Dr. Frank Wolf: Okay. Let’s move on to question number three. I’m a fairly new owner
with a need for more new patients, and I have very limited cash to spend on marketing. What is the most effective and least expensive method to market my practice?
Daniel Bobrow: There is a rule of thumb that a practitioner ought to be prepared to invest at least $25,000 to $50,000 on marketing their practice within the first six months of opening. After that,
you can look at, as a percentage of Annual Practice Production from 2% to stem attrition to 10% for aggressive growth.
There are a number of reasons for investing more at first. Most obviously, the practice has what you could term extra capacity. They need butts in chairs, more patients. They also have an exciting story to tell; they’re new.
Another thing is that you can probably get the biggest bang for your buck
at first when you market because there’s a good chance that just by letting
people know you’re there, you’re going to be filling a need. Especially if
your esteemed colleagues in the area, are not very progressive or employing
a comprehensive and effective dental marketing strategy. Still another reason is
that there are one time set up costs associated with implementing a marketing plan
that will not need to be repeated for some time, if ever. And finally, there is definitely
a learning curve associated with marketing. Feedback permits one to fine tune, to
tweak one’s marketing efforts, which over time results in a lower patient acquisition cost.
Really, for those of you who are new practitioners, or are considering
buying a practice – be sure to have marketing as a line item on your working
capital financing application. More and more lenders understand and
appreciate the importance of marketing as a legitimate business practice
and see how it’s in their own interest to see that the practice succeeds.
They will approve it.
Frank, I know that you and I both know people in the practice financing business
who are willing to do that, if people are interested. Or you can just talk to someone else, a
trusted lender or someone with whom you have a financial relationship.
Of course, if you find yourself in the situation of basically having more time than money, you
really want to get out in to your community. There are specific things you can do, some traditional things like having an open house; setting up some sort of a cause marketing vehicle, which Frank mentioned, for instance Climb for a Cause. That’s something that’s news worthy. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to associate your practice with a worthwhile cause and several studies have demonstrated that, given a choice, people will choose to work with the Group, which has demonstrated social responsibility. It opens doors with your community at large, your current patients, prospective patients, local merchants. It’s actually one of the few
exceptions to the rule that ‘word of mouth’ only travels one way – to your patient from their friend who is asking about their dentist: in this case, your patient actually has a reason to bring you up in normal conversation. For instance: “My doctor is going to be climbing
a mountain and is having a party. Should be fun. Wanna come?” In this year’s case, “We’re hiking the Grand Canyon, to raise money for charity and we’re having a party, and we wanted to
see if you’d like to come and if you would like to donate for our raffle prizes some free oil lubes or some free car washes or some hair styling…” And, if you don’t want to have it at your practice yourself, you can go to a local restaurateur or bar owner, see if they want to donate their space. That’s what you did way back in ’98, remember Frank?
Dr. Frank Wolf: I sure do, and it was a lot of fun, and we raised a lot of money in the process.
Daniel Bobrow: You sure did. You set a record, which stands to this day.
The point is that this is all win-win. It’s what we like to call doing well
while doing good because everybody gets exposure. The person that’s
donating the car washes is going to get his name mentioned in front of a
bunch of people who may not know who he is. Even if they do know who
he is, now they know he’s a good guy, he’s helping support a worth-while
Dr. Frank Wolf: Right.
Daniel Bobrow: Your patients invite their friends to come to the party, which,
again, is a rare exception to the rule that word of mouth only travels one
direction. This bears repeating: your patient is actually going out and saying,
“Hey, come on to this party. My doctor’s asked me to invite some friends.”
So that’s a really good way to do it.
In general, networking is a great tactic; contacting the Chamber of Commerce,
joining it; joining Toast Masters: all help build your house E-mail file.
If you’re not doing that currently, make sure in your enrollment forms
you are requesting an email address. Talk about a cost-effective way to
communicate: email costs practically nothing. Once you’ve got the system
up and the means to actually do it. And we offer advice and guidance on how to set
that up, too, you’re off and running!
Dr. Frank Wolf: So there are certainly opportunities to promote and market one’s practice
without actually spending very much money.
Daniel Bobrow: Certainly there are.
Dr. Frank Wolf: Yeah, and one of the things that I did early in my career was donating
dentistry to the needy. We provided dentistry for a shelter for homeless women and their children. That got us some very positive press in the local newspaper.
Daniel Bobrow: Right.
Dr. Frank Wolf: Also having a food and clothing drive for the needy. Again, getting more
positive PR in the community.
Daniel Bobrow: My brother did the same thing, worked for The ARK and donated his time
at the dental clinic. Let me repeat my early compliment too, Frank. To date, no office has raised more money for Dentists Climb for a Cause than you did. I think you raised close to $12,000 in 1998, and that was just from your party, which was a tremendous achievement.
Dr. Frank Wolf: And it was fun, too.
Daniel Bobrow: And it was fun, and didn’t you meet some people?
Dr. Frank Wolf: I met some great people.
by Danny Bobrow