Businesses often struggle to stay afloat when first getting started. Weak sales are typically to blame as the key downfall. Specialty dental practices, such as orthodontists, oral surgeons, and more fall into the same traps as other businesses, and ultimately close their doors due to weak sales, low patient volume, or lack of collection of invoices.
While poor sales may be the outcome, there are 6 other challenges that should be addressed in order to create a successful environment for your practice. Below are reasons many specialty dental practices fail, and how you can potentially overcome them for yourself.
1. The Value Proposition Is Not Defined
A value proposition is your understanding of what you offer patients that is valuable to them. It is directly tied to your competitive advantage. When you are clear about the value you provide, you can then start to differentiate yourself from the rest of of the market. If you don’t know what your value proposition is, it is difficult to communicate why patients should see you over another dentist. Thus, you became faceless in a very crowded market. Set yourself apart!
2. Services and Product Offerings are Vague
Knowing the services and products you offer patients is imperative to your success. While it may seem obvious, items often get overlooked if not planned and plotted. For example, you should ask and track the answers to the following questions:
- What are the names of each service and product you provide?
- What is the value of each to your patients?
- Which patients match well with each of your products and services?
- Which products and services drive the most revenue?
- Are there any that give you more referrals or new patient revenue?
- Is there opportunity for additional products or services to be offered?
All of these questions are important to answer and track in order to achieve success at your practice.
3. There is No Clear Marketing Plan in Place
Marketing is king. It drives new patients, nurtures existing patients and provides a way for your staff and patients to engage with each other. Many specialty dental practices don’t allocate a large part of their budget to marketing, but in today’s world it is ever-important to increase the marketing budget to reach patients at every stage of their relationship with you. Furthermore, planning your marketing efforts out ahead of time, testing what works, and then repeating the process will set you apart from the rest.
4. Offering Discounts Has Caused Negative Cash Flow
Many dentists believe that offering discounts is a great way to get more patients in the door quickly. Beware of this tactic. Unless you already have a steady stream of revenue and a reputation that keeps new, quality patients attending appointments, this tactic can be a detriment to your practice. Often discounts lead to negative cashflows, bad credit, and worse - bankruptcy.
5. Current Patients Aren’t Feeling the Love
Patients come to your office and they were great - invoices were paid on time, the conversation was pleasant and upbeat, everything went as planned. For some unknown reason, the patient never came back. Why? What happened?
A few things can be at play here. It is possible the patient moved, or isn’t on top of their dental health as well as they should be. They could have been slightly less impressed than you thought, but did not feel comfortable communicating that to you. Any number of reasons could keep a patient from returning. However, this does not have to be a black hole for your practice. A simple phone call and email to interact with the patient is all you need to maintain a healthy relationship. You may consider following up with your patients when:
- An appointment needs to be confirmed (decreases no-shows)
- A day after the appointment to check on the patient’s progress and health
- When maintenance is needed, and a new appointment should be scheduled
- To ask for general feedback, or survey their experience with your practice
- To thank them for a positive review of your practice
By following up with your patient, you are creating a bridge that is built on trust and feedback. Inevitably, this will keep your patients coming back to your practice time and time again.
6. Your Practice Doesn’t Receive New Patient Referrals
Often, referrals from healthcare providers in the area is overlooked as a way to find success at a specialty dental practice. The other pitfall is that dentists try to do everything themselves and ultimately let the project fall to the wayside due to lack of time and expertise in this specific area. It is important, though, to understand how valuable a referred patient is to your practice. Did you know that a referred patient is five times more likely to:
- Attend their appointment
- Pay their invoices on time
- Refer you to friends, family, and colleagues
It’s true. If you are already worried about the time commitment, try to outsource the project instead. Using someone that is a referral specialist (not one of your staff members who is already working hard every day), can help you maintain relationships with other healthcare professionals in your local area.
What other pitfalls have you noticed that you would caution other dentists stay away from?