We live in an evolving world where life is all about change. This is no different for a dental practitioner. If practitioners run their practices in the same manner day after day, year after year; without inculcating a habit of constant up gradation, it’s going to take a toll on them in the long run. In this technological era, we need diverse set of skills to run a smooth practice.
A good dentist is well-versed, rather than well-trained to handle patients with zeal and passion. He works on intuition and looks at the practice in a new light each and every day. In the 21st century, the dental practice is all about promotions, marketing, scoring high with patient conversions, swift ethical treatment along with fetching positive patient reviews. Besides expertise in dentistry one requires to have keen interest to analyze patient needs by stepping into their shoes.
To achieve this understanding one needs to have a growth mindset. When I say growth mindset it means ‘To be able to accept new ideas from people of the same domain and give out practical solutions to people who come to you for treatment, instead of following what you think is the safer conventional method’.
Our education system has a long way to go before we can analyze things in a broader light. Dealing with misunderstandings, delayed deliveries from dental labs, coordination with patients over the phone, scheduling appointments, creating scope for continuous professional development, how to build a good clientele. All these require an exceptional behavior and patience from the dentist.
When I started my practice in Mumbai eight years ago, I was an amateur and expected thing to work my way. But with time I realized the importance of working smart, rather than working hard. Maintaining a balance between my household responsibilities and the dental practice requires time management, support from family members and patients. But of all the skills that I had, I wish I had a good understanding about growth mindset.
During my struggling days, I met some great people on my way to self-improvement. I realized that I need to change my perception to ameliorate my career. Initially, I was struggling with life and working in a team was a giant task for me.
Our education system does not teach us the importance of teamwork and solely revolves around ‘me’ rather than ‘we’. The conventional education system did not teach us how to create a win win situation in our practices. However, these days we can see a change in pattern. The dental education system has started emphasizing on practice management as a serious subject of concern. With the use of smart technology, where students can discuss their ideas in the open forum the present generation are well equipped to market themselves well.
So what is growth mindset?
Enhancing your handskills skills regularly and working in a team are required to be a successful entrepreneur. To stay in your cocoon and never be a part of self-development is a fixed mindset. The transformation must happen from within. If we change this fixed to a growth mindset, the possibilities are endless that allow us to excel in our business.
There are many instances in practice where an open mindset or growth mindset can help you. The behavior of dentist with growth mindset is entirely different from that of a person with closed or fixed mindset. Attitude of a dentist with growth mindset is similar to fearless trader. These kinds of individuals can easily step into patient’s shoes and read their minds. Dentists with growth mindset are keen to learn, ready to evolve everyday and this makes a practitioner happier, interesting and appealing to the public. A dentist with a growth mindset can never settle with being a mediocre.
The aura, ambience, method of practice in a clinic solely depends on how happy you are and how confident you sound to your patients. If you encourage all your clinic staff to build a growth mindset it’s going to help everybody around you grow. To accept, adapt and evolve is what we call growth mindset.
Having a growth mindset is crucial to be a good marketer and helps you in marketing yourself well.
What is marketing? How is it useful for a dental practitioner in the 21st century?
Various actions taken to promote or sell products and services along with research and advertising is called Marketing.
Advantages of marketing for dentists:
- Helps increase number of patients as you become more popular.
- Improves your visibility among people with little knowledge on the subject.
- Makes dentistry interesting and economically viable profession.
- Gains are realized within a brief period of time.
There are four pivotal parameters we take in consideration when we talk about marketing. In short, we call them the marketing mix. This applies in dentistry to the core.
Here dentist should clearly define the services available and his/her strengths to the patients(audience). This will help to gain clarity when they speak in public about their practice. Gives more confidence to the practitioners during consultations, dental camps, online marketing or webinars. Since they are sure about their products and services.
The price of treatment services should always be at par with market prices. For example, if a root canal in your vicinity costs about Rs 3500 for manual RCTs and Rs 5000 for rotary endodontics. However, you wish to charge Rs 5500 for manual RCTs and Rs 7000 for rotary endodontics as you claim your work is better than other dental practitioners; it will not help you gain popularity in patients. Prices should be more or less in par with the dental practices in your locality.
