Marketing Mistakes That Are Costing You Patients #1: Silo-ing

Welcome! I hope you’re as excited as I am about this 8 article series to pound out common mistakes that many dentists make without even knowing it. Everyone makes mistakes, but these are ones you’re going to want to avoid given they can actually make prospective and current patients run the other way. Hopefully as we journey through this list of eight, you’re not nodding your head at every one; but no worries if you are! We’re not just going to tell you the problems and leave you hanging; we’ll give you solutions to fix and avoid the mistakes too!

solution

But first, let’s quickly “talk marketing.”

Did that make you cringe? Don’t let it! “Marketing” gets a bad rap in a few industries, and especially with dental professionals. With concrete belief in facts, science and strategy dentists often think of marketing as a “right-brained” task; having to come up with creative content, flashy logos and design or… the dreaded pushy selling. But the fact is, marketing is more of a science than most people know, those words and images are just a product. Successful marketers today focus on studying success stories, analyze and collect data about an audience’s wants, needs, fears, and measure progress and make changes accordingly. They study, diagnose, treat and measure results… Sound familiar? You’re already more qualified for successful marketing than you may think!  The lack of analytics, strategy and science is why a lot of marketing attempts fail.

Alright folks, sharpen your tools and straighten your scrubs. Hands in. Let’s do this!

1. Silo-ing Marketing.

Yes, I just made a verb out of silos, but keep reading and you’ll find out why it works! Silos are for separating grain, not your livelihood. Since that’s essentially what marketing is  – your practice, as a whole. Think of “marketing” as everything you do in your practice to create value and service, as both a clinician and business owner. The entire operation. Not just your social media presence, catchy name, or pricey advertisements; but your office’s customer service, how you share knowledge and information with patients, the look and feel of your office, organization, communication within your team and with patients, your services and treatments, the list goes on!

success diagram So once you realize and accept this mentality, you’ll know that it’s basically impossible to actually run from or isolate (aka silo) marketing in your clinic. It also takes away some of the scare and taboo of the word “marketing,” no? You’re marketing yourself everyday with every one of your patients already, you just may not have realized it; which is part of  the problem. To believe marketing is just one, separate aspect of your business and putting it in a silo, is setting yourself up for disaster.

Consistency is key. So when you think of how you want to “market” your practice, ask yourself, “what message do I want to send?” Then look at what message you are sending right now in your practice as a whole. Right down to the nitty-gritty. If you see inconsistencies, there’s your starting point.

If you’re having a hard time knowing what to look for when comparing the message you want to send vs. the message you are sending, here are some ideas:

  • How you (and your team) interact with patientschecklist & pen
  • Brochures, flyers, information you give to patients
  • Your dress code for your team (both clinical and office)
  • How you and your staff interact with patients (interpersonally and telephone skills too)
  •  The ambiance of your practice (music, decorations, colors, style)
  • Treatment options you offer
  • Causes your practice supports/involved in
  • Technologies you have in your office
  • Social media presence
  • The usability, look and information presented on your website
  • What you send out via mail, e-mail and advertising
  • Your positioning: What kind of practice (family practice, full-service practice, cosmetic practice, value practice, orthodontic, pediatric, et cetera.)

Dental Care On A Budget

dental budgetYou don’t usually hear of someone jumping for joy when it comes to going to the dentist. However, a study conducted by Consumer Reports found that generally, Americans are extremely satisfied with their dental care, and rate it higher than most other services. But that doesn’t mean everything is on the up and up in dental care in the U.S. The same study also reported that cost was the number one reason Americans delay going to the dentist. When money is tight and you’re looking for ways to save, you may be tempted to put dental care on the back burner. But bad oral health is something you and your family simply can’t afford! There are things you can do to not only keep dental costs down but keep trips to the dentist minimal.

