Thursday, December 20

When Should You Rebrand Your Practice?

Question: Here is the deal: I bought a practice about 6 months ago with a fancy logo, letterhead,  and a "brand", small but surviving. I think the name is akward hard to say, hard to spell and doesn't really reflect our commitment to high quality FAMILY dentistry. Is there any downfall to changing to a new,  not so flashy name like, say, Redmond Family Dental (Redmond is the town I am in).  My other thought is just [My full name] DMD.

I would recommend spreading out the rebranding process over a year or two - plan it out in small steps to mitigate patient loss.  Six months isn't quite long enough in my opinion for a complete rebranding overhaul, especially if you're in a smaller market.

As far as what to brand yourself, it depends entirely upon who you are and what type of practice you'd like to build, so I'd need more information before being able to give my .2 cents... But generally speaking, if you're planning to bring in an associate or partner any time in the next 10years, then yes, go more generic in your name, like Redmond Family Dentistry.  If you're planning on being a single doctor practice until the very end, then I always prefer clients to brand themselves directly - after all, you are selling yourself first and dentistry second.

If you're interested in rebranding too, email Athena at and I'll send you my marketing plan spreadsheet and workbook, both of which will help you make and implement your decision. (And, no, I won't put you on a spam list or bug you at all, don't worry - I'm all about teaching a man to fish rather than selling the catch of the day!)

Wednesday, December 19

Try Out a New Promotional Item; Like a Nice, Fashionable Women's T-Shirt!

Q: When it comes to promotional items, what people like?

Athena's "Never-to-be-humble" Opinion: I've done every kind of promo item for my clients over the years, and even my own, and I can say without a doubt that the most popular items are nice, fashionable women's t-shirts designed not just with a logo but something a little bit extra, either extra design, a fun tagline, but most especially a bit of bling. They get worn by everybody everywhere from the office to the gym, from patients to team members, and that's exactly what you want in my never-to-be-humble opinion.

Tuesday, December 18

How do you calculate your ROI?

Calculate you ROI correctly! 

Q: I was just wondering about the best practices for measuring ROI of marketing? There's the obvious number of patients that are referred by that particular form of marketing, but in terms of the actual dollar amount returned, how do you calculate it?

I haven't been able to find any software or program that can pull this information automatically, so we have been ma
nually looking at ledgers and manually adding/subtracting to determine the adjusted production. Needless to say, it is very time consuming.

A: I have two awesome tools for exactly what you're asking about. One is my Marketing Plan Workbook and the second is my Marketing Plan Spreadsheet.

Essentially, they allow you to track all of your marketing efforts from soup to nuts, and ultimately your ROI. Most importantly, they track not just the success of each of your chosen marketing methods, but your case conversion rates, which in my not-so-humble-opinion is the information you really need - not just which methods attracted the most patients into the practice with the least effort, but which of those new patients actually accepted treatment and became happy, ongoing patients of record.

Great design is great, and getting lots of patients in the door is great, but true practice success comes down to what marketing methods are successfully building the practice of your dreams - the practice you want to go to filled with patients you want to see and who want to see you. Why else do we go to work every day?

To that end, I created these tools as a result of working with hundreds of practices over the years, tracking clients' marketing efforts, failures and ultimately, successes, in order for them to have the information they need in order to create the practice of their dreams....

Thursday, December 13

Put this tool in your tool box!

Another tool in your service tool box! 

Q: I am planning on taking an Invisalign course in November. Any ideas on how to market this to patients? I don't want to offend anyone if I mention an aesthetic flaw! Should I just wait for patients to ask for it?

A: I am a big fan of incorporating any service into your office that makes it easier for you to create the practice of your dreams and ulti
mately keep your patients happy, healthy and smiling. Invisalign works for some cases and not for others, like almost every other treatment option you are able to provide, but it seems to me that having it available as an option offers you just one more tool to encourage your effort towards providing excellent dentistry. For most practices, I've not experienced Invisalign to be a huge profit center in and of itself, but as has been indicated in this conversation, it does allow and encourage you to have a more complete conversation with your patients about their needs and wants.

Wednesday, December 12

What Is Your Monthly Budget?

Q: I was just curious what other practices allocate for marketing every month? Normally, we designate 5% of production as our marketing fund.

