sixth, does the landlord allow signage and is it visible.  Your practice needs to be easily identifiable to patients.  Blocked signage or lack of signage forces you to spend more money on marketing than you planned.

Seventh, try to park during business hours.  Can you easily find parking near the prospective location?  If you can’t, neither can your patients.  Difficulty parking can cause the patient to be vexed and less receptive to your treatment plan.

Carefully consider the location of your new practice.  This is an investment in your professional career, take time to make sure you can be successful.

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at

New Dental Practice: The Question of Where

When choosing to be your own boss and open your dental practice, the positives are you can decide where you want to locate and what type of practice you want to operate.  You may want to return to your home town — or perhaps you’ve always liked Bend, OR and want to start fresh in a new latitude with a new attitude.  It’s your choice, Doctor.  The world is your oyster.

Now, that’s not saying you should sign a lease for the first location you stumble across—on the contrary, the question of where to build your new dental practice is one that requires careful consideration.  Perhaps you found space in a professional office, or a great deal in a strip mall.  Maybe you found a closed stand-alone business you can re-purpose. With any option, you need to carefully consider the choices available to you and how they might affect the success of your new business.

What a Great Idea!

It was a good little sandwich shop.  The floors were stained concrete and the motif was “Mom’s Kitchen 1957” with Formica tables and just the right amount of kitsch on the walls.  What made it special was the homemade bread that you could smell even before entering and the use of premium meats, cheeses, and condiments.  The owners put a lot of thought into their food and décor.  What they lacked was a good name and location.  Fill’er Up was located in an old gas station on a busy road.  Like too many hair salons who use puns to name their businesses (The Hare Affair for a salon located in a former pet shop), Fill’er Up played on what the former business was to name the sandwich shop.  Good product, cute interior design – bad name, bad location.

Two months later Fill’er Up was closed.

What Went Wrong?

The dreamers who opened Fill’er Up did not research:

  • whothe public would think the business was by naming it as a play on the former business,
  • whatthe public would think of a restaurant located in an old gas station,
  • whythe service station closed.

Although the location was on a priority road, it wasn’t at an intersection.  The addition of traffic lights on the street made it nearly impossible to access from a left-hand turn and often cars were backed-up and blocking the entrance.  For people specifically going to the location it was difficult – casual drive-by’s wouldn’t make the effort to stop.

In addition, not much effort was made to redesign the exterior building as the owners thought the name would was a clever explanation of the new business.

It wasn’t.

People thought it was still a service station with out-of-order gas pumps.

How Does This Affect My Practice?

A dental office is a service-related business and a lot can be learned from other successful businesses.  Even more can be learned from businesses that failed.  Whether a restaurant, service station or another dental practice, studying their mistakes can help you avoid similar problems when opening your office.

Does Who Was There Before Matter?

Buildings may go through many tenants over the years, but may remain associated by local residence with one from several years back.  Take the Willis Building in Chicago as an example.  For many, it will always be the Sears Tower. 

Ask questions about the history of the location, if it has any significance to the community and what businesses have used the space.  It may be great the space is already built out as a dental practice, but you may not want to be associated with the former doctor.

You don’t want your first patient saying, “I’m surprised you opened up here, considering what happened a few years back.”

Next Article, Part II:  Location, Location, Location

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at

What Does Your Practice, Practice?

The services you decide to provide as a dentist will define your practice.  You may choose to operate as a general dental clinic, as in implant specialist, pediatric dentistry or just wisdom teeth.  These decisions will determine everything from where you locate your practice to how you market your services.


If you have decided you passion is pediatric dentistry, locating in Sun City, AZ may not be the best decision for a successful practice.  You need to select a location where your passion matches your economic needs.  If you have selected to specialize, research demographics that match your selected patient base.  Look up census information for a specific region and narrow the search to a 10-mile radius.  Confirm the population and economic base exists to support your specialty.


Once you have selected a location, utilize data available from a reputable list broker.  They can work with companies like Avrick Direct to isolate potential customers based upon specific data parameters that align with the service your offer.  A pediatric dental practice would want to look for women, ages 25 – 39, presence of children, who have moved to the area within the last 120 days.  They are most likely to be looking for the services offered.

Not only does this provide very good insight into the prospective patient-base, but gives an immediate source of new patients.  A well-designed mailer welcoming the individuals to the neighborhood and offering a special for childrens’ check-ups can help launch a new practice.