Being at the right place at the right time to promote your practice is essential to grow your patient flow and the brand name of your practice. As a practitioner, I have recommended my boss to sponsor certain events at a very low budget in the area, to get noticed. The place where we market will solely determine the kind of patients we attract in the future.
There are many ways we can come up with packages for various age groups to improve walk-ins. Tracking reward points in the software, giving out loyalty coupons, advertising group packages for treatment and giving offers all come under this marketing sector of dentistry. Use of banners, coupons, flex boards in various locations around your practice can help you sustain the competition.
What is Holistic Marketing?
The word holistic stands for ‘whole’. Though the responsibility of running a business comes under the hands of one proprietor the task of running the practice should be divided into various departments. It’s for this reason, using strategies from marketing gurus like Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller is very important to become a super dentist in today’s world.
Holistic marketing constitutes of
- Internal marketing
- Relationship marketing
- Integrated marketing
- Performance marketing
What is internal marketing?
Internal marketing literally means training and development of your staff. Teaching them to effectively communicate with patients and making them familiar with the dental business. It involves training them to actively involve in your practice toward creating a brand image. Internal marketing is simple but vital for the sustenance of a dental practice.
Some examples of internal marketing in dental office are:
- Training them to engage patients in conversations which helps them cooperate. Especially on days when you have bulk appointments placed for specialists.
- Interacting with your staff in friendly manner create a feeling of self-belonging. Help them to improvise their work from time to time.
- Provide some assistance in educating receptionist and other dental staffs.
- Maintain a peaceful clinic ambience on a daily basis and never losing a patient..
- Giving timely incentives and appraisals for their extra efforts.
There could be many ways you want to improvise your practice and all these methods are a part of internal marketing. If your own team is on your side, success is guaranteed.
2) What is Relationship marketing?
Relationship marketing stands for creating a long-term relationship between the practitioner and patient in the dental practice. It involves building mutual satisfaction with patients to get more leads or new patients. This helps in retaining the patients successfully.
Loyalty coupons, premium memberships and reward points can be given to existing patients to build long-term relationship.
3) What is Integrated marketing?
The mode of developing new products and communication. Creating new channels to develop brand awareness in public is termed as integrated marketing. Making your clinic linked with the top brands in the country.
Example of integrated marketing would be to have a tie-up with businesses like insurance companies which provide the loan to patients to avail treatments. Example Bajaj Finserv, Capital Float and Religare.
There could also be tie-ups with oral healthcare care product manufacturers like Colgate, Oral B etc. Display products in clinics and sales promotion could attract a lot of patients to walk into your practice. This benefits the dentist too when we sell products for a good margin, as well as the companies benefit from the brand promotion. Creates a win win situation.
4) Performance marketing
This is an extremely innovative method used by brand marketers to reach number of people who can be useful to dentists to advertise their practices and sell products. Gives one the ability to measure everything from brand reach to tracking conversion rate in a single advertisement. It’s easy to track with minimal risk when it comes to advertising via social media.
This also includes knowing your competitors in your area of practice. Tracking their success and information for survival in dental market.
I shall be discussing this in detail, in my upcoming articles for DentalReach.
Marketing opens means to generate more patients apart from mouth to mouth publicity which dentists have been relying on since ages.
Tips to improve your marketing skills as a practitioner:
1) Gauge your market value in today’s competitive world:
The new era is for multi-talent and there are always multiple ways to learn new skills in dentistry. For instance, if a general practitioner would like to learn about rotary files and use of endomotor in his practice, nothing should stop him.
There are many practitioners who are making good amount of revenue based on the maximum number of skills they can use in their day to day practice.
Unfortunately, when a dentist passes out of MDS from a reputed colleges they are fed with the fact that they can just handle a certain type of cases. The stereotypical nature of the college staff gets into their blood for years together. It takes a while for them to come to reality. For example, a surgical case is supposed to be handled only by an oral and maxilla facial surgeon. A root canal can be performed only by an endodontist.
This in turn, brings down your demand in the market of dentistry. Is this what you want to happen to you?
Jobs get scarce and you again need to plan to get another degree to specialize in each one of these skills. The cycle never ends. Unless you decide to take the risk and start learning new skills. Being an all-rounder is all that it takes to win a number of patients into your practice.
