Dental Practice Marketing is Part of a Dentist’s Job

Melinda Spitek The “New Patient” Mystique: Build It and They Will Come?
Special Marketing Feature
By Melinda Spitek, CEO, Hycomb Marketing

In the classic movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s movie character has a vision of building a stadium and attracting long-dead baseball stars to come back and play ball. We the audience get caught up in the dream and, like the hero, start to believe the players will truly show up. But the truth is, it’s only a fantasy.

It’s not surprising that even in today’s competitive market for the new dental patient, some of the powers-that-be advocate the classic approach to dental practice building: word of mouth referral from satisfied patients. Effectively, dentists are encouraged to “Build it and hope they will come.”

So, should you be actively involved in soliciting new patients, or merely waiting for your current patients to “tell a friend?”

The answer is both. We’ve all heard dentists say, “Our best patients are referred by our best patients.” Certainly, that’s true. But should you just sit around and hope? I’ll bet dentists who do nothing to stimulate referrals do a lot of waiting – not to mention have plenty of empty chair time.

Alas, new patients just don’t magically appear. Perhaps you’re disinclined to mount an aggressive direct mail effort to solicit new patients. Or maybe you feel newspaper, magazine, or radio would be overly restricted by your state’s guidelines. At a bedrock minimum, then, you should be getting referrals from the best source of all – your current patients – by asking for them!

I know that, for some of you, asking for referrals is tough. You may even think it denigrates your professional image. But I assure you, that’s not true. Your current patients are coming to you because they believe in your abilities. Why shouldn’t they be honored and flattered when asked to refer their own friends or relatives?

You can punctuate the referral process with patient referral cards – Smile Cards.* These are business-size cards in which space is provided for the new patient to write in the name of the person who referred them. A win-win situation: the new patient receives a monetary incentive to make an appointment with you, and the referring patient receives a similar reward.

You may want to supplement your referrals effort by reaching out to potential new patients in other means of advertising. However, there are a few things to keep in mind here. Some states are very restrictive when it comes to professional dental services advertising. Before you begin to spend, make sure you’re knowledgeable about guidelines. An even better idea is to hire a professional dental marketing agency familiar with your needs and your state’s regulations.

*Smile Cards (design and text) are a Copyright product of Hycomb Marketing Inc. (Created by Jim Du Molin)

Melinda Spitek is CEO of Hycomb Marketing Inc. Hycomb is an authority in marketing for dentists. Melinda has had plenty of hands-on experience as well, having worked 23 years in dental offices. For help with marketing, just call Hycomb at (800) 523-6961 or visit

Dentist Thinks All Dentists Should Drop Dental Insurance (video)

Dentist Thinks All Dentists Should Drop Dental Insurance (video)Dental insurance is a great way to bring in new dental patients, but it is also a great way to reduce a dental practice’s bottom line and give dentists less control over their dental practice.

Explained one endodontist, “If I dropped dental insurance I’d be cutting ties to 85% of my patient base!”

Another doctor suggested, “If all dentists dropped all insurances, then all dentists could collect fees in full from everyone!”

The Wealthy Dentist conducted a survey asking dentists if they have dropped dental insurance.  Many dentists responded that they are sick and tired of dental insurance companies dictating fees and treatments, leaving a number of them wanting to drop their dental health plans.

To hear more of what dentists had to say about dropping dental insurance, Click Play —

What are your thoughts on dental insurance?

Dental Patients Willing to Travel for Treatment

Dental Survey ResultsDental Patients and How Far They Travel

When we asked dentists how far their average patient travels for treatment, most said about 5-10 miles. However, anecdotes abound of patients who have kept their dentists even after moving hundreds or thousands of miles away. Not surprisingly, rural patients are more likely to travel farther for treatment than do urban or suburban residents.

  • “I have both an active local clientele and an international clientele.” (Urban New York prosthodontist)
  • “Not enough patients come from far away.” (Suburban New York oral surgeon)
  • “Many of our patients travel up to 4 hours by car for their treatment.” (Urban California implantologist)
  • “We have a handful of patients who have moved out of state but continue their care at our office when they are in the area.” (Suburban Colorado dentist)
  • “We advertise on radio for sedation and complex dental services. People drive well over one hundred miles, or as far out as they receive the radio’s signal.” (Suburban California dentist)
  • “We have patients who fly in every year or less from over a thousand miles away. If patients know you’re honest and have their best interest at heart, they will come from anywhere, no matter the distance.” (Urban Minnesota dentist)

Read the complete patient travel distance survey results or post your own comments

Dentists: Would a Former Associate Steal Your Dental Patients? (video)

Dentists: Would a Former Associate Steal Your Dental Patients? (video)Dentists, do you think an ex-employee or associate would steal your dental patient lists?

In a survey conducted by the research firm Ponemon Institute, 59% of ex-employees admitted to stealing company data when leaving their prior employment.

Dental patients are a dentist’s most valuable resource, but competition can be so tough that some dentists have seen exiting dental employees steal their patient lists.

One dentist complained, “Every GP associate I’ve had has tried to steal patients. It’s like inviting someone into your home, then finding your silverware is missing after they leave.”

Another dentist said, “I’ve had employees try; the patients usually complain to me personally about the situation. Loyalty is rewarded.”