Strategic Relationships

I participated in a conversation with an endodontist seeking work.  When told the practice didn’t currently have need for an endodontist, he stated, “That’s okay.  I don’t mind doing general dentistry.”  The doctor’s need for work out-weighed their desire to specialize.

A specialist should make a point of meeting other dentists within the area and discuss cooperative referrals.  A general dentist may be happy to refer pediatric patients in return for adult patients.  Both can maintain their own practice while benefiting from the other’s chosen specialty.

Don’t Judge

Patients come from all backgrounds and socio-economic groups.  If a dentist has a negative outlook on a particular patient segment it will be reflected by their staff.  If you specialize in dental implants you have to understand people lose teeth from accidents, heredity . . . and drug abuse.  One dentist looked out on his waiting room and commented, “It looks like a welfare office out there.”  His staff took this to mean he didn’t want recovering meth addicts.  The staff’s manner in dealing with people they didn’t think the dentist would want to treat resulted in a drop of forty-percent of new patients. 
Whatever your practice practices is up to you.  Just make sure you do your homework to insure you can be profitable.

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at

Want More Dental Patients? Use An Experienced Marketing Team.

When you open a dental practice, you also become a business owner.  Your plate gets very full, very fast.  Suddenly, you’re no longer just a dentist seeing and taking care of patients—you’re an employer, responsible for training and instructing employees; you’re a decision-maker, responsible for dental office design and determining an effective working order; and you’re also a marketer, developing your brand and promoting your new practice to the community.

For most new dental practice owners, the marketing side of business-ownership is the most daunting. Determining how your practice will best serve the community while generating a successful production income is a delicate balancing act.  

As we discussed in previous articles, you spent significant time and money becoming a doctor.  This what you trained to become and the career you chose for yourself.  Attempting to handle I.T. and advertising tasks on your own is not a productive use of your time and skills.  Unless you have previous experience in marketing, knowing where to start can seem like an enormous challenge.

Attempting to market and advertise your dental practice on your own WILL cause you stress.  Effective marketing and advertising is and art and a science.  It requires analyzing the data to determine which message attracted a new patient and tweaking the message to improve ROI (return on investment).  It may require completely scrapping a current campaign and creating a new approach to deliver the right message to attract new patients (customers).  Not only is this an additional task that will take you away from treating patients, you may become too emotionally invested into a campaign to be willing to change strategy.  

Remember, this is a business you are building—not your ego.  It may be in your best interest to step back from the creative and find a team that can professionally handle your marketing development and implementation. 

Getting help is not a sign of weakness, it’s an intelligent business decision that will payoff in the long run.

Five Reasons to Consider Experienced Marketing Professionals

  1. It saves time: You WILL have your hands full when opening your own dental practice—when your marketing is most important. Taking advantage of marketing professionals who can tailor a multi-pronged marketing campaign to your removes a major headache from your to-do list and allows you to focus on the aspects of running a dental practice for which you are prepared.
  2. It eliminates guesswork: Without previous marketing experience, you will feel like your marketing campaign is a big game of trial and error. Employing marketing professionals allows you to piggyback on their experience as they have already created methods that get results.  They can avoid known marketing pitfalls and adjust your message more quickly.
  3. It gets results: There’s a reason marketing is its own industry—it’s a big job that requires an expert.  There is online marketing, direct marketing, branding, advertising and more.  You will face competition that has been marketing for many years.  A professional marketing team can help you create “shock-and-awe” in an environment where the marketing and advertising has been okay.
  4. Eliminates distractions:  A new business will attract all types of companies vying for your advertising dollar.  You will be approached by salespeople from phone books (there are many publishers), card decks, flyers, newspapers, billboard, radio and television.  A marketing team can interface with these salespeople as your proxy—allowing you to spend more time with patients.
  5. Maintains brand continuity:  The various advertising mediums can be great, but they will all tell you they have “people” who can design your creative “for free!”  Your message WILL become muddled by having different people handling your designs.  The pictures, fonts, and copy used in medium will differ from others.  The lack of brand consistency will work against your practice instead of working for it.

You can do your dental marketing on your own, but would you do your own electrical and plumbing for your new practice?  As a new new dental practice owner you need to minimize your risks.  A professional marketing team will help you develop the right message, the right brand, and the right campaign to attract your new patients.