2) Have a look at your career graph:
What you did yesterday, shouldn’t be what you are today? Improve in all aspects like the salary you draw, standard practice you work in, number of complicated cases you handle in your career, way you engage your dental supporting staff, all these enhance your career.
The career graph can vary for every single individual. But the pointer should always move up with every year we approach in our practice. For instance, this year I have learnt to take in patients for flap surgery confidently and after six months I’m going to place implants myself.
I have a Facebook page for my clinic, coming years I need to have my own website. This kind of approach at a very early stage of establishing a practice can take you to heights very soon.
3) Make sure your patients love your services:
This is crucial in the competitive world of dentistry. It’s also a part of internal marketing as I discussed earlier. In the current scenario, patients have wider options ahead of them at the click of a finger. But the dentists with the highest number of stars and honest reviews from patients get the benefit. When I say ‘love’ it literally means loving to come to you for every appointment. The goal of every dentist should be to be able to win the patients mind when it comes to comfort, approachability and enjoying the ambience of the clinic. A small investment on a music system, or a fish tank with multiple things in it, a good library in the reception area, having a well-trained staff can go a long way to help them engage themselves in your practice.
4) Understanding patient psychology
This is a wide area of discussion and has many aspects to it. However, I can bring it down to one simple concept, that is a chart from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which stands true for any business.
To convert your patients into a treatment in the first meeting, categorize the patients into the following sections. Psychological, Security, Social, Ego, Self-actualization. The fact that different people have diverse needs, and you realizing it before they even say it, this is what will help you escalate your practice to another level.
Now based on their needs they can be divided into 5 categories. Here I can take you through the lowest to the highest for dental patients.
They can nowhere afford a day’s meal or pay for their child’s school. Et they want help from you as a dentist as they are in pain. Here it makes no sense to explain all kinds of options of treatments and come out with your catalogue. However, if the patients are interested to know we should explain all the treatments with due respect.
These set of patients do have some means to fulfil their basic requirements and have planned ways to get treatments done through insurance or pension schemes. All options should be provided for such patients since they take time to decide what treatment can be done now and what can be planned for some months later. However, these set of individuals shouldn’t be over burdened with the heavy dental treatment. Instead, talking to them about the treatments one by one will benefit them a lot.
These set of patients have all the money and resources but are very cautious and knowledgeable people. They can ask you a multiple number of questions and will still never do the treatment. Yet they do return if they are fully gratified with your suggestions in comparison to the next dentist they just visited to cross check what you said stands true or not.
These set of patients come to you just because they were referred from other patients who had already taken treatment from you. They may just be convinced even before you try convincing them. But you need to make sure you charge uniformly for all these set of patients. Time is a big factor for these patients to be kept under consideration.
These set of patients according to me are the best suited to understand any kind of treatment planning and will go to any extent to know what problems they have. Finance should never be a problem for these set of patients. They are knowledgeable and undoubtedly the loyal kind of patients who will turn up for the treatment and yes, they need that VIP call for their appointment scheduling since they have many things on their priority list.
5. Prove your worth in the first meeting
The old saying ‘first impression is the best impression’ has a lot to do with building a good clientele. The body language of the dentist, the persona and the management skills go hand in hand to build a comforting feeling in the patients.
6. Respect one’s time
One should keep a watch on the time allocated for a treatment to get to the next patient who is equally important and needs attention in the peak hours. If in case there must be a delay, the dentist is always advised to take a quick walk around his reception to greet the patients in person and let them know you will be calling them in any minute. This reduces patient anxiety in the waiting area and patients respect it if you care for their time. Unlike, cardiac or general medicine, dentistry is a field that is taken for granted by people. Until the dentist starts the treatments on day 1 the patients are never inclined to the dentist.
Remember the saying from the great orator Shiv Khera-‘Winners don’t do different things, they do things differently’.
This is just what we need to understand in our practices worth crores of rupees today. These ideas and principles in my practice have always lead to success and I’m sure it will help you too.
Practice management is a major topic of discussion in many forums today and deserves your undivided attention. DentalReach is going to bring forth many such articles which will help you improvise your practices and help you enjoy being a dental practitioner for the next few decades.
DISCLAIMER : “Views expressed above are the author’s own.”