The Athena answer: I am asked this question all the time, and my answer about how much should be spent really comes down to the amount you are comfortable investing. I've had clients on shoestring budgets do better than other
 clients who might have gone nuts with high cost marketing methods. In my experience, planning, implementation, and evaluation of the amount spent is more important than what that amount actually is. With that being said, my most successful clients consistently spend between 3-7% (in the real world, companies spend between 10%-20%).

5% is a fantastic number compared to the 1-3% the typical dental office spends. It’s also wonderful that you are not only asking the question but that you know what you are currently spending (that 1-3% I mentioned is usually being spent with no real vision, planning or tracking).

When I begin working with a new practice, they tend to initially be more focused on implementing a magic new marketing method rather than thinking first about the big picture and their vision for their practice moving forward, so I have to reorient them first. Start with a vision, then real goals, then decide your budget. Choosing a budget should always come before spending on any method, and spending on any method should always be followed by evaluating its effectiveness - not only in terms of new patients that walk in the door, but the type of cases they present and the amount of treatment they ultimately accept. Track this not only for your overall marketing plan, but by method as well, and you'll quickly find where you are succeeding and where you can make adjustments.

For anyone who is interested, email me at and I’ll send you a Marketing Plan Workbook to walk you through the entire process.

Friday, December 7

Here's an Idea: Make Your Own Art Work!

Q: I have a Discus Dental poster in my waiting room that has before and after photos and it helps sell a ton of bleaching. Does anyone know where I can get posters to promote implants, Valplast part
ials, etc.? Thanks for any advice!

A: Why not create your own?

My guess is that patients would be even more impressed by seeing the incredible work you have done that has changed the lives of their friends and neighbors, of real people. Keep an eye out for a couple of great cases, get the photos, and produce your own at FedEx Office (Kinkos). I've had many clients do their own versions with amazing success and to the delight of their patients.

If you go to and sign up, check out the Swag Bag with free posters already designed for you to use however you like.

Wednesday, December 5

Be a Top Doc!

Another Dentist in need of rescuing asks:

Anyone had any experience with Top Docs marketing program? I was given the whole spiel yesterday and the cost isn't huge....Just wondering if anyone has heard of it and what their thoughts were.... BS meter is running wild... But my practice has really slowed and I need to try something different.

Athena to the rescue!

I've had several clients over the years who were voted "Top Dentists" and put in a book and given a plaque.  I'm not sure if this is the exact same program as you are referring to, but I think it's similar enough to chime in.

As I remember it, my clients had been voted as the "best" as a result of a survey done by the company who produced the listings, which was definitely a for-profit enterprise.  Of course, it was great for these clients to be recognized as such, but did not in their experience result in happy new patients.  I've also been approached on clients' behalf by other similar companies, all selling the idea that their "best: logo or video or infomercial or whatever is what will bring credibility and (I guess the reasoning goes) draw in patients like flies to honey.  Again, not in my experience. Certainly not all by itself.

What does bring in happy new patients is a truly skilled doctor who has an excellent rapport with patients, an excellent practice and team, and excellent referring patients of record.  So I would recommend you spend that $6000-$12000 where you may need it most: teambuilding, streamlining internal systems, launching internal marketing initiatives, investing in CE and generally being a Top Doc.

Monday, December 3

Monday afternoon question that nobody really wants to answer and that you can't REALLY market without!

Recently a dentist asked a couple questions on new patients. 

He asked:

1) For marketing purposes, I was told a new patient acquisition will cost $50-$100. So if I am trying to get 50 NP per month, I should spend $2500-$5000 monthly. Is that correct?

2) I read that a new patient will generate $750-$1500. Over the course of what time frame? Some posted that on average a NP will need ~$250 worth 
of treatment. Other posted $700. So I am a bit confused. It is such a huge gap.

Athena saves the day by answering:

The important thing is to know your numbers:

-How much do you spend in time, money and energy attracting each new patient? How does that translate to production (and how do you define that?) and how do those numbers translate into the actual number of new patients you actually need in order to reach your goals?

-What are your goals?? Do you even want more patients or would you rather have more profitable cases for example?

-What is your marketing budget? How are you using it to reach your goals?

Now, once a patient is in the door, there are a lot of questions to work on:

-What kind of patients are you attracting with your marketing budget? How much do they value your service? What types of cases are they presenting?