You can read more helpful tips at  Or contact our team at

Dear Dentist, What Is Your Time Worth?

I once engaged in a conversation with a dentist who said he spent 3-hours a night trying to keep his patched-together computer network running. He had twelve used computers daisy-chained together running Windows XP and he said he struggled every day to keep the system from crashing. I asked him if he minored in Computer Science at dental school. Incredulously he replied, “Of course not!” So I asked why he was wasting his time trying to learn how to keep his system operating versus buying new equipment and hiring a professional to handle installation. 

His response, “Because I’m cheap.” 

Assessing Your Time

This doctor made the mistake of failing to value his own time.  The average annual earnings of a general practice dentist is $175,000.  A traditional 40-hour per week job equals 2,080 hours per year.  This equates to an average hourly salary of $84.00, based upon a dentist working a full 40-hour week.  So why do dentists insist upon doing mundane tasks versus focusing upon production?  If the dentist’s response is indicative of the typical attitude, because they are cheap.  But are they?

The Cost of Your Team

An average small practice will have a receptionist, insurance/billing specialist, dental assistant, and a dental hygienist.  Some dentists may employ an office manager who doubles as the treatment coordinator.  What does this team cost?

  •  Dental Assistant:  $15.00 per hour
  •  Receptionist:  $12.00 per hour
  • Insurance Specialist:  $15.00 per hour
  •  Dental Hygienist:  $30.00 per hour

A traditional small-practice dentist may insist upon handling all the accounting, human resources, IT and office management while assigning employees to handle cleanings, sanitation, sterilization, answering phones, check-ins and inventory.

Valuing Your Time

The dentist in this example stated he was spending 15-hours a week fixing the office computers and network.  Aside from the risk he placed upon his practice when the computers fail and he loses practice data, he completely devalued his own time.  Fixing computers doesn’t contribute to production or office income.
By reassigning the time the dentist spent on IT to production he could have been generating income while making himself more valuable to his patients.  Extending office hours by two-hours a day, a dentist can accommodate patients who cannot afford to take time off during traditional business hours.  The additional ten-hours per week could generate an additional $840.00 per week in individual income.  This equates to an additional $42,000.00 per year while reducing the hours spent after the office has closed by 50 hours.  A completely new computer network, with a server and back-up storage device, would cost about $15,000.00.

What is Your Team Worth?

Hiring a good practice manager to augment your dental office can ultimately increase your profitability.  This person would handle accounting, human resources, basic network maintenance, and treatment coordination.  Enhance your team and you will improve your practice.
Ultimately, being “cheap” will cost you profits.

For more information about owning a dental practice that comes with professional marketing and operational support, visit

Dental Advertising: What Are You Trying to Sell? Part Two

Every point of contact with the public is an opportunity to “sell” your business.  Whether you sell tires, hamburgers, carpet cleaning or dental service – you have to tell people who you are, what your sell, and why they should purchase it from you.
In a dental practice this means from your first point of advertising to the moment the patient walks out of your office they need to see your brand, hear your name, and “feel” your practice.  The feel of your practice refers back to our previous article Pitching the Practice( and discusses making your dental team cheerleaders for your practice versus just employees.  This article will review advertising.

Your Advertising

Direct Mail remains a very effective way to reach your prospective audience.  But you cannot rely on a single mailing to miraculously double your new patients.  Unlike the offer for the new pizza restaurant, your prospects are not “hungry” all the time.  For a dental practice, you have several factors that will contribute to a successful advertising campaign:

  • Does the prospect need your services at this time?
  • Do they have a current dental provider?
  • What services do you offer that are elective AND wallet-friendly?
  • How much do your services cost?
  • Why should they choose you?
  • And, who AREyou?

You need to have your offer in front of the prospect when they need your services.  This is why a consistent advertising campaign is very important to your practice’s success.  In addition, you need to make your practice a household name.  When a prospect needs dental work, you need to make sure your practice is the first one they remember.  And if you’re not getting the response rate you want from your mailer, it may be your creative and your ad copy.  Let’s review an example and how it can be improved upon.

The Mailer

1.  The Header

“There’s a story behind every smile . . .,” could be a tagline for anything from cupcakes to a photography studio.  Nothing in the header tells your prospect this is for a dental practice or who sent it.  A simple change can make a huge difference.
                “There’s a story behind every Smith Dental smile . . .”
Simply adding the name of the practice focuses the narrative in the header.