  1. Talk to your dentist about preventative care. As much as your dentist may love to see your bright and shiny smile (perhaps thanks to them), they know the less they see you, the healthier your mouth is, most likely. So talk to them about what you can do at home to help make that happen. Ask them concerning things like brushing properly, flossing, eating right, regular cleanings (yes, those are necessary so that you don’t have a bigger bill for a cavity, or worse, later on) and anything else they can suggest to help keep your mouth in tip-top shape so that you don’t have to break the bank for procedures that could have been prevented by sound oral care.
  2. Look into dental insurance. Health insurance plans differ on their coverage when it comes to dental work. Depending on the plan, there may be no coverage, or perhaps only for emergency procedures. Because of this, it’s important to know exactly what is and what isn’t covered in your existing insurance plan so you can look at your options when it comes to getting additional dental insurance. Learn more in depth about what dental insurance is, how it works, if it’s worth it, and things to consider in our article, Is Dental Insurance Right For You?
  3. Know all your options.  In addition to dental insurance, there are other aids to help you pay dental bills ranging from programs to places that can do procedures at a discounted rate. These can include discount dental programs, government assistance, dental schools and health centers, non-profit organizations and CareCredit, just to name a few. To find more about each of those options, check out our article, Get Help Paying Dental Bills.
  4. Create an actual dental care allowance in your budget. The best way to prevent scrambling when it comes to paying for your family’s oral health is budgeting and being prepared. Here’s how to do it in 4 steps:
    • Step 1: Check your coverage – going back to #2 here, know exactly what your insurance does and doesn’t cover.
    • Step 2: Call your provider – price out general costs for the procedures you know you’ll need done and need to budget for (like cleanings twice a year and x-rays). Factor in some extra money just in case of emergencies. Now that you know your coverage, factor in what costs your insurance will cover, co-pays, etc. and create an estimate cost of your visit. If you don’t have any coverage, look at the options mentioned in #3, talk to your dentist about a payment plan or discounts for cash payments and calculate a total cost.
    • Step 3: Calculate the annual cost – using the numbers from the previous step (remember to factor in your coverage and any deductible requirement).
    • Step 4: Create the monthly budget – divide the annual cost calculated in the previous step by 12 to find the monthly amount to set aside in your budget each month. You won’t have any worries or discerns scheduling your appointment once you have the funds waiting in your bank account!

budgeting

Dentistry – Service Marketing vs. Product Marketing

track&hurdlesWhen a patient walks into your office for the first time, you’ve successfully cleared a huge hurdle in the marketing triathlon: getting them to choose to come to you. But that’s just the initial, you have two more challenges to overcome: getting them to come back to you, and getting them to stay (and if you’re a go-getter and want the win, add, getting them to spread the word about your practice to the list!). But now I’m getting ahead of myself. The fact is, that although every one of the three hurdles mentioned are pivotal aspects to a successful practice, the first, getting them to choose you, is imperative. You don’t get to even see the second and third hurdle if you can’t clear the first. So what’s the best way to do that? There are countless marketing programs, articles, companies, seminars, et cetera that can help your practice “win the gold” (I’ll stop with the race analogies now, really). But before delving into any of them, I think it’s important to recognize one thing: that they’re not all going to help. The dental industry is a vast monster to grasp, and a mighty one at that. Dipping and reaching into other industries such as cosmetics, healthcare, insurance, medical equipment, beauty products, the list goes on. But still, not all marketing advice, tips or strategies are going to apply. One of the first things to recognize is that in general, a dental professional is offering a service over a product. 

