7 Ways to Compete As A High-End Dental Practice (Without Lowering Your Fee’s)
As a private dental office, you’re competing against an ever-growing number of large corporate dental facilities.
These corporate chains often have a significant amount of capital to spend on widespread marketing campaigns and a vast amount of dentists to service those clients. They often drastically lower prices and undercut many private practices.
This puts private dental practices in a jam, especially high-end offices. How are you supposed to compete against these behemoths?
Large corporate offices (and lower-end clinics) can compete on price, but usually not much else. So there is a lot of room to stand out — as long as you know what to focus on.
In this article, you’re going to learn how to market your high-end dental practice without competing on price. As you will see, not competing on price actually allows you to focus on competing on everything else patients find important when choosing a dental office.
It allows you to utilize different types of dental marketing strategies that convey high value.
Listen to this blog post:
Let’s get started:
1. Referral Marketing
Dental practices rely strongly on word-of-mouth to attract new patients, more so than most other types of businesses.
“Word-of-mouth marketing is the primary source of new patients for dental practices.” - Dental Economics
This is because it’s tough to really know how much one will like a certain dentist without visiting them first.
So if a friend, family member, or acquaintance says they’ve had a good experience with a dentist, it’s a huge vote of confidence to that person that the office provides a quality service.
This is evidence by a BrightLocal study on online consumer reviews, where they found that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
Getting referrals should be one of the top focuses in your marketing efforts. However, most practices simply “hope” that their patients recommend them to their friends and family.
In referral marketing (and all types of marketing, in fact), you want to take matters into your own hands as much as possible. This drastically increases the effectiveness and scale of your results.
Here’s an excellent method to set up your referral marketing system, provided by Red Star Marketing:
Build the Referral Program Around Your Practice’s Goals and Objectives
First, you need to decide what types of patients you want to attract.
Do you want general patients who come in for bi-yearly checkups? Or do you want patients who require a special type of procedure or procedures?
Dentistry by Design wants to attract families and individuals for regular check-ups and cleaning, so they make it clear on their website that that’s what they’re looking for.
Once you have identified the type of patient(s) you want to attract, you can build the rest of your referral marketing system around screening for those people.
Keep the Program Simple
You should make it easy for your current patients to understand how the program works. This includes how to refer people and the benefits they get for each referral.
If it’s too complicated, it won’t be worth their time or energy to help you. By making it simple and easy to understand, you maximize the amount of people who actively refer patients to you.
Create a Referral Reward
This is the benefit people receive for referring patients:
- Gift cards
- A discount on their next visit
- Discounted procedures
For example, Desert Family Dental offers an array of prizes based on how many patients someone refers each month:
The reward should convey that you genuinely appreciate their help in referring patients to you. So the more personalized you make it, the more effective it will be in encouraging your patients to refer more people.
Draw Out the Program on Paper
Create a formal outline of the entire referral program process, so that every member of your staff is on the same page. Include instructions for implementing the program and guidelines to be followed.
The more knowledgeable they are, the better they’ll be able to explain the program to your patients and get them on board.
Track and Measure the Results
In order to know how effective your referral program is, you need to be able to track and measure its results.
Here’s a great video on the metrics you should track in your referral program:
Make sure there is a system in place to do this. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Dentistry by Design uses a simple new patient gift card to keep track of who refers who:
This will allow you to make adjustments to the program, like new rewards or goals, and determine if these adjustments had a positive or negative effect on your ROI.
Referral marketing is one of the most effective ways to grow a dental practice. And if you’re a high-end practice competing against lower-priced ones, word-of-mouth could be the difference between a patient lost or gained.
If you truly want to take this to the next level, create incentive for your staff for promoting the referral program. It could be a monthly bonus to each staff member who is promoting the program, or it could be a monthly team party or event, or profit sharing (usually money is the best motivator). To truly have success with referral programs, you need to have staff that has 100% bought in.
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2. Rewards Programs
Rewards programs are similar to referral marketing, except you reward people for much more than referring patients to you.
A rewards program provides incentives for your current clients to stick with you. Not only do you earn more revenue the longer a client stays with you, but it gives them more opportunity to enjoy your practice and refer it to other people.
With any type of reward offered by a business, there is an initial cut in revenue. But that cut is offset by the lifetime value of holding onto that customer or client.
Here are some examples of rewards you can offer your patients:
- Certificates for free exams
- Discounts on special treatments
- Miscellaneous prizes (like gift cards, concert tickets, etc)
- 1 free treatment for every X treatments received
- A membership program that gives special rates on exams, procedures, and screenings
These can be offered based on how long they have been with your practice, how many treatments they’ve received, what kinds of treatments they receive, the number of patients they’ve referred, for booking appointments, or any type of behavior you would like them to continue doing.
For instance, Seidner Dentistry at one point offered a rewards program that gave patients points for or maintaining their recommended dental well visits, getting their treatment completed, community service projects, and even getting good grades on a report card.