2.  The Copy

“ . . . and everyone wants to have a smile they feel good about, no matter their age. [Sic] gender, profession, or circumstance.”
First, two paragraphs break the “10-words or less” rule of copy.  Unless you have a compelling story, keep it simple.
Second, the copy sounds like the opening of a speech.  There is not a call to action or a reason why there is a story behind every smile.  A better approach:
                “ . . . and that’s why we want to help you find yours again.”
 The second paragraph:
“Understanding that simple fact has allowed us to provide not only exceptional results, but a pleasing experience as well.”
This paragraph is unnecessary, but can be written to provide a more compelling reason to visit this practice.
“At Smith Dental, we respect your reason to improve your smile.  Whether you want to improve your career, are dating again, have an upcoming reunion, or simply want to feel better about yourself – we will give you excellent results.”
This copy gives the prospect pain points to consider even if they have not been thinking about dental work.  The suggestions may trigger the prospect to choose an elective dental procedure.
The third paragraph:
                “So whatever the story may be . . .”
This paragraph is simply unnecessary and does not add to the “conversation”.

3.  The Tag Line

“ . . . we’d like to be a part of yours”
This line is frighteningly passive, like a shy 8thgrader asking for a dance in junior high.  The tag line should be confident and assertive:
                “At Smith Dental, we will help you restore your smile.”

4.  The Image

The picture should tell a story about what you will receive at the dental practice.  The smiling dentist and his family is a well-staged photograph, but does not show an example of the services.  With a few small changes in layout this mailer could have shown two services, like professional teeth whitening or veneers, to support the header.  This was a missed opportunity to show results of making an appointment.

5.  The Identifier

This section had the name of the doctors larger than the contact information.  This was a missed opportunity to put a large contact telephone number and a call to action:
                “Make your appointment today.”
This may seem like a simple statement, but it tells the recipient what they should do if they want a restored smile.

Direct Mail Does Work

A direct mailer doesn’t require printing 25k pieces at once – nor should a dentist do so to get “a better price”.  The value of direct mail is the ability to change your message and offer based upon impact and the needs of the practice.  The look and feel of the mailer should maintain a theme, but the offers and images should rotate in order to keep the mailer fresh.
Remember, if you’re not getting the response you want, it’s time to change the mailer.

For more information about owning your dental practice that comes with professional marketing and operational support, visit

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Dental Advertising: What Are You Trying to Sell? Part One

I opened a direct mail envelope today.  You know the kind, fifty different advertisers on individual 3×9 slips of paper with offers from pizza to tire alignment.  As I was sorting the offers I encountered fourteen different dental practice advertisements.  Of the fourteen inserts, twelve included pictures of the dentist and their families.  As the pile grew with I saw they all had a similar format of color-coordinated, smiling, often outdoors, and shot by a professional photographer of the dentist,a smiling spouse, kids and family dog.  This is a trend most closely associated with dental advertising – and realtors.
So WHY is this so prevalent in dental advertising?  I have yet to see an advertisement for a local restaurant with a picture of the owner and his family.  Maybe the owner in a chef’s coat, but not the entire family.  The owner knows he’s selling his food, service and prices.  “Branding” the family will not help sell product.

Keys to Success

There are three primary keys to any business:

  • Quality
  • Price
  • Service

A business’ success relies upon offering two of the three items.  Customers will embrace higher prices if the quality and service are excellent.  They will accept “okay” quality of the price is lower and service is impeccable.  But in a dental practice, if the patient feels the service is poor, you will soon fail.

How Do You Sell Your Practice?

A business only has a few seconds to grab the attention of the consumer.  So it is critically important for the success of advertising to effectively set a hook before they lose interest and drop your mailing in the trash.  The above dental mailer example was professionally printed on nice cardstock and had a slick look, but it missed several key elements for success.

  1.  The header“There’s a story behind every smile…”doesn’t really have a hook or tell the consumer what the product is.
  2. The copy – There is nothing in the copy that says the advertisement is a dental practice or offering dental service.  Other than the name of the practice at the bottom (blurred as a courtesy), this piece does not state it is a dental practice.
  3. Image – Over 60% of the advertisement is a photograph of a man, woman, and two color-coordinated children.  Nothing about the image states this is a dental practice or give a reason for the consumer to continue reading the mailer.
  4. The tagline“…we’d like to be a part of yours”is passive and not a call to action. 