 Selling a service can be very different than selling a product. And given that consumers buy services differently than they buy products, it’s a good thing they’re not the same or one of the sectors is completely missing their target market’s needs. You’re selling something that doesn’t exist yet. You can’t show a patient a perfect pair of pearly whites with a clean-cut price tag, make a quick sale, collect the cash and walk away, wiping your hands clean of it. As a dentist, your job is to care for people’s teeth, to serve your patients. While a dental office may offer and promote products to their patients in addition to services and treatments to increase satisfaction and results, the number one reason and benefit a patient is seeing you is because of your work and service towards a happier, healthier smile. The hardest part about selling a service is that it’s intangible. Consumers tend to see buying a service as more of a risk than when buying a product. They can’t see, touch or test out a service before purchasing it, they’re flying in the dark, so to speak. So the best thing you can do to clear that first hurdle and get them in your chair is to show them the light. Emphasize the benefits your service and treatments offer. Keep in mind that benefits that seem obvious to you may not even cross a patient’s mind. For example, one of the biggest services dentists do in (preventative) dentistry is teeth cleaning. And it’s obvious that the benefit is to have cleaner teeth and therefore less cavities, right? So there’s that, service: teeth cleaning, benefit: cleaner teeth. Good but not good enough. Take a step further with your patients and give them the bits of knowledge that might be obvious to you because you are the professional. What about more long term? It’s doubtful that they’re looking forward to nights of taking their set of teeth out before bed rather than brushing them… Remind them that your services now, with the help of diligent at-home oral care, will not only elongate the time they might need dentures, but eliminate it completely; and that the health of their teeth affects so much more than just their mouth, but their health as a whole. When you talk about the future with your patients, you insert yourself in their future.

But there’s not just one way to add tangibility to a service, here’s 5 more:

  1. Highlighting benefits and reminding patients just how far your service can reach is probably one of the most effective ways to do so, but isn’t the only way. A great way to implement this is by sending a follow up/thank you letter to patients after an appointment. Make the letter personal and informational explaining any procedures they had done and reminders of good at-home oral care. This not only provides tangibility, but keeps you top of mind and your patients will remember it and you.
  2. Testimonials are also a great way to add value to your service. Why tell prospects how great you are when your patients can do it for you?! An easy and fruitful way to take advantage of this option is by using services such as our site, topdentistsonline.com, that do the work for you when it comes to getting referrals and testimonials, and it’s guaranteed!
  3. Speaking of guarantees, service guarantees are another way companies can add tangibility to their services. This is a bit harder to implement in the dentistry compared to other service industries but still an option when it comes to fillings, hardware, et cetera.
  4. Showing credentials is something you’re hopefully already doing in your office. You went to school for several years for a reason, show it off! And patients love to see and know that their dentist is professional and knowledgable, don’t make them assume it. Also show off any relevant certificates, awards or acknowledgements you, your staff or your office as a whole has received.
  5. Portfolios don’t only help starving artists anymore. You may not be able to show a potential patient a model of the teeth their hoping to have after seeing you, but pictures of work you’ve done on others and before and after shots are a great way to showcase your work and show that you get results! This looks great on websites or brochures, just make sure to get permission and documentation before sharing any work done on one of your patients.
  6. Products. Aren’t we talking about service marketing though? Why not add tangible to the intangible? Makes sense right? And many dentists already do this by giving patients complimentary toothbrushes and floss at an appointment with their name, address and phone number printed on it.

business opportunityYou can combine many of these ways to add value to your practice by creating an entire information package to give to current or prospective patients depending on what you want to focus on. This package could encompass testimonials from patients, informational brochures about procedures and your practice, any articles recognizing your practice or achievements, you and your teams’ credentials and perhaps a toothbrush! And of course, don’t forget to implement as much as possible on your website! Just make sure that it’s organized so that more information means more knowledge, not more clutter. Flora Richards-Gustafson with Demand Media wrote a great article, How to Bring Life to a Service or Intangible Product, highlighting 4 steps to help spark some creativity when trying to add value. Her tips include: humanizing benefits, using metaphors and imagery, combining your service with a tangible product (#6 in this article), and package your services rather than having customers pick and choose individually.

You know the value behind your service, market your practice with these tips in mind so your patients and others know it as well!