These points can then be redeemed for gift cards and other prizes.
You will also see these types of programs referred to as “loyalty” programs, because they do just that. They help to keep your patients loyal to your practice by rewarding them for that devotion.
3. New Patient Specials
Unlike a rewards program, new patient specials are a way for you to entice new people to visit your practice directly. Now, let's be clear, I am not suggesting that you should work for free, or that you should have the lowest rates. The examples provided below are just that-examples.
Think of it this way:
If you can 'lose' $100 now, so that over the next two years you net $800, would you do it? From a business perspective, that makes sense all day long.
In marketing terms, these are called loss leaders or lead magnets. They attract new patients to you through some sort of offer.
However, like a rewards program, you will take an initial cut in revenue in the beginning, but your lifetime revenue from that patient will be high, especially because you run a dental office that charges premium prices (for a premium service).
Then you can use your excellent customer service and your rewards program to keep those patients long term and lead to more referral marketing. (Do you see how this is starting to come together?)
Let’s say you run a new patient special that offers a free first exam, valued at $400. Initially, you lose $400 on that exam when someone takes you up on that offer.
But, if the patient stays with you for a set amount of years (rather than going to a competitor) and that patient brings in $800 in revenue per year, you will make up for that $400 on their next visit and profit above it on all of their future visits.
Let’s say your average patient stays with you for 10 years. You lost $400 initially on that patient, but you gained $7,200 in revenue over their lifetime.
When patients research their options, all else being equal, they will be more likely to go with the dentist offering a new patient special than one who doesn’t.
We've seen this time and time again. The dentists that are willing to offer an aggressive new patient special are able to grow their practice much faster and reach their revenue goals as opposed to a dentist who resists and won't offer a new patient special.
If you can’t think of a special to offer new patients, try one or more of these:
- A discount off a special treatment (Invisalign is a popular one)
- Bundle different services together for a cheaper total price (i.e. X rays, whitening, and a checkup)
- Free teeth whitening
Here’s an example from San Marin Dental:
Then you can use local Facebook ads (discussed later) and other types of advertising to promote them.
4. Focusing On Best In Class Customer Experience
Customer service and the whole customer experience can become one of your greatest marketing tools.
When patients enjoy their experience with you, they tell their family and friends about you, they trust you for elective procedures and specialty procedures, they give you better reviews, your business encounters less turnover, and a host of other beneficial outcomes.
And because the doctor-patient relationship is so important in the dental field, it’s even more crucial that customer service be one of your top priorities.
It’s also a major differentiator between practices. Lower-end practices and large corporate facilities tend to lack high quality quality customer service. Their staff simply aren’t being paid enough to motivate them to go the extra mile for their patients.
As a high-end dental service provider, you can have a big advantage in the care and individual attention your staff gives to each patient.
Analyze what your competitors are doing and go over and beyond how they treat their patients. If you can, talk to their patients and see if you can gather information on what they do and don’t like about that practice.
Here’s a big one: Hop on Yelp and read your competitor’s reviews.
Often, you will find a lot of complaints and praises of different aspects of their service. You can use both of these types of information to improve your own service.
Your customer service must become a system that’s uniform across all staff and processes, including reaching out to patients to remind them of appointments, scheduling, greeting patients, having conversations in the lobby and during treatment, etc.
It must encompass what your practice stands for. That’s how patients will feel truly cared for and then relay that experience to more people.
5. Create Great Content (And Promote It)
Up until now, we’ve been talking about what you can do within your practice to market it. Now, we’re moving into the digital realm.
We’re living in a digital age of the Internet, social media, smartphones, smart TV’s, and more. To ignore this trend (and the marketing opportunities it provides) is a major business blunder that could leave you in the dust behind your competitors.
Here’s a look at Internet usage growth from 2008 to 2015:
Thanks to wildnettechnologies.com for the image above.
And the devices we’ve been using from 2010 to 2015:
As you can see, attention is moving towards digital devices, so that’s where your marketing must go as well.
One of the top things people turn to the digital world for is content. This is helpful, educational, or entertaining content that’s being shared on social media or found in search engines.
This is also known as content marketing, or “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action” (The Content Marketing Institute).
Content has become one of the most powerful marketing tools available. Businesses have learned that by creating the right types of content and getting it in front of their target market, they can stand out as a thought leader in the space and attract more customers.
They’ve also found that it’s cheaper than traditional marketing and advertising (billboards, commercials, etc) and it’s how people want to be marketed to. It’s how they want to discover businesses these days.
Content can come in many forms. Here are a few:
- Blog posts
When content is discussed or written, it’s usually in the form of a blog post. (However, other types of content should not be ignored, as video in particular can be very powerful.)
To host your content, you should have a blog on your practice’s website. This is where you publish articles and read/respond to comments. It also allows people to share your content easily on Facebook and other social media networks.