Overall, this mailer could be for a number of businesses.  With the staging of the family and soft copy this could easily be an advertisement for a professional photographer. 
If this mailer was sent to 5,000 households it would need to attract 50 new patients, or a 1% rate of return, to provide a good ROI (return on investment).  Based upon the copy, layout and lack of a specific call-to-action, it is unlikely this advertising met the goal.

See us on Friday for Part Two of this article.

For more information about owning your dental practice that comes with professional support, visit


The Trick to Hiring the Perfect Dental Office Manager for Your Practice

As with all things in business – there is no “trick”.  Hiring the right team members to help you create your office culture is a challenge.  They need to be efficient, helpful, friendly, skilled, and foremost – share your passion for helping patients and making your practice a success.  One of your key hires will be your office manager.  They will direct practice personnel, interact with patients, explain (and sell) treatment plans, manage P&L, and help you establish the “personality” of your dental practice.  A good office manager will let you focus on production, a great office manager will help you be a success.

So first, you need to know what kind of a practice YOU want to operate.  Your outline for patient care and practice success will set the tone for the type of team member you hire for office manager.  Your priorities will become their priorities.  If quickly answering the telephone in a friendly manner is not important to you, neither will it be for them.  If they perceive you don’t like treating lower-income patients, your office manager will reflect this to patients and staff.  Your bad day or off-hand comment will directly affect how your new office manager directs staff and the treatment of prospective patients.
This isn’t intended to make you nervous or increase pressure, but to help determine the goals for your dental practice so you make hiring decisions that compliment your personality.  Here are a few tips to help you find a great office manager for your new practice.

Qualities to Look for in a Dental Office Manager

·         Organizational skills:  You need your office manager to be on top of ALL the paperwork and processes that keep your dental practice running great.
·         People skills:  A good office manager will not be afraid to make eye contact, small talk, and know how to make patients feel at ease.  They will be able to convey these skills to other team member by example and coaching.
·         Customer service experience:  Anyone who has worked with the public has handled a difficult customer.  A skilled team member will understand the adage, “The customer is NOT always right – but they are ALWAYS the customer.”  Hiring an office manager with experience in finding a positive resolution for unhappy customers will have the skills to redirect the ire of a dissatisfied patient.
·         Phone skills:  A strong, friendly, engaged individual on the telephone will set the tone for the patients’ perceived experience once they enter the practice.  A clear, well-spoken, and kind telephone personality will be the difference between prospects choosing your practice over another.
·         Sales:  With growing competition for dental patients, “sales” is no longer a dirty word.  Your office manager will likely also be your treatment coordinator.  This takes a personality who can clearly explain your notes and treatment plan to the patient.  They will listen, offer suggestions, and “sell” your suggestions to help the patient realize THEIR goals for an improved smile.

Interviewing and Hiring the RIGHT Practice Office Manager

Your office manager will have a more fluid job description than any other member of your team.  Unlike your dental hygienist or dental assistant, they right office manager may not specifically have training in a dental environment.  Due to this it is likely you will receive more applications with more diverse backgrounds for office manager than for any other position you need to fill.  This will give you more choices for right candidate, but will require more attention to the selection process.  Here are a few suggestions for making the right hire for office manager.
1.       Conduct the initial interview over the phone.  The best way to understand what your prospects and patients will encounter on the telephone is to hear how the candidate interacts with you on the phone.  Your impromptu questions will help you determine if the candidate is the right “voice” for your dental practice.  Trust your gut.  If you don’t hear what you’re looking for, move on.
2.       Ask for both professional and personal references.  Take references seriously.  The people for whom the candidate has worked and with whom they have worked are a good insight into how they will fit into your growing practice.
3.       Include scenarios in your final interview.  Use your personal experience to create events for the candidate to respond.  This will allow the candidate to demonstrate how they can handle a potential situation which can happen at your practice.  You top candidates will have good listening skills, will be able to understand the situation, and offer several options to correct this matter.  The right candidate will demonstrate they can “think on their feet”.
4.       Trust your instincts.  As we stated in item one, this may be your most reliable way to determine if you have a great candidate.  Your first impression will be your prospect and patients’ first impression.  If you are not impressed by the candidate’s demeanor and how they conduct themselves during the interview – move on.

Click here if you are interested in owning YOUR dental practice, or would like to download our free eBook, “The Profitability of Dentistry”.

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