When it comes to promoting your own practice, your story matters! It represents how you came to be an orthodontist, how you live where you live, why you come to work every day with a smile. In fact, it is how you knowingly or unknowingly promote your practice.
Let’s take a step back for a moment. Most of you tell your story just about every day. So when we engage our clients on case acceptance at the Pride Institute, why the heck do they look so perplexed when we ask them what their stories are or how they promote their practices to new families? It’s even a bit dumbfounding since just about every dentist in America has been to at least one seminar where the experts tell them things like “your brand is your promise” and almost all websites have a “Vision” or “Mission” Statement. I can’t tell you why brands and visions are so underutilized in a practical sense in orthodontic practices, but I can tell you that they are. And I will tell you how you can make the most of your story, brand and vision to increase your conversion rate and build your practice faster.
Where We Begin
Let’s take a quick look at the current state of promotional activities as we see them in your practices today. We will focus on the New Patient Exam in particular for this exercise. In orthodontic practices, we typically see well-executed plans in which clinical aspects of each case are laid out in great detail. Treatment Coordinators are fairly polished and do a great job of what is asked of them. Orthodontists’ communication styles run the gamut. Some are great rapport builders, some are ortho science geeks, some are great with the kids, and some are great with the parents. There is nothing “wrong” with what we see for the most part. However, there is a lot of room for improvement.
The very first questions we ask when we begin video observation of live patient processes are:
How did you go about designing your new patient process, and what is each step in the process trying to accomplish. The answers we hear typically run the gamut:
- I guess I learned it from Lisa (or Jayne or Judy or Sheila)?
- That’s the way the original owner did it
- It’s just the way we’ve done it for years.
- Ahhh…I don’t know?
These are very candid answers. The field of orthodontics is filled with convention, to the point that people are often operating from habit and not really in touch with purpose. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is perhaps the best reason for you to revise your process immediately.
Why Actively Promote Your Practice?
The market is shifting around you, so you must shift with it. Each of you has a version of how things have changed either inside or outside of the practice over the years. I can think of specific clients right now that are grappling with the following conditions:
- Transition from long time orthodontist to new owner
- Aging of partners while the local market is replenished with younger referring dentists
- Establishment of an up and coming, very charismatic competitor orthodontist
- A competitor orthodontist who has arranged exclusive referrals in exchange for new patients
- Branding confusion with the merger of 2 practices
As you can confirm, the list goes on and on. Then add the fact that patients are getting 2nd opinions at a higher rate than ever, along with the impact of social media review banks like Yelp, and suddenly you’re in a dog-eat-dog environment. The question is: will you be an eating dog or an eaten dog?
In today’s hype-competitive environment, you must out-WOW every orthodontist within 20 miles with your new patient experience. The goal should be to have your raving fans rave louder than every one of theirs. I hope you are at least a little bit squirmy right now! Let’s harness that energy so that we can do something about it.
3 Steps to Promote Your Practice to Prospective New Patients
1). Clarify Practice Values
Many of our clients have some type of Vision Statement when we first engage them. The problem is that they don’t know exactly where it is or what it says. Go ahead, try to recite yours now. If you are like most, you are chuckling sheepishly at the moment. At Pride Institute, we teach our clients to utilize the Vision Statement as a compass. We obviously could not lead you through a fully refined Vision Statement creation in this article, but let’s give you something to work with. If you have a Vision Statement, start there. If you don’t, then brainstorm a list (alone or with your team) of what you and the practice stand for. Examples like customer service, integrity, convenience, community and the like are all appropriate examples.
2). Identify the 3 Most Important Values
Consider that list of items, whether derived from Vision Statement or brainstorm, to be the values of your practice. From this list, you can now set out to identify your truly sacred values. Pick three distinct values that you believe are at the core of your identity. Try to make sure they don’t overlap too much. Don’t confuse yourself by picking things you’ve always wanted to be but really aren’t. If you are the charismatic doc I mentioned before, point to your personality and fun. If you are a low-key, humble doc, go with integrity and humility. Now that you have your 3 sacred values, it’s time to put them to work!
3). Turning Scripts Into “YouSpeak”
Having your values on paper is one thing, but talking about them can be trickier. We absolutely realize our clients have had very little sales training, if any. Three strategies will make execution much easier. First, the designed scripting must feel authentic. That means it needs to be written in words you can actually imagine yourself speaking. We work with our clients every day to translate their visions and marketing copy into authentic talking points. Play with the words to make them feel like you, but preserve the essence of the message. This is the only real way to live your marketing.
A second way to make the conversation more user-friendly for you is to design external reference points in your environment. Think of it as a built- in PowerPoint. The most obvious example is using your actual Vision Statement, either in a new patient orientation packet, on your website or on the wall. Simply make sure you have a prompt from which to begin making your points. Feel free to use the following transition statement and lead up:
“Now that we’ve learned more about you, I’d like to share a little bit about us. We’ve…(insert brief history/background). If you choose to get your orthodontic treatment with us, I think it is important that we tell you why our patients enjoy coming here. (NOTE: this is where the promotion part starts)
This is our Vision Statement (pointing to it) which is the backbone of what makes us successful. Notice here, that it says “every visit to our practice will be an exceptional one”. That is our way of giving back to you and your family. You will visit our office more times over the next 18 months than you visit you general dentist in 5 years! We will make sure the environment is fun and energizing. We are changing lives here and we want our patients to know that.” These may not be your words, so make the script yours! Keep the essence of your message intact, and translate it into “YouSpeak!”
Now that you’ve designed a purposeful, brand-oriented conversation, the third and final ingredient is practice. While the new scripts may represent your manner of speaking, they are not authentic until you’ve said them many, many times. Just as actors must rehearse their lines, so must you. Do it as a team exercise and have fun. Break it into chunks and practice each one over and over and over. You will soon be reciting it in your sleep. The good news is once you’ve done it enough times, you will automatically practice it on a daily basis. At that point, it will take on a life of its own as you add in your own particular mannerisms and non-verbal signature.
Promotion doesn’t come naturally to everybody, but it is well within your reach. Today’s marketplace will continue to challenge you in unexpected ways so preparation is key. Hiring a consultant can help, but taking an active role is easier than you think. Remember to stick to and highlight your values, be decisive about what messages you choose to convey to your patients, and look for your own voice. You will be most influential when you speak from the heart about what you truly believe in.
Ross Vera has 15 years of experience in Dental Practice Management and serves as a consultant at Pride Institute. He specializes in Leadership, Human Resources, and Specialty Dental Practice Building. Ross can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first published in 2014 OrthoWorld.