Complementing Dental Practice Management With Sustained Growth

Complementing Dental Practice Management With Sustained Growth



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In the midst of the competitive business environment they find themselves in, professional dental operators by and large recognize the need to manage their practices not only in the present (ie: to attract revenues today), but also to lay the foundation for additional, referral revenue for the future.

As the apt saying states, each service is an advertisement for the next.  Also, as we’ve stated in previous posts, there is no better time to advertise than when you are face to face with your patient.

Such advertising is not defined as exclusively pushing additional treatments on the patient – you as the dentist will recognize the time and place for that to happen.  Rather, quality face-to-face advertising with a high return for your practice is in the form of a more personal engagement.

Engagement is the medium of marketing in our economy.  Digital marketers and advertisers daily assert with loud vocal trumpets the need to engage online, and this constitutes a necessary cog in the marketing arsenal of any business, especially dentists.  The need to engage, however, has become all the more necessary AS A RESULT OF the pervasive perceived demand to engage online.

Personal engagement is the time to build trust.  Online mediums have afforded us all the opportunity to commence, develop, and track engagement online until that key time when engagement turns from digital to personal, thereby denoting a spike in the trust relationship and a signal of a new patient.

We tackle the process of sustained growth in other posts, but without complementing the drivers that lead to growth in the practice with proper management of those clients brought into the fold, those clients become exposed to overtures from competitors, feelings of indifference, and compliance-like attitudes such as “let’s get this over with”

How can the practitioner turn the complaint visit to the dentist into an engaging experience?    Our research suggests that doing exactly this will increase client services, as well as referrals.  Turning visits to engagements is, in our opinion, the key to complementing practice growth and proper management of that growth.

About 5 years ago, some restaurants began offering to waiting patrons small samples of their menu offerings at no charge, a decision considered by many to be wise not only because it gave patrons the desire to order the full size of the menu items tasted, but also because the offering differentiated those restaurants from their competitors and established rapport with visiting customers.

Dentists would be well-served to employ the same strategy – provide an environment and offerings that differentiate you from competitors and that prepare the patient for, among other things, cross-selling opportunities.


Office offerings

Many visiting the practice are either working men and women, or are bringing their children to the dentist.  They need a place to engage with their work, since time in this economy is valuable.  Therefore, it’s a smart idea to offer free wi-fi and data plug-ins at your practice so that they can turn this “down-time” into productive time.

It’s amazing how free coffee and finger foods sell people.  We know that coffee is not the best thing to have prior to a dental check-up, so provide them with a toothbrush and toothpaste to clean up afterwards.  The key is to provide something that you know they want, so that you can build rapport and trust.

There are dental practices that are, similar to bank branches, installing tables with Ipads.  We see these tables at Apple Stores across North America.  To install 2 tables, each with 2 Ipads, allows for children to play, parents to engage in research, and provides the look of a modern practice.  This also extends to the perceived quality of your dentistry.


Dentist interaction

The intent is that, by the time patients see you, they consider your practice as relevant and modern, with quality dentistry that complements the look and feel of the place.  Barriers to personal communication to facilitate trust are weakened, and the likelihood of the dentist being able to have a valuable conversation leading to the identification of birthdays, personal events, and important issues in the lives of their patients increases.

You the dentist take that information and continue an offline (ie: once the patient is away from the office) relationship by sending birthday cards, reminder check-up cards with personal notes, and gift baskets to your patients to keep engaged.  It’s this continuing engagement that precedes the referral of you by those clients.   As well, the differentiation between you and competitors is broadened.

You’re trying to do things that few other dentists do in order to provide an experience leading to patient retention, increased business, and increased referrals.

Few dentists do this because they thing there is little or no time to do it.  However, a 5-minute conversation tacked on to the end of the appointment is not going to dismantle the daily schedule, especially if it’s built into the appointment.  Plus, you’re trying to prep the patient as much as possible by providing enhancements at the practice that set it apart and provide enjoyment to the patient while they wait.

Incorporating this, get suggestion cards out the waiting area with the question – “what would you like to see at our dental practice”.  You won’t get all the patients responding, but if you get some who suggest ideas that will separate your practice from others, then you have another idea that can possible build value and trust in the minds of current and potential patients.

Growth in the dental practice is the combined result of a well-considered and implemented marketing plan, a well-trained staff in the skills of cross-selling and personal interaction with patients, and personnel who know how to do dentistry, hygiene, and dental assisting.

However, sustaining that growth and facilitating referral business is , we believe, the result of taking steps that differentiate the practice, the dentist, and the experience of the patients coming to the practice.

These items do not take many hours and dollars to implement; in most cases, they are little things that enhance the experience of the patient and prep them for good, quality conversations with the dentist during which, hopefully, they will be open both to referring you and to additional dental services.   Just as in the digital world, the concept of quality and regular engagement is the key to sustained growth.



Nicholas Kilpatrick is a partner at the accounting firm of Burgess Kilpatrick, CPA’s in Vancouver, B.C, Canada.  The firm specializes in dental practices and business development, providing operational, strategic and data analytic support.  Nicholas  works with practice owners to increase profitability at all stages of their practice.  He can be reached at or at 604-327-9234.

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