The Wealthy Dentist conducted a survey asking dentists if they have ever had problems with ‘patient stealing‘ by associate dentists or employees leaving their dental practice.

To hear how dentists responded, Click on Play —

What has been your experience with dental pateint stealing at your dental practice?

Dentists: Protect Your Dental Lease from Inflation

Dentists: Protect Your Dental Lease from InflationHow an Inflation-Hedged Tenancy Agreement Can Save Your Dental Practice and Give You a Competitive Edge

Last week I started talking about what I see as the upcoming “perfect inflationary storm.”

While some indicators suggest that a slow economic recovery may be underway, there continues to be skepticism among many economists.

Some feel the current rebound is unsustainable and driven primarily by the massive – but temporary – fiscal stimulus promoted by the Federal Reserve.

In the past three years, for example, the Fed has injected more liquidity into the U.S. economy than in the previous 25 years, combined.1 Never before in human history has so much money entered the world’s economy so quickly, and certainly never before in American history have we tripled the money supply by 300% in less than 4 years.

Preparing for Inflation

This is setting up our economy for what could be an inflationary period of time longer and more extensive than ever experienced before.

Indeed, some business owners and financial analysts with whom I have consulted have commented that many policymakers are already well aware of this. However, many of them – as well as corporate executives and Wall Street bankers – often have vested interests, thereby making implementation of these policies difficult. Further, many have been trained as expert systems managers rather than generalists, and thus only see piecemeal solutions to these very complex problems and will be unable to replace a failed system with a new one.

What does all this mean for dentists? In my view, today’s dentist must both have the foresight to read the writing on the wall and create the tools necessary to effectively manage their dental practice during rising and high inflation. This may start with an annual inflation rate of 7% within the next 1 to 3 years, rising to double-digit inflation within 4 to 5 years.

Preparing to manage a dental practice through an inflationary period can be a daunting task when you stop to think about it. Imagine your costs going up significantly and not being able to pass those costs onto your dental patients at the same rate.

However, the good news – as the saying goes – is that you don’t have to outrun the tiger; you just have to outrun the person next to you.

Being One of the Survivors

Hedging your long-term business commitments today will give you the edge needed to outlast and outperform your competition. Many of today’s dentists opt to listen to the financial cheerleaders as if they’re financial planners because it “feels” good and because it “fits in” with their view of how the world works.

Instead, take this opportunity to be a reflective strategist and critical thinker about tomorrow. One of the greatest of these was Herb Kelleher, the former CEO of Southwest Airlines. He had a reputation for thinking outside the box, and his proactive risk management style – including his fuel-hedging program implemented in the 2000s, which allowed the airline to enter into aggressive fuel futures contracts – allowed them to better manage their costs.2

As the price of jet fuel rose dramatically during that period, Southwest emerged as the most profitable airline in the industry, driving out competitors and avoiding Chapter 11 bankruptcy – the fate that ultimately awaited all major U.S. air carriers. Southwest’s fuel-price inflation-hedging strategy provides a great lesson in how to compete in difficult economic times and emerge victorious.

Hedging against Inflation

America’s tenant-based businesses like dental offices should, in my opinion, act like Herb Kelleher by identifying the major expenses in today’s dollars, in order to hedge against future inflation.

As occupancy and tenancy costs remain top priorities in long-term lease contracts for dentists, these are critical costs to contain. As your tenancy leases roll over for renewal, avoid locking into existing options to extend the terms of the previous NNN Lease Agreement protecting the landlord against inflation by passing the costs on to you.

Be willing to “step out of the box” and renegotiate hard, both the base rent provisions, and triple net components of the lease, much like the hedging strategy employed by Southwest.

In particular, ask for longer-term rents with locked-in fixed rents, which do not rise based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), but rather, have set increases and thereby cap off the percentage increases year over year. Landlords will generally object to this, but given today’s real estate environment, they will often concede, as they are unlikely to want to lose a good, paying tenant.

An excellent window of opportunity still exists to take advantage of struggling landlords by implementing such a hedging strategy. Only agree to triple net provisions with a cap on increases of no more than 6% year-over-year. You’ll want to do this while most landlords are still operating in a non- or low-inflation mindset and remain insensitive to this request as they do not yet foresee a high-inflation period ahead.

Although putting in place an inflation-hedging strategy will take time, planning and effort, the pecuniary benefits would be a significant competitive advantage similar to the one Southwest had if you feel there is a reasonable risk that our economy will enter into an inflationary period of time.

Considering Your Risks

What do you have to lose? Ask yourself where the bigger risk lies: paying marginally more in rent on the front end, or not having the ability to stop landlords from loading you up with additional expenses, so that in the end your triple net charges begin costing you more than your base rents?

If we hit a period of 12% annual inflation – which many believe to be a real possibility – it will only take about 3 years, under most lease agreements, for your triple net charges to start costing you more than base rents.

More importantly, consider how it will affect your competition’s bottom line. Should they fail to heed the inflationary warnings allowing their landlords the unrestricted ability to pass inflationary risk on to them you’ll have the same advantage Southwest had on its competitors.

1 St. Louis Federal Reserve
2 Cobbs, Richard & Wolf, Alex (Spring 2004) “Jet Fuel Hedging Strategies”


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