Myth Busters For Your Mouth

scary devil“The world is flat,” the Lochness Monster, your mother telling you, “Keep making that face and it’ll stay like that!” when you were growing up, the list goes on… Myths. A myth is an idea, opinion or misconception that evolves into what becomes “fact” or common knowledge. Myths don’t only include the far-fetched and fantasy however. There are plenty of myths out there concerning our health, specifically oral health. Here are 10 common misconceptions of the mouth and the truths about them:

1.    Sugar is the enemy!

While sugar definitely isn’t a friend to neither our teeth nor our diets, it isn’t necessarily the root of all evil when it comes to our oral health either. Many believe sugar and sweets to be the prime cause of cavities, and that the more sugar you eat, the more cavities you get. However, the truth is that it isn’t the amount or even the sugar itself that is the cause of cavities. The acid your mouth produces in the presence of sugar is the real culprit. That acid is made to break down the bacteria that feeds off of carbohydrates (sugar is a carb, and so is rice, potatoes, bread, fruits and vegetables). So sugar, or any carb for that matter, might not be necessarily good when it comes to preventing cavities, but how long they are in contact with your teeth is much more important than the amount. The longer sugar is in your mouth, the more acid is formed that eats away at your tooth enamel, causing tooth decay. With this in mind, sipping sugary drinks all-day or sucking on dissolving candies like lollipops simply aren’t in your best interest. But there’s no need to feel guilty reaching for that candy bar, as long as you brush shortly afterwards!

2.    If you don’t have cavities, you won’t get gum disease.

Being cavity-free is a great thing! But unfortunately it doesn’t give you a “get out of jail free” card when it comes to gum disease. Gum disease can affect you even when your dentist clears your teeth to be in tip-top shape. Many people aren’t even aware that they have gum disease given it is virtually painless. In fact, three out of four Americans have gum disease but only about three percent get treated. Things such as smoking, stress, medications, poor nutrition, obesity, heart disease and family history are all things that can cause or worsen gum disease, as well as other factors.

Gums that bleed easily, are red or swollen, or tender are all signs of gingivitis. If you think you may have gingivitis, get it looked at right away! The earliest stage is the only one that’s reversible; and if caught early, a professional cleaning by your dentist followed by regular brushing and flossing can usually eliminate it. Something to keep in mind if you find yourself with bleeding gums, is to not shy away from brushing! It may make sense to want to take a break from brushing if your gums start bleeding, thinking they need time to heal. However the opposite is true. If your gums are bleeding it means there’s bacteria and plaque building up around them, and if you want the bleeding to stop you need to keep up brushing 2-3 times a day (and gently, not vigorously. We’ll go over that in more depth in myth #4).

3.    If you have a toothache, you should place aspirin next to the tooth.

Swallowing aspirin is the only safe and effective way to take it. Just putting a tablet next to an aching tooth doesn’t allow it to be absorbed into your body to relieve the pain, plain and simple. And placing aspirin next to a tooth will actually do more harm than good. Aspirin is acidic and can actually create a chemical burn to your gums and lips, which could cause an abscess. You’ll then be stuck with the pain of a mouth sore in addition to that aching tooth you were dealing with in the first place. Think of it this way, you don’t place aspirin on your forehead when you have a headache, so why would you do it with a toothache?

4.    Brushing harder means cleaner teeth.

While a little elbow grease and scrubbing may go a long way to make your bathroom shine, the same logic should not be applied to your dental care. Applying too much pressure or using a toothbrush with medium or hard bristles can actually wear down the surface of your teeth and irritate your gums. The fact is, it doesn’t take much pressure to remove plaque and bacteria, brushing (correctly) for 2-3 minutes with a soft-bristled brush and flossing will do the trick. To make sure you’re doing a good enough job when brushing, read our article Are You Brushing Correctly? Brushing more than 2-3 times a day could also be damaging to your teeth and gums, and is probably unnecessary. Try to consume food, especially sugary ones in one sitting so you can brush afterwards, not throughout the day. If you just can’t help but want to brush with some force, you may want to look into buying an electric toothbrush, which “does the work for you.” All you have to do is guide it along, reach all areas and teeth, and make sure you’re doing a full 2-3 minutes, which some electric toothbrushes can help with as well because they have built in timers.

5.    You should brush right after eating acidic foods.

 Brushing immediately after eating acidic foods like oranges, lemons, citric juices, or soft drinks can actually hurt your teeth more than help them. Even though acid harms your teeth and can eat away at the enamel, brushing shortly after consuming acidic foods can push the acids deeper into the enamel of your teeth. Instead, you should rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking something acidic and wait about 30 minutes to an hour to brush.

