Dentistry 101: A business guide for clinic owners
Updated: Nov 30, 2021
By Nipun Kathuria, Co-founder of Smile Genius Dental. Nipun runs Technik a business & digital marketing consulting firm in Ireland. He also hosts Your Digital Guide podcast.
Nipun has been helping dentists achieve a better ROI and has put together the best practices in this blog as Dentistry 101: A business guide for clinic owners.
As the famous saying goes “you need to work on your business not in your business”. What do we mean by that? It basically means that as a business owner, you need to spend more time looking out to grow your business rather than being a business operator. Being a co-founder of a dental startup, I speak with so many dentists every month and see common patterns. Most of the time, we speak with practice owners or the principal dentists with an objective to learn their businesses and operations better. A lot of these dentists, who own practices, wear multiple hats every day : at one moment they are treating their patients, at another they are working on hiring or getting the annual accounts ready. Being a principal dentist can become stressful if multi-tasking goes unmanaged. We believe technology or innovation plays a pivotal role in de-stressing the lives of dentists. We believe that dentistry can grow much faster once the clinics start adopting new practices and adapting to the new change.
What are some quick and achievable ways clinics and dentists can grow faster?
As Tony Robbins famously says, for any business to change or grow what you need is 80% psychology and 20% strategy, so lets try to implement this philosophy and see whether it works. There is no cookie-cutter approach to growing a clinic as it varies depending upon patient, compliance and regulation of the country you are based in, location of the clinic, type of treatments offered etc. Let's look at some of the tactics, strategies or different perspectives that the clinic owners can adopt:
Dentist vs Owner : As mentioned earlier, the principal dentist has to play two roles: one of the dentist and another of the owner. As the clinic grows, work grows. Majority of the time operational overheads exceed so much that the principal dentist ends up working 12-16 hours each day to ensure they grow the sales. If you think in the long run, it is not sustainable working so long in an enhanced stressful environment. Because so much investment has been put into the clinic, it is difficult for the dentist to invest further in hiring a practice manager or a business manager to look after the daily operations. But, doing that will give the dentist more time to work on the business and not in the business. That’s the reason why you need to delegate. Start thinking more like a business owner and not a business operator. Not only that, you need to value your time which might be better suited on strategic and high yielding things than some trivial day-to-day operational items, which a practice manager or business manager might be happy to take off your plate. Owning and growing a business is a marathon and not a sprint. Delegating your work gives you the chance to take a high level view on your business and helps you take strategic decisions which otherwise you may have missed by just being a business operator.
Right Hiring : Spending ample time to hire the right staff should be the top priority, be it an associate dentist, nurse or simply a reception staff. A lot of times making the wrong decision in hiring, doesn’t bring efficiencies to the business and becomes a problem. Before hiring, ensure the staff has the right cultural fit too. Spending more time in selecting the right candidate will help you in the long run bringing net positive impact on your clinic. Making the decision of hiring in haste, might tick the box temporarily off your to do list, but will not lead you to the ultimate result. As the CEO of your clinic, you have to be an excellent people’s manager as well.
Marketing 101: Peter Drucker who is known as one of the best marketing gurus out there famously said “Marketing and innovation make money. Everything else is a cost.” Let’s look at some of the areas within Marketing that you can look into:
a) Profiling: All customers are not equal and all patients are not equal. As a business owner, you will need to have an understanding of what kind of patients you have, group them into “segments” and decide strategically which segments are the best for your clinic and ensure your actions are targeted towards keeping those patients the happiest .
b) Product and Services: As a business owner you need to think of what products and services your target profile is looking for? Are they looking for more cosmetic dentistry treatments? Do you or your staff have the right stills or do you need to hire? Offering cosmetic dentistry treatments such as clear aligners or bonding, will help you get more sales per patient, better margins and an opportunity to cross sell and upsell to your patients. Yes as a dentist your priority will always be to relieve your patient’s pain, but equally so, you need to have a strategic focus on growing your clinic too with higher margin treatments.
c)Reach out: With so much competition out there, it is sad to see that not all the dentists are promoting their services on digital media. It's way cheaper to reach your target audience on platforms such as Facebook or Instagram than it has ever been. Not only that, businesses can know the results quickly which helps them make better decisions next time. You don’t need to be a marketing genius to run ads, yes it would be great to have someone do it for you. But still, with tools such as Canva, anyone can design professional looking ads and run them without even hiring a specialist.
d) Website: Ensure you have a professional looking website that is capable of capturing leads which your staff can call and convert. Ensure you have an online booking engine that allows patients to remotely book an appointment without even stepping into your clinic. I am surprised to see so many clinics that are still relying on in-clinic or phone appointments. With busier lives and frequent lockdowns due to COVID, your patients are moving more online than ever before. Having a digital strategy for your clinic enables you to be forward looking and capturing those new patients, who otherwise would have easily left your website for some other clinic.
Yes, there are more specific and technical things that you can do under the umbrella of marketing, but the above are some quick starters to push toward thinking strategically.
Patient Loyalty : Businesses always talk about building loyalty - be it fashion, grocery, banking, telecom etc. Why do dentists not think of building loyalty? Yes, you are here to serve patients, but equally you are also running a business and have to pay your staff. It is not unethical to keep your patients happy. Ensure your target profile of patients is always happy. Ideally you should keep all your patients happy, but there is no harm in going extra lengths to keep your target profile the happiest. By doing that not only you will get positive reviews, but also more referrals. Educate your patients on the extra care they need to take post the treatment. Especially when it comes to treatments such as clear aligner that needs extra compliance on the patients' side, helping them on each and every way to stay on track, will help you get better success from your treatments. A patient monitoring app, such as one offered by Smile Genius Dental might help in building that trust and compliance with your patients. Think loyalty = retention + referral
Automation: Although this could have been covered as a sub-section under marketing, I think automation deserves its own space. Have you ever noticed how you get those email confirmations, notifications and reminders? All those are automated marketing communications that -could very well be incorporated into a clinical environment. There are two quick objectives you can hit with those 1) Engagement 2)Repeat selling. A real world example would be reaching out to patients reminding them of whitening or bonding after a certain interval? Can we offer a subscription option like they do in every business?
Operational Efficiencies: Investing in systems and tools can result in operational efficiencies, which will result in saving you time and money. One such could be better communication channels that keep all your patient communications and lab communications under one place. Not only that, imagine a world where you have all the patient’s case data, prescription, lab work details, logistics, patient details, payments and communication under one dashboard. You will not only get more chair time but also better margins because of lower overheads with an opportunity to upsell cosmetic treatments to customers. See how Smile Genius Dental does it for its customers globally and allows you to work with any lab.
As you can see there are various tactics and strategies available. The above are just some of them. The easiest way is to learn from the success of your peers and other business owners who are serving their customers with greater satisfaction. Again I would like to end the blog by quoting Peter Drucker who said ”Marketing and innovation make money. Everything else is a cost”.
As we close this year and plan for 2022, it's worthwhile for every clinic owner to ask themselves whether they are innovating and marketing enough?
To receive direct feedback on your dentistry practice, to revamp your business model or to get real-time assistance with your advanced tech implementations, email us at email@example.com and we would be happy to help your dentistry business achieve a faster and a more sustainable growth.