The goal of this content is to educate your target market so they see you as an authority and build trust in you. This will induce people to pay a higher price to go to your dental practice over the lower-end, less authoritative ones.
Some types of content you could create would be:
- The dangers of not brushing your teeth consistently
- The best toothpaste brands for whiter teeth
- Reviews of different dental products (like Invisalign) with your professional opinion on the advantages and use studies
Articles like these will genuinely help your potential patients that are searching for an answer to their problem. At the same time, content like this shows them that you know what you’re doing and you’re an authority in the space. This increases their trust in you and the likelihood of them visiting your practice over another one.
Once you have created this content, it’s time to promote it. At the very least, you should share it on all of your practice’s social media channels. But there is a lot more you can do as well.
Check out these articles for some great advice on promoting content:
6. Use Targeted Local Facebook Ad Campaigns
Facebook ads are extremely underutilized by local businesses. And this is a good thing.
Because it means you can stand out — not only amongst your competitors but amongst other local businesses that might be vying for your target market’s attention.
A local Facebook ad is simply a Facebook ad that’s targeted to a specific, local area. The reasons why Facebook is so powerful as an ad platform is because 1) a large percentage of the population uses it daily and 2) they offer the most intricate targeting available.
You can target people based on where they live, their age, occupation, income level, education, and almost any interest imaginable:
You can also start off with a small daily spend and increase it as you figure out which messages and targeting work best.
To get started, first you need to outline the demographics you want to attract. This includes your target patient’s:
- Family size
All of these can be chosen in Facebook’s Ad Manager.
Then you need to decide which messages to send them.
It can be tempting to go for the hard sale straight away. This would involve immediately sending out ads that say, “Hey! We are X Dental Practice located on W. 5th Street. Come check us out!” However, it’s more powerful to start off slowly and gradually build the relationship.
First, send out ads that send people to the educational content you have created. This will get them familiar with you and build authority at the same time. Here’s a great example:
Then, you need to differentiate yourself as a high-end dental practice. Create content that compares low- and high-end practices. Ultimately, dissuade people from going with lower-end practices for a variety of reasons.
Then directly introduce your own practice as the solution — a high-end dental practice with excellent customer service, new patient specials, rewards programs, and referral programs.
Bonus tip: You always want to decrease resistance as much as possible. By that I mean that you want it to be EASY for a patient or potential patient to work with you. If you are running Facebook Ads, then take appointments via Facebook Messenger. If you truly want to make it simply, then integrate text messaging into your marketing, allowing patients to send you a text to schedule an appointment.
Remember, be easy to do business with.
7. Understand the Significance of Local Search Engine Optimization
Finally, another excellent way to market your dental practice is through local search engine optimization, or local dental SEO.
Local SEO is the process of getting a business ranked on the first page of Google for local terms people are searching for. Here are a few examples:
- “dentists in San Francisco”
- “San Francisco dental office”
- “best dentists in San Francisco”
They include the type of business and the local area. Odds are, you’ve conducted these types of searches before.
Local SEO involves optimizing your website’s pages correctly for these search terms. Then you get your business cited around the web in different listings that tell Google where your business is located and what it’s about.
If you can rank on the first page for search terms like these, you can bring in a significant amount of patients 100% passively (well, passively from your perspective, not from the perspective of your SEO company).
A web visitor would simply type in their search, find your website, check you out, and if they're ready to book an appointment, they'll contact you.
But because these rankings are so valuable, they can be tough to get. So you want to work with a professional agency that understands how to rank dentists well in Google.
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BONUS: 8. Offer Amenities
What can your office do that is unique to other practices in your area? We've written a post about this previously that you'll want to read:
5 Reasons Why You Need to Offer Perks in Your Dental Office
You want to make visiting the dentist as smooth and comfortable an experience as possible. How can you do that?
- Entertainment such as streaming video services
- Snacks or baked goods
- Moist, warm towels
- Hand massages
- Noise cancelling headphones
Let your imagination be your guide. Think of it this way: If your patients see visiting your office as a treat as opposed to a chore, do you think they'll be more likely to make their recalls? Yes.
Will they be more likely to accept treatment? Yes.
If kids are enjoying the dentist, and parents don't have to fight their kids to go to the dentist, are parents more willing to schedule and make their follow up appointments? Yes.
As you can see, price is not the only factor that differentiates a dental practice from the rest. There are many factors that can help you stand out, despite being a high-end practice competing with lower-priced ones.
Instead of price, focus on your customer service, referral marketing, rewards programs, new patient specials, and take
How have you been marketing your dental practice? What have you been struggling with?
Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author
Tyson Downs, the owner of Titan Web Agency, has years of experience working with small businesses and helping them meet their revenue goals. Prior to starting Titan Web Agency, he freelanced in SEO and Web Design while working in the corporate world. Tyson is a graduate of Brigham Young University, the father of 5, and enjoys spending time with his family. Particularly on the baseball field.
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