6.    Sugar-free soda can’t hurt your teeth.

While sugar-free may sound like a healthy alternative when craving a carbonated concoction, it’s still not good for your pearly whites and can harm your teeth. Sugar isn’t the only not-so-sweet when it comes to your teeth substance in soda (and remember in myth #1 that it’s actually the acid that is worse and the time, not amount that matters). Soda and other carbonated beverages are high in acid, which eats at and destroys tooth enamel. The healthiest choice you can make is water. If you want to help not only your oral health, but health as a whole, eliminate sugary and sugar-free sodas from your diet.

7.    Whitening your teeth weakens them.

We all want a white, dazzling smile, and teeth whiteners have helped us close the gap to whiter teeth when brushing and flossing doesn’t quite get us the results we want. But many fear that using bleaching products on their teeth can be harmful and weaken them; and it makes sense, bleach is a pretty strong agent, right? However, if you follow the directions when whitening your teeth bleaching products are generally harmless. That’s not to say you might not experience some side effects when whitening. Over-bleaching may cause tooth sensitivity and gum irritation, but it won’t weaken the enamel. This is because bleaching agents only affect the color of your teeth by removing some of its pigmentation, but it doesn’t affect their health or strength. If you bleach too much or remove too much pigmentation, your teeth may appear translucent which may cause one to think the integrity of your enamel is at risk, but really it’s just a color change. Whether you use over the counter whiteners or go to your dentist to get your teeth whitened, that’s up to you. Whitening agents used by a dentist tend to be five to 14 times stronger than over the counter whiteners, and usually whiten better and last longer; but can get spendy, sometimes costing $1,000 or more. While you can find over the counter whiteners for $10, but if you decide to use one of those, make sure to follow the directions exactly.

8.    You don’t have to brush kids’ milk teeth (aka, baby teeth).

Because a child will lose their baby teeth, you may think that there’s no point in brushing them. False. Not only is it important to instill good oral care habits in children early, but brushing isn’t only good for teeth but the mouth as a whole. When you brush you’re also promoting healthy gums (which kids don’t get a second set of). As soon as your baby’s first tooth cuts through, you should be brushing their teeth (or tooth) twice a day. For tips on kids and brushing, read our article, 6 Tips For Instilling Good Brushing Technique In Your Kids.

9.    Bad breath means bad oral hygiene.

If you are experiencing bad breath or halitosis, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t doing a good enough job brushing and flossing. Although bad oral care could be a reason, there are many other causes for bad breath, like certain medications, lack of saliva, illness, certain foods, and smoking, just to name a few. There are also certain kinds of bacteria in the mouth that simply give off a stinky smell because they produce sulfur compounds. But if you do have bad oral hygiene, you’re surely putting yourself on the fast track to having sour breath. Be sure to do things that you can control to avoid bad breath such as brushing and flossing regularly and thoroughly as well as cleaning your tongue. To read more about tongue cleaning, check out our article Why Brushing Your Tongue May Not Be Enough. If you do have concerns about bad breath, talk to your dentist about it to make sure it’s not something more and to get more tips on how to avoid it.

10.  Flossing is really just a suggestion if I brush good enough.

Flossing is just as important as brushing and should be an integral part of your oral hygiene routine, not just a supplement. For many, flossing is an afterthought, a hassle, and only thought of every six months or so at their regular check-up. Flossing gets places your toothbrush can’t reach and is a prime way to help fight and avoid gum disease; and it only takes a minute or two to do. In addition to preventing gum disease, flossing regularly can also thwart bad breath, plaque and bacteria build up (and therefore cavities) as well as other overall health issues.

lightbulbs with one lit It’s no wonder that some myths come about when as much as 12 percent of Americans admitting that they get anxious visiting the dentist. A myth may be easier to swallow than the facts or comfort our fears; while some have a good basis and logic, but with advances in science and understanding more about oral health, we can officially label these mouth myths debunked.