-Where are new patients coming from - what marketing methods are attracting the most and/or the best patients?

-What's the case acceptance rate of insurance referrals vs. specialist referrals vs. patient referrals vs. external marketing leads?

-Where are the points of contact once in your practice where you can increase their level of trust in you and your service, and therefore their case acceptance?

-Please remember when considering a marketing budget, by the way, that contrary to popular opinion that insurance simply funnels patients into your practice, you're still "paying" for new insurance patients, and typically much more than undertaking your own controlled marketing effort - the difference between the market value of your services and what insurance will pay is the cost you're paying to get those people in the door.

Friday, November 30

In Response To My Previous Post,

Our hero in a small town asked me the following: "Yikes...guilty as charged (usually coming from or going to the gym on my way there)
Does this show people I am a "normal" guy or does it send a not-flattering portrayal?I could see where it would go either way."

My answer:
Yes! It does matter, especially in a town your size... Remember, everything is a marketing op
portunity - even the fact you go to the gym is marketing. None of it is inherently good or bad - our only yardstick is "does it help you reach your ultimate vision" or not? Is it helping you create the practice of your dreams, or not??

I wear sweats in appropriate situations, but always with the knowledge that I take up physical space, do not magically disappear when I feel like it even when I just need a gallon of milk, and inevitably and invariably have an effect on those around me. We all do.

You are many, many things, including both a normal guy and the town dentist, which not unlike a minister, puts you in a special class in your marketplace. Other dentists in larger markets might be able to disappear when they want to - you cannot. The good news is you get to decide how to "be" in your community.

Earlier I mentioned our desire to find and obsess about magic bullet cures to our marketing woes instead of dealing with the real issue, which is that you are selling yourself to people who inherently do not want to trust you (50% of Americans are dental phobic, after all) or give you their money and time. You are selling a service that they cannot touch or feel or evaluate at the time of purchase, and which they generally really, really, really do not want to have to buy. They do so anyway because we've successfully convinced them through modern dentistry that quality dentistry leads to a quality life, and they buy it from you over someone else only because they like and trust you.

Your #1 marketing method, then, is to a. acknowledge that basic truth, and b. use it to your advantage without fear or apologies, beginning with one on one conversations and connections, trusting in yourself, your training and your ability to positively change lives through your skills, talents and experience. Once you have that core self knowledge, branding and marketing yourself as a service becomes a breeze, again because the yardstick becomes "does this help me reach my vision, or not?"

So tap into your humanity, both the good and the bad, and use that to determine how you want to portray yourself, just be sure you're in control of it and making a conscious choice.


(The only dentist in town (pop. 2000) with 2-5% growth posts his question on DentalTown. Most answers are focused on websites and SEO from website and SEO providers. But not me :)

We tend to get distracted by the latest marketing "toys", such as the websites, SEO and social media marketing of the past decade, hoping to find some sort of panac
ea or magic bullet to our ongoing marketing woes, trials and errors. But they are all only tools you can have available, part of a much larger arsenal that allows you to communicate consistently and repetitively who you are, what you're about, and why others should care. That's all marketing is - consistently and repetitively sending your message to your marketplace, and we're all already doing it all the time, whether we're conscious and in control of it or not (think about going to the grocery store in your sweats vs. your Sunday best - the result of that typically unconscious decision automatically gives others a clear message about who you are in this world and what matters to you.)

Websites and SEO are always important, but small towns function by a different set of rules, ie one on one communication and real relationships (Internal Marketing). Combine that with a finite population, a good portion of which seems to need to travel elsewhere for work, and you're actually doing quite well with a 2-5% annual growth. I'd have expected much worse...

Two thoughts:

- Continue to focus all your attention on Internal Marketing rather than paying for external methods, since a small town is all about relationships and who you know and everyone already knows you're there and available to them - incorporating a lot of external marketing could very well backfire on your current standing in the community. Meanwhile, also make sure your website is an accurate representation of the patient experience and your vision and mission as their dentist.

- Change your hours to accommodate out of town workers: late evenings, early mornings, Saturdays, in order to attract those few locals who aren't already able to be part of the practice, then begin a concerted internal marketing effort to spread the word and make it as easy and convenient for them as possible to switch.