Dental Emergency 9-1-1!

safety first signYou’re spending the afternoon with your family at the park. The kids are playing Frisbee in an open area when all of a sudden you hear a crash and a scream from your youngest. He’s holding something in his hand and between sobs you can see blood gathering in his mouth and that there’s an open spot where his canine is supposed to be. He’s lost a tooth. The fact is, dental emergencies happen; and that time until you can get in to see a dentist can be a crucial one. Here are some tips to follow if you happen to run into some tooth turmoil:

Knocked-Out Tooth:

Do:

  • Pick up tooth by the crown (top part), NOT the root.
  • Rinse blood or debris off the tooth with milk (milk is the best way to keep the tooth from drying) or cold running water if milk isn’t available.
  • If possible, reinsert tooth back into socket and gently push it in with your finger or bite a clean cloth to hold it in.
  • If you can’t reinsert it, place the tooth in a container of milk, or a damp cloth if milk isn’t available.
  • Get to the dentist immediately – teeth that are replanted within 30 minutes have the best chances of surviving.

Don’t:

  • Don’t touch or scrub the root.

Bleeding in the Mouth:

Do:

  • Use clean gauze to apply pressure to the area bleeding for 5 minutes to try and stop bleeding.
  • If bleeding continues, press a moistened tea bag against the cut for 5 minutes.
  • If you can’t stop bleeding call your dentist.
  • If bleeding won’t stop, is significant and you are unable to reach your dentist, go to the hospital.

Don’t:

  • Don’t rinse your mouth (especially if the bleeding is caused by an extracted tooth, rinsing can affect the socket).

Broken Tooth:

Do:

  • Gather any broken pieces and rinse mouth with warm water.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
  • Place gum or dental wax over any sharp edges of remaining tooth to avoid further cuts and damage to your mouth.
  • If the break involved the dentin or pulp of the tooth, call your dentist immediately.
  • If the break only involved crown or enamel of the tooth, call your dentist as soon as possible.

Don’t:

  • Don’t eat hard foods.

Broken or Lost Filling/Crown:

Do:

  • Save the filling/crown to bring with you to the dentist.
  • Place dental wax over any sharp edges to prevent damage or cuts to your mouth.
  • Use denture adhesive to reattach a crown until you can get in to see your dentist.
  • Make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.

Don’t:

  • Don’t try to replace a filling yourself.
  • Don’t eat very hot or cold foods/drinks.

Toothache:

Do:

  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  • Apply ice to the area.
  • Remove any food particles or debris between teeth with dental floss.
  • Call your dentist for advice and have the tooth examined if needed.

Don’t:

  • Don’t place any pain reliever directly on the tooth/gum.
  • Don’t use or apply any heat.
  • Don’t eat extreme foods (very hot, cold, sweet or spicy).

Mouth Sores:

Do:

  • Use an over-the-counter anesthetic (like Orajel) for temporary relief.
  • Rinse mouth with warm salt water.
  • Apply ice or a paste (by mixing baking soda and water) to the sore for a few minutes.
  • See your dentist if the sore doesn’t heal in about a week, it could be a sign of a bigger problem.

Don’t:

  • Don’t put aspirin or pain relievers directly on the sore.
  • Don’t take antibiotics unless they are actually prescribed for the sore.
  • Don’t use any steroid creams.
  • Don’t use a hot pack.

Broken Dental Appliances:

Do:

  • Save all pieces to bring them to your dentist.
  • Cover any sharp spots or protrusions with dental wax to prevent further damage or injury/irritation.
  • If a denture, remove until you can get to the dentist.
  • See your dentist as soon as possible.

Don’t:

  • Don’t try to bend, fix or glue pieces back together yourself.
  • Don’t wrap pieces in a tissue, because it could easily be thrown away by mistake.

Dental emergencies aren’t the end of the world, but they can be painful and scary! Remember that in the event of a dental emergency, your number one resource is a dentist. These are just some things to keep in mind and do until you can call or get to them! girl